Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Proudest Horse On The Prairie (1971)


The Proudest Horse On The Prairie
Beatrice S. Smith, il. Laurel Horvat
1971, Lerner Publications Company

Every day it is like meeting a locomotive head on," Fred complained.

A bay colt born on a South Dakota ranch grows into the headstrong, unbreakable Tipperary.  Sold from owner to owner, experiencing bad and good people, he eventually becomes a superlative bucking horse in the rodeos.

A short fictionalized version of a real horse and rodeo star, this book features basic but attractive illustrations and a limited, somewhat sentimental text.  The bio in the back of the book says this was the author's first published book. 

The author
Beatrice S. Smith wrote a variety of children's fiction and nonfiction.  A teacher, she lived in Middleton, Wisconsin, and owned a farm with her husband and children.

The illustrator
Laurel Horvat worked for Hallmark and for the Augsburg Publishing House before becoming a freelancer.  She lived in Providence, Rhode Island, and rode horses.

Tipperary's background
The real horse was possibly a Thoroughbred, who began to attract attention at South Dakota auctions where European buyers were shopping for cavalry mounts*. 

The only one to successfully ride the horse was Hollywood stuntman Yakima Canutt, and he did it twice.  If you've never watched the 1939 film Stagecoach, in which Canutt did amazing stunts as a stand-in for fledgling star John Wayne, then go watch it now.  Wayne wasn't a rider and famously enters his film career walking, but it's an excellent film.  And you can watch if free on YouTube.

*I was taken aback by this, thinking that South Dakota to Europe seems a heck of a long way to ship a horse back in 1914, but according to Wikipedia, equines were in short supply and nearly 1 million were shipped to Europe between 1914 and 1918. It was expensive and dangerous; horses took up far more space than men or supplies, and perished when the ships were shelled en route. 

Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame
National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum (scroll to bottom of page)
Wikipedia - Horse in WWI

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