Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jersey Shore, Barrier Islands and Pony Penning

In case you've been living peacefully under a rock where the name Snookie means nothing , Jersey Shore is a reality show from MTV which follows a pack of trashy kids in their early twenties on their adventures in a shore town in New Jersey. Last year, Italian-Americans were displeased by the characters' endless use of the word 'guido' to proudly describe themselves and others as low-life, crass, obnoxious morons endlessly preoccupied by shiny things, not least themselves. This year, the story is how the wildly popular show is presenting New Jersey residents to the rest of the country, and Americans to the rest of the world. Leading to the currently high-profile governor of the state being jovially asked about the show's impact on his state's reputation.

The gist of Christie's reply:

"It takes a bunch of New Yorkers, drops them at the Jersey shore and tries to make America feel like this is New Jersey."

I promise this is horse-related.

Jersey Shore is shot at Seaside Heights, a shore town pretty much smack dab in the center of the Garden State's Atlantic coastline. I've been there and the show is accurate. Seaside Heights is one teeming mass of two groups of Americans you never want to get drunk and half-naked - New Yorkers and Canadians - amidst a general backdrop of nightclubs, bars, and a boardwalk scene from out of The Lost Boys.

But Christie's right. The New Jersey shore is beautiful. Even Seaside Heights. Like most beaches on the East Coast, it is on a barrier island. Barrier islands are long, flat strips of land lying just off the coast - their openness and general lack of trees or hills makes for an unlimited landscape that meets the endless vista of the ocean and act as a respite from the urban Northeast corridor.

Barrier islands occur naturally, though the exact process seesm to be debated among geologists, and they help protect the mainland from the current and the weather. Although most are very close to America's largest cities and the land generally has a high real estate value, there is still a reasonable amount of undeveloped land included. Partly, this is due to the inherent instability of building on borrowed sand, on what is essentially, a living piece of ground, one that changes with the wind and tide. Partly, it's because many barrier islands are too small and shallow to build on at all.

Which creates the phenomenon of the barrier island horses. Chincoteague, whose Pony Penning Day is this week, is the most famous, but there are herds of feral ponies and horses on barrier islands from Georgia to Canada. South Carolina's contribution, the Marsh Tacky, has just been made the state's horse breed. The National Park Service, which manages the National Seashore of Assateague and the National Wildlife Refuge of Chincoteague, also has a hand in the feral herds of North Carolina's Outer Banks, a long series of barrier islands off the coast of that state that gave these horses the name Bankers.

As with the mustang herds out west, barrier island horses have often run afoul of the government agencies charged with overseeing the public lands they typically inhabit. The National Park Service's priority is with the wildlife and the fairly fragile ecosystem of these islands, and argue that the well-being of the feral horses can come at the expense of both. Proponents for the horses say they can co-exist. The annual roundup at Chincoteague and Assateague are now a way to curb the population, as well as raise money.

And further north, Canada has Sable Island. Though not a barrier island (it lies much too far offshore to qualify and is instead classified as a continental island), I've included it because there's a very cute children's book by the mid-century writer/illustrator Margaret S. Johnson about Sable Island ponies.

But enough of that. What about books? Well, the first one is obvious.


Misty Of Chincoteague (1947) introduced the rest of the nation to Virginia's wild herd, and remains a classic children's book.

Marguerite Henry wrote four other books about Misty and Chincoteague Ponies: Sea Star, Orphan Of Chincoteague (1949); Stormy, Misty's Foal (1963), A Pictorial Life Story Of Misty (1976), and Misty's Twilight (1992).

Other books about that most famous of herds are:Hundred Acre Welcome by Ronald Rood (1967)and Charming Ponies: A Pony Named Patches (aka Patches) and A Pony In Need by Lois Szymanski (2008)

Hundred Acre Welcome, about naturalist Rood's adventures bringing a Chincoteague pony home to his Vermont farm, is due to be reprinted this summer from Blue Mustang Press, which also publishes Kendy Allen's The Ponies Of Chincoteague series: Misty's Heart Of The Storm, Misty's Black Mist And The Christmas Parade, Chincoteague Cowboy, The Story Of A Chincoteague Pony Named Misty III, and Ember's Story: The Misty Miracle Pony.

