Wednesday 21 December 2016

2016 Ultimate Horse Book Review

As most of you know, I spend a lot of time commuting via ferry. A 50 minute ride each way with minimal cell service and no wifi means I have time to read a lot of books every year! I was noticing this morning that a good half of my downloaded books from 2016 are horse related in some form or another. This seems an appropriate time of the year to write a short review for each and make mental space for some new books in 2017.

*Sadly, most horse books do not stand up against actual literature, and the vast majority of these are not something I'd recommend to non horsey friends. Keep in mind my guilty pleasure is horsey fiction, so expect that my ratings are likely pretty generous. In other words, don't put down that great book you're already reading because I gave one of the following 4 stars :)

In order of most recently read:

Book: Out of The Wild - Mark Rashid
T's Synopsis: Old cowboy with a rough past and a beat up mustang find new life.
T's Thoughts: I wanted to like this one, but I have a lot of reservations. It reads a bit like a B movie you've already seen a few times, and I couldn't really like any of the characters. While the cowboy/horse details seemed well done, the dialogue and relationships between the characters felt a little off. I also felt sorry for 'The Colt' pretty much the whole time.
T's rating*: 3/5
Would Recommend?: Maybe. If you really like westerns, natural horsemanship, or Mark Rashid.

Book: Unrelenting - George Morris
T's Synopsis: George Morris' autobiography
T's Thoughts: The early years are pretty fascinating. The later years seem a bit more rushed and felt more in the form of notes than a book. The author really likes exclamation marks. I love reading and had a tough time getting through this one towards the end. It also made me feel really sad for George, which is not at all what I expected.
T's rating*: 3.5/5
Would Recommend?: Yes. Even if it's just for the first half of the book and the pictures.

Book: Making it Happen - Carl Hester
T's Synopsis: Carl Hester's autobiography
T's Thoughts: Pretty much the opposite to the GM biography. This one is light, chatty, and a fun read while still being inspiring. Pretty much exactly what you'd expect if you've ever seen Carl or watched an interview with him. My one disclaimer: If you're looking for riding tips or serious horse content, I'd advise reading Carl's "Real Life Dressage" instead.
T's rating*: 4/5
Would Recommend?: Yes, if you're a fan, this is a fun insight into life as Carl.

Book: Turning For Home - Natalie Keller Reinert
T's Synopsis: Alex is training Tiger for a TB makeover competition post track. Drama ensues.
T's Thoughts: Like the rest of this series, this book is quite well written and the horsey content is really well done. The main character tends to be a little on the immature/dramatic side for me, but I still buy these books because well written and thought out adult horse fiction is rare.
T's rating*: 3.5/5
Would Recommend?: Yes, would recommend this and the rest of the series, especially if you're into TBs and/or racing.

Book: Show Circuit Series (Summer Circuit, Winter Circuit, Hunter Derby) - Kim Ablon Whitney
T's Synopsis: Life on the hunter/jumper circuit
T's Thoughts: Show venue details and horsey details feel accurate. Characters feel super immature and some are pretty annoying - yet I still read all three books to see what happened to them, so there's that.
T's rating*:  2.5/5
Would Recommend?: Maybe, for an older teen (there's mature content that would make it unsuitable for a younger teen, but as mentioned, I feel like most of the characters are maybe too immature for an adult to really identify with).

Book: Learning to Fall - Ann Clermont
T's Synopsis: Tragedy strikes ex jumper rider in vet school. Changes in life priorities ensue.
T's Thoughts: Well written, I liked the characters and will likely come back to this one again. Story line is fairly predictable, as is the ending, but the story still felt more 'real' and gritty than most based on the hunter/jumper scene. Loved that this one didn't try to be a romance and focused more on the main character's relationship with her horse along with the business and family dynamics.
T's rating*:  4/5
Would Recommend?: Yes. Possibly even to non horsey friends.

Book: The Lady - Anne McCaffrey
T's Synopsis: Coming of age story based at an Irish horse dealer's yard
T's Thoughts: Finally read this one after having it recommended forever. I liked it, but it feels quite outdated. Better written than most, if not all, the rest of the books on the list. Some aspects of this book made me angry, but I suspect that was the author's intention.
T's rating*: 4/5
Would Recommend?: Yes

Book: The Right Girl For the Job - Karen McGoldrick
T's Synopsis: Book 3 of The Dressage Chronicles. Adventures of working student Lizzy.
T's Thoughts: Again, the horsey details are bang on and some of the pages feel like you're getting riding advice you can use. Like the Natalie Keller Reinert books, the drama can feel a little manufactured, but I do enjoy these books and look forward to reading them as they come out. Probably one of the best current series out there.
T's rating*: 3.5/5
Would Recommend?: If you like dressage, these ones are for you

Book: Mount! - Jilly Cooper
T's Synopsis: The continued adventures of Rupert Campbell-Black and co
T's Thoughts: Oh boy, did I love this series as a teenager/young adult. Polo was pretty much my favorite book ever. I know a lot of people loved Mount!, but I'm not one of them. Another series I don't think has aged well. Please don't read if you have any sentimental attachment to any of the characters from her early novels. Time and the author have not treated any of them well in this latest installment.
T's rating*: 2.5/5
Would Recommend?: No. If you love REALLY trashy gossipy novels, then maybe.

