Another Christmas has passed and yet again there was no dream horse under the tree waiting for me. The bridle I’m slowly piecing together (that’s a story for another day) will wait for at least another year before it has a wearer. But I did receive a horse-related gift. From my mile-long literary wishlist, my Dad picked out a book for me, and I’ve already started to make my way through Mark Rashid’s Horses never Lie.
I’d love to know which books have most-inspired my followers (whether they’re horsey or not!) but for today, I’m going to stick to recommending some of the best equestrian books I’ve read.
The One I Looked Forward To… Mark Todd retired from eventing when I was 13. I wasn’t even born when he and Charisma won their first Olympic gold medal (and I was only a year old when they won their historic second in 1988), but there has been far more to Sir Mark’s career than the horse which was arguably his most famous. Whether the sport missed him more or he missed it more, the eventing community welcomed him back out of retirement in time for Beijing, and it’s fair to say that he’s had some phenomenal rides since then. I haven’t read Mark’s first book, but I pre-ordered his autobiography Second Chance and devoured it as effortlessly as he guides horses round cross country courses when it arrived. I love to hear how my idols found their inspiration in life, and their drive to continue to succeed despite already achieving things beyond my own wildest dreams, and his is definitely that kind of tale. From New Zealand farm boy – and the story of how he found Charisma – to helping create his country’s eventing team, to racehorse trainer and re-learning the sport of eventing – as it had changed a lot in his absence, bearing in mind that when he retired cross country day was still just that, an entire day of riding – and continuing to push forward, this book is a brilliant rollercoaster. My copy will only be re-homed if I find a similarly adoring fan – it was signed when I met the man himself in November 2012.
The Classic… I’ve written about Black Beauty before, but that doesn’t mean I won’t write about it again! I know many people who’ve read this and never been anywhere near a horse – it was written as much as a metaphor for working life as it was for animals, but I know Anna Sewell’s intention was for it to raise the profile of animal welfare. Nevermind the fact that the author was incredibly forward-thinking (this book is just as relevant today as it was when it was originally published – particularly given the mistreatment of horses in our culture today thanks in part to over-breeding and the global economic recession), it’s beautifully written with brilliant imagery throughout and an imaginative perspective. This is one of those books I’d like to share with every child and adult alive, and one of few which has had an excellent film adaptation which also stands the test of time.
The One Which Saved My Life… That may sound like an exaggeration, but I can assure you it isn’t. 2012 was my Year of Crisis. The more I look back, the more I shudder at how bad some things were and how fortunate I was to walk away – at the time, I didn’t stop and acknowledge just how miserable I was. I wasn’t seriously considering any imminent changes in my life, but I was starting to dream of the distant future. I saw myself waiting another 10 years or so before I anticipated switching gears, ditching my “real” career and moving back to the countryside to pursue what truly makes me happy. My Mum and Aunt mentioned an author they’d read about, and on a whim I bought Rupert Isaacson’s The Horse Boy whilst out indulging in what was probably some pretty serious retail therapy one Saturday afternoon. I started reading on the bus home from the West End to Brixton, and burst into tears somewhere around Kennington. Page 22 was where I lost it, and after that there was no chance. I was enthralled by the story in front of me, and the reality that someone’s life really can be changed so fundamentally for the better thanks to the spirit of horses. It took a few months, but I later faced up to the reality that my life as it was wasn’t working for me, and it was time to change. I end this year still uncertain of what the future holds, but heading in a far more positive direction than I was previously, and it’s thanks, in part, to a book which encouraged me to be brave. I’m still following Rupert and his family’s story, and learning more about the work that he does is ultimately something I’d like to get first-hand experience of. This is another book which will appeal to horse and non-horse people alike – I’ve recommended it to several people who are feeling the impact of autism within their families, and they’ve all come back to me to thank me later.
You can read the back of a book, and these days easily access reviews via the internet. But I for one never know exactly what to expect when I first pick a new book up. Often, I change my mind a few times whilst reading. The constant is this: if there’s enough to grip me until the end, it inevitably changes my perspective for the better.