What are your must-read horse books? As this genre continues to grow and thrive, horse books are going way beyond the pony books of our childhood. Saddle Club rehashes? We’re good, thanks. We have real equestrians writing stories that reflect our lives in and out of the saddle, and we couldn’t be luckier.
But these books aren’t always easy to find. Thanks to Amazon algorithms and the ever-shrinking footprint of brick-and-mortar bookstores, it can be challenging to know who is writing equestrian fiction… and who is writing a book with a horse on the cover. I’m constantly getting emails, Facebook messages, and comments asking me what to read once you’ve finished all of my equestrian fiction.
So I’ve decided to start a list of must-read horse books, divided by genre. Most of these I’ve read; some of them come as recommendations from my Facebook page. All of them put horses front and center! Take a look, and suggest your own additions in the comments!
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Contemporary, women’s, general fiction: novels with strong characters, rich descriptions and fantastic horses all live here, in my favorite category.
The Fortune’s Fool Series, by Mary Pagones
This multi-book series focuses on three-day eventing but branches out to explore other horse sports as it follows swaggering, adorable, profane Simon O’Shaughnessy on the road to riding stardom. Plus, the associated novel The Horse is Never Wrong is an unforgettable narrative by a young woman with autism, who finds beauty in the order of horses and horsemanship. I can’t recommend these books enough: totally unique, written boldly and with panache, and well-informed. Find them in Kindle and paperback at Amazon.
Finding Daylight, by Mara Dabrishus
Sure, Mara will tell you her books are Young Adult, but Finding Daylight is about adults navigating an adult world, and I’ve been a little bit obsessed with Georgie and Harris ever since I first read this novel, a rather more mature departure from her lovely Stay the Distance series. If horse racing makes you grow up fast, Georgie’s youthful entree into the high-stakes/highly deadly occupation of horse-racing definitely qualifies her for accelerated status. It’s a gorgeously written racing story, graced with the intimate details that set true equestrian fiction apart from the pretenders. Find it in Kindle, audiobook, and paperback at Amazon, or visit Mara’s website here.
The Dressage Chronicles Series, by Karen McGoldrick
Dressage trainer Karen McGoldrick created a fictional world so beloved, she even wrote a training manual based on the characters. Now that’s meta-horsemanship. Starting with the decision so many equestrians dream of, taking off to become a working student and immerse oneself in training, The Dressage Chronicles and its follow-up titles (delightfully dressage-y with titles like A Matter of Feel) are cult classics. Find them in Kindle and paperback at Amazon.
Horseplay, by Judy Renee Singer
If your life fell apart, what would be your plan B? If your answer is run away and become a full-time groom, you’ll want to pick up Horseplay. Casual dressage rider turns professional equestrian (the emphasis is not on professional) in this mid-life crisis comedic adventure. Our girl Judy has to learn how to deal with boarders, survive riding lessons, and try really hard not to fall in love again… but yeah, we know how that’s going to turn out. A favorite amongst horsefolks for correctly identifying (and skewering) equestrian archetypes. Find it in Kindle, audiobook, and paperback at Amazon.
A recommendation from my Facebook page, I haven’t yet read The Mare but I definitely remember reading a review in The New Yorker and thinking: “yeah, I should read that.” Following a Fresh Air Fund girl from Brooklyn who is sent to the alien landscape of upstate New York, The Mare gets rave reviews for its powerful writing and the questions it asks about how we can transform our lives. The Mare in question is named Fugly Girl, and the young girl is named Velvet, which makes me wonder if Mary Gaitskill wasn’t creeping a little (or part of) the equestrian blogger community circa 2007, when we were all reading Fugly Horse of the Day instead of looking at memes on Facebook. Find it on Kindle, Audiobook, and paperback at Amazon.
If you haven’t yet read this glorious, torrid soap opera of a book, please drop everything and go and do it. Riders is amazing not just because of all the sexual romping the characters take part in, hopping in and out of each other’s beds with Beverly Hills 90210-abandon, but because it’s also a well-written country story about interesting people, lovely horses, and the equestrian life. If you think you’re too good for a book with a picture of a man’s hand grabbing a woman’s ass on the cover, think again. None of us are. Find it on Kindle, audiobook, and paperback at Amazon.
Sexy times? Yes please. Sometimes the boots and gloves just have to -ahem- come off.
The Aspen Valley Series, by Hannah Hooton
Do you love delicious British horse trainers? ME TOO! The sexy adventures of Pippa, city girl in over her head, and Jack Carmichael, surly National Hunt trainer, are too good to relegate just to equestrian fiction–anyone can/should/will love these novels. It’s just good luck for us all that Hooton is a tremendously talented writer, with plenty of witty chatter between her characters, memorable racing scenes, and excellent pacing. The five-book series goes deeper in Carmichael’s racing yard and explores racing in its heartland: England. Truly a delight! Find them in Kindle and paperback at Amazon.
I can’t get through a training manual to save my life, but these fascinating looks at equestrian life, history, and our sport are all worth picking up.
In the Middle Are the Horsemen, by Tik Maynard
A heartfelt account of searching for the perfect training philosophy, Tik Maynard’s easy-going prose makes this book as pleasant to read as a novel… even while you’re learning a thing or two. I also remembered some things I’d forgotten about, and used them to great effect in my own riding! Maynard journeyed through Europe and the United States, taking working student gigs with trainers like Ingrid Klimke, and chronicling the experiences for magazines. When the mags got cold feet (honestly, it’s amazing they printed any of the stories at all, considering how small the equestrian business is) he turned it all into a book. Thank goodness! Grab it at Amazon in Kindle and paperback.