Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Christmas Pony (1967)

The Christmas Pony
Helen McCully & Dorothy Crayder, il. Robert J. Lee
1967, The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.

On that day, late in the afternoon, quite a few people saw the McCully's man Laurent walking a beautiful big black pony to Cody's stable.

In Amherst, Nova Scotia in 1912, Dr. McCully's wife decides that her three children should have a pony for Christmas. But how to keep a surprise in a small town where everything must be shipped in from the mainland or England?

The McCullys were very good at living as if they were rich.

A line which should tell you nearly everything you need to know about the McCullys. It's the same old mid-century story - a big rambling old house at the unfashionable end of town (which is never the criminal end of town, though), 'only' a few servants, a charming garden, rebellious children with upright hearts, and local roots that extend back a good many years. They would be tiresome except for the humor:
The McCullys and the cats coexisted with the understanding that people were people and cats were cats and it was neither possible nor desirable for it to be otherwise. This understanding made for mutual enjoyment. And the McCullys, keeping to their side of the bargain, never gave the cats names - except for the Angora, who had been named Dora. No one knew how this came about, and everyone was slightly uneasy at this breach of etiquette.

Not truly a horse book, as the majority of the action does not directly involve a horse or pony. But a book about every horsey child's dream - getting a pony under the tree - must be included.

There are several beautiful paintings by Robert J. Lee.

Other books
McCully was a food writer, whose other books were all culinary:
The American Heritage Cookbook (with Eleanor Moderer)
Nobody Ever Tells You These Things About Food And Drink
Things You've Always Wanted To Know About Food and Drink
The Other Half of The Egg
Waste Not Want Not
Cooking With Helen McCully Beside You

Dorothy Crayder apparently wrote other children's books, but nothing seems horsey
The Riddles Of Mermaid House
She And The Dubious Three
She, The Adventuress
The Joker And The Swan

Other seasonal horse books
A Horse For Christmas Morning by Gordon Grand (foxhunting)
The Christmas Horse by Glenn Balch
The Christmas Pony by Sylvia Green
Issie And The Christmas Pony by Stacy Gregg
The Christmas Pony by Wendy Douthwaite (series)
A Horse For Christmas by Joanna Campbell (series)
Starlight Christmas by Bonnie Bryant (series)

Stubby Pringle's Christmas by Jack Schaefer
(a novella really, and about a cowboy, but wonderful Lorence Bjorklund illustrations)

A Miserable, Merry Christmas by Lincoln Steffens (from his autobiography)
(a short story which appears in many anthologies)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Horse To Remember

A Horse To Remember
Genevieve Torrey Eames, il. Paul Brown
1947, Julian Messner, Inc.

The little horse stopped a short distance from the boy and stood like a statue, head outstretched, ears forward, nostrils sniffing to make sure this was a friend. The sun turned his coat to gold, except for the narrow white strip down his face and the two white socks on his hind legs. His mane and tail were silvery white and his eyes were dark and full, set far apart.

Jarvis Dane is the only one in his family who doesn't love to ride. He envies his twin sisters, Mary and Martha, for their confident ease on horseback, but he really prefers to walk. This summer, though, his lack of interest has a price; his father, forseeing a bad hay crop, is planning to sell off some horses, including Jarvis's pet, the scruffy accidental colt named Joker. The ragged colt has grown up, largely overlooked, during the winter, and is now a beautifully formed 3-year-old with a flashy palomino coat. He still has the sense of humor that inspired his name.

"Funny about that colt. He's got his own ideas. He's smart - smart as they come - but he doesn't seem to take his work serious."

Jarvis plots to keep his horse, discovers a mystery in the woods involving a chicken thief, and fights with a snooty newcomer who disdains loyal collie Jack as not looking much like the champion show dogs his father raises. Most importantly, Jarvis learns to love riding.

Now they were climbing the hill at a walk, but Jarvis was too dizzy with happiness to know where they were. He was in a magic world of his own; a world he had just discovered, where he and his horse were like one creature - a creature with strength and speed he had never known, and all his to guide and control. He felt at that moment that there was nothing he couldn't do, no place he couldn't go. It was a world only riders could know. He felt, too, as if he could look right into Joker's mind and never before had he loved the colt so much.

Unusually realistic and strong portrayal of a kid - and a boy! - learning to want to ride, and then learning to ride. Where many horse books would have had the newly formed team of boy and young horse continue merrily on their way, Eames has her hero go through actual riding lessons on an older, quiet horse, and be unable to ride the young, green horse again until after those lessons. Granted, the lessons only last 3 weeks, but it's still kinda cool. And the lesson scene is very well done.

"No, no," Chet called out as Jarvis passed him, posting rhythmically in time to Gray Eagle's long, low trot. "Don't tuck you chin in like that. Look up - forward, between your horse's ears. That's better. And be careful about your feet, don't let them swing back and forth." Jarvis tried to keep his mind on his chin and his feet at the same time. It was like that old stunt of rubbing your stomach and patting your back. He had never thought there was so much to remember - head, shoulders, elbows, heels. The twins always looked just right on their horses and they never seemed to think about it. He was hot and sticky; his knees were tired too, but he wouldn't think of stopping until Chet said the lesson was over.