There are several picture books, including one by a very nice illustrator, Susan Jeffers - My Chincoteague Pony (2008); also Once A Pony Time by Lynne Lockhart (1992).

And a romance novel!

One Of A Kind by Jo Calloway (1983)

The wild herds of the Carolinas

A children's book reviewed here last year, Stephen W. Meader's Wild Pony Island. Outer Banks horses are also featured in the WWII-era children's adventure tale Taffy Of Torpedo Junction by Nell Wise Wechter (1957) which is now available from the University of North Carolina Press and the 2006 book Pale As The Moon by Donna Campbell Smith.

Sable Island

Pit Pony by Joyce Barkhouse (1990) and Dixie Dobie: A Sable Island Pony by Margaret S. Johnson and Helen Losing Johnson (1945) both feature Sable Island ponies. Pit Pony, which was made into a television series, will be released by Formac in a new edition on August 20, 2010.


North Carolina - the Banker Horse


Cumberland Island, Georgia

Tribe Equus

Gateway to the Golden Isles


Chincoteague and Assateague

National Park Service website

The Misty of Chincoteague Foundation

Breed Organizations

The Marsh Tacky

Chincoteague Pony Association

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The American Girl Book Of Horse Stories (1946)

The American Girl Book Of Horse Stories

selected by the editors of American Girl magazine, il. Sam Savitt

1946, Girl Scouts of the United States

shown: 1971 Scholastic edition

I ask you, what would you do if you woke up to find yourself in a perfectly strange room, with a horse staring in the window at you, with daisies in its mouth?

Palomino Cupid by Frances Priddy

An older collection of short stories which lean toward the romantic teen angle. It was compiled by the editors of American Girl, a magazine published by the Girl Scouts Of America during much of the twentieth century.

Some of the stories stand out - the language of "Sundance" and the humor of "Palomino Cupid" in particular - but most are simply adequate romance stories with an equine slant. I remember this book fondly, but I have to admit the overall writing quality isn't high. The collection does manage to cover most of the most common horsey tropes - flashy palominos, wild black stallions, yearningly horseless girls, and the battle between being an equestrian and being a girl - at the same time it covers so many teen romance points, from rich boy/poor girl to practical girl/dreamy boy. A nice read, but the stories don't quite live up to the usual good Savitt illustrations.

Short stories

"Danger Rides The River Road" by Margaret Leighton

"Beautiful And Free" by Carolyn St. Clair King

"Fiesta Parade" by Eleanor Hoffmann

"A Touch Of Arab" by Vivian Breck

"Sundance" by June Hall Mills

"Palomino Cupid" by Frances Priddy

"Two For The Show" by Ellsworth Newcomb

"A Horse In Her Future" by Margaret Burrage

"Ana Paula And The Golden Horse" by Marian Garthwaite

"Tall As The Stars" by Janet Lambert

"Danger Rides The River Road" by Margaret Leighton

In Revolutionary America, young Lavinia (who prefers to be called Vinnie) is faithfully caring for her brother's young horse, Robin, when the British arrive in search of mounts. Vinnie, desperate to save Robin, pushes the chestnut jumper into the parlor, just as her persnickety aunt Hortense opens the front door to a charming English lieutenant.

Robin's hoofs beat a drumming tattoo on the frozen turf of the meadow. Faster, faster! Vinnie leaned forward, gathering the reins on his neck. "Up, boy!" she cried. The big chestnut cleared the high rail fence superbly, with hardly a break in his stride.

"Beautiful And Free" by Carolyn St. Clair King

15-year-old Gil Bronson, son of a broke rancher, enters a race to catch a wild stallion, hoping to win the reward money to finance his further education. But the violence and intelligence of the horse dubbed the Black Prince makes him hesitate.

Leaping hastily to his feet, Gil gazed upward, and there above him on the rim saw the wide, red nostrils and gleaming eyes of the cornered Prince.

