Black Beauty was a classic, War Horse had something to say about man’s inhumanity in the face of a noble beast, and The Horse Whisperer involved the healing power of animals. The great majority of novels about horses are written for young girls; there seems to be a strong cultural bond between girls and Equus. Perhaps, learning to ride on the beast’s back and to control that force of nature prepares girls to become women. The greatest horse novels ever are mostly removed from the science fiction genre, but they are, often, an integral part of fantasy novels.
Dashing knights and warriors, invariably, are mounted on horses, who are their companions in adventure. Whether male or female, these protagonists are stirring characters who drive the plot along, as they do battle with the forces of evil and villainy. Horses stand for honesty, their erect carriage and graceful lines suggest that they are entities that one can trust. To ride upon the back of such noble animals is a privilege; earned only by the elite. The aristocracy are trained to ride, and trained to fight with sword and spear; born to rule astride their equine friend.
But it’s more than just the horses, magnificent as they are – these novels are a celebration of country living, of communion with nature. There are novels about horse racing, like Secretariat Reborn, and these usually involve redemption and overcoming obstacles to win out over all. Country racing is often at the heart of these trials by horse and rider to find salvation in the winner’s circle once more. Broken horses, broken jockeys, broken owners and broken trainers can all be players in the narrative of redemption. There is nothing, quite like, watching a thoroughbred in full stride; galloping in competition with others of his, or her, kind. Who can forget the novels of Dick Francis.
The greatest horse novels ever are thick on the ground, because the horse is a fellow companion on humankind’s evolutionary journey through time. The horse has borne us through troubled situations, at war, in competition and to help us reach our destination; we write about horses as icons from our rich past. We included horses in our stories, perhaps, as payment for their loyal duty toward us in times gone by. In fantasy novels set in yesteryears, somewhere in some other galaxy, the horse retains its high value. It is a companion worthy of our best intentions and most strenuous adventures.