Now, don’t get me wrong. I like horses and literature. I like horse literature – the photo is the majority of the horse fiction that I own from my bookshelf (in the closet…I keep trying to get them out of the closet but nope….my family isn’t very literary) . There a few are missing from the photo, full list of the horse stories I own is here. But admittedly, horse fiction and especially children horse fiction is simply not the greatest literary genre. It also suffers from annoying cliches.
Like the spirited ______ (where the blank is either a horse or a synonym for a horse….like a mare, gelding, stallion, bay, gray, Thoroughbred, Mustang etc).
First of all what is a “spirited horse” exactly? Oh Prancer (Saddle Club) is a spirited Thoroughbred and Lisa, the least experienced member of the saddle rides her but what exactly does that mean? Of course it implies that Lisa is an annoyingly good rider through language alone but what does “spirited horse”really mean?
Does it mean that the horse is about to send the rider into orbit soon? Does it mean that the horse is just unwilling to listen? Does it mean that the horse is going to bolt soon? Buck? Is the horse being spooky/nervous? Is the horse just batshit crazy? Does it mean that the horse is just strong? (Not the same as fast necessarily. Does the horse just stop out of nowhere just because the horse feels like it? Does it just mean that the horse is lively? Or wired? What does it mean? Does it just mean that the horse is alive (with a spirit)? Does the horse just has personality? What does it mean?
Why are fictional horse characters almost always “spirited”? Why are they rarely placid and calm? Why is it