A very well-written book with sharply defined characters in the children, even between the twin girls who are very similar, and a nice growth in perspective by the hero. Strong horse scenes, and neatly wrapped plot threads. Unusually, a foal whose dicey birth fuels a major plot point disappears from the book quickly.

Jarvis has a collie, Jack, whose attitude toward his boy is summed up rather elegantly.

Old Jack, the collie, met the girls at the door. He greeted them with a wag of his tail as he passed them, but it was Jarvis he was looking for. He thrust his long, smooth muzzle into the boy's hand and walked beside him toward the house.

and later

The dog thumped his tail on the ground and gazed up at his master. It had not been a perfect day for him, shut in the house all afternoon, but the ending suited him all right. He loved picnic suppers on the lawn, with handouts from all the family; even Aunt Sue had passed him a bit of cold chicken when nobody was looking.

Joker - palomino 3-year-old
Lady-be-good - black blind broodmare
Annabel - retired polo pony
Gee-Whiz - retired polo pony
Pepsi - Shetland pony
Popsi - Shetland pony
Gay Lady - chestnut mare
Gray Eagle -
Sun Flash - Thoroughbred gelding
Ginger - 22-year-old horse
Dan - farm horse
Dolly - farm horse
Brownie - broodmare

Jack - 10-year-old rough collie

Other Books by Author
The Good Luck Colt
The Flying Roundup
Pat Rides The Trail

Books authored by Paul Brown (1893-1958)
Pony Farm
Pony School
Piper's Pony
Sparkie And Puff Ball
Daffy Taffy
Crazy Quilt, Circus Pony

Books illustrated by Paul Brown
Too many to list; he illustrated Eames's The Good Luck Colt

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowy Day

In honor of the vast amounts of white stuff now covering my neck of the woods, some images of horse books in the snow. It's not a common theme, actually; summer (or California) is the standard backdrop.

Winter Pony by Jean Slaughter Doty (Nothing like starting with the obvious.)

Horses Across The Ages, Jeanne Mellin author and illustrator

Happily After All by Laura C. Stevenson

Panky In The Saddle by Nancy Saxon

The Ponies Of Mykillengi by Lonzo Anderson

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Kingdom In A Horse

A Kingdom In A Horse

Maia Wojciechowska.

Harper & Row, 1965

The mare's hips were outlined, the bones pressing against the dirty coat. He liked the wide white mark running from her eyes and narrowing slightly at the nostrils. And more than that, he liked the way the mare looked at him, with the soft brown eye and the very light blue one. It seemed to mock him, that look.

12-year-old David Lee is bitterly disappointed that his father Earl, a famous rodeo clown, has abruptly quit the circuit and moved them to Vermont to settle down. Apart from the horror of attending school regularly (where the gaps in his education quickly translate into constant failure and frustration), he feels betrayed that his father has broken a long-standing promise that he could join him in the arena as his partner. Sulking and withdrawn, he refuses to play along when his dad tries to buy him a horse for his 13th birthday. Even though he falls in love with the dirty chestnut mare at the auction, he turns away and continues to punish his dad by faking disinterest. Even though it half kills him.

He leaned for the reins; then barely touching them he neck-reined to the right, and the mare turned as sharply as he knew she would and sprung immediately into a canter. Although there were people in the passageway between the stalls, the horse ran as if she were in an open field, smoothly and fearlessly.

The mare is bought instead by 70-something Sarah Tierney. At loose ends after the death of her husband, she suddenly recalls a childhood dream of owning a horse. At the auction, she asks the help of a tall horseman sitting nearby, who happens to be Earl Lee, and the three are drawn together by chance and the influence of the mare soon to be christened Gypsy. And, surprisingly, even more people reveal hidden, horsey sides to themselves as news gets around of Sarah's purchase.

The writing switches back and forth from David's POV to Sarah's, and while hers is more interesting and believable, both are strong, individual voices.

The fear had not left her, but she knew this was the time to try her horse out, with Lee around. She loosened the reins a little, and the second she did, Gypsy took off at a fast canter. Sarah was petrified by the speed and her distance from the ground, and she held on to the horn with one hand. Off they went, faster now, at a gallop, down the dirt road.

The end notes say that the mare is based on a horse owned by Wojciechowska, and while I find some of the events daunting - galloping on your first ride ever? - they are likely based on reality.

A well-written book which concentrates on the human drama and quality, but is very much about the horse.


Gypsy - chestnut mare with one blue eye, maybe QH/TB

About the author


Born in Poland, Wojciechowska came to the U.S. sometime during the 1940s, having left Poland at the outbreak of World War II, and then France when that country fell to the Nazis. She attended a variety of schools during this time, and developed a dislike for the educational system. She attended Immaculate Heart College in California, and worked on several publications including a labor newspaper, Newsweek, and in PR. Over the years she lived in Santa Fe, Mahwah and Laguna Beach. She died in Long Branch, NJ of a stroke. She published 3 books for adults under her married name, and 17 for children and teens under her maiden name. Many of her later books had a clear social message, not unusual for the era (1960-1980) she was writing in. She won the Newberry Medal in 1956 for Shadow Of A Bull. The mare Gypsy was based on a horse she and her daughter Oriana owned.


