Monday, April 5, 2010

The Horse That Swam Away (1965)

The Horse That Swam Away

Walter Farley, il. Leo Summers

1965, Random House

Tena wore neither saddle nor bridle, and there was only a light halter on her head. Yet Tim could guide her with no trouble at all. She would run for miles and miles if he let her. There was scarcely a day that they didn't go fifteen miles down the beach and back.

Scant months earlier, Tim's family had moved south to a beachfront house on a remote Florida key for his father's health. To make up for his losing his friends, his parents gave him the Arabian mare Tena, with whom Tim has clearly established an instant, perfect bond.

One day the pair's usual adventures - herding a school of mullet in the shallows, fighting a nurse shark hooked on a fishing line, galloping along the beach - turns dangerous when Tena follows a porpoise out to sea. Desperate, Tim trespasses on the territory of a reclusive Native American named Billy Roundlegs, only to discover that Billy shares his trouble - the porpoise is his own runaway pet.

A very simply written book which doesn't approach the quality of the series for which Farley is famous, but then it is clearly intended for a younger audience. His love for the unique natural world of Florida is clear in every line, and the most compelling feature of the story.

Living in Florida wasn't the same as living anywhere else. You wouldn't have any fun at all if you were scared of things that might hurt you.

The horse-in-peril plot is a common one, but this slant - a horse swimming out to sea, at the mercy of the ocean and the predators therein - is unusual.

This book appears to have been based on a story Farley told his youngest child, a boy named Tim. The family had a home in Florida and owned Arabians, including a mare named Al-Marah Athena.


Al-Marah Athena "Tena" - chestnut Arabian mare


Al-Marah Arabians and breeder Ruth "Bazy" Tankersley are big players in the Arabian world in the U.S. Her breeding program, based on stock purchased from the famous Crabbet stud in England, helped make this particular line of Arabian horses extremely popular in America. There is a book about Al-Marah, And Ride Away Singing - the Breeding Philosophy of Bazy Tankersley and the History of Al-Marah Arabians by Mary Jane Parkinson.


Venice, Florida library - Walter Farley Literary Landmark

Mikasuki (Miccosukee) Indians

Al-Marah Athena's pedigree at Pedigree Online

Equine Vision magazine article on Al-Marah Arabians' history

Webcast of Al-Marah breeder Ruth "Bazy" Tankersley speaking on Arabians

Illustrator - Leo Summers


Summers specialized mostly in sci-fi magazines and adventure stories, but did a surprising number of horse books.

Horse books

Five True Horse Stories by Margaret Davidson

Wild Boy by Thomas Fall

Runaway To Glory by Alice E. Christgau

The Wild One by Eve Bunting

A Horse For All Seasons by Sheila Kelly Welch (short stories)

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