But from these advances, a worse threat was born. The Irish-American myth. In The Fighting 69th, a 1940 film about a famous Irish-American army regiment in World War I, Jimmy Cagney's character shrugs off the pride and pageantry of the unit with the immortal words "I'm Irish - but I don't work at it." Sadly, most fictional Irishmen work hard at it. And as the Irish have a much-storied fondness for horses, the professional Irishman is the proverbial bad penny of mid-20th century children's horse books. C.W. Anderson was a terrible offender, but his art distracted the outraged mind. Selma Hudnut has no such help.
A Horse Of Her Own
1963, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc.
Rosemary O'Connor, orphaned after a car accident kills her racehorse trainer and professional Irishman father (also her mother, though she doesn't seem as cut up about that), is living in horseless purgatory in Las Parra, California. Like many another horsey heroine, she manages to ingratiate herself (all wide-eyed and unaware) with the local horsey set, and scores a set of riding opportunities with wealthy Mr. Sedgewick, and makes best friends with his daughter Cindy. Her bete noir is Red, real name Harry Sharpe, who manages the stable of the very wealthy Mr. Medford. It's in
..a brown horse standing by the wall, his head low and lifeless. The near front leg, which he was holding off the ground, was covered from the knee down in voluminous bandages, bloody and soiled. His neck was thin and his ribs showed, his mane snarled with neglect, his coat stark.
Red is apparently a drunk who caused Jack's injuries; now, he's not treating the dying horse. And for plot-based reasons, none of the people who know about the situation - two grooms and a vet, of all people - will intervene. But by golly, Rosemary will.
Rosemary is a spunky heroine, and the supporting cast is strong. The plot is thin, even by horsey standards, but the action is interesting and the resolution satisfying. And the horsey details are deeply enjoyable:
She'd already cleaned out Irish's stall clear to the bottom, put lime down, and brought in fresh bedding. She'd made him a bran mash, given him his medication, sponged his face, and checked for signs of rubbing from the sling.
One quibble: I think I've seen this little gem in only 99% of children's books with female protagonists (and, since the start of the Sensitive Male era, not a few of those with male protagonists)
She knew she was too thin and too pale.
Oh, lord, grant me patience. Try being too fat and red, and then get back to me about the humanity.
Oddities - the Sedgwick farm has barbed wire in places. Also, that all the kids are encouraged to call a grown man by his nickname, Red, and that a book that goes all blarney on the Irish also contains a portrait of a drunken layabout.
Understudy - brown gelding
Mommie - bay mare, retired jumper
Chap - chestnut Thoroughbred
Sister Sue - brown mare
According to the dust jacket, Hudnut learned to ride in college, was a judge in the AHSA, and a contributor to The Chronicle of the Horse.
The Redhead And The Roan