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

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