University of Mississippi de Grummond Collection 1 and 2

New York Times obituary

Other Books


Market Day For `Ti Andre (1952) under name Maia Rodman

Shadow Of A Bull

A Single Light (1968)

2und Out (aka Tuned Out)

The Hollywood Kid (1966)

Don't Play Dead Before You Have To

Hey, What's Wrong With This One?

The Rotten Years


Winter Tales From Polan (stories)

Odyssey Of Courage: The Story Of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (bio)

Till The Break Of Day (autobiography)

The People In His Life (adult novel)

How God Got Christians Into Trouble

She also began writing a series called "Dreams Of..." and cowrote The Bridge To The Other Side with Monika Kotowska.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Horse For X.Y.Z.

A Horse For X.Y.Z.
Louise Moeri; Gail Owens, illustrator
1977, E.P. Dutton

After a week at camp, Solveig Nilsson is standing obediently if sullenly in line awaiting the bus to take her back to her boarding school when she impulsively decides to throw caution to the wind and break a few rules. Solveig's been yearning to ride the chestnut Quarter Horse Snake Dancer all week, but he's only been trusted to a few older campers. Her plan now is to slide off the bus, hide until it leaves, then take a quick ride before the bus driver realizes she's missing and returns for her. A few minor flaws in her plan - there's a reason Snake Dancer was ridden only by the more advanced riders, an emergency on her bus causes so much confusion that Solveig isn't missed, and men with guns turn up at the isolated camp to reclaim their stolen property - Snake Dancer.

Solveig isn't tremendously likeable, the horse is essentially a minor figure in what is really an adventure story, and the writing falls just on the wrong side of the line separating the distinct if sometimes irksome 1970's style of prosaic realism from the timeless flaw of pedestrian dullness. On the plus side, Solveig is very believable, the horse does show some personality and isn't just a plot mechanism, and the adventure is very thrilling for a child reader, particularly the terrifying ride at the beginning. And her struggles, both physically with Snake Dancer and mentally with her own fear, are compelling.

Snake Dancer - chestnut Quarter Horse

Paperback edition - Scholastic, 1980

This book seems to have had a number of covers. Apart from the above hardcover and the Scholastic paperback, I've seen at least two others online. The most attractive can be seen here, at Jane Badger Books.

Other books by Author
The Devil In Ol' Rosie (another horse story)
Star Mother's Youngest Child
First The Egg
Journey To The Treasure
The Girl Who Lived On The Ferris Wheel
Save Queen Of Sheba
The Forty-Third War
The Unicorn And The Plow
How The Rabbit Stole The Moon

About the Illustrator
Gail Owens was born in 1939, and has illustrated far too many books to be mentioned here. Another that feature horses is Stall Buddies by Penny Pollock.

du Grummond collection

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Random book news

The first book Sam Savitt illustrated, Gordon Wright's 1966 Learning To Ride, Hunt and Show, has been reissued by Skyhorse Publishing. I once came across an utterly filthy copy of this book in a public library - by filthy, I mean the lovely cover had layers of grime as thick as the layers
of paint on a Monet. When even librarians seem indifferent to basic care of books, reissues are a boon.

Simon & Schuster is publishing a biography of Wild Horse Annie, the protagonist of Marguerite Henry's Mustang, Wild Spirit Of The West, in March. David Cruise and Alison Griffiths' Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Mustangs: The Life of Velma Johnston will be published on March 16, 2010. With the eternal debate over the management of the wild equines currently erupting yet again with a proposed plan to relocate as many as 25,000 horses to the Midwest, this should be an interesting release.

Susan Richards, author of Chosen By A Horse, has written another memoir involving her horses, Saddled: How a Spirited Horse Reined Me In and Set Me Free. This time, Richards focuses on her Morgan mare, Georgia. It will be available on May 5, 2010, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

International Society for the Protection of Horses and Burros
TIME Magazine article on Wild Horse Annie
U.S. Department of the Interior - Bureau of Land Management - Horses and Burros
Find A Grave - Velma Johnston
AP story - US Plan For Wild Horse Round-up Faces Opposition (12/08/2009)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

No Job For A Lady (bio)

This book has lived at my local library for years but although I've always been drawn to the horsey cover, I always put it down again because the early pages aren't particularly captivating or horsey. I finally read it this summer, and was surprised to find myself reading it in one sitting. It is very horsey and it develops into a very good read after a somewhat slow start.

No Job For A Lady
The Autobiography of M. Phyllis Lose, V.M.D. as told to Dnaiel Mannix
1979, Macmillan Publishing

Mother had a map of the city and she acted as a guide until we finally found the Armory. There had been a heavy snowfall a few days before, followed by a sudden thaw, and the streets were running rivers; the water must have been 10 inches deep and in many places was over the curb. We drove around the Armory but there didn't seem to be any way to get into the place. It was almost time for my first class and I was half-crazy. Then the Ford stalled.... At last I got out, waded through the torrent in my good riding boots, got into the trailer, and tacked up Cassadol there. Then I backed her down the tailboard into the flood with dozens of cars honking at us and scores of men yelling curses... I led her through the rushing water and up on the sidewalk. This was my first encounter with New Yorkers and I must say it takes a good deal to surprise them. I know that I'd be surprised if I ran into a girl leading a horse down a sidewalk, but these people never even looked up. Cassadol kept her head on my shoulder for comfort and we forced our way through the crowd to the Armory.

