My Top 5 Favourite Horse Stories

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I’ve just begun writing my next rural romance which features a heroine determined to resurrect the long-defunct local hunt club’s point to point race, albeit with a twist that not everyone approves of.

To help put me in the mood, I’m reading a history of the Mount Gambier Hunt Club, of which I was a once a member. All the adventurous tales and amusing anecdotes, including those of my great-grandfather Lou Hein, grandfather Lloyd aka “Torchy”, and uncle Clarrie, who were also members, got me thinking about my favourite horse books.

So here they are!

1/. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

The Black Stallion by Walter FarleyI cannot express how passionately I felt as a child about this story of a boy called Alec Ramsay and a stallion simply called the Black, who find themselves washed up on a barren island after a storm wrecks the ship on which they were travelling. Slowly the pair form an unbreakable bond. When they finally make it home, it’s discovered that the Black is one super-fast horse. Soon, he’s pitted against the best in the land in a race that will have you turning those pages at a gallop. Gawd, I get teary just thinking about it.

Seriously, if it was in any way possible, I would have married this book. I loved it and the entire Black Stallion series that much. I also wonder if this was the book that made me want to be a writer. The daydreams I had over it! Certainly it has a very special place in my reading heart.

2/. Riders by Jilly Cooper

Riders by Jilly Cooper. Ah, how can one go past the absolute naughty deliciousness that is Rupert Campbell-Black, Cooper’s much-adored equestrian star and complete bounder? While the story is actually more about Jake Lovell, and his rise in the professional showjumping world, it’s his arch-rival Rupert who looms large. Rupert is truly awful sometimes, but he’s brave, smart, funny, unapologetic, deeply loyal to his friend Billy, and fabulous in bed, and we can’t help but forgive him.

What’s great about this story is that there are more like it, including Rivals, Polo and The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous. Given Cooper writes lovely big fat books, that means hours and hours of reading delight. Wheee!

I always imagined myself writing bonkbusters like this and it was a huge shock to discover my stories turned out nothing like Cooper’s. Ah, well…

3/. French Relations by Fiona Walker

French Relations by Fiona WalkerFrench Relations and its follow-up Well Groomed are very much in the vein of Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles. There’s lots of posh carrying-on and plenty of laughs, plus lashings of lovely romance. French Relations begins with Tash French heading to her eccentric mother’s Loire chateau for a summer break. On arrival she finds Alexandra has bought her a wholly unsuitable, half-mad stallion to ride. When sexy eventer and Tash’s devastating teenage crush Hugo Beauchamp turns up, he’s conned into giving Tash lessons. But there is more than one eligible male in the chateau, taking Tash’s love life on a rather twisted journey.

Ignore the horrid cover (the original was far better), this is great, addictive fun!

4/. My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara

My Friend Flicka by Mary O'HaraLike The Black Stallion, O’Hara’s trilogy had me enchanted as a child. Wyoming sounded like a kind of horse heaven and I wanted to visit so badly.

Once more, this is about love and trust between a boy and his horse. Both of whom kind of end up saving one another.

It’s a beautiful tale and a guaranteed heart-warmer. But if I recall correctly, I think it was the second book in the series, Thunderhead, that I liked most.



5/. The Man From Snowy River by A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson

The Man From Snowy River by AB Banjo Paterson. There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around

That the colt from old Regret had got away,

And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,

So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

Reading or hearing that never fails to send a shiver down my spine, and when discussing horse stories it would be impossible not to include this classic Australian poem. It’s exciting and romantic, set in an iconic location, and features a brave hero and his “small and weedy beast” of a mountain-bred horse, both of whom prove their merits in spectacular fashion. Nothing like an underdog to stir an Aussie heart!

The language is wonderful. The rhythm of Paterson’s poem draws us in and sweeps us along, and it’s hard not to get teary over the drama of it all. A must read.


If you’re wondering why I didn’t include Black Beauty, it’s because I never really warmed to that book. I also haven’t included The Silver Brumby because, somehow, I never discovered it. How that tragedy occurred is one of the great mysteries of my life. Equine-obsessed me miss a horse book? Impossible! Yet somehow it happened.

Do you have a favourite horse story or movie? I’d love to hear about it. A horsey girl can never have too many equine tales!



