In no particular order, pop-pickers, here’s my top ten horses of Children’s Literature. It trots through over fifty years of literature and doesn’t skip a stride. So – get a nice, steady tension in the reins, squeeze with your legs, and “Walk on!”
(War Horse – Michael Morpurgo)
I love Topthorn for reasons that cannot be recounted without a) being massively spoilerriffic and b) bawling into my laptop.
2. Toadhill Flax
(Fly-by-Night and The Team by KM Peyton)
I had a fascination with Welsh Cobs primarily due to the opening credits of something I remember on CBBC when I was growing up (Elidor maybe?). It had a guy on a Welsh Cob galloping along the beach and oh my God it was the best thing ever. Toad’s neat solid workmanlike ways and the (“oh hey puberty”) sensitive riding skills of Peter McNair made for perfection.
(Black Stallion books – Walter Farley)
I was tempted to go for the flash brilliance of the Black Stallion himself, but I was suddenly reminded of the wonderful Napoleon. Napoleon’s the one who keeps the Black calm upon his arrival to New York. Napoleon’s the one who I always imagine being quite a relaxed soul, definitely cobby and greying and raising a little eyebrow at all the Black’s antics. Napoleon ruled.
(Jinny and Shantih series – Patricia Leitch)
Oh, oh, oh, fiery Shantih, who both terrified me and entranced me all at once. Shantih was a fiery chestnut Arab mare who I could never dream of riding. To be honest, my skills probably skewed to the superbly dependable Bramble, but I never gave up hope. One day I’d be able to ride a horse like Shantih, and I lived every step of Jinny’s journey.
5. The Last Unicorn
(The Last Unicorn – Peter Beagle)
(I always wanted to be a Unicorn Trainer when I was younger and this book and film are pretty much the reason why).
(Silver Brumby series – Elyne Mitchell)
Rather than choosing Thowra, who is still pretty damn cool, I plumped for Baringa. Baringa is Thowra’s grandson and he’s brilliant. He’s a bit of a player (having all the foxiest mares in his herd), fiendish (able to hide until he’s tough enough to have a scrap), and wicked smart. Thowra’s the daddy, but Baringa’s the bomb. (I can’t believe I just wrote that last sentence, I’m so sorry).
(Follyfoot series – Monica Dickens
When searching for an illustration to use for Robin I googled “Sexy Bay Horse”. The results, as you may imagine, weren’t quite what I was after. Robin is a Bay Quarter Horse x Thoroughbred and the scene which always made me fall in love with him is the moment when all the old horses queued up to enter their stables – and Robin, as one of the newcomers, is right at the end of the queue like he should be.
(My Friend Flicka – Mary O’Hara)
Banner was my introduction to Western horse stories and the romanticism of the horse ranch has never left me. I still have a yen to marry a cowboy, to have a ranch sign swinging over the road to my house and a chestnut stallion galloping with all his flags flying on the horizon.
(The Magician’s Nephew – CS Lewis)
A trusty old carthorse is accidentally pulled into Narnia due to some fairly epic circmstances. Upon his arrival he’s given wings and rechristened as Fledge by Aslan. What I love about Fledge is that even though he’s just been given wings by a talking lion, he retains all of his matter-of-fact quality and remains pretty cool about the whole affair really.
(The Two Towers – JRR Tolkien)
Whilst maybe not technically children’s literature, I couldn’t resist Shadowfax. I was, after all, the only person in the cinema to go “OOOOH” when he nonchalantly scrolled onto the screen in the film. In the book Shadowfax is similarly stunning and a character I made the acquaintance of many years earlier. I mean, dude, the KING OF THE HORSES?? That’s so flipping cool.