Simple and evocative, “The Hearts of Horses” follows a would-be horse trainer, Martha Lessen, as she searches for an American West that is disappearing before her eyes. In the sprawling ranches and windswept homesteads of Elwha County, Oregon, as the eldest sons of farmers are sailing to France to fight in the Great War, she finds herself enmeshed within the hurts and loves of the families who offer her work breaking horses. Rich in Western lore and emotion, Gloss’s story will captivate readers.
Natalie Baxter lands a job at a gloomy farm, which suits her mood perfectly. But the reclusive owner, and his obsession with a conformationally flawed young horse, have her perusing the “Wanted” ads in Chronicle of the Horse. Then she finally backs the young horse, falls in love, and sets off a chain reaction that will bring up the history she’s been running from her entire life. A moody, dark book, “In the Presence of Horses” gets the equine details right, something that will please any horseperson.
If you’ve ever worked at the racetrack, be warned: this book will make you consider slipping on your boots and heading straight to the nearest backside. Myers takes everything wonderful about racetrackers: a community of mostly thoughtful, tight-knit, hilarious, blisteringly profane folks with a few bad apples to make everything more interesting, and paints them beautifully in this page-turning novel about a mysterious young woman and the veterinarian who falls for her. Rich with details about training techniques and terminology, “Favored to Win” is thoroughly satisfying.
Ready for a beach read? There aren’t any beaches in this romantic thriller; in fact, it’s set at a hard-knock racetrack somewhere in Canada. But it’s jam-packed with sexy Mounties masquerading as racehorse trainers, hotshot leading jockeys, sassy pony riders, a beautiful young exercise rider with a sad past and a drive to win, and, you guessed it, MURDER. Pettersen leads readers on a merry chase just as Julie makes Kurt crazy in the first of her Racetrack Romance series.
Some of the settings from Korda’s colorful book are gone: Clove Lake Stables, in Staten Island, is a housing development, and the bridle path in Clove Lakes Park exists only as a sign, overgrown with ivy, at the entrance to the park. Manhattan’s Claremont Riding Academy exists only in the memory of riders and the occasional, unmarked mounting block along Central Park’s Bridle Path. But any horseman will agree that in the course of a “riding life” we meet many strange characters and find ourselves in situations we would never have expected, and Korda brilliantly tells all of our stories as he relates his many adventures, everywhere from 89th Street to Virginia’s Hunt Country.
This heartfelt story of how a man came to fall in love with horses, and how he struggled to learn how to keep them and communicate with them as naturally as possible, isn’t just a memoir: it’s a primer on how to work with a horse to create a true partnership.
More commonly known as a literary essayist (2011′s “Pulphead: Essays” was a New York Times Notable Book and the Boston Globes’ Best Nonfiction Book of the Year), Sullivan, the son of a sportswriter and turf writer, explores the horse in history, Thoroughbreds in particular, and the obsessions of his father in this beautifully written book.
Opening with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley and including selections from notables such as the great turf writer Bill Nack (“Secretariat”), the Olympian show jumper William Steinkraus, and mystery writer Dick Francis, “The Greatest Horse Stories Ever Told” is an ambitious title, sure, but with a stable of writers like these, it might not be far off the mark.
If you’re still up for a pony book, (and you know you are) then Maggie Dana’s Timber Ridge Riders belong on your reading list. Fast-paced and thoroughly horsey, the girls of Timber Ridge try to behave, they really do… but there’s a clique of mean girls to contend with, and stirring up trouble for the riding team makes for drama. Just like in real life.
What can I say? I wrote this. If you like anything on this list, you should probably read this one, too.
Natalie Keller Reinert is an author and horsewoman from Brooklyn, New York. A lifelong Thoroughbred enthusiast, she is founder and editor of Retired Racehorse Blog. Her first novel, The Head and Not The Heart, was released in 2011. Follow Natalie on Twitter at @nataliegallops.
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