Five Inspirational Non-Fiction Books About Horses

After my recent post about the five pastoral books about birds of prey that I love reading, I thought I’d introduce my readers to five incredible books about horses.

Throughout the 2020 lockdown, I bought a lot of books about horses and their behaviour, because I adore these stunning animals. When I was younger, and I lived in Dorset, I spent a lot of time watching horses in the fields, and I also took some horse riding lessons.

Now seems like a great time to talk about books regarding horses. As a new movie showcases the remarkable story of a horse born and raised on a Welsh allotment that goes on to become a world-renowned racehorse, I felt now was the time to share some of my favourite non-fiction books about these majestic creatures.

I’ve always loved horses, even though I’ve spent very little time in their company. I think it’s the way they’re portrayed and the fact that they have such a prominent place in literature.

Also, they’re incredibly beautiful animals, with complex personalities and amazing intellect.

If you’ve never really read a lot of pastoral, non-fiction books about horses, then here’s a list to get you started.

5. In Harmony With Your Horse: How to Build a Lasting Relationship: If you either own a horse or spend a lot of time with one, then you might want to consider reading this book to find out more about their behaviour and mind-set. Experienced horse rider and enthusiast Clare Albinson has founded a riding club and spent many years honing her skills at riding horses. In this book, she discusses how to strengthen your bond with your horse and understand their behaviour. Even if you don’t have a horse, it’s still worth a read. Albinson makes animal behaviour accessible and understandable, so it’s a great book to check out if you’re looking to understand animals and their motivations.

4. Chosen by a Horse: This unique memoir by Susan Richards reminds me of Helen Macdonald’s H Is For Hawk, in that they’re both stories about how animals changed the lives of broken and damaged women. In Chosen By A Horse, Richards shares the story of how, when she arrived to adopt a horse from an emaciated herd found by an animal shelter. While trying to catch another horse and take it, an emaciated mare and her foal get into her trailer, leaving Richards to take them instead of the horse she’d intended to adopt. The mare, named Lay Me Down, helps Richards to face her feelings and changes her life for the better, all while teaching her a lot about the relationship between people and horses. 

3. Wild Ride: The Rise and Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, Inc., America’s Premier Racing Dynasty: If you’re searching for a book that’s part thriller, part non-fiction insight into working horses, and all true, then this could be the perfect read for you. Ann Hagedorn Auerbach takes an in-depth look into the rise and calamitous fall of one of America’s premier Thoroughbred racehorse breeders, Calumet Farm. For generations the farm bred and trained superstar racehorses that won some of the sport’s most prestigious awards and races. However, behind the scenes, financial skulduggery and dodgy dealings became the stable’s downfall and ultimately led to its destruction. The story’s almost too fantastic to be true, but if you’re a fan of horse racing then this is a great book that you should definitely check out.

2. Bill the Bastard: The Story of Australia’s Greatest War Horse: Frankly, I only really took any notice of this book because it has a swear word in the title, and that’s refreshing. I’m bloody glad I did pick it up and give it a read, because it’s an intriguing and unique portrait of an intriguing and unique horse. The book tells the story of Major Michael Shanahan, the only man who could ride a huge war horse sent from Australia to the Middle East to help fight in the light horse force. A combination of historical fact and fictionalised portrayal of how a huge, impressive but aloof horse was tamed and became a legend. By sharing the details of both the way that horses get treated during war and the relationship they have with their riders, this book is a great read for anyone who wants to learn and enjoy an unforgettable story about how man and horse can come together to do good.

1. The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion: Wendy William’s unique book combines her personal experiences caring for these beautiful animals and her extensive studies on their history. By travelling the world and interviewing a range of archaeologists and horse experts, Williams is able to present a complete overview of how horses came to partner with humans and why they’re still such a feature of our lives, even today, after technology has reduced our need to ride horses for transport. For anyone who wants a complete overview of the history of horses, from their initial descendants to their modern roles in sport and as working pets, this is an unforgettable read that you’ll struggle to put down.

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