From Black Beauty and Pegasus to Spirt and Seabiscuit, and horses from the beginning of books and movies, these magnificent animals have been featured as powerful allies, stubborn foes, and regrettably at times victim of evil or nature.
Horses always serve a purpose in fiction, and each horse breed serves a different purpose. From the Irish Draught and Mongol to Thoroughbreds and Mustangs, they each have a time period, setting, and climate where they thrive. Friesians happen to be a favorite of Hollywood, and for good reason. They are stunning in beauty, strength, and gait. However, no matter how beautiful, you wouldn't give every cowboy a Friesian in a historical western romance or give a Mustang to a medieval knight. Some breeds, like the Thoroughbred, can be easily placed in different settings and periods.
If I had a British Agent ride over the Northumberland hills on an Alberta Mountain Horse or put a Gallagher atop a Shetland Pony, I'd hope someone would take issue with my choices.
Whether the hero of the story or destined to meet a tragic end, horses so often steal the scene, in movies and books.
One of the most difficult scenes for me to watch in a movie was in the Return to Snowy River. Both it and The Man from Snowy River are wonderful. Watch them if you haven't yet, and if you haven't, stop reading because a big spoiler is coming.
The mountain scene in the second movie that results in the loss of Jim Craig's beloved friend still causes me to tear up. It's not real according to the horse owner (who assures the horse lived a long and happy life) but it looks so real and feels so real that I have often wished it wasn't the horse who died in the fall. It's a powerful scene, and one I would not have the courage to write into one of my books. The loss would be too heartwrenching, even for a fictional horse.
"There is a legend that fallen knights return as great horses. He has seen what awaits you, and he will protect you." —Lancelot's father in King Arthur
One of my favorite scenes in a movie is at the end of King Arthur (Clive Owen version) when the four horses portrayed as fallen knights are running over the hills. Of course, this is done in a way to make us watch in awe for the horses are glorious, but I love the reverance given to them.
I always appreciate when horses, and all creatures, are treated with the respect they deserve, when they are shown as more than animals, but as cherished beings with beautiful spirits.
Love horses? Love books? They go so well together.
Prince in Wild Montana Winds; Cooper and Augustus in The Heart's Charge; Smokey in Texas Redemption; Elva in A Highland Moon Enchantment.
Want more? Check out these curated lists of books featuring these remarkable creatures.
Top 10 Horse Books (Cowgirl Magazine)
Top 10 Horse Books - selected by Jane Smiley, author of A Thousand Acres (and more!)
30 Best Horse Books (Horse Illustrated