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Call to all horse children! I was you once. My bedroom wall was adorned with a poster of different breeds of horses, I preferred My Little Pony Barbie, and I always begged my parents for riding lessons. Of course, my shelf was full of children’s horse books. I even lived my horse dreams when I got to college and took equitation (a fancy word for horse riding) to meet my physical education requirements. Yes, you may need to go to a gym in college. I could trot and gallop with the best! Or even very, very far from the best. But I lived my best life frolicking around on a beautiful horse named Ladyhawke, which was spirited but snappy.
Horse books are really their own genre. Many adults turn to the old school canon when they meet a horse-loving child: Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, My Friend Flicka, National Velvet, and Misty of Chincoteague. I honestly don’t know how well these books compete with today’s young readers. But – be careful – it’s never a bad idea to go without a classic in order to give a child a good book that was recently written. A kid with an insatiable appetite for horse books can always come to the classics. That is why they are considered classics!
Whether you have a picture book reader in your life or you have a middle class book, there are just so many great horse books out there for kids. I’ve put together a collection for different ages and interests (see what I did there?). See what connects the horse child in your life. Free from giddiness!
Horse picture books
Horse Power: How Horses Changed the World by Jennifer Thermes
With a fact-loving horse lover on hand, choose a book like Horse Power, which describes how important the human-horse relationship has been throughout history. It’s a searchable book with lots of sidebars and infographics to grab the attention of young readers. With stories about the development of an animal that stands on one toe (how?)
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Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman and Daniel Minter
Any collection of horse books for kids needs some true stories of amazing horses (and their people) from all over history. This picture-book biography tells the story of William “Doc” Key, a man who was enslaved when he was born. After emancipation he taught his horse Jim to read and do simple arithmetic. The two performed at venues across the United States. Could the horse really read? It doesn’t really matter. What matters is the patience and kindness with which Doc Jim trained.
If I had a horse from Gianna Marino
For many horse-loving children, owning a horse is a matter of fantasy, often due to finances or the life situation. It’s sad, but nothing prevents children from imagining life with a horse. This book is such a daydream, with simple texts and colorful illustrations. It is a great book for any child who could benefit from learning how to fully imagine their dreams.
Princess Cupcake Jones saddles up! by Ylleya Fields and Michael LaDuca
Princess Cupcake Jones is always ready for a new adventure, and this entry in her storybook series is all about saddling her pony, Lacey. It turns out to be more of a challenge than she expected, and in the process she learns a lesson about giving and receiving help. A fun feature of this series is the word hidden under each of the book’s illustrations. Perfect for horse children and eagle eyes.
Pony Poems for Little Pony Lovers by Cari Meister and Sara Rhys
Poems and picture books are a classic pairing for good reason. Rhymes are a way of conveying language, and rhymes about ponies can really cement that love. This book is great at portraying the various roles that people play on horseback, including those of cowgirls, knights, and horsemen. Fundamental to all of this is, of course, simply being friends with a horse. The cute illustrations, including the headers with portraits of horses including Nibbles and Sugar Plum, are pure delight.
The horse and the mysterious drawing by Li Jian
Horses are important to mythological stories around the world, including China, where that story originated. In this book a horse breaks free and goes swimming. When it emerges from the river, there is a drawing on its back. The boy who owns the horse cleverly guesses the meaning of the drawing. This story is great for bilingual readers as the text is in both English and Chinese. Any collection of horse books for children should strive to incorporate stories from a variety of traditions.
Soosie: The horse that saved Shabbat by Tami Lehman-Wilzig and Menahem Halberstadt
If you have a reader who enjoys the ability to add sound effects to a story, here is a fun one. This delightful story is about a horse that saves the day. When the boy, who was traveling through Jerusalem on a Friday morning selling challah, fell ill, Soosie knew the route so well that she could deliver the bread without human accompaniment. The author’s note contains information about the history of the Angel Bakery in Jerusalem, the inspiration for the story.
Gift Horse: A Lakota Story by SD Nelson
Riding a horse also harbors the potential for real action that this book offers. Gift Horse is a storybook starring a boy named Flying Cloud who makes the journey into manhood by facing an unexpected challenge. Rescuing Storm, his stolen horse, earned him the right to wear a warrior’s shirt. Set in the 19th century, the book contains information about the history of the Lakota people and the traditions recorded in that story.
Grandfather of Arthur Dorros and Raúl Colón
For many people, the opportunity to ride a horse is a memory that will be remembered for a long time. For the boy in this story, his memories of riding with his grandfather prove very important when he moves to town. He values the time he has spent with his Abuelo and the life lessons he has learned. This book also contained beautiful illustrations by the well-known illustrator Raúl Colón.
Middle class horse books
The horse diary series by different authors
American adults who love history often mention the Dear America series as formative reading. For children who love history and horses, the Horse Diaries offer an unmatched combination. These are particularly suitable for children who want books specifically from the horse’s point of view. The stories cover a wide range of history and geography, tracking horses in Iceland around AD 1000, 16th century Spain, 9th century Arabia, and more.
Carrie Seim’s horse girl
The title says it all, doesn’t it? This book is about Wills, a 7th grade graduate who was admitted to the prestigious Oakwood Riding Academy to train. She experiences all the ups and downs of a new child and a horse girl, including dealing with the mean girl behavior of fellow riders. She is also struggling with her mother’s overseas assignment. It’s an amusing slice of life that will enchant many horse girls and likely spawn some new horse girls as well.
Riding Chance by Christine Kendall
Troy is assigned to the town’s local stables to do community service for a juvenile offense. Through this work he discovered the sport of polo. It turns out to be the fresh start he needs and an outlet to deal with the loss of his mother. It’s a touching story based on Philadelphia’s work-to-ride program. This book is especially good at telling the experience of being near horses for the first time and discovering what wondrous creatures they are.
The Horse of the River: A Camp Canyon Falls Adventure by Sari Cooper
Combine a horse book with a survival story, another popular genre for many young readers, and you get The Horse of the River. The twelve-year-old Gillian is excited and nervous because she has to spend a month without her family in the summer camp. Her worst fears come true when a series of mishaps leaves her alone in the wild with a horse named The Beast. And that’s not an ironic name. She has to learn to understand this horse, even the camp counselors struggle to control her if they are both to survive.
Mulan: Before Grace Lin’s sword
This book is a prequel to the Disney film version of Mulan. Mulan’s horse Black Wind is much more interesting to her than her domestic duties. She longs for adventure. And she finds it when her sister is bitten by a poisonous spider. Mulan has to find a healer. Black Wind is your loyal companion on this journey. The story interweaves various threads from Chinese history and mythology, while at the same time showing us the courage of the beloved Mulan.
The perfect horse: The daring rescue of Elizabeth Letts’ kidnapped horses by Hitler
This book, an adaptation of a bestselling adult non-fiction book for young readers, traces a US troop search to save the world’s most precious horses. Hitler’s eugenic efforts extended to horses, and this book provides an age-appropriate introduction to some of the atrocities of World War II. Anyone interested in Lipizzaners, known for their stylized jumps and dance moves, will appreciate this harrowing chapter in the history of the breed.
This list is just a start into the wide world of horse books for children, and that’s a good thing. A horse child who loves to read is lucky enough to have such a deep well to draw from, from classics to new literature. In the meantime, if you have a Pisces kid, a kid who loves all animals, or the elusive but special Plant kid, we have more recommendations on where these are from.