(An early trip to the National Horse Show, back when it was held in New York City.)

From innocently overfeeding her first pony into bad behavior to riding her mare against Nautical at Devon's Open Jumper class, Lose has had quite the life. The nation's youngest and first female racehorse trainer at 19, she spent her teen years as an exercise rider on Philadelphia-area tracks like Monmouth and poor lost Garden State. Fascinated with hoof problems from a young age, Lose determined to go to vet school and study the horse, but getting in during the 1950's wasn't easy, and when she graduated in 1957, it took work to convince owners a woman could handle their horses.

Mannix has his faults as a writer, but he does allow Lose's personality shine through. It's an entertaining autobiography partly because it's a genuinely interesting life, and partly because Lose has the assurance (shared by most people who are raised in a wealthy lifestyle) that her life is extraordinary and interesting. She makes a valiant effort to convince us that her family is really quite average and even struggles to afford her pony, but it seems clear that while they might not be rolling in liquid wealth, they have above-average resources. As when she mentions they have two cars and a maid during the Depression, or when her father has some influence over a vet reluctant to hire her.

Flash - 14.2h pinto pony
Toots - pony
Cassadol - brown 15.2h mare

Name Dropping - Philadelphia, Main Line and Horse names
W. Plunket Stewart - founded the Cheshire Hunt in 1912
Nancy Penn Smith Hannum - stepdaughter of W. Plunket Stewart
Averell Penn Smith Walker - stepdaughter of W. Plunket Stewart
Danny Shea - show jumping rider turned racehorse trainer; rode Little Squire
Dr. Raymond A. Kelser - dean of U.Penn vet school 1946-1952
Nautical - formerly Injun Joe, famous palomino jumper with tic of flinging tail
A.A. Biddle - Alfred Alexander Biddle
First City Troop - unit of PA National Guard

Profile In Veterinary Practice News magazine
1954 Sports Illustrated article on the Cheshire Hounds
Photo Essay on the Cheshire Hounds
Main Line Times article on Nancy Penn Smith Hannum
Photos of old Garden State Park
Photo 2
UPenn Vet School
Monmouth Race Track
Laurel Race Course
Image of the steeplechase course
Brandywine Point-To-Point
Immaculata University
The Great Valley
Devon Horse Show
National Horse Show
First City Troop

Other Books
Blessed Are The Broodmares
Blessed Are The Foals
Keep Your Horse Healthy

And - a photo of Nautical, taken from the book Show Jumping: Officers' Hobby Into International Sport by Pamela Macgregor-Morris.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Author/Illustrator - Jeanne Mellin

First, The Lost Pony. When I was a small and horse-crazy child who loved reading, I discovered this thin book in the possession of a friend who was neither horse-crazy nor bookish. She was, however, contrary and refused to part with it. So I had to wait a while before stumbling across it in a thrift shop. It was worth the wait. It had, after all, the best of all possible plots, that of horse-crazy kids who get a pony through a miracle.

The plot was of a stray pony adopted by twin siblings (very much in the classic Savitt/Anderson/etc. kind of East Coast landed gentry with a dad forever clad in a dapper 1950's suit, frowning mildly and smoking a pipe), who have been longing for a horse of their own to ride, but whose parents have always been dubious about the costs involved. The instantly love the pony and soon groom him for a show. At one point, they hide him in a chicken shed.

While the story was horsey heroin to a kid who lived in hopes of having a stray pony appear in the alley beside my house, the illustrations were key. The book was one of those highly illustrated children's books that bridge the gap between picture books and early chapter books.

Jeanne Mellin's earliest book illustrations, including those for Lost Pony, were as a collaboration with her friend Nancy Caffrey.

So this very simple and satisfying book was my introduction to Jeanne Mellin's art, and nearly the last time I saw it until I happened to open a nonfiction book about Morgans many years later. Copies of her books with Nancy Caffrey are relatively rare, but it's not hard to locate copies of her nonfiction works on the Morgan horse in libraries. Much of the following information comes from the New York Morgan Horse Society's website; Mellin has been a devotee of the Morgan breed since becoming convinced that her first horse, a mare named Bonnie, had Morgan ancestry.

As a child, Mellin was a member of the Junior Calvalry of America, a horsemanship club founded by writer and rider Margaret Cabell Self. She then attended the Rhode Island School of Design. While doing portraits of some horses at the Morgan farm Ardencarple Acres, she met future husband Fred Herrick, head trainer for the farm. They married in 1955, and began working at another Morgan farm, Applevale. They moved on to Empyrean Hills, then began an association with Saddleback Farm, a partnership which lasted until 1989. Both husband and wife are featured in numerous articles in Morgan publications, and both have won awards from the American Morgan Horse Association. One daughter, Nancy, owns Rose Hill Farm, and stands a Morgan stallion as well as showing. Jeanne Mellin also did sculptures for several Breyer Horses.