"Fiesta Parade" by Eleanor Hoffmann

Julie is a tomboy who lives for her horse, Topaz, and the wild scenery of her southern California home in the Santa Inez Valley. The course of one parade changes everything, as Julie makes a sacrifice for her polio-crippled cousin, Kate, and catches the eye of the boy next door.

Julie needed every minute of these last three days for grooming her beautiful Topaz and rubbing up the silver conchas on his saddle so that in the whole long fiesta parade of five hundred horses, no animal would glitter like her dazzling young palomino.

"A Touch Of Arab" by Vivian Breck

14-year-old Meggie Mallory and her father are on their annual camping trip in the Sierra Nevada mountains with her horse Cirque - "a Western stock horse with just a touch of Arab" - when he announces she's too insular and he's going to sell Cirque to force her to make friends. In the time remaining, she befriends absent-minded older teen Wakefield, and when a flood hits, she and her horse must go to the rescue.

"Come on, Cirque," I whispered, wishing my bare heels were spurs. In a moment, the current was swirling around his knees. He planted his forefeet on the bottom and refused to budge.

"Sundance" by June Hall Mills

Lissa, heartbroken, watches her beloved horse being loaded roughly into a trailer; her family has sold their bust sheep ranch and is moving to town. The big operation that's bought the place is owned by the father of a childhood friend, Ted, who Lissa is now all too aware of being wealthy and assured.

Fifteen, freckled and wind-blown, she had known contentment. Riding Sundance, the world was hers. Hers the bitter taste of alkali dust and the harsh glitter of the sun in a parched land; a fleeting glimpse of a wildcat, green eyes elequent with hate; the lonely, stirring cry of coyotes; the blessed smell of rain, foretelling the brief glory of rose and ivory cactus blooming in careless rapture; the pungent tang of pine needles, chewed in contemplation; and the sweet, sad cooing of mourning doves.

"Palomino Cupid" by Frances Priddy

A smart teenager discovers that the way to a standoffish boy's heart lies through his adored horse, Golden Boy. But other girls have already tried that, and boy and horse can all too easily see through the usual ploys.

"Two For The Show" by Ellsworth Newcomb

Millie wants to show her horse, the aged former Army mount Mr. Bones, at the big show, but fears humiliation and agrees to borrow a friend's talented young jumper, particularly since a malicious classmate takes every chance to heckle her about Bones.

"Don't look now," she said loudly, "but that's an exhibitor's tag Millie's wearing along with those priceless dungarees. Friends, I do believe she's entered that Army nag of hers in the junior-miss class. We'd better watch our steps."

"A Horse In Her Future" by Margaret Burrage

15-year-old Darlene is poor but hopeful about someday getting her own horse instead of just working around the local riding academy. Her usual annoyance at wealthy, bratty Michele turns to sympathy when she realizes the other girl's also lonely amidst the horsey crowd at the barn.

Darlene Manners leaned one shoulder against the wide doors of Barn One and watched wistfully as Hank Cenno, riding master of the 7-Hills Riding Academy, led his pupils on another ride.

"Ana Paula And The Golden Horse" by Marian Garthwaite

In early California, a Spanish girl who loves to ride is aware of the disapproval of her grandmother but can't seem to be the traditional lady the old woman expects.

The animal's golden coat was shining in the sun, his silvery mane and tail blowing in the wind. He was tossing his head, stepping high with pride of breeding. This was an Ysabella - a true palomino - the favorite horse of the dons.

"Tall As The Stars" by Janet Lambert

Army brats Judy and Cynthia are sisters, but while Judy's a forthright tomboy, Cynthia's a cunning flirt. When it comes to the big horse show on their Army post home, Cynthia manages to talk her sister into swapping her well-trained horse, Jack Snipe, for Cynthia's neglected Charlemagne.

Judy knew how clear the notes of reveillle sounded, floating across the early morning air; with what precision the soldiers drilled on the parade ground, marching proudly under the watchful folds of Old Glory. She loved the sunset gun that stopped the girls and boys on bicycles, the roller skaters, the people in their cars, and held them at attention while the great flag slid slowly down into waiting arms. She loved it all, especially the peaceful sound of taps proclaiming that all was well.


