Some of the best horse books to read this summer

Off on holiday? Take horses to the beach in the form of a book.
Picture: Getty Images

Off on holiday? Take horses to the beach in the form of a book. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A summer holiday is the perfect time to catch up on the horsey reading you may not have had time for during the rest of the year. Sheena Grant suggests some books to try, along with a few suggestions aimed at younger fiction fans.

When you pack for your summer holiday leave a little room in your case for a book or two.

There’s no shortage of horse-related reading material to choose from in a range of genres.

If you want to kick back and relax with a little light reading, you could go for the bestselling detective fiction of Dick Francis or the risqué romps of Jilly Cooper. But if you’re looking for something more thought-provoking that will stay with you long after you get to the final page, don’t despair. There are many life-affirming tales of love, loss and transformation to be had in the form of fiction, biography and memoir.

Here are some of them:

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1. The Horse Whisperer, Nicholas Evans.

An international bestseller which spawned a film of the same name, The Horse Whisperer tells the story of Grace Maclean and her horse, Pilgrim, who were hit by a 40-tonne truck while out riding in a snow-covered upstate New York. Traumatised by the accident they travel with Grace’s mother, Annie, to find a ‘whisperer’ in Montana, with the gift of healing troubled horses. The term page-turner was surely invented for this brilliant book. You won’t want to put it down.

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2. The Hearts of Horses, Molly Gloss.

Set 100 years ago, the Hearts of Horses tells the story of Martha Lessen, who turns up on a ranch in Oregon looking for a work at a time when many of the men are off fighting in the First World War. This beautiful book is the story of a woman trying to make it in a man’s world, but on her own terms. It’s also the story of the people and animals she meets and how all their lives interact in the most moving of ways.

3. The Horsey Life, Simon Barnes.

The Norfolk-based sport and nature writer penned this book chronicling his “a journey of discovery with a rather remarkable mare” in 2010. As with everything written by Mr Barnes, this book is finely crafted and the story it tells, of his extraordinary relationship with a fiesty, restless, mysterious - and sometimes crazily unpredictable mare - called Dolly Dolores VII is something anyone who has ever owned a horse will be able to relate to.

4. If Wishes were Horses, Susanna Forrest

Billed as a memoir of equine obsession, this book is the story of Susanna Forrest’s all-consuming interest in horses, growing up in the 1980s near Norwich. Like many girls, she longed for a pony of her own but never got one. That didn’t stop her equine obsession and in this book she explores the development of this “pony cult” from earlier times to the present day, rediscovering her own “riding legs” along the way.

5. The Wild Other, Clover Stroud

This memoir of love, adventure and how to be brave is honest and bold. You may think you’re spontaneous and instinctive but, compared to Clover Stroud, you’re probably not. When Clover was 16 her beloved mother had a horrific riding accident that left her permanently brain damaged. After that, Clover had to fend for herself. Her route through life was free-spirited, dangerous and anything but conventional but always shot through with a need to be close to horses, from travelling with gypsies in Ireland to working with cowboys in Texas and outlaws in Russia before finally finding her place in the world.

And for the children...

Don’t limit young horizons with the shimmering pink covers of pony books by Katie Price, there’s plenty of amazing horse-inspired literature out there for children too.

1. War Horse, Michael Morpurgo

War Horse tells the story of Albert and his beloved horse, Joey, in the First World War. Best read with plenty of tissues to hand.

2. The One Dollar Horse, Lauren St John

Casey Blue, 15, lives in East London’s grimmest tower block but her dream is to win the Badminton Horse Trials. When she rescues a starving, half-wild horse, she’s convinced that the impossible can be made possible.

3. Paradise House, KM Peyton

The author, best known for her Flambards series of books, has written more than 70 books in her long career, many of them about ponies, Paradise House, one of her latest, is the story of a girl who makes her mark on 19th Century Newmarket by becoming the only person who can handle a very valuable but vicious race horse.

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