Links and Sources
Mellin's Art website
Aquarian Morgans
Identify Your Breyers
New York State Morgan Horse Society article on Jeanne Mellin (HTML version of a pdf)
New York State Morgan Horse Society profile
New Canaan Mounted Troop

Books - As Writer/Illustrator (fiction)
Pidgy's Surprise

Books as Writer and Illustrator (nonfiction)
Illustrated Horseback Riding For Beginners

Horses Across America

Horses Across The Ages

The Morgan Horse

America's Own Horse Breeds

Ride A Horse

The Morgan Horse Handbook
The Complete Morgan Horse
(a combination of The Morgan Horse and The Morgan Horse Handbook)

Books as Illustrator
Somebody's Pony (aka Lost Pony) by Nancy Caffrey
Penny's Worth by Nancy Caffrey
Mig O' The Moor by Nancy Caffrey
Blackjack, Dreaming Of A Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Frosty, The Adventures Of A Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Rusty, The High Flying Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Robin, The Lovable Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Annie, The Mysterious Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Rimfire, The Barrel Racing Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Shadow, The Curious Morgan Horse by Ellen Feld
Sky Stallion by Alea Bushardt, Melody Clayton

Breyer Horses Models sculpted
Friesan (1992)
Misty's Twilight (1991)
Pluto (1991)
Roemer (1990)
John Henry (1988)
Sherman Morgan (1987)

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I was crushed when I began reading the Black Stallion series as a child. The reason? No pictures. They were my first step away from the world of interior illustrations, and while the writing was wonderful and I loved the books, I missed the artwork. Perhaps you can see why.

Afraid To Ride, C.W. Anderson

Scorpion, Will James

Old Bones by Mildred Mastin Pace, illustrator Wesley Dennis

The Complete Morgan Horse (nonfiction), Jeanne Mellin

A Horse To Remember by Genevieve Torrey Eames, illustrations by Paul Brown

Rain Cloud The Wild Mustang by Margaret Kraenzel, illustrations by Pers Crowell

Ride The Wild Storm by Marjorie Reynolds, illustrations by Lorence Bjorklund

Of course, some editions of Walter Farley's books did have illustrations - above is Keith Ward's work from The Black Stallion.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Good Year To Be A Girl

Zenyatta wins the Breeders' Cup. Jubilation. The bay filly came from behind, went the long way around, won the race, broke Personal Ensign's record of consecutive victories and basically blew everyone away, becoming the first filly to win the Cup. Added to the year had by the other large bay filly, Rachel Alexandra, this is simply cool.

ESPN - Zenyatta Wins Breeders' Cup Classic
Breeder's Cup website
National Thoroughbred Racing Association - Zenyatta
ESPN - Horse Of The Year? It's Still Rachel
NYT article "Zenyatta Wins Breeders' Cup Classic"
Photo - NYT

And a list of books featuring racing fillies:
The Black Stallion's Filly by Walter Farley
Born To Run by Blanche Chenry Perrin
Desert Storm by Logan Forster
Sweet Running Filly by Pat Johnson and Barbara Van Tuyl (series)
A Horse Called Wonder by Joanna Campbell (series)

Ruffian: Burning From The Start by Jane Schwartz
Personal Ensign by Bill Heller (Thoroughbred Legends series)

C.W. Anderson
His beautifully illustrated nonfiction books about horses and Thoroughbreds often contain stories and drawings of racing fillies. Two examples:

C.W. Anderson's Complete Book of Horses And Horsemanship -a portrait of the mare Busher with her first foal

A Touch Of Greatness
includes chapters on Dawn Play and Bee Mac (who suffered a bizarre fate during a storm) and a discussion of 1943 as a year of brilliant fillies. Also given a chapter is the broodmare Marguerite, dam of Gallant Fox

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sun Dust Devil Horse (originally Sun Dust)

Sun Dust Devil Horse (originally Sun Dust)

Eva Zumwalt, il. Zenowij Onyshkewych

1976, Xerox Education Publications

This ranch would be her refuge; she would be safe from that kind of hurt here. Dad would call it running away, she knew, and he wouldn't be proud of her attitude. But maybe there are times when everyone had to run and hide.

16-year-old Laurie Campbell permanently damaged her right leg in a car accident, and now wants nothing more than to hide away from the awkwardness of her classmates and old life. Luckily, her parents decide to relocate from Washington D.C. to the New Mexico ranch where her dad grew up. Dad's a journalist who's away on assignment to a war zone, but Laurie and her mother head to Tierra Encantada (Enchanted Land) in early June. She finds it welcoming -

This was a beautiful house for all its informal sprawl. It was plastered and stuccoed white, and the tile roof was a soft, warm red. The heavy beams across the ceilings of the rooms were old and very strong, and looked as if they might withstand any possible storm. It was a sheltering kind of house.

- and her grandparents are thrilled to see them, but Laurie quickly realizes that she's not going to be allowed to hide away. Grandpa raises Quarter Horses and is intent on making a rider out of her, and enlists 17-year-old hired hand Dave Elliot to teach her. It helps that Dave is cute. It doesn't help that he seems to be best friends with good-looking Randa Meredith, or that Randa's got a bit of an overbearing personality. The two girls quickly tangle, and become de facto enemies.