Margaret Leighton

Leighton wrote at least 17 books, mostly juvenile bios and children's adventures, but only one was horse-related. Comanche Of The Seventh (1957) - the story of the horse who survived Little Big Horn. She also wrote two other books centering on Custer: a juvenile bio of the man himself The Story Of General Custer, and a juvenile biography of his wife Bride Of Glory: The Story Of Elizabeth Bacon Custer.

Carolyn St. Clair King

King apparently wrote romances under the name Sally Lockhart.

Eleanor Hoffmann

I couldn't find anything reliable about her.

Vivian Breck was a psuedonym for Vivian Gurney Breckenfeld (1895-1992). She seems to have written mostly adventure and romance novels for teens. Titles include Maggie (1954), High Trail (1955), and White Water (1958); Hoofbeats On The Trail (1950) appears to be her sole horse book. San Francisco born, she was a 1915 Vassar grad who became a teacher and a mother. She lived in California all her life, and was a passionate hiker who loved the High Sierras, which is reflected in her work.

June Hall Mills

I couldn't find anything reliable about her.

Frances Priddy

She seems to have written two horse books, The Grand Rogue (1958) and Barbie (1960).

Ellsworth Newcomb (1909-1971)

Newcomb was married to another writer, Hugh Kenny, who wrote science articles. They lived in Connecticut, and Ellsworth appeared to write mainly teen novels.

Margaret Burrage

I couldn't find anything reliable about her.

Marian Garthwaite

Prolific writer who wrote historical fiction for children and teens. Books include: Coarse Gold Gulch (1956), The Locked Crowns (1963), The Twelth Night Santons (1965), Shaken Days (1952), Bright Particular Star, Holdup On Bootjack Hill (1967), Tomas And The Red-Headed Angel (1950), The Mystery Of Skull Cap Island, You Just Never Know (1955), Mario,

Janet Lambert

An Indiana native who wrote many teen novels, including one horse series. The Dria Meredith trilogy includes Star Dream (1951), Summer For Seven (1952), and High Hurdles (1955). She drew heavily on her own experiences on stage and as an Army wife, and her various series are among the most fondly remembered of the many mid-20th century teen romance novels. They have been re-released by Image Cascade.


The University of Southern Mississippi -- de Grummond Children's Literature Collection - Margaret Leighton

Jane Badger Books on Margaret Leighton

Denver Library collection - Carolyn St. Clair King

The University of Southern Mississippi -- de Grummond Children's Literature Collection - Vivian Breck

Open Library on Frances Priddy

Jane Badger Books on Frances Priddy

Janet Lambert at Jane Badger Books

School Girl Shamus on Janet Lambert
Janet Lambert at The Malt Shop
Janet Lambert at Image Cascade

Girl Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America

Wikipedia on the Girl Scouts

Related Note

There is a very similar horse anthology, The Boys' Life Book Of Horse Stories. The contents differ, but it uses Savitt as an illustrator and the covers are virtual twins. It was also identical to this book in that it was put out by the Boy Scouts of America, from their magazine, Boys' Life.

Its ten stories include: Wild Bronc by Kerry Wood, Tale of Two Horses by B J Chute, The Black Outlaw by Stephen Payne, Wild Horse Roundup by Glenn Balch, Ride the Rough String by D.S. Halacy, Jr., The Curb Bit by Carl Henry Rathjen, The Mudhen, V S by Merritt P. Allen, Horse With Cow Savvy by Joseph Stocker, Sacrifice Spurs by Carl Henry Rathjen, and Boss Of The Cross-O by Stephen Payne.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Horse-Tamer (1958)

One interesting side effect of being around horses is having a unique inside look into that vast stretch of human history that came before the internal combustion engine. With all apologies to my childhood self, who bitterly resented the family car for not being a family horse, I have to admit that the horse was a major stumbling block to human ambition. Having your financial world depending on a fragile, flighty animal whose tendency to bolt has inspired more than one doting owner to refer to them as very large bunny rabbits and whose ability to cripple themselves without even trying has caused those same owners to say that horses were born trying to commit suicide... well, hanging your society's health and wealth on this animal was madness.

