If you’ve ever liked horses, you’ve probably seen the Seabiscuit movie (and its less-than-realistic riding scenes), but if you haven’t read the book, you’re missing out. In her signature style, Hillenbrand brings history to life as she recounts the story of the unlikely racing team—Seabiscuit, jockey Red Pollard, trainer Tom Smith, and owner Charles Howard—who took the country by storm in the 1930s. Seabiscuit is incredibly readable narrative nonfiction that fiction fans will dig into as well.
All the Pretty Horses
The first in a trilogy, All the Pretty Horses follows 16-year-old horse-loving John Grady Cole, who, upon the death of his grandfather in 1949, decides to leave Texas behind. Accompanied by two other boys, John sets out on horseback toward Mexico, where he hopes he’ll someday find work as a trainer at a wealthy ranch. This National Book Award-winning coming-of-age novel is, among other things, a love letter to the adventure-filled cowboy life of Westerns.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley’s love for horses has inspired a range of books on the topic for readers young and old. Horse Heaven closely follows the early years of several young racehorses and the many (seriously, so many!) humans who work with them in Southern California. With its large, rotating cast of characters, relentless drama, and, of course, Thoroughbreds, Smiley’s novel evokes the thrill of leaning against the fence at a racetrack as the horses cross the finish line.
Teagan is about to enter her senior year of high school when her father unexpectedly walks out, leaving her family and their horse farm behind. As she tries to cope with her shock, Teagan redirects her energy toward bonding with her father’s wild horse, Ian, who she brings with her to a nearby girls boarding school. Perfect for readers who’ve trained horses themselves, English’s debut novel weaves poetic elements into its prose as it explores themes of family and grief.
The Horse Whisperer
When an accident leaves Grace and her horse Pilgrim physically and psychologically scarred, Grace’s mom, Annie, is determined to find someone who can help them recover. Enter Tom Booker, the horse whisperer. Annie brings Grace and Pilgrim to Montana to work with the gentle cowboy—and so begins their long journey toward hope and healing.
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
In an attempt to corral her, 15-year-old Thea’s wealthy family send her from their home in Florida to attend the all-girls Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls in the Blue Ridge Mountains. While Thea settles into life at her new equestrian school and begins building friendships with the young women who surround her, she reflects on the scandal that led her there. Set in Depression-era America, this debut novel from DiSclafani is an atmospheric, dramatic, and dark coming-of-age tale—with compelling horseback-riding scenes sprinkled in.
Let’s face it: you know if you were once a “horse girl.” Maybe it was when you were six or 12 or 16. If you were a horse girl, you doodled horses trotting across the margins of your school notebooks. You collected all things equine, including—but certainly not limited to—posters, shirts, movies, and books. So many kids’ books filled with the drama of stables and lessons and mucking out stalls: Pony Pals; Marguerite Henry’s novels; the Thoroughbred series.
If you were once a horse girl, the memories of loving horses and all the freedom and adventure they represented seem to magically reappear with just the slightest smell of a horse. It’s the scent of sweat, leather, laughter, occasional tears, and triumph. Of long, hot days in the sun and sore muscles. Of nostalgia. Whether you were fortunate enough to own an actual horse or dreamt you were, whether you rode English or Western, in the ring or on trails, frequently or just every so often, these books will conjure the joys that come with time spent in a saddle.
Featured Image: ITV