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Choosing a top five favorite horses in fiction is a tough order, and I think everyone’s list could be totally different, but after weighing cultural impact alongside my personal impact, I came to a list that I think balances both. Horses are a draw. I have yet to meet a kid that isn’t attracted to a horse—even those that are a little scared still have that gleam in their eye when they pass a pony in a field. Adults do a double take at their beauty, even if they know nothing about them. This lifelong attraction to hoses makes finding them in fiction even more exciting. We may not all have the opportunity to be around them in real life, but we can always find them on the pages of our favorite books.
#5: Acorn (Pony Pals Series by Jeanne Betancourt)
My list has to start with Acorn. The little bay pony that is at the heart of the Pony Pals series was one of my first fictional horse loves. He was a fluffy, adorable pony, living his best life with his two pony friends (Lightning and Snow White) and their riders; Anna, Pam, and Lulu. These girls got to live the life I dreamed of. Riding and loving on their ponies every day and getting up to all sorts of mischief. I think Acorn was my favorite because of that mischievous streak in him. He didn’t always cooperate with Anna from the start, but as their relationship grew, so did their combined ability. That’s what I wanted—a pony to get up to trouble with, but that would always have my back.
#4: The Black (The Black Stallion Series by Walter Farley)
Despite the huge number of horses that could be on someone’s list, I think The Black is one you will find on everyone’s list. Walter Farley’s Black Stallion has been one of the most popular horse books, probably as long as it has been around. And once the movie adaptation was made with that beautiful black horse galloping down the beach, our wildest imaginings came true. Everything about Alec and The Black’s relationship defied expectation. They were survivors, partners, and champions. They showed us it was all possible if you were persistent. I don’t think that there is a rider anywhere who doesn’t dream of galloping down the beach with outstretched arms to recreate that iconic moment. Even if we may never have the chance, we might walk around our arena at home with our heads tilted back, pretending, just for a moment.
#3: Midnight (Midnight: Champion Bucking Horse by Sam Savitt)
Midnight is a book I often forget about, but one I probably read a dozen times as a kid. It was the real-life story of a bucking horse, and despite, or maybe because, most of the horses I was around were english-riding type horses, the rodeo atmosphere drew me in. The benefit of it being based on a true story meant that elementary school me wanted to use it for a report, because any day I could add horses to school projects was a good day. Midnight was the best at what he did, and he was never ridden for more than seven seconds. The best part of this one for me is that while the book ends with Midnight’s passing, it’s not sad—he lived out his days well on his owner’s ranch until he peacefully passed. So many books with animals use the animal as a tragedy, but Midnight was only ever the hero.
#2: Misty of Chincoteague (Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry)
There are many Marguerite Henry horses I could have put in this slot, and I was tempted to keep swapping them around. But in the end, it is Misty who won me over. The little pinto pony mare edged her way into the hearts of millions and added a bucket-list destination to my vacation dream list. Misty was a real pony, though her story was fictional. The whole idea of witnessing the pony-penning and auction was always magical to me. These hardy ponies swimming across the water and rolling in the sand made me want one of my own. All the family history in Misty appealed to me, too. We knew Phantom, Misty’s dam, Pied Piper her sire and in subsequent books her foal and even other ponies from Assateague. That kind of horse family dynamics was not something I had seen in a horse book before, and it made me want to know more about herds, breeding, and raising horses. I believe Misty was the source of inspiration for even more horse-related school projects. My poor teachers.
#1: Black Beauty (Black Beauty by Anna Sewell)
I’m not sure we would have meaningful horse fiction if it weren’t for Black Beauty, so it’s no surprise that he has to top my list. Black Beauty was the first of its kind, a story told from the animal’s perspective. It showed us the hardships Beauty faced and gave readers insight into his ever-changing world. Not every home was pleasant, not every job was easy, but Sewell so well captured the heart of a horse in Beauty’s voice that I cannot put this book away. The Humane Society even used it as a teaching point for animal welfare. People saw humanity in Beauty and it helped real-life horses around the world lead better lives. I don’t think there is a more important horse, or animal for that matter, in fiction. Beauty’s voice and hope never die. He struggles through his rough patches and comes out in the end, finding his favorite groom who finally brings him home. I don’t think there is a more appropriate choice for #1 out there.
What are your favorite horses in fiction?
Isla Ryder grew up around horses but never owned one of her own, instead settling for riding lessons and every horse book she could get her hands on. When those books stopped being enough, she began writing her own, and her first cowboy romance series is now complete. Throughout school, she loved creative writing classes and earned a BDIC degree from UMass Amherst in 2011. You can follow her on Facebook here.
What about War Horse? Heart-rending, WWI story.
War Horse is a great one!
Don’t forget about Flicka [My Friend Flicka] and National Velvet’s Pi
Yes! Both of those would have been on my top 10 list, it was SO hard to narrow them down!
Other than Acorn, who I believe came to be well after my ‘assumed’ maturity, I am in full agreement with your list and your reasoning. I just thought I’d share an author and in particular, a series, I have just discovered and fallen in love with. The books are ” Muted”, “Rescued”, and “Hunted”, the author, Leanne Owens.
She also has a series targeted to teens I believe, but I haven’t added them to my kindle yet. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share more great horse books.
Ooh, thank you! I will check them out. I was prime Pony Pals age as the series was coming out just as I started riding as a child.