Even when they weren't running amok spilling humans and cargo off cobblestones and sideswiping pedestrians (for a recent modern equivalent, see the news stories about that 4th of July parade in Iowa where a team spooked and caused mayhem including one death) there was the issue that they could get sick. En masse. And then your economy did too, since you needed the equines to deliver goods and people. The best example came in 1872, when an equine flu swept the United States, sickening thousands of horses and crippling the nation's largest cities. The Great Epizootic brought American trade to a halt, provoked a lot of second-hand scrambling by urban centers to police the health of the cities' horses as a way of policing the health of the cities themselves, and helped create a six-year economic depression.

No wonder people embraced the machine. But until they had the option, we were stuck with the horse. And the horse was stuck with us. For every miserable person cursing his lame transportation, there were dozens of horses suffering from people who had no idea how to train them. Which is where Farley sets his tale.

The Horse-Tamer

Walter Farley

1958, Random House

(1980 paperback edition shown, il. Ruth Sanderson)

When the Black bruises his foot racing overseas, Alec and Henry Dailey set off for home to rest him. Delayed at takeoff, the two horsemen pass the time by talking horses, and Henry recounts his youthful experiences with his older brother Bill, a horse tamer. When Alec asks why they were called tamers, Henry answers:

"Training takes time, Alec, as you know, and these men had no time. They did a job in a matter of hours--a few days at most--and then went on to the next case. Some of the horses, too, were worse than wild animals--vicious, mean horses. Most often, of course, they were the result of bad handling by their owners. But come to think of it, what kind of job would you and I do on that plane outside? We're no mechanics and, as I say, so many owners in the old days weren't horsemen. They just needed a horse to get around. They made mistakes, plenty of 'em--and they suffered for it. So did their horses.

And then the actions goes back in time to 1883, when Henry is a kid sent to spend a summer with his 30-year-old brother Bill, a carriage maker. Bill's more interested in horses than in what they pull, and a chance meeting with an Irish peddler named Finn Caspersen turns him into an itinerant horse tamer. The brothers and Finn begin touring the towns and small cities of the East with Bill taking on every community's worst horse and turning out impressive performances.

Suddenly Wild Bess reached for him, her head as pointed as a snake's. Bill jumped away, pulling her head around and staying close to her hindquarters. Her long tail cut the air and without thinking he grabbed the tail with his free hand and hung on. She spun him around and he barely kept his feet as they made several tight circles.

Finn's happy; they're making money. But what Bill wants to do teach the owners, not give a 'show' and the two clash repeatedly over this difference. When Bill catches Finn selling fake 'cures' like a medicine man, he furiously tells him they're through. Finn, calculating, tells him he's learned plenty from him and is going to do his own show, his way. Bill continues his way, and gains respect and prestige, but begins hearing about Finn's enterprise, which has become wildly successful. The brothers head to New York City, where Finn's show has been enthralling audiences.

Here, hometown boy Farley indulges himself in one of those classic fawning looks at The City:

They found the city itself as forbidding as it was strange, for the streets were crammed with block after block of houses and buildings. Yet they admitted to each other that they felt the strong pull of New York. Here was violent power and excitement! It was a city that would be forever on the rise and constantly changing. They wondered if this in some way was not beauty in itself.

I'm not saying he's wrong, but oh, the inevitability of a New Yorker drifting off to gloat over how spiffy they are.

Back on point. Henry and Bill track Finn down, and the usually gentle Bill resorts to ruthless, dangerous tactics to force the fraud out of his racket.

An unusual book for Farley. His only foray into historical fiction, it was otherwise similar in tone to his later books - a little more mystical, a little less character-driven and more heavily plotted than his earlier work. Henry has almost no character as a kid, Finn is a stock big guy with a little conscience, and only Bill has any depth but he's mostly a stock little guy hero. The horse taming methods aren't exactly going to win Bill any accolades today, but in the context of a short-term "tamer" trying to provide a quick fix in an era filled with horses suffering much worse from ignorant owners, it's not a nightmare. Bill repeatedly says he's trying to teach the owners more than the horses, but the owners resist and we see mostly Bill with the horses. The final scene, where Bill springs a nasty surprise on his former partner, is exciting, as are the other tangles between Bill and dangerous horses. The horses--Wild Bess, Tar Heel, and Panic--actually get more depth than most of the people.


