Horses. Horses. Horses.

“The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and freedom.”– Sharon Ralls Lemon

It’s Canada’s National Horse Day and in honour of this I feel I should make a confession. I have loved horses my entire life. My parents were always a bit confused where this passion came from. My family, near and far, were not involved in horses beyond a great Uncle having workhorses on his farm but that was long before my day. My Dad chalked it up to my Irish heritage and his enjoyment of having a “flutter” on big race days but beyond that, they hadn’t a clue.

And really, it doesn’t matter. It just “is”. As a child visiting WPL, I would zoom in on the books with the brown horse-head sticker on the spine. If a book had the horse sticker, I would read it. I remember reading Robert the Rose Horse, Flip and, of course, Black Beauty. I never got into Walter Farley‘s Black Stallion series, although the movie is definitely worth watching for the stunning cinematography alone.

My tween years were pre-Saddle Club (for parents of pony mad kids, a couple of episodes are available for viewing on DownloadLibrary) and pre-Heartland and it wasn’t always easy to find good horsey books. I was lucky that through overseas travel and kind relatives, I was able to stock up on novels by pony book legends Patricia Leitch and the Pullein-Thompson sisters. I read those books over, and over, and over.

Forty years on and I’ve owned a number of horses, competed lightly, worked for a bloodstock agency selling racehorses at the track and, for 25 years, ran my own equine photography business. You’d think that would be enough horses in anyone’s life but no, I even liked them to feature in some of my reading and movie-viewing time.

As an adult, my taste in “horsey” books moved towards memoirs and general non-fiction like The Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts, A Sunday Horse by Vickie Moon, and My Family and Other Animals by Clare Balding. James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small series (also available as eAudiobooks) have a generous sprinkling of horse stories scattered throughout. Now, if you are a lover of mystery and suspense, there are many more to choose from including Stephen Dobyn‘s Saratoga series, Tami Hoag’s Dark Horse, a handful of titles by top trainer Jenny Pitman and too-many-titles-to-list by Rita Mae Brown, Felix & Dick Francis and John Francome.

If you’re looking for a horse-themed family sagas, you could try Sara Gruen, Little Green by Tish Cohen, The Irish Trilogy by Nora Roberts, or The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes. Of course there are many (many) cowboy-themed romances and sites like Good Reads have lengthy lists to guide you.

As for movies, well, that is a tricky subject. Most horse people will tell you that while there are many films with horses at the heart of the story, few are well done and many have so many flaws that the view just couldn’t enjoy them due to the glaring errors. My personal favourites would have to be Pharlap, Champions, War Horse, Secretariat, Seabiscuit, the family film Into the West, and the documentaries Dark Horse and Harry & Snowman.

So, while many people I know will be celebrating National Horse Day with their 4-legged friends, I encourage you to try an equine-themed book or movie. Trust me. You don’t have to be into horses to enjoy these great reads and views.

— Sandi H.

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