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Are these the top 10 ‘horsey’ books of all time? If not, let us know!

PUBLISHED: 16:00 12 March 2018

TV presenter and author Clare Balding at a Jarrolds Literary lunch in Norwich. Picture: Steve Adams

TV presenter and author Clare Balding at a Jarrolds Literary lunch in Norwich. Picture: Steve Adams

We’ve got Monty Roberts, Nick Skelton, Clare Balding and more. Do you have any good ones to share?

A couple of the top horse booksA couple of the top horse books

Let’s start with the mind and soul: The Man Who Listens To Horses, by Monty Roberts

Monty was just 13 when he slipped off on his own to the deserts of Nevada to watch wild mustangs. (Wonder what Ofsted would think if we tried that today.) What he learned about the horses’ ways of communicating changed him, for Monty went on to hone techniques that let him communicate with horses “in their own language”. Gestures, mainly. And he says anyone can do it. Have a go.

Something technical: Complete Horse Riding Manual, with tips from trainer William Micklem

Publisher DK – Dorling Kindersley – deserves a medal for all its years of turning information into words and pictures we can understand and remember. This looks at everything from horse care and showjumping to dressage: from that first sitting in the saddle to honing advanced techniques; plus mental and physical preparation.

Something physiological: Posture and Performance – Principles of Training Horses from the Anatomical Perspective, by Gillian Higgins and Stephanie Martin


Good things come in threes. A trio of sections: Principles of Anatomical Riding and Training; Exercises for Horse and Rider; and Troubleshooting. But: with lots of practical tips and exercises, broken up into easy-to-follow components. If you want to improve a horse’s physique, posture, flexibility, stability, core strength and movement (and pre-empt problems) there are plenty of ideas.

Something inspirational – Gold: My Autobiography, by Nick Skelton

Count the showjumper’s achievements and you soon run out of fingers. From Aachen to Olympia, Nick’s been doing it for more than four decades. He’s also been to eight Olympic Games, and was in the Great Britain team that took gold at London 2012. In Rio, in 2016, he won individual Olympic gold. Incredible that much of this came after he had to retire early when he broke his neck in a fall. And then he came back…

Some homework – 101 Jumping Exercises: For Horse and Rider, by Linda Allen

Apparently, Olympic gold medallist William Steinkraus said: “If you can master all 101 of Linda Allen’s examples, you’ll never encounter anything on a course that will surprise you – at least not very much.”

Once we accept there’s no shortcut to success in life, and that hard graft and persistence and practice hold the key, there’s oodles here for anyone from novice to instructor to experienced competitor.

Something quirky – If Wishes Were Horses: A Memoir of Equine Obsession, by Susanna Forrest

One of our own, for Susanna grew up near Norwich in the 1980s. She ached for a pony of her own but never got one. Even after an intriguing early-adulthood – including a two-year spell as an editor on the Erotic Review and moving to Berlin 12 or so years ago – she’s still obsessed by them.

The book shows how she’s shared this consuming passion – this virtual romance between girls and horses – with countless folk from the past: from female riders in the Bronze Age to well-off Victorians and then modern youngsters riding around Brixton.

Something that sounds very similar. Sort of: If Horses Were Wishes, by Elizabeth Sellers

This is fiction; aimed primarily at children. Unhappy foster child Katy Robinson daydreams of a better life, including a string of friends and popularity at school. Then one day she wakes up as a horse. Will she like that better as a way of living, or will she strive to become a girl again?

Londoner Elizabeth Sellers moved to the village of Cowlinge, near Newmarket, when she was four. There, thanks to a farmer, she grew to love horses.

Life took her to Canada in the mid-1960s (she learned to ride there), back to England and Scotland (teaching riding) after leaving school, and now lives in Ottawa. If Elizabeth hasn’t written her autobiography, she ought to!

Something very important: BHS Complete Manual of Horse and Stable Management, revised and expanded by Josephine Batty-Smith

A revised edition of the British Horse Society’s comprehensive guide to the care and management of horses and ponies is brought into line with current thinking in the equine world, says the BHS.

The focus is on correct and safe procedures for the welfare of everyone involved with horses, as well as – naturally – the animals. There’s guidance on equine care, watering and feeding, saddlery and tack, specialist care for horses ridden in competition, and the horse at grass and in the yard.

Something to make us smile: The Racehorse Who Wouldn’t Gallop, by Clare Balding

In this children’s story from our national-treasure-in-the-making, 10-year-old Charlie Bass is a horse-mad girl dreaming of having her own pony… and who then accidentally buys a racehorse.

No worries: Noble Warrior seems to have what it takes. But then a problem comes to light: he won’t gallop. Actually, he won’t even leave his stable without his pony friend, palomino Percy. Derby Day’s looming; can Charlie turn things around and stop the family farm being repossessed?

(Added extra: Don’t forget Clare’s book My Animals and Other Family – her story of self-discovery after spending much of her childhood thinking she was a dog and growing up in an animal-packed household where her dad was a champion trainer.)

And back to the space inside our heads – Perfect Mind: Perfect Ride, Sports Psychology for Successful Riding, by Inga Wolframm

These days, it seems, doing well requires more than horse and rider being physically at the top of their game. Practise all you like, but you also need the right mind-set.

Inga (who has a PhD on psychological traits and states in equestrian riders from the University of Essex) shows us how to tune our attitude, motivation and mental armoury 
to make the most of our skills. Vital when our horse is a 
sensitive “flight” animal that needs its rider to be “together” 
in order to communicate 

And this goes as much for the everyday rider as a high-level competitor, of course.

Do tell me your favourite horse-related books. Email or write to Horse&Country, features section, Portman House, 120 Princes Street, Ipswich, IP1 1RS

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