Sunday, September 19, 2010


"Fear and her walk on different sides of the street."
Phantom, Son of the Gray Ghost by C.W. Anderson

It takes one of two things to ride a horse - the boldness of assuming you'll be fine, or the courage of confronting your fears that you won't. Sally in Phantom is perhaps the typical heroine of a horse book - bold and energized by a challenge, wholly trusting in her horse, a sensitive and intuitive rider who can bring out the best in any horse no matter how dull or high-strung.

Others struggle with fear. Sometimes it's brought on by a bad accident and sometimes it's an initial caution about riding, but it is always intense because the heroine almost always loves horses and the fear means a lack of ability to be perfectly with them, and because the world of riding is still, despite its domination by women, desperately macho and there is a tremendous shame in being afraid, in losing one's nerve.

Over the past three years the gray horse had given me a pretty rough time - no doubt about that. I had hit the ground, bounced back and hit the ground again, and aside from bruised bones and charlie-horsed muscles, never gave it a second thought. But with each successive jolt a little more heart was knocked out and always a little less returned.
There Was A Horse by Sam Savitt

Judy pulled the tan jodphurs over her slim legs. She fumbled at the belt with hands that trembled. Biting her lip she tried to steady her jangled nerves. She knew this was utterly ridiculous but try as she might she could not put aside the panic that came over her. Judy who loved riding more than anything in the world was now approaching her daily riding class with a cold fear that clutched at her heart.
Afraid To Ride by C.W. Anderson

"How about taking Calico over the low hurdle just once?" But Sue shook her head. All she could think of was the pounding of the mare's hoofs on the woodland bridle path, the growing feeling that she was out of control, then the sudden terror, the panicky tugging at the reins as she went into the jump, the sensation of falling, falling...
Spurs For Suzanna by Betty Cavanna

Wendy wanted to scream at them, to tell them that it didn't matter if the horse was gentle or not. "I don't know," she said softly after a moment. "I don't want to be afraid, but I can't seem to help it."
Gypsy From Nowhere by Sharon Wagner

Luckily, there are always people to help our heroes out.

"They're not especially brave," he told Sue thoughtfully. "They love to jump. They get a lift out of it. It's great sport. Brave people are people who are scared, like you, and still manage to conquer the things they're scared of."
Spurs For Suzanna by Betty Cavanna

Mr. Jeffers paused a moment and then continued. "I don't know if you will ever feel like riding again, but don't cut yourself off from horses because of it. Think of the thousands who go to horse shows and races who have never ridden. Let yourself enjoy seeing them without being a rider. With you I've always felt it was part of your life."
Afraid To Ride by C.W. Anderson

When I was young and starting out, I was afraid. Then I got over it. Just as you will. When you want to do something very much, you just do it. I always loved horses and I wanted to ride more than anything else on earth. So I had to overcome my fear. And I did."
A Morgan For Melinda by Doris Gates

And then, there are the people who don't understand.

"Are you that shook up over your first ride?"
"Yes, I am. I could maybe go back and ride Sam again. But I don't feel up to another strange horse right now. You've just got to understand, Dad."

He nodded and made a left turn, heading home.
"It's just hard for me to understand people who are afraid of horses, that's all. Especially my own kid."
A Morgan For Melinda by Doris Gates

There are other sorts of fear in pony books, of course.

"Oh, God, give me horses, give me horses! Let me be the best rider in England!"
National Velvet by Enid Bagnold

Like Velvet praying for horses, a few horsey heroines suffered the worst fear - that they would never to get a horse at all, or not until they were adults and far beyond hope.

She was nearly twelve and soon it might be too late... people should start riding at ten. If you did not learn to ride as a child, you would never acquire a good seat [the book] said... Fly-By-Night by K.M. Peyton

... I was twelve and terrified in case I should die before I had ridden in the Horse of the Year Show at Wembley...
Dream Of Fair Horses aka The Fields Of Praise by Patricia Leitch

Anyway, we'll have to do something before we get too old." Pip pushed her black bangs straight up into the air. "If we don't hurry, we'll be grown up. Then I suppose we won't even care about horses anymore. Grown people don't seem to."
Borrowed Treasure aka Shooting Star by Anne Colver

I'll let Mr. Jeffers, the quintessential Anderson mentor figure from Afraid To Ride, have the last word.

"I know," Judy said miserably. "I just can't bear to look at them. I've lost my nerve. I'm such a coward."
"Don't ever say that again," said Mr. Jeffers sternly. "I've watched people for more years than I care to remember and I never use that word. I've seen the timid, the bold and the foolhardy, and there's not that much difference between them when it comes to real courage."

1 comment:

Moggypie said...

What an enjoyable round-up of quotations. I'm going to take Anderson's character's words to heart :) I loved to ride as a teen but upon reaching middle age and sitting once on a scary horse who tried halfheartedly to buck, I've just been walloped with Inimations of's nice to be reminded that you don't have to ride horses to love them.