In Part 1 I told you about the beginning of my lifelong love affair with “equine fiction” — and how My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara set the course for my fascination with the horse-human connection.
After probably much more thought than was completely necessary (but so much fun to pour some solid pondering into) I’ve identified four other solid horse life influencers (although each has sequels that kept these stories alive for as long as possible.) My list of finalists includes The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James, and a little-known wild card, A Horse Called Bonnie by Barbara van Tuyl.
Each of these stories brought something different to the table. And oddly enough, you’ll find these themes running through my three nonfiction horse books — and planting some seeds for my own possible foray into equine fiction. We’ll see how that works out.
I told you how I realized the connection between My Friend Flicka and The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses was not only the amazing connection found in the soul-level horse-human connection, but possibly more important, that Flicka was as much about growing up and gaining self-assurance through a relationship with a horse as it was about the horse itself.
Fast forward a few years in my writing life to my new book, Riding Through Thick and Thin. On the surface it’s about body image and riding horses. But dig a few inches under that and you’ll find the repeated allusions to the pure joy we’re meant to feel when we ride. The freedom and take-your-breath-away exhilaration that only comes when you are balanced, fit, and connected with your horse.
Can you guess where I got the mental imagery for this kind of ride? Of course it started with Alec Ramsey’s ecstatic first ride around the island (and later in that first practice ride on a real track) on The Black. I remember thinking of that ride when I rode my first horse, Babe, at breakneck speed (thank God, not literally) around allowed and improvised “track” we had in the flat back section of pasture at our boarding stable. And again on my father’s ranch just outside Hico, Texas, when Patches and I flew across the hayfield just ahead of a glorious Texas sunset (Glad neither of us knew to worry about gopher holes!). And finally, on Trace in the LBJ grasslands with a pack of insane trail riders galloping across a meadow in a stretch of Paradise (Paradise, Texas, that is). Call me weird, but any time I feel this free-spirited joy on the back of a horse, I can’t help but remember Farley’s Alec and The Black.