About a half-dozen horses were approaching at a hard run. They swept nearer, led by a dark-gold filly with with black mane and tail who held her slender head flung high as if in challenge... The dun had no white markings at all to break the shining gold of her skin, which darkened to bronze at the knees and then to black on all four slender legs. Her head was small and well-shaped, the eyes intelligent and wide apart.

Meanwhile, Laurie's attempts to resist her granddad's plans to make her a rider lead her into ownership of the wild filly Sun Dust. The dun 2-year-old is the daughter of a mare so aggressive she had to be put down, and her behavior is wild enough to make everyone doubt she's going to be much of an improvement. As Dave works to break the filly, he also teaches Laurie to ride on a quiet, mature horse.

Laurie is a convincingly reluctant heroine; her family and friends push her out of the shadows where she's trying to hide, and her own conscience forces her to complete the tasks they set her. She's a little too forbearing, sometimes, to be real, as when she regrets arguing with Randa. But she learns to ride quickly (possibly too quickly), and makes a very credible bid for Rodeo Queen and as a contestant in a barrel race.

There is just a hint of the 'oh, you're such a natural' in this story, but it's far overshadowed by the emphasis on Laurie's hard work. I'm not sure how others will regard the training aspects of Dave's breaking in of Sun Dust, but I'm not really equipped to critique it.

Horses (all Quarter Horses)

Count's Holly - roan mare

Count Me In - black colt with 4 socks; foal to above

Sun Dust - 2yo dun filly

Sunburst - dam of above

Dark Knight - black gelding, barrel racer, Randa's

Mirage - young sorrel gelding with blaze

In Depth - stallion

Dust Devil - golden dun stallion

Cricket - 28yo broodmare

Capitan - black gelding

Blue Boy - gelding

About the Author

Zumwalt was born in Eunice, New Mexico, and raised in Artesia. She appears to have been a writer of Gothic romances.

Other books (romances)


The Elusive Heart

Love's Sweet Charity

Mansion of Dark Mists

Masquerade of Evil

The Unforgiving

When the Heart Remembers

Wayward Lady

Yearning Years


Artesia Chamber of Commerce

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Good Luck Colt (1953)

The Good Luck Colt

Genevieve Torrey Eames, il. Paul Brown

1953, Julian Messner, Inc.

Martin wasn't listening. He lifted the colt's head against his chest and rubbed its neck and sides. "Come on, little fellow," he whispered. "You're going to grow up and be a big horse someday - a trotter."

Martin Dennis loves trotting horses. His father breeds and trains Standardbreds, dreaming of one day reaching the harness world's biggest race, the Hambletonian, and Martin dreams right along with him. But while his father's hopes are pinned on the promising black colt Master Peter, Martin believes in his little orphan foal Good Luck. Since no one knows if his dam was registered, Good Luck's prospects for a trotting career are dim, but Martin is determined to make his colt a harness horse. He has some trouble -

It was not until he unsnapped the rope and picked up the lines that he ran into trouble. No matter how he tried he could not get Good Luck to walk away from him. Every time he stepped behind him and picked up the lines the colt turned and came toward him, nuzzling his hands and pockets for carrots or oats.

- but for the most part, Good Luck learns easily and Martin has high hopes of tracking down his dam's papers through a slippery horseman named Gus Brown. When tragedy strikes, Martin feels pressured to re-ignite his father's enthusiasm for horses, and suggests a trip to nearby Goshen to watch the harness world's biggest race, the Hambletonian. There, father and son meet the famous names of harness racing: Ben White, Bion Shively, Sep Palin, Harry Pownall, Fred Eagen, and watch the race itself. Upon their return home, matters with the elusive Gus reach a crisis, and Good Luck ends up racing for the first time.

A well-written, enjoyable old horse book with a vivid portrait of harness racing and beautiful Paul Brown illustrations. Martin's little brother Cal is a wonder of tough-hearted childhood; his favorite strategy when he's annoyed at his older brother is to hopefully suggest that someone or something is dead. Even the villain Gus Brown is drawn intriguingly; a skillful driver and careful horseman, he is described as having a weakness for crooked schemes, but an honesty about caring for his horses.


Voline - Standardbred mare

Lady Luck - Standardbred mare

Good Luck - bay Standardbred colt with white stripe (Lady Luck x Good Cheer)

Master Peter - black Standardbred colt (Voline x Master Mind)

Peter Volo - Standardbred stallion

Master Mind - Standardbred stallion

Florita - chestnut Standardbred filly

Real Horses

Iron Prince - brown Standardbred colt

Crystal Hanover - Standardbred filly in Hambletonian

Sharp Note - Standardbred colt in Hambletonian

Duke of Lullwater - Standardbred colt in Hambletonian

Hit Song - Standardbred colt in Hambletonian

Scotch Victor - Standardbred colt in Hambletonian

Peter Nibble - Standardbred colt in Hambletonian

Hardy Hanover - Standardbred colt in Hambletonian

Epicure- Standardbred colt in Hambletonian


Tassle - Dalmation mascot


The Hambletonian Society

The real 1952 Hambletonian

Photo of the winning heat

Bion Shively

There was a short documentary film on Bion Shively's victory,Old Man In A Hurry.