Wikipedia for 1872 horse flu

Long Riders Guilde Academic Foundation - the flu

Wikipedia for Niblo's Garden, the venue where Bill has the showdown with Finn

AskArt on illustrator James Schucker

Random House

Other Covers

2007 paperback from Yearling

1958 hardcover at FantasticFiction - by James Schucker who also illustrated Big Black Horse, Little Black, A Pony, Little Black Goes To The Circus, and The Little Black Pony Races.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Horse Named Peaceable (1982)

A Horse Named Peaceable

Isabelle Holland, il. Frederick Porter IV (cover)

1982, Lothrop, Lee & Shephard Books

"..I don't think a relationship with a horse is a good substitute for relationships with people. I mean it. You don't like school. The teachers tell me you don't join in many activities. Your grades - well, we won't go into them today. We've had that out before and it's never been pleasant for either of us. In fact, all you do care about is that horse of yours."

After her mother's death two years ago, 12-year-old Jessamy West and her father have grown increasingly distant, and one favorite bone of contention is her horse, Peaceable. David Wainscott is an Episcopal bishop who feels that the money and love that his daughter lavishes on the horse is an immoral waste. Jessamy strongly suspects he also finds it embarassing that he, a famous activist concerned with world poverty, owns an animal which is so often used as a symbol of self-indulgent wealth. She only got the horse through the intercession of her mother, who understood loving animals; in the years since her mother's death, Jessamy has worked around a disreputable but cheap local barn to earn Peaceable's keep, but now David is departing on a long trip to help the poor overseas, and Jessamy must be sent away to boarding school. David, not understanding the bond or the shadiness of the barn, is late with board payments. Jessamy's headmistress, firmly instructed by David to keep her from running off to be with the horse all the time, keeps her from visiting often. And when Jessamy gets to the barn one day, Peaceable's gone. Has he been sold to the meat man, or gone to auction?

All my friends - all the kids at school and their older brother and sisters at college - thought the Bishop was super-marvelous. The new Church in action. Etcetera. It made it hard. I couldn't very well knock my own father - at least I hadn't been able to until now. But if he was so super-marvelous, why didn't he take proper care that Peaceable would be all right - particularly since he sent me away where I couldn't keep an eye on him. It was my super-marvelous father's fault that Peaceable was now... might be...

Jessamy, incandescant with rage at her father and determined to track down her horse, goes home to get funds from the empty house. And runs into a would-be burglar, a teen with a flair for language and a bitter voice who tells her to call him Rudd, and his collie mix dog Weaver. The three disguise themselves and leave the city, travelling to a country auction where Peaceable was supposed to be sold.

Jessamy, now posing as Rudd's kid brother Josh, argues endlessly with Rudd, who challenges her rage at her father and her beliefs in general. Rudd's story comes out slowly; like Jessamy, he's poured his love into an animal, the collie mix Weaver. He also ran away, though in his case he was running away from his father, a preacher who was also a drunk.

An unusual horse book in that the horse actually doesn't appear in most of it. It's smart and well-written, and a strong story. It deals with several tough issues - how good, decent people can do horrible, irresponsible things with animals because they just don't think very deeply about them, and how the love of an animal isn't somehow a perversion of what should be love for another person. Although the horse is absent most of the time, it's a loving portrait of the power of the bond they can inspire.

Isabelle Holland


Holland was an American born overseas who didn't live in the U.S. until she was in college. She worked for 25 years in publishing, mostly in publicity, with stints at Lippincott and Putnam. She began to write full-time in 1969, and eventually published over 50 books. Two of her books were made into films, the better-known of which was 1993's The Man Without A Face, in which a disfigured teacher tutors a hen-pecked teenaged boy.