10 thoughts on “My Top 5 Favourite Horse Stories

  1. AvatarJacki Wilson

    Misty of Chincoteague : Marguerite Henry, Jackie won a pony : J M Beresford, Jill and her ponies : Ruby Ferguson, the Pullein-Thompson authors

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      I missed the Misty stories, Jacki. How????? I bet I would have loved them. AND my first horse was named Mysty. But I was a huge fan of the Pullein-Thompson books, and of the Follyfoot ones too.

      Ah, what great memories. Thank you!

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      I’m annoyed I missed the Marguerite Henry books, Lizzi! At least I think I did. I can’t remember them and I’m sure I would have given the title horse was Misty and I called my horse the same. But I guess I was bound by whatever was in my local library.

  2. AvatarAnna Campbell

    Great piece, Cathryn. As you know, I spent a lot of my pre-adolescence absolutely horse crazy. I look back now and feel very sorry for my parents. I was a bit of a monomaniac. I devoured books about horses. I think my faves were the Silver Brumby books. Still have treasured paperback copies with their rather ethereal white horses on red backgrounds on the covers. Loved the Mary O’Hara books and the Marguerite Henry books (still got some hardbacks of hers on the keeper shelf). I actually wrote my own piece about fave horse books on my website:

    So looking forward to the Falls!

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      Oh, LOVED your piece about horse obsession, Anna. I can relate completely.
      I had the rather joyous experience of spotting a young girl suffering the same illness as we did one day at the village shops. A mother and her two daughters had ridden up and tied their horses to a tree while they went in to order some takeaway (so rural!), and this little obsessed girl was nearly in tears as she was pointing to the horses. She wanted on so badly, the poor love. My sympathy was huge. I knew exactly what she was feeling. That ache was TERRIBLE! Like your life would forever be miserable and purposeless if you didn’t get a horse of your own.
      Kinda hasn’t changed, really .

  3. AvatarSue Gerhardt Griffiths

    I’ve never read a horsey book – ever. I grew up with fairytales, dad had a huge Brothers Grimm book I’d read from cover to cover over and over again. As I got a little older I was given the Heidi books (I loved them – my all time favourite books). Later on I progressed to Sweet Dreams books, they’re like the Sweet Valley High books – but funny enough I never read any of them, I guess I was getting too old by then so I started reading Virginia Andrews.
    I haven’t heard of any of the books you listed Cathryn, except Banjo Paterson’s poem, (of course). Every time I read The Man from Snowy River it leaves me with goosebumps.
    It’s funny, even though I’ve never read a horse book and I’m not even a horse person I watched every movie or series there was on horses: National Velvet, Flicka, Black Beauty, The Story of Seabiscuit, The Horse Whisperer, Pharlap, War Horse and many more. I have to say The Black Stallion by Walter Farley sounds so good, I googled it and wow, am surprised when they were written – I wonder if they’re even still available.

    1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

      I’m pretty sure you can still buy the Walter Farley books, Sue. They’re evergreen! Booktopia definitely has them.
      I had to laugh at the mention of Virginia Andrews. God, I was addicted to those books as a teenager. They were so weird and gothic and kinda awful but I couldn’t get enough of them. Funny that when I went to revisit them in my late 20s I thought they were AWFUL, but as a teen they were the best things. Everyone was reading and talking about them.

      1. AvatarSue Gerhardt Griffiths

        Bite your tongue, Cathryn. Lol. I still love those books (can’t get the teenager out of me, lol) and have an up-to-date list of all the books written so far and tick them off as I read them. (I can here you cackling, Cathryn.) Maybe you could try again, now that you’re a little older you might enjoy them, hee hee hee.
        Virginia Andrews wrote the Dollanganger series and her stand alone book My Sweet Audrina and not long after died in an accident. Her books are now written by Andrew Neiderman. But yeah, every couple of years I just have to read the next series. I just love reading and there’s not many books I find awful. I take my hat off to him with his continued work – he’s still going strong; so he’s doing something right.

        1. Cathryn HeinCathryn Hein Post author

          Noooo. Don’t make me read them again! LOL.
          My Sweet Audrina was my absolute favourite. I had SUCH a crush on Arden. Although I was also really passionate about the Dollanganger series, as we all were. That was so weirdly, creepily brilliant! I think I read all the Casteel series but then I stopped reading her for some reason. Funny how you move on from things.
          And yes, there’s no question Neiderman is well carrying on the legacy.

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