Best Horse Books for Kids
Books About Horses
I’ve always been horse crazy, and I’ve also always loved reading. Combine these two loves and you get horse books. For Christmas and birthday gifts, I often received books about horses, and I enjoyed them for years. I’ve decided to give all my grandchildren books this year as Christmas gifts, along with their other offerings from me and their papa. My oldest granddaughter, Lexi, is just as horse crazy as I was at her age, so she’ll definitely be getting a horse book this December. I haven’t decided yet which book I’ll get for her, but I’ve narrowed it down to two of my childhood favorites: Marguerite Henry’s Album of Horses and Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell. I cherished both of these books when I was a kid, and I know Lexi would be happy with either one. If you have a boy or girl on your Christmas list who loves horses, consider giving him or her a book about their favorite subject. To discover some great horse books for kids of all ages, check out the following.
Album of Horses, by Marguerite Henry
I absolutely adore this book! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve poured over the pages. Mrs. Henry’s love and knowledge of equines is certainly evident in this book, and the illustrations by Wesley Dennis are beautiful. Several popular horse breeds are included, along with their history. In most cases, the history of the different horse breeds is told through a personal story, which really makes the history come to life. Believe me – there’s no way you can lose when giving this book to horse lovers!
Album of Horses was published in 1965 and is recommended for grade levels two through five. I, however, still enjoy the book as an adult. I think it’s one that horse lovers never really outgrow. It was my first lesson in recognizing and learning about different breeds of horses.
Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell
Black Beauty was another of my childhood favorites. Most people are somewhat familiar with the story because it’s been made into several movies. Trust me – the book is much better! I really like how the horse, Black Beauty, narrates his own story. Beauty tells the story of his life, beginning with his early days spent with his mother. Readers follow him through good times and bad, and through kind owners and cruel owners. Published in 1877, the novel teaches many valuable lessons, including the humane treatment of animals, especially horses during the Victorian era. Black Beauty is recommended for ages seven and up.
El Blanco: The Legend of the White Stallion, by Rutherford Montgomery
El Blanco is a wonderful book, but it’s a real tear-jerker, too. I first became acquainted with the story at the age of eight, when it aired on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on September 25, 1966. I was so taken with the movie that I just had to read the book. The story is about a white colt and his mother, part of a wild herd. Some in the dry Mexican village believe that the colt is El Blanco, the horse of legend that will save the village farms by bringing rain. The mother is killed by a jaguar, and the colt must survive on its own. As a grown stallion, he returns to the valley to challenge the lead stallion of the wild herd. El Blanco also has to flee from a man trying to catch him. The book was originally published in 1961.
Smoky the Cowhorse, by Will James
When I was a little kid, I desperately wanted to be a cowboy. During my I-wanna-be-a-cowboy phase, I couldn’t get enough of this book. It was published in 1926 and won the Newberry Medal the following year. The story is about a wild colt named Smokey that was trained by a cowboy named Clint. After the horse is stolen and abused, it becomes unmanageable and is used as a bucking bronc in rodeos. After his body and spirit are finally broken, Smoky becomes a riding horse again. He winds up being abused again. Starved and near death, the horse is rescued by Clint and finally recovers. Some editions of Smoky the Cowhorse are highly collectible. The book is recommended for ages eight and up.
The Red Pony, by John Steinbeck
I love Steinbeck stories, and as far as horse lovers are concerned, this is one of his best. The Red Pony was written in 1933 and was first presented in episodes in magazines. The entire book was published as a novel in 1937, with four chapters. The main character is Jody, a young boy growing up on the family ranch. Jody’s father gives him a red pony colt, and the boy begins training it. When the pony gets sick, Jody is supposed to stay up with it all night, but he falls asleep, and the pony wanders off. Jody finds his pony dead. His father tells Jody he can have Nellie’s foal when it’s born, but because of complications, Nellie dies during labor, but the foal is saved. The Red Pony is a great coming-of-age story.
Misty of Chincoteague, by Marguerite Henry
This is a real classic that has survived the passage of time. Published in 1947, the book won the Newberry Medal in 1948. The book is based on a true story and on a real pony named Misty. In the book, Misty is born into the wild pony herd on Assateague Island, off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland. Misty winds up with the Beebe family and is ridden by the Beebe grandchildren, Paul and Maureen. In 1961, a movie was made from the book. I loved the book as a child, and I purchased the movie, which I also recommend for horse lovers.