I've included a link to another blog's review of The Man Without A Face, below, despite the complete lack of relevance to this blog, because I find it so interesting that an author whose work repeatedly confronts hard topics went so very weakly vague and indecisive when it came to homosexuality. Also because the Queer YA blog is kind of cool. In one review, the author writes This traditional problem novel manages to be both gruesome and cookie-cutter, which is quite the succinct indictment.

Holland's other horse books


Toby The Splendid

The Easter Donkey

Holland's other dog books

The Unfrightened Dark


Peaceable - grey 15.2 gelding

Weaver - black and white border collie mix dog


de Grummond Collection

New York Times obituary
IMDB page

Queer YA - review of The Man Without A Face

Thursday, July 8, 2010

And the winner of "Wild Horse Annie" is...

AC! Please email me your mailing information so I can send it out to you.

Illustration by William Moyers, from the book Broomtail: Brother Of Lightning (1954) by Miriam E. Mason.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Roast them marshmallows.

In the Laura Ingalls Wilder book Farmer Boy, the horse-loving boy Alonzo goes with his family to the closest town to celebrate Independence Day. His father, a prosperous farmer, raises Morgans, which Alonzo will prize above all horses for the rest of his life.

Father's shining horses were hitched to the shining, red-wheeled buggy, and they all drove away in the cool sunshine. All the country had a holiday air. Nobody was working in the fields, and along the road the people in their Sunday clothes were driving to town. Father's swift horse passed them all.

For most of our history, fast harness horses have been an American obsession, a back door to pride and racing in communities that often officially frowned on both. And each year on the Fourth of July the sport of harness racing goes to its home in Goshen, New York for a celebration of newly inducted Hall Of Fame people and horses. Horse races, particularly harness races, were a traditional part of the Independence Day celebration for years. Several uniquely American breeds of horse originated primarily as harness horses, from the extinct Narragansett Pacer which was supposedly the breed that carrie Paul Revere on his most famous journey, to the modern Standardbred.

Books (juvenile fiction)
The Phantom Filly by George Agnew Chamberlain (1945)
Born To Trot by Marguerite Henry (1951)
The Black Stallion's Blood Bay Colt by Walter Farley (1951)
The Good Luck Colt by Genevieve Torrey Eames (1953)
The Black Stallion's Sulky Colt by Walter Farley (1954)
Lord Buff And The Silver Star by George Agnew Chamberlain (1955)
Bellfarm Star: The Story Of A Pacer by Col. S.P. Meek (1955)
Old Sam, Thoroughbred Trotter by Don Alonzo Taylor (1955)
The Horse Comes First by Mary Calhoun (1974)
The Gallant Gray Trotter by John T. Foster (1974) illustrated by Sam Savitt
Rebel's Choice by Patricia Harrison Easton (1989)
Summer's Chance by Patricia Harrison Easton
To Race A Dream by Deborah Savage (1994)
Small Gains by K.M. Peyton (2004)

Books (beginner reader fiction)

Stall Buddies by Penny Pollock (1984)

Books (adult mysteries)
Dead Horses by Pat Hewitt (1998)

US Trotting Association - "Goshen Prepares For Great American Weekend"
Harness Museum
Born To Trot at Simon & Schuster

Friday, July 2, 2010

More Than Courage (1960)

More Than Courage: Real Life Stories Of Horses And Dogs And People Who Have Loved Them
Patrick Lawson, il. Earl Sherwan
1960, Whitman Publishing Company

To all the horses and dogs that have been trying to communicate with dumb humans for thousands of years, this book is affectionately dedicated.

This collection of stories about horses and dogs is undoubtedly dated - the references to Native Americans as redskins and the cheerful statement that bloodhounds are not gay but solemn dogs make that clear. But there's a sort of romance to its sweeping vision of the world.

The horse relieved man of the burdens he had always had to pack upon his own back. It enabled him to plow more land and so produce more food. Its greatest gift, however, was mobility. By carrying man swiftly from one place to another, the horse helped him to increase his area of activity and speed up the interchange of knowledge. Take away the horse and history would have to be rewritten.

More to the point, the author does know animals.

As with all animals, horses have a habit of blithely disproving every statement made about them by experts.

