04 November 2009

My kingdom for a horse

Whether or not the Melbourne Cup is really the race that stops a nation is up for debate.
But one thing that's guaranteed is that a large portion of the population of Melbourne came into contact with at least one of these things yesterday:

  • champagne
  • sour glances from old timers at the TAB
  • chicken sandwiches
  • sunburn
  • sore feet
  • barbequed meat
  • fascinators
  • Bart Cummings's eyebrows

So in celebration here is a list of horsey books*:

1) My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
All the horsey girls in school raved about this one, which was an immediate turn-off for at least one Onion. But contrary to expectation, it turned out to be not insipid at all. It's all about boys and ranching and the big Wyoming sky. And barbed wire. Barbed wire is bad. But all's well that ends well (after almost ending very badly).

2) The Billabong books by Mary Grant Bruce
Everyone on Billabong station eats, sleeps and breathes horses. They are the lifeblood of the big Victorian cattle farm, and anyone who can't ride gets scornful looks and very short shrift. (Unless, of course, they are brave and quick learners.) But of all the horsiness in all the many books, the moment burned in our memories is when Norah's beloved grey pony Bobs dies in her arms - having been ridden literally to death by the hateful city cousin Cyril (boo, hiss). Oh, Bobs, faithful and valiant to the end.**

3) The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell
This and Black Beauty are the only books actually from the point of view of the horse on this list. (Although the Silver Brumby's not in the first person... snort, whinny.) Who didn't want to be a wild brumby running free in the mountains? Although, come to think about it, maybe not so much with all the fighting to protect your mares and foals from other scary stallions.

4) These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
When Laura becomes engaged to Almonzo Wilder, her ma asks her if it's really Almonzo that Laura loves and not his beautiful horses (particularly the matching brown Morgans, Prince and Lady). To which Laura responds that she couldn't have one without the other. There are sleigh rides and buggy rides and taming of wild colts aplenty in this the last of the Little House on the Praire books. (Can we also just point out that this is the cheesiest cover of this book we've ever seen. Where is the one with the horse and sleigh?)

5) Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Surely nobody needs a reminder about this one. Suffice it to say: *Sob* Ginger *Sob sob* (What is it about horses and dying?)

6) The Good Master by Kate Seredy
Cousin Kate from Budapest is headstrong and disobedient and has a desperate love of sausages. But there's nothing like a bit of responsibility and the love of a good horse to tame a wild child. The scene when Kate is given the beautiful and spirited Milky for her very own (after she'd learned to ride on 'Old Armchair'), is funny and warm and touching and... and... I can't tell you how much I love this book.

7) Horse Crazy! The Complete Adventures of Bonnie & Sam by Alison Lester & Roland Harvey
Horses! Best friends! Adventures! Who could resist? Alison Lester knows all these horses personally, which is why they feel so real. There is an unconfirmed report that the editor of this book keeps a bucket of chaff under her desk, just in case.

Are there any horsey books you love (or hate) that we've missed?

*Caution there are spoilers, but most of these are classics and we reckon there's a statute of limitation on spoilers.
** And here we pause to remember Tamburlaine, ridden to death by Dominic, the intense, proud boy who loved him (confirming to his family that he was indeed A Difficult Young Man).


Penni Russon said...

I had a book called A Morgan for Melinda by Doris Gates, and I loved that. Ooh, just found out there's a sequel!

And Thurley Fowler's A Horse Called Butterfly. Why isn't Thurley Fowler more famous? She is awesome.

Oh and Can I Get There by Candlelight? A timeslip novel where the horse is the key to movement between worlds (uh, how does that work again?)

Fred is loving Bonnie and Sam. We have it on audio.

My capcha is squit. Hee.

A latte beckons said...

Black Beauty is from the point of view of the horse, izzn't it?

My personal faves in this genre are the Romney Marsh books by Monica Edwards. Tamzin and Rissa are horse crazy, but the best part is when crippled Lindsey staggers to her feet and rushes to save her beloved (now sold to Tamzin, cos she couldn't ride him any more on account of being crippled) pony from being poisoned by a carelessly flung branch of yew...

I quote from memory: "She walked, straight as a die, to Tamzin's mother..."

Ah, the power of a horse on a young gel.

The Alien Onions said...

Kate, you are so right about Black Beauty! It's been so long since I read it that I'd totally forgotten! *busily ammends post*


A latte beckons said...

I need to amend my comment, too -- the girl who miraculously recovered the power to walk was Lesley, not Lindsey. Whoops!

Anonymous said...

I also had that fantastic book Can I Get There By Candlelight?, which so few people seem to have heard of that I had begun to think I was insane...

I have read all the books mentioned (massive horse lover as a young 'un, and still) but my favourite authors were the Pullein-Thompson sisters ("Three Ponies and Shannon", "I Wanted a Pony" etc) and my favourite series were the Jill books - "Jill's Gymkhana", "Jill's Pony Trek", "Jill Enjoys Her Ponies"...

I get them out for a read every couple of years. They're still awesome.

Zoe said...

My favourite was The Black Stallion - boy and horse stranded on desert island forge lifelong bond. *sigh*

A latte beckons said...

Oh, I had a Jill book too - was it Ruby Ferguson who wrote them?

And must also mention Elizabeth Goudge's 'The Little White Horse' (which was actually a unicorn).

Onions, I look forward to your post on ballet books which must inevitably follow..!

The Alien Onions said...

So many good horse books we've never even heard of. Thanks everyone!

Kate - You may have to write the ballet books post. I, for one, never even read Noel Streatfeild.


A latte beckons said...


Okay, maybe I will!

Jeanne said...

Love, love love The Wells of Beersheba by Frank Dalby Davison - especially timely since it is Remembrance Day tomorrow!