Illustration by Jeanne Mellin, from The Complete Morgan Horse Book
Just in case you thought the scenario of book characters winning a horse was a total fantasy...
The American Morgan Horse Association/Team Morgan's Win a Morgan Horse Contest It takes an application, an essay, a DVD, two letters of reference and a $50 entry fee, but this contest open to kids under 21 and running until January 19 (next Wednesday) is the real deal. A lucky child is set to win a 2-year-old chestnut filly.
It goes against the zeitgeist in my neck of the American woods, but raffling off large farm animals is still done in more rural zones. At the Midwest Horse Fair this past year, you could win a Haflinger, a draft horse, Tennessee Gaited Walker Pony, and a Quarter Horse at various raffles. (from an Examiner article). And apparently, it's quite common (and a more controlled, sensible setting) for 4-H clubs to award equines to club members in contests.
And in related, dreaming-of-a-farm news, you can also win a cow (a Belted Galloway, no less) from Grit magazine. Their rules require that you possess at least two acres of fenced land, with access to a shelter and water. I have with difficulty restrained myself from entering. I was less successful when their website helpfully informed me that sister pub Mother Earth News is running a contest with a chicken coop as the main prize.
Oddly, I can't really recall too many books where Our Plucky Heroine actually flat-out won a horse or pony by pure chance. Usually there's at least a veneer of 'worthy' effort on their part. I imagine writers typically felt it was too 'easy' or implausible, as if just accidentally tripping in front of Squire Jones's hunter so he has to make your acquaintance, or just happening to see Old Man Schaeffer's favorite mare foaling downstream of where the floods are threatening to burst a dam - well this stuff could happen to anyone if she was just Plucky enough. In any event, these are what I could scrounge up.
Books where tots win ponies/horses/etc.
Dream Pony in the Sandy Lane Stable series by Susannah Leigh (1998)
Becky's Horse by Winifred Madison (1978)
The Pony Problem by Barbara Holland (1977)
Harry's Pony (an I Can Read book) by Barbara Ann Porte (1973)
National Velvet by Enid Bagnold (1935)
Heartland Skies by Melody Carlson (romance; city girl wins horse, falls for cowboy)(1998)
The Pony Problem, which has a particularly pretty cover, was a favorite of mine. The kid heroine (in full 1970s feminista) wins a pony in a contest then wars with her small-minded suburbanite neighbors to keep him.
Becky's Horse is a story of a girl who realizes she must sacrifice her dream so that her family can afford to ship endangered relatives out of WWII Europe. The cunning setup - girl matures through losing something - strikes me as appalling misogyny. Common as it is as a theme in children's literature, it's always on the girls. I've yet to come across a book where little Timmy learns that sacrifice is beautiful.
National Velvet, of course, features Velvet Brown winning The Pie in a raffle.
And of course, in terms of winning a cow, there was Trumper, whose hero used his horse to win a black Angus calf.
Late Addition to Blog
Also in the category of winning a horse but without the moral issues, the blog 3Ps In A Pod is running a contest for horse-crazy little girls to win a Breyer model horse. With brushable manes and tails. Horse Barbies!