The eleven best books about horses
1. Black Beauty from Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
If Black Beauty didn't destroy your childhood, you probably didn't read it. I mean, that scene where Beauty sees Ginger's dead body being lugged away on a cart? This book is mostly hardcore horse suffering. But Black Beauty is one of the most famous literary horses for good reason: he has a kind heart and an unbreakable spirit, and his depressing adventures will make you donate your next paycheck to an animal welfare group.
2. Misty from Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
Look, we all know this list could easily be 100% Marguerite Henry horses. But Misty deserves an early mention because, for many people, Misty was that first horse book that started a childhood mania. In retrospect, it's pretty shady that those kids are rounding up wild ponies and stealing their babies, but Misty was such an adorable little foal that we can let it slide. Also, shout out to her mom, Phantom, for being a badass pony who didn't especially like children.
3. The Black Stallion from The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
A kid is trapped on a deserted island with a horse? Move over, Life of Pi. This is a much less interesting book, but boy did it fulfill all our childhood fantasies of living alone on an island with a HORSE. I think there's also some horse racing, but the centerpiece of the novel is the hackneyed boy-loves-a-horse-with-a-wild-spirit story. And even if it's a cliche now, the Black was one fierce stallion who definitely gave Phantom the pony a run for her money.
4. Bree from The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
Is this book super racist now that I think about it? Yes. Oh man, yes. It's a Narnia book, but the main action is in the countries to the south of Narnia, which are filled with turban-wearing, vaguely Middle Eastern, violent people. Oy. It's not good. But as a kid all of Lewis's xenophobia flew right over my head, and I loved Bree, the bossy, talking horse bent on going home to his magical kingdom. Who doesn't love a bossy, talking horse? I'll be honest: I totally imagined him with the voice of Mister Ed. But the world of this book was definitely some Orientalist garbage.
5. Joey from War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Joey has got to be the most boring name for a horse in all of literature. But it's impossible to hate Joey himself. He's a sweet, courageous horse who's forced to fight on the Western Front. Faced with the horrors of war, his trials and tribulations are almost up to Black Beauty levels (ok, slightly less brutal). Joey also gets to tell his own story, like Black Beauty, which makes the story that much more of an emotional gut-punch.
6. Sham from King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
Ok, just one more Marguerite Henry horse, because King of the freaking Windis just fantastic. Sham is a beautiful Arabian horse living in Morocco, but he winds up in France, being sold from master to master and terribly mistreated. The story is told by Sham's best friend and surrogate mother, a mute stable boy called Agba. This horse-and-boy duo puts all others to shame: as a mute kid in a foreign country, Agba needs Sham just as much as Sham needs him. Plus, Sham is a horse who knows his own worth, and frequently causes a scene instead of nobly bearing his suffering in silence like certain other horses.