15 Horse Books You'll Definitely Recognize If You're A '90s Kid

by Charlotte Ahlin

I'm going to be honest with you, Internet, because this feels like a safe place to share my darkest and most shameful secrets: I was a horse girl growing up. Now you might be thinking, "Oh, so you liked horses." No. I was a horse girl. Horses were my top priority at any given time. I had horse toys and horse jewelry. I had a horse journal, in which I wrote exclusively about horses. My friend Gabby and I would whinny softly while running laps in gym class, and we spent the rest of our time concocting Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron fanfiction. For all intents and purposes, I was a horse. And for a period of time, I read almost exclusively horse books. So here are some of the greatest horse books that all us horse girls (of every gender) read as kids, for a hooved journey down memory lane.

Horse books were my lifeline back in the day, because I didn't get to interact with that many actual horses. I lived in Midtown Manhattan, where you could see the occasional rabid police horse or maybe a sad-eyed carriage horse, and that was it. These were the books I read when I wanted to feel like a wild stallion, running free across the plains, as well as the brave little girl who tames him:

'Black Beauty' by Anna Sewell

Black Beauty is the gateway drug of horse books. Sure, that 1877 writing can be a little tough for some kids and yes, the plot mostly involves beautiful, noble horses being mangled and put to death. But every horse kid muscled their way through this classic at one point or another, and Black Beauty's tortured whinnies still haunt our dreams.

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'Misty of Chincoteague' by Marguerite Henry

Marguerite Henry ruled the 20th Century YA horse book world with an iron fist, and Misty of Chincoteague was her crowning glory. It's all about two orphans who buy a wild pony named Phantom and then kidnap her colt, Misty, to raise as their own. It's honestly a pretty harrowing read if you're a wild pony, but it was the dream for every horse kid out there.

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'The Black Stallion' by Walter Farley

The Black Stallion is the ultimate stranded-on-a-deserted-island-with-a-wild-and-majestic-horse story. Young Alex and the horse both survive a shipwreck and then spend the whole novel building a magical relationship of wonder and delight. Also there's some very corny slang from the '40s, because I guess kids in the '40s also loved horses.

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'King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian' by Marguerite Henry

All the other horse books can go home, because King of the Wind was hands down the best one. A horse and stable boy travel together from the sweeping Sahara to the French court to the fields of England, getting into scrapes and fighting various forms of animal abuse. Was it historically accurate? Who cares, there was a horse and a boy and they had adventures in different countries. I don't know what more you could ask of a novel.

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'National Velvet' by Enid Bagnold

Every night, 14-year-old Velvet Brown chants, "Oh, God, give me horses, give me horses!" before bed. Same, Velvet. Same. Velvet Brown from National Velvet was the original horse girl. And of course her wishes come true, in the form of a piebald horse with jumping superpowers. I didn't understand what "steeplechase" meant as a kid, but I did like that there was a girl who had a horse in the book. That part was good.

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'My Friend Flicka' by Mary O'Hara

My Friend Flicka is maybe the original "one magical summer" book about horses. Ken is a waste of space kid who flunks tests and generally sucks at being alive. Flicka is a beautiful and wild young filly with a spirit that cannot be broken. Basically it's a manic pixie dream girl romance except that the girl is a horse.

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'A Horse Called Wonder' by Joanna Campbell

The Thoroughbred Series was a horse girl staple, just a notch under Saddle Club and the Marguerite Henry-verse. A Horse Called Wonder, the first novel, is notable because it starts off with a burned horse girl: Ashleigh Griffen's beloved horse is DEAD and she has sworn off horses forever... but then she meets a new horse and everything is fine.

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'The Red Pony' by John Steinbeck

I swear that every single boy in every boy-and-animal book I read growing up was named Jody, and the kid in The Red Pony is no exception. Jody is a rancher boy who thinks he's seen it all when it comes to horses. But the hot-headed pony Gabilan will change all that! And then the pony gets sick and it's sad. Not my favorite as a kid. Bad pony name and too sad (sorry, Steinbeck).

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'Sea Star: Orphan of Chincoteague' by Marguerite Henry

Sea Star has it all. Orphan kids? Check. Orphan horse? Check. A beautiful friendship based on the indomitable spirit of a young colt? Of course. Kind of weird that this is called the "Misty" series when Misty isn't the main pony in any of the books, but no kid can resist a story of lovable orphan children rescuing a lil' baby horse.

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'Justin Morgan Had a Horse' by Marguerite Henry

OK, last Marguerite Henry book, I promise. I just need everyone to remember that the name of the horse in this book is Little Bub. Little Bub. I guess he became the first Morgan horse, which was my favorite horse breed growing up for some unknowable reason.

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'Horse Crazy' by Bonnie Bryant

THE SADDLE CLUB. This was the Baby-Sitter's Club of horse series. The first book is even called Horse Crazy, so you know that Bonnie Bryant isn't pulling any punches. Carole and Stevie spend all their time riding horses, talking about horses, and being real shady to Lisa because they don't think she has what it takes to be part of their horse clique (spoiler: she does).

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'The Wild One' by Terri Farley

No, The Wild One is not about a ghost horse. It's about another burned horse girl: Samantha left her family's ranch two years ago, after a bad fall off of a horse. Will she ever be able to get back on a horse now?? I mean... yes. But first she'll spend a lot of time thinking she's imagining a beautiful *phantom stallion* who is maybe her old horse gone rogue.

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'Horse in the House' by Ben M. Baglio

The Animal Ark books were all about solving very simple animal mysteries. I was addicted to them. Horse in the House is one of several of the horse-based books in series, in which Mandy and James tackle the mystery of "is this horse a ghost?" (Spoiler: no.)

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'Coming Home' by Lauren Brooke

I didn't read too many of the Heartland books growing up, but I can respect that someone out there wanted to read more serious, moody horse content. The series follows Amy Fleming through the loss of her mother and her job at the abused horse shelter and yes, there was a Canadian TV show.

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'I Want a Pony' by Jeanne Betancourt

I remember Pony Pals as being like the younger, more chaotic sister of The Saddle Club series. The Saddle Club felt like a formal, chartered organization of young horse-enthusiasts. The Pony Pals were more of a rogue band of pony lovers who hung out at diners and solved pony-based problems, like "Lulu wants a pony" or "Will Anna get to keep her pony?" or "Pam loves her pony very much."

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