Alma Sheppard

Martin, arguing for the right to race his colt, uses Alma Sheppard as an example of a child who raced harness horses. In 1937, she drove Dean Hanover to a record 1:58.

Other books by the author

Pat Rides The Trail 1946 il. Dan Noonan

A Horse To Remember 1947 il. Paul Brown

Ghost Town Cowboy 1951 il. Paul Brown

Flying Roundup 1957 il. Lorence F. Bjorklund

Dog story

Handy Of The Triple S 1949 il. Paul Brown

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blaze Finds Forgotten Roads

Blaze Finds Forgotten Roads

C.W. Anderson, author and illustrator

1970, The Macmillan Company

Billy and Tommy go riding on their ponies Blaze and Dusty, and explore the woods by making every right turn. They quickly become lost, find a ruined cabin, jump a wide stream and picnic by a waterfall.

Unusual for the Blaze series in that much of it takes place in thick woods, with the boys ducking to avoid branches, etc. Unusual for Anderson, too, whose drawings usually portray riders using grassy lanes with the occasional low stone wall. I could swear Blaze and Dusty grow taller in this one. There's one drawing where Blaze looks very much like a horse, and Dusty looks leggier than previously. Quibbles, all. These are some of the most engaging drawings in the series, with both children and horses looking interestedly around as they scout new territory.


Blaze - bay pony with four socks and a blaze

Dusty - grey spotted pony

Billy And Blaze books
Billy And Blaze
Blaze And The Gypsies
Blaze And The Forest Fire
Blaze Finds The Trail
Blaze And Thunderbolt
Blaze And The Mountain Lion
Blaze And The Indian Cave
Blaze And The Lost Quarry
Blaze And The Gray Spotted Pony
Blaze Shows The Way
Blaze Finds Forgotten Roads

Other Books (picture)
A Pony For Linda
The Crooked Colt
Pony For Three
Lonesome Little Colt

Other Books
High Courage
The Horse of Hurricane Hill
Afraid To Ride
Phantom, Son Of The Gray Ghost
A Filly For Joan
Great Heart
Another Man O'War
The Outlaw

Other Books (nonfiction)
Tomorrow’s Champions
Horses Are Folks
The Smashers
Heads Up, Heels Down
Deep Through The Heart
Twenty Gallant Horses
Complete Book Of Horses And Horsemanship

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

High-Stepping Horses (short story collection)(1963)

Equine short story collections for children tend to use the same stories, a mix of re-told myths with a horsey angle, quasi-literary excerpts and some pony book chapters from the UK or horse fiction from US writers like Will James. This collection is a little unique. True, there are two versions of the Bucephalus legend and one of Pegasus, a story by Will James, and the obligatory Bierce and Saroyan contributions. But there are also three tributes to real racehorses - one of them an Australian filly - as well as a chapter from Florian, and the very funny 19th century comment on transportation, The Suburban Horse. Although Kipling's Maltese Cat is a familiar face, his polo ponies playing their underestimated hearts out in colonial India is too good to begrudge.

High-Stepping Horses

ed. Frances E. Clarke

1963, Acorn Books (The Macmillan Company)

Dedicated to the memory of Man O'War

The stories

I've divided them up based on style - most seem to be fiction, there are some which are clearly non-fiction (obituaries of Man O'War and Anna, for instance) and some which are written in a non-fiction style.


The Horseman In The Sky (Ambrose Bierce)

The figure of the man sat the figure of the horse, straight and soldierly, but with the repose of a Grecian god carved in the marble which limits the suggestion of activity.

Bierce's famous Civil War short story where honor and duty vie with love and family, centered on a Confederate calvalry officer paused atop a hill.

The Bride Of The Man-Horse (Lord Dunsany)

from The Book Of Wonder (1912)

Her father has been half centaur and half god, her mother was the child of a desert-lion and that sphinx that watches the pyramids, she was more mystical than Woman

The centaur Shepperalk steals the beautiful, lonely and fabulous Sombelene to be his wife.

Florian Performs For Franz Joseph (Felix Salten)

from the book Florian: The Emperor's Stallion (1934)

Florian strode as those horses who, centuries ago, triumphantly and conscious of the triumphant occasion, bore Caesars and conquerors into vaquished cities or in homecoming processions.

The Lipizzan stallion Florian and his rider Ennsbauer perform for the Emperor of Austria.

Metzengerstein (Edgar Allan Poe)

first published in the Saturday Courier magazine (1832)

We caught him flying, all smoking and foaming with rage, from the burning stables of the Castle Berlifitzing.

A vicious young baron inherits a murdered neighbor's magnificent but seemingly cursed stallion.

Pegasus, The Winged Horse Of The Ancients (Marshall Reid)

It was not that Pegasus was frightened, but that he had never known the love of man - or of horse either, for there was no horse like him. He had always lived along and he liked it best that way.