Misty of Chincoteague - movie clip:
Stormy, Misty’s Foal, by Marguerite Henry
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, Stormy is one of the sequels to Misty of Chincoteague. And like Misty, Stormy was a real pony. Much of the book is devoted to a terrible storm that struck Chincoteague Island when Misty was expecting her foal. In order to keep the little mare safe, she’s moved into the Beebe family house. The family is forced to leave the island due to the dangerous storm, and they take Misty to a veterinarian in Virginia, where the foal is born. The filly is named Stormy, obviously after the big storm.
The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley
I never owned this book, but when I was in elementary school, I checked it out numerous times from the school library. The Black Stallion, published in 1941, tells the story of a boy named Alec and a prized Arabian stallion who are stranded on an uninhabited island after their ship sinks. Boy and horse must learn to depend on each other in order to survive, and they form an extremely strong bond. After equine and human are rescued from the island, the boy and one of his friends train the stallion to become a racehorse. There are numerous sequels to the book.
The Black Stallion is a wonderful read for kids – not just horse lovers, but for anyone who enjoys great adventure stories.
My Pony, by Susan Jeffers
My Pony tells the story of a little girl who dreams of having her own pony. Her parents won’t let her have one, so the child creates her own imaginary four-legged friend. Through her drawings, she creates a beautiful silver pony and rides it through magical lands. The illustrations, done by the author, are wonderful. This is a great book for younger horse lovers. My Pony is recommended for ages four and up. This would be a great first horse book for young horse lovers. It also helps children realize the power of creativity and of imagination.
Gunner: Hurricane Horse, by Judy Andrekson
Gunner: Hurricane Horse is the true story about a farm, a family, and hurricane Katrina. Gunner is a paint horse, a world champion, owned by the Goodwin family. When Katrina strikes, the storm destroys the family farm, and several horses go missing. Several months later, Gunner is found a hundred or so miles away. When the horse is located, he’s near starvation and is blind in one eye. Through lots of good care, he recovers and is able to compete once more for the World Champion Paint Show. The book is recommended for ages nine and up. The major themes include love, hope, compassion, and determination.
Snowman, by Rutherford Montgomery
This is the heartwarming story of a horse named Snowman, and it’s true. In 1956, the eight-year-old big gray farm horse was headed to the slaughterhouse to be made into dog food when a riding instructor saw him. Harry de Leyer liked the looks of the horse and bought him for just $80. Because Snowman was so gentle, he was used as a kids’ mount at first. When de Leyer discovered the horse’s talent for jumping, he began training him formally. For five years, Snowman won numerous events as a jumper.
This book was published in 1961, and other books about the “Cinderella horse” followed. Post-war America just couldn’t seem to get enough of Snowman and his incredible true story. It’s a true “feel good,” rags-to-riches story.
Old Video of Snowman, the Eighty-Dollar Champion:
The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation, by Elizabeth Letts
This book is the retelling of the story of the amazing Snowman. The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation, was published in 2011. The book goes into more details about Harry de Leyer and the show circuit than the earlier book about Snowman does. De Leyer immigrated to America in order to escape his home in Holland, which was occupied by the Nazis. He arrived with very little money, few possessions, and a love of horses. Once he found and purchased Snowman, his luck changed. In 1958, the horse won the open jumper championship at the National Horse Show, held at Madison Square Garden.
In my opinion, this book is best for older children. It’s a great story, but sometimes the plot is a little hard to follow.
Ruffian, by Dorothy Callahan and Howard Schroeder
Ruffian was published in 1983. The book tells the story of the thoroughbred filly, Ruffian, one of the top racehorses of her time. She won the Triple Crown for fillies in 1975 and broke several track records. She broke one record running on an injured splint, which was a painful condition. In another record-breaking race, Ruffian won even after fracturing a rear leg near the finish line. In the famous 1975 match race with Foolish Pleasure, the filly broke two bones in her right front leg, and her jockey tried to stop her. She was determined to reach the finish line, however, and would not be stopped. As a result of the injury, the horse had to be euthanized. This is an inspiring story of courage and determination.
Famous Match Race - Ruffian vs. Foolish Pleasure:
Best Horse Books for Children
Okay, now you have my suggestions for the best horse books for children. If you’re a horse fan, some of the books I’ve mentioned are probably on your list, too. Of course, you most likely have some favorite books about horses that I haven’t mentioned. If that’s the case, please tell me about them in the comments section! Whichever titles you choose, please consider giving books as gifts for kids. As a retired literature teacher, I realize how important it is for kids to read. And if the books are about subjects the kids have a passion for, reading is even more enjoyable.