Book: Eventer's Dream - Caroline Arkill
T's Synopsis: Aspiring eventer Elaine accepts a job at the crazy Fane sisters' livery yard.
T's Thoughts: A bit immature and outdated, so I didn't persist with this series. BUT I enjoyed this book and found it quite realistic, well written and funny. I only wish I had found it as a teenager.
T's rating*: 4/5
Would Recommend?: Sure

Book: Higher - Evan Rice
T's Synopsis: Follows talented, unpredicatable Valerie on her journey to the Atlanta Olympics show jumping team
T's Thoughts: Meh. Unlikable characters, and the plot was unbelievable. Valerie has a huge chip on her shoulder, but I guess that's OK because she is talented, yet poor so we are supposed to feel sorry for her?
T's rating*: 2/5
Would Recommend?: No

Book: Ride Every Stride - Amy Maltman
T's Synopsis: Jed has a lot of secrets and a dark past, but finds redemption at a Canadian A circuit barn
T's Thoughts: This is a pretty solid effort. Again, maybe a little young feeling and maybe a little too much manufactured drama, but the main character was likable and there is a decent, interesting background and story line, unlike some of the lighter reads on this list. It's not perfect, but I would try more from this author, horse related fiction or not.
T's rating*: 3.5/5
Would Recommend?: Sure.

Book: Kick On - Kelly Jennings
T's Synopsis: Like so many of our horse fiction protagonists, Kelly has a dark past and is looking for redemption via horses.
T's Thoughts: This is set in Panama, and Kelly is a dressage convert eventually hoping to make the Pan Am games. That aspect of the story was interesting, and again, the horse details felt accurate. There's potential here. The rest of the story unfortunately felt really far fetched and honestly this one was a bit of a struggle to get through.
T's rating*: 2.5/5
Would Recommend?: I don't think so, but I'm not giving up on this author either.

Book: Taking Up the Reins - Priscilla Endicott
T's Synopsis: Diary of a dressage rider training in Germany for a year in the 70's.
T's Thoughts: I liked this, both for the author's voice and experience and for the insight into the beginnings of dressage in the US. It's a bit short on actual training advice, but the message of hard work and determination helping you achieve things is always inspiring.Also, I can identify with being away from home for long periods of time!
T's rating*: 4/5
Would Recommend?: Yes

Book: Unbroken - Ally Sayer
T's Synopsis: Another fictional book about eventing!
T's Thoughts: Honestly, I didn't finish it because the characters annoyed me.
T's rating*: Can't give a fair rating because I didn't finish
Would Recommend?: No

Book: Margaret Fletcher Gallop Girl - Genevieve Dutil
T's Synopsis: Spoiled Margaret needs a job, and finds one galloping racehorses
T's Thoughts: I feel like this book thought it was being a lot funnier than it was. Another author with some promise. Maybe this just isn't the series for me.
T's rating*: 2.5/5
Would Recommend: No

Book: Equine Fitness - Jec Aristotle Ballou
T's Synopsis: Non fiction, a book more about exercises for a well developed horse rather than the science of fitness
T's Thoughts: I love this book and refer to it multiple times a year. Buy the paper copy, because there are tear out cards included that you can take to the barn with you.
T's rating*: 4.5/5
Would Recommend? YES

Book: How Good Riders Get Good - Denny Emerson
T's Synopsis: A book about how good riders get good ;)
T's Thoughts: Another I came back to a few times this year. I'm glad I bought it when I was feeling all New Year's  resolution-y, because this time of year this book would make me feel very guilty indeed. Highly recommend if you're needing some motivation and/or thoughts on getting to the top in any aspect of life.
T's rating*: 4/5
Would Recommend? Yes. You'd better read this if you have any plans of being good. If you haven't read it yet, I can feel Denny judging your motivation already.

Can you believe it? I'm finally at the end of my list. I'm surprised there were this many, do I qualify for some TLC show about crazy addictions yet? Feel free to make suggestions for my 2017 library...apparently I have a lot of time to read!


  1. Wow. That was a lot of horse books. Have you read Jane Smiley's Horse Heaven? I read it years ago and really enjoyed it. It's fiction, but Jane Smiley actually owns race horses and rides so it was realistic. She also wrote a nonfiction book about her experiences with her own race horses. I loved $80 Champion (which is the story of Harry and Snowman).

    1. Thank you for the reminder, I really liked Horse Heaven and feel like I'm due for a re read of it! I liked the $80 Champion too and want to see the new movie.

  2. Awesome! I think I need to purchase the last two. :)

    1. The last two are the best on the list and have a lot of good points. Off the top of my head, I'm a fan also of London Gray's "Lessons With Lendon" book and found it and the suggested exercises useful when starting Ms Bridget pony.

  3. Dang, that is comprehensive! I think your synposes were my favorite part. Nice post!

    1. I will read pretty much anything if there's a horse reference somewhere on the cover lol

  4. Wow you do read a lot! Thanks for sharing. Have you read Riding Lessons or Flying Changes (both by Sara Gruen)? I found them both to be a very good reads. :)

    1. Although both aren't super accurate on the rules etc for eventing... I found Riding Lessons to be quite a page turner, Flying Changes was more of a meh for me but I did read it all.

    2. I liked those ones, and will have to read them again. I think maybe the second one(?) the daughter really annoyed me, but I appreciated the writing and how real the characters felt. Water for Elephants was amazing, too.

  5. Thank you for the recommendations! I appreciate your work on this. :)

  6. Oooo, I've been reading the Dressage Chronicles and have the newest one on my phone but I've been saving it for my upcoming trip to Seattle. Now I'm really looking forward to it!

    I also LOVE Jec's fitness book and so far she's the best clinican that I've seen.

    1. I really, really liked her as a clinician. So positive and down to earth and used such simple exercises to solve sometimes complex seeming problems. I'd love to ride with her.

  7. I read a ton so I'm super pumped to pick up a couple of these and give them a shot.

  8. Wow, great synopsis! I might have to pick up a few of these...

  9. The lady is one of my favorites. It makes me feel old though as parts of it don't age well, as you said. I also like NKR's books but I'm behind on the series. There are so few adult horse books it's a good thing that I do like YA most of the time.

  10. Thank you for the great recommendations! Reading more books is on my list