Another retelling of Bellerophon and the golden bridle, the battle with the Chimaera, and his decision to free the wild winged stallion Pegasus.

Silver Blaze Sir (Arthur Conan Doyle)

The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes (1892)

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson travel to Dartmoor to investigate the disappearance ofa racehorse. This tale was the origin of the phrase "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time," which has become a shorthand for the abscence of an event being significant.

A Genuine Mexican Plug (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

A chapter from the novel "Roughing It" by Mark Twain.

a black beast that had as many humps and corners on him as a dromedary

Twain impulsively buys this bargain - $27 for horse, saddle and bridle - and then discovers the horse's two talents - bucking and taking chances that nearly kill his riders and would kill any other horse.

The Summer Of The Beautiful White Horse (William Saroyan)

from the collection My Name Is Aram (1940)

Early every morning for two weeks my cousin Mourad and I took the horse out of the barn of the deserted vineyard where we were hiding it and rode it, and every morning the horse, when it was my turn to ride alone, leaped over grape vines and small trees and threw me and ran away

Mourad and Aram are from a tribe legendary for their honesty, so when horse-crazy Mourad shows up with a white horse one morning, Aram can't understand how he got it. But he's willing to overlook this detail if he can only learn to ride it.

Blue Murder (William Daniel Steele)

from a magazine story ( 1925)

No outlash here of heels in fright. Here was a forefoot. An attack aimed and frontal; an onslaught reared, erect; beast turned biped; red eyes made to white eyes aghast...

When his brother Jim is killed by a rogue stallion, silent blacksmith Camden Bluedge goes after the animal, which has run off into the wilderness.

The Brown Mare (Alfred Ollivant)

from the book The Brown Mare And Other Stories Of England Under The Cloud (1916)

She was honest and she was kind, with the heart of a woman and the manners of a lady.

A groom and a major in WWI cavalry tend their favorite mare, Kitty.

"Joker" (A Horse That Lived Up To His Name) (Will James)

from Horses I've Known (1940)

A cowboy is flummoxed by a young horse who has a talent for getting them both into strange situations.

Champions Of The Peaks (Paul Annixter)

from the book The Hunting Horn And Other Stories (1957)

The 2-year-old colt Slippy runs away in the company of the big old dog Sounder, but the duo ends up lost in the mountains and searching for a way home.

Bucephalus: A King's Horse (Alice Gall and Fleming Crew)

Another retelling of the legend of Bucephalus and the young Alexander, whose canny recognition of the source of the horse's spooking foretold his later exploits. This version introduces a new character, the slave Orestes, who loves the horse before it was sold to Alexander.

The Maltese Cat (Rudyard Kipling)

A cheap lot of polo ponies face a team made up of high-priced horses from the pick of the Indian crop. A classic, told from the point of view of the ponies themselves, particularly the driven, charismatic Maltese Cat.


Arabians (Howard J. Lewis)

A quick summation of the Arabian breed of horse.

Babieca: Steed of El Cid (Fairfax Downey)

The legend of the Spanish national hero and his white warhorse.

Cristiano: A Horse (W.H. Hudson)

from The Book Of A Naturalist (1919)

The naturalist recounts how, on a trip to the pampas of his native Argentina, he misinterprets the behavior of a gaucho's grey horse, whose preternatural alertness and restlessness he attributes to playfulness until the gaucho tells him the horse was born wild and has retained the wild animal's watchfulness.

The King Is Dead (Arthur Daley)

from the November 2, 1947 New York Times

The King is dead and he leaves no successor

An obituary for the racehorse and sire Man O'War, who died a few weeks after his long-time groom Will Harbut.

Gato Taught Me A Lesson (A.F. Tschiffely)

from the book "Tschiffely's Ride" (1933) (aka "The Ride," and or "Southern Cross to Pole Star"

The writer and adventurer discovers the intelligence and value of his new horse, Gato, when he tries to force the horse to cross a seemingly placid river.

Equestrian Interlude (Tursa)

The writer recalls some of his horses from his time in India, from a polo-loving Waler mare to a horse who resents late nights.

Anna from the NYT

Anna Dies At 39 from the NY Herald Tribune

Two newspaper stories about the death of a white mare, Anna, who for 25 years appeared at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in the opera Aida.

Flight: An Appreciation (James C. Bendrodt)

From the book "A Story Of Courage: Flight, Australia's Greatest Stakes-Winning Mare" by A.P. Morris (1947)

You owned a queer sort of stark, remorseless courage that transcended mere speed

A racehorse fan salutes the Australian champion Flight, a bay filly.

The Suburban Horse (H.C. Bunner)

by Henry Cuyler Bunner(1896)

I know only that they walk as if they had corns, and that they are always sick; and these, I am assured, are signs of high blood and great commercial value in a horse.

A wry look at the horse, from the dying years of the pre-auto era, when anyone living in the suburbs would have used a horse as transportation.


The Stallion (Walt Whitman)

The Broncho That Would Not Be Broken (Vachel Lindsay)

The Runaway (Robert Frost)

Other books compiled by editor

Valiant Dogs

Cats--And Cats

Gallant Horses

Wild Animals

Of Cats And Men