The first chapter sets up the entire book. This is to be an examination through examples of the debate between those who attribute all animal behavior to instinct and training, and those who believe animals are capable of intelligent reasoning. It's quickly evident which side the author is on. When I researched Lawson and discovered he was actually Lois Eby, it made sense. Women, like animals, have often been on the wrong side of the experts when it comes to judging intelligence and reasoning power.

The chapters switch off, one concentrating on dogs and the next on horses. Below are the horse chapters.

The Question
The crowd's roar of admiration suddenly changed to a gasp of horror. The horse had whirled to face his fallen rider. He looked to them now like a maddened killer... Then an astounding thing happened. The horse paused beside the man's prone body, sniffed it, and carefully, delicately, stepped over it to trot unconcernedly toward the arena exit.
(rodeo bucker Midnight)

Drumming Hoofs
...the action of cavalry horses and their courage in battle is all the more remarkable. A horse can be taught to ignore gunfire, but how can he continue to have confidence in a master who deliberately leads him into a situation where he is severely wounded.
(military horses including 19th century Indian fighters Prince and Two Bits, General Sherman's horse Sam, General Meade's horse Baldy, and Alexander the Great's horse Bucephalus)

Pegasus Without Wings
Kincsem's approach to the post would have shamed a milk wagon plug. Where the proud thoroughbreds paced and pranced, she plodded. Having arrived at the starting line, she just stood there, tail drooping, head down. In race after race she was left behind, while every track fan in Europe held his breath and chewed his nails. Yet somehow she always managed to win.
(a blind pacer named Sleepy Tom, the jumper Snow Man, the Hungarian racehorse Kinecsem)

Enter - A Star!
Fury is definitely a camera hog. On the set, he keeps edging forward to get close to the camera until he is practically hanging over the human actor's shoulder. One harassed director finally set up a dummy camera. Fury, unaware that there was no film in it, posed before it happily while the real camera shot the scenes with the rest of the cast.
(The Lipizan stars of the film Ben Hur, Roy Roger's Trigger, Gene Autry's Champion, TV stars Fury and California)

About Lawson
Lois Eby grew up in California, where she fell in love with Arabian horses and nature. A writer for film, she also wrote mysteries and novels.

Other books by Patrick Lawson
Star-Crossed Stallion

Star-Crossed Stallion's Big Chance

Patty Lynn: Daughter Of The Rangers

Patty Lynn At The Grand Canyon

"Hard Luck Stallion" - a short story about a boy trying to tame an Arabian stallion named Ajaz. July 1954 edition of the magazine Boys' Life. Basically the Star-Crossed Stallion story.

About the illustrator
A native and lifelong Michigan resident, Sherwan specialized in nature and dog pictures, writing and illustrating many books and producing a popular line of canine-themed notepaper.

Books written by Sherwan
Mask, The Door County Coon by Earl Sherwan (1963)
Bruno, The Bear Of Split Rock Island by Earl Sherwan (1966)

"Hard Luck Stallion" (Part I) at Google Books - Sam Savitt illustrations
"Hard Luck Stallion" (Part II) at Google Books
"Hard Luck Stallion" (Part III) at Google Books
"Hard Luck Stallion" (Part IV) at Google Books

Jane Badger Books bio of Lawson
(The comment about the book's physical limitations is spot on - I basically destroyed my copy doing this review. It is now a collection of loose yellow pages within a fragile carcass of covers and spine.)
IMDB on Lawson
Lawson's mystery series
Standard Printing - Earl Sherwan info

Thoroughbred Heritage - Kincsem
Show Jumping Hall of Fame - Snow Man
Greene County, OH - Sleepy Tom
Sam Savitt poster of famous Standardbreds with Sleepy Tom

Other material about featured horses
Dwight Akers wrote a 1939 book about Sleepy Tom.
Sam Savitt wrote a book called Midnight: Champion Bucking Horse about Midnight.
Rutherford George Montgomery wrote a book about Snow Man; there was also a movie and a Breyer model.
Fury, of course, was a TV show based on a book, Albert G. Miller's series. He was also made into a Breyer model.