After watching Errol Flynn in Seahawk, I now want to do a post about a book with ships in it. That would be one of the books in C.S. Forester’s Hornblower Series. However, I don’t feel like I could do such an exceptionally written book much justice right now, so I’ll do a simpler book.
There are basically four categories of horse books (and then countless sub-categories). There are horse books that are so completely horsey that even horse-lovers feel a little nauseous reading them. Then there are horse books that claim to be horse books, but are really just teenage stories with a horse thrown in to attract a couple more girls, ones with horse posters taped on their walls. Worst of all there are the horse books that are absolutely horrible books where a horse gets killed, sold, turned loose, or some other disaster happens; these I rate “X”. Finally, and fortunately, there are good horse books with a balance of horse and life, and everyone lives fairly happily ever after. My sister calls them “B Horse Books” after the “B Westerns” where the good guy always wins, gets his girl and rides off into the sunset, and she rolls her eyes when I read them.
Wait, make that five. There are horse stories that are balanced with horse and life, but the girls are really, really silly. That would be Bonnie Bryant’s writings. I’m not a fan. (But no offense to anybody who does like them. It’s okay.)
I’ve read all five kinds, and the good ones I go back and read again. Walter Farley, with his Black Stallion, is one of these, as well as Mary O’Hara with her My Friend Flicka. C.W. Anderson also does quality books (and they have beautiful illustrations), but sometimes they can be a little too “eqqus-centric”.
Another good horse story is by a lesser known author, Newlin B. Wildes, and it’s entitled The Horse that had Everything. My copy is an ex-library book, I have many ex-library books, actually, and it’s a nice hardcover (hardcover books always seem better and more substantial to me than paperbacks do) and it’s copyright 1966. I usually like books with older copy rights. (that’s not to say that people born in the sixties are old though!)
Most horse books are written for a female audience and have female protagonists, I’ve found, but this one features a boy as the main character, Rick Ballou. Rick lives out in the country, not too far from a Thoroughbred farm, in Vermont, and regularly visits the horses there. The owner, Slade Corcoran, is a hard man (could you guess from the name? no duh.), but the stable manager, Darwin Mears in kindly and understands the boy. When Rick’s favorite mare gives birth to a colt, he calls Rick so he can see the colt first thing; Rick heads over with all eagerness. But when he comes, he finds that the colt was born with a crippled hind leg.
Slade Corcoran is far less than pleased that a misshaped colt has been born in his barn, and if the colt’s leg doesn’t show improvement, he’ll have it put down. The colt’s leg doesn’t improve enough, but Mears convinces Slade to let Rick take the colt home and raise it.
Over the summer, Rick and the neighbor girl, Suzi, raise the colt, feeding him and leading him around, taking him swimming in the swimming pond, and all sorts of fun things. The colt, now named Sans Per, follows them around like a dog. As he grows, his leg heals, and he becomes a perfectly shaped and very swift horse.
By and by Slade comes around, regretting having given the colt away, but he doesn’t take him back. Instead, he tries to convince Rick to race the colt. Rick decides to give Sans Per a chance at racing, after all that’s what the horse had been bred for, but in the end, Sans’ interest in swimming in a pond overrules his training to reach the finish line.
The Horse that had Everything is a nice, wholesome horse book. It’s clean and idealistic. The boy is respectful to his elders, even though he’s in high-school. Suzi becomes his girlfriend, but there is NOT any smooching or other such things going from there –ahem!- . And Sans Per is a really sweet horse. It’s not a hard to read book, the words aren’t thick, but I get a lot of enjoyment from reading it.
It was at the pond that Rick and San and Suzi had their best times. It wasn’t long until the colt was towing them about the pond as they clung to his withers. Sometimes he dove under them, coming up to lift them out of the water amid shouts and screams. On rally hot days they spent the whole afternoons in the water, with breaks of lying on the grassy banks in the sun, San grazing and drying off nearby.