Ah, horsey love. So much deeper, more majestic, and steeply priced than puppy love. When I was young, I truly thought no one loved horses as much as I did. I got plastic and stuffed horses every year without fail and played with them until their hair, eyes, and skin fell off. I drew horses in all of my notebooks and on scratch paper until I had perfected the one-hoof-raised stance and that tricky fetlock shape that comes before you draw the hoof. I begged my parents for every possible substitute for owning a real horse, including a rocking horse that would hold the weight of a ten-year-old, riding lessons, and horseback-themed trips. My economical parents turned me down on all of these, but I do fondly remember building myself a saddle and reins out of some jump rope, towels, and old baseball bases which I hung rather successfully from the trees in our woodsy Georgia backyard. If all the nostalgia hasn’t clued you in yet, this list is about the fictional horses that I fell in love with and couldn’t stop dreaming/watching/reading about or bear to think of life without. If you’re looking for a general list of great books and movies that horse lovers will enjoy and appreciate, there are many out there. But if you haven’t given these ones a try, I highly recommend them, whether you’ve got a horse-crazy craving or not.
10. Blaze, from the Billy and Blaze books by C. W. Anderson: You can’t do better than these books if you’re looking for adventurous stories about a boy and his horse. Their names go together so well it’s no wonder they’re best friends. Together Billy and Blaze have many adventures, including exploring the wilderness, rescuing a hurt dog, surviving a wildfire, and taking on a mountain lion. The drawings are beautiful (Blaze’s fetlocks are done to perfection) and the books depict a very sweet, tender friendship as they describe how the two look after and protect each other from harm’s way. Who wouldn’t want a best friend like Blaze?
9. The Pie from National Velvet: The names Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney meant little to me when I was a kid, but “Velvet” and “Mi” were the plucky, talented, and horse-smart kids I wanted to be. The Pie is a classic example of a high-spirited horse with natural talent that nobody wants the trouble of dealing with. Here to train and win the trust of the Pie are Velvet, an enthusiastic, imaginative twelve-year-old, and Mi, a former jockey who quit riding after he was in a collision where another jockey was killed. The two work together to enter the Pie in the Grand National Steeplechase and end up proving how much can be achieved through faith, hard work, and love. It’s a great story about overcoming fears and obstacles in order to achieve goals you never thought were possible.
8. Prince and Lady from The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Prince and Lady are special because they are the only horse team on this list. The finest horses in the country according to Pa Ingalls, this dashing pair could do anything together, from winning a race with heavy odds against them to winning the heart of Laura before she falls in love with their master, Almanzo. Laura’s response to Ma’s questioning of whether she loved the horses or their master more is perfect: “I couldn’t have one without the other” INDEED. On a separate note, ladies, how attractive is a man who knows his way around horses? Let’s be honest – VERY attractive.
7. Maximus from Tangled: I loved everything about this movie, but nothing more than that crafty, stubborn, fearless horse, whose name tells you pretty much everything you need to know about his personality. He is both the brains and the brawn of the kingdom’s military, and he saves the day for our hero and heroine multiple times (while not letting Flynn Rider forget they have a score to settle). He doesn’t need words to give you a piece of his mind and anyone hoping to ride Maximus had better be on his good side. Plus he is 100% faithful and loyal to those with the moral high ground. Yessir, Maximus is a white horse in shining armor. There’s a lucky mare out there somewhere.
6. Spirit from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron: I may or may not have had a little crush on Spirit when I first saw this movie. It didn’t help that every poster ever of this movie has him in one of those picture-perfect poses on top of a mountain with his hair swirling ever so stylishly in the wind. Or that he was such a striking gold and brown color. Or that he was voiced by Matt Damon. The plot is pretty straightforward – wild mustang just wants to keep his herd free and safe from evil white men, learns from enlightened horse/Native American dream team that humans and horses can live together in harmony, blah blah captivity blah blah awesome horse showdowns blah blah friendships and freedom forever blah the end. But all cheesiness aside, Spirit is a great, witty, smart, lovable character who has lofty goals and dreams of a better world and who never stops fighting to get there. I love that.
5. Satan, from Son of the Black Stallion by Walter Farley: This horse got my heart racing in a way I didn’t think was supposed to happen to me until I was a teenager. Forget Black Beauty (okay, not really – I’ll always love you, Beauty!) – a dangerous, wild black horse with a temper who is also named SATAN is the essence of what being black is all about. Even though the story is all about how Alec attempts to train and gain the trust of the stallion, if you’re like me, you’ll be wishing the horse would just embrace his dark side and throw over human tyranny in an epic horse revolt once and for all.
4. Bree from The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis: Bree is one of my absolute favorite Narnia characters, and not only because he is such a magnificent horse and friend, but because he isn’t perfect. He’s vain, he looks after himself first and foremost, and he’s very proud. But as the story unfolds, Bree learns the true value of being humble and what it really means to be noble through Shasta’s example. It’s a very important lesson to learn when you think too well and high of yourself to recognize your faults and let them inspire you to do better. I also love the friendship between Bree and Shasta: they start out as a very mismatched pairing but quickly develop loyalty for each other and become a team that can handle anything together.
3. Shadowfax from The Lord of the Rings: Shadowfax might be the most gorgeous horse on this list. And one of the most beautiful things about him is his name – Shadowfax. It’s horsey and regal and magical and catchy all at once. Also there’s his unfailing loyalty, endurance, strength, understanding, and the title “Lord of all Horses” to recommend him. He seems to embody the freedom, power, and intelligence we see in horses all at once. He’s also the only one of these horses who never wears a bridle. If all this isn’t impressive enough for you, look up his Wikipedia page. He understands human speech, he was too wild to be tamed even by the horse-riding Rohirrim, and he saves a lot of our favorite characters’ lives and looks just magnificent while doing it. Go Shadowfax. The only reason I didn’t put him as no. 1 is that he’s really just TOO perfect.
2. Hidalgo from Hidalgo: Hidalgo came very, very, very close to being no. 1 on this list. He’s everything a good horse should be – loyal, independent, tough, intelligent – and has incredible reserves of fortitude, courage, and love. The bond between Hidalgo and Frank is deeper than blood: he gives his absolute all for Frank in the exhausting, grueling race they take on together and somehow defies all odds and logic by surviving and (SPOILER) winning. I love watching how Frank is inspired by Hidalgo’s refusal to give up and builds his life around this same principle as he fights to protect the freedom of Native Americans and wild horses even though everything points to their inevitable extinction. The way these two characters connect and grow together is so profound and moving and yet still somehow feels true to the real world.
1. Fledge from The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis: My no. 1 favorite literary horse has to be Fledge, the London cab horse turned magnificent winged sire of talking horses in Narnia. Fledge’s unexpected appearance in Narnia and transformation from an ordinary, tired cab horse known as Strawberry into a free, flying, talking horse is a beautiful, touching story. He is the only animal from our world to leave and be transplanted to Narnia, and as such has a different, deeper level of insight about what it means to be a talking beast and what a gift it is to live in Narnia. He becomes friends with Digory and Polly and their friendship endures for the lifetime of the world of Narnia, as we see when they are reunited after the end of the world in “The Last Battle.” He becomes myth and legend to Narnian horses – the Pegasus of their world, if you will. We also have Fledge to thank in the first place for beginning contact with Narnia (he moves to the pool to drink and brings everyone along with him). The Magician’s Nephew is filled with symbolism and insight about creation, transformation, and redemption, and Fledge’s story is a great reminder that even the most plain, ordinary, unimportant creature can become a mythological hero.
BONUS: I didn’t include this one in the list because it is unfortunately not in Orem Library’s collection, but the book Nicholas and the Rocking Horse by Jean Richardson was my absolute favorite horse book as a child. It tells the story of Nicholas, who sees a magnificent rocking horse in a store window (the very one I wanted my entire childhood). Unable to afford it, Nicholas rents the horse for “five rides,” which turn out to be five magical, fantastic adventures out of his imagination. Copies of this book are hard to find, but it is worth buying if you get the chance.