When I tell people I love horses and that I ride and that I have one, they often ask me I’ve read ___________ ( insert title of classic work of horse literature here). I usually say no. When people go on to tell me why they love/loved it, I usually respond with something like:
“Well, I couldn’t get past the horse dying. Or being injured. Or crippled. Or beaten. Or abused.”
This seems to be a persistent problem in horse literature. I’ve been told other animals fare similarly well. But I’m pretty sure your iconic work of dog literature is not Black Beauty. And the contemporary movie icon The Horse Whisperer.
War Horse came out this past winter. I didn’t see it. All I really needed to know was that it involved a horse and WWII and knew there was no way in hell I was seeing that. Though I’ve been told it has a happy ending or whatever, someone also told me there’s a scene where the horse gets tangled in barbed wire. Barbed Freaking Wire.
While not every book is so bad, there are more than enough of them to make me gun shy.
The horse canon counts among it works such as Equus, Black Beauty, The Horse Whisperer, The Red Pony, The Black Stallion, The Misty of Chincoteague books and others. The film horse canon includes Seabiscuit, National Velvet, War Horse, and Dreamer.
People often ask me why I don’t write more horse stories.
It’s hard guys.
One of the big problems is the amount of jargon that goes into the equestrian vocabulary. When we write, we often try for some sort of authentic voice. It’s really hard to define all the horse stuff and write authentically. Like, stupidly hard.
I discovered this the hard way when I wrote a piece for my non-fiction class about my horse. Mainly I realized this: people knew even less than I thought they did.
So, for years I’ve hung back on really doing anything with my pool of knowledge. I wrote a story called Winter’s Cry which was published by The Copperfield Review. Now, you guys are going to read that story and go, Shannon, you’re a hypocrite. To which I reply, the events of the end were heavily inspired by a true story that was told to me. Heavily.
But I’m changing that. I’m writing a series for middle-grade readers about horses. In the same vein as The Saddle Club and Thoroughbred series, but with much less dying and maiming. Also, I’m not planning to write near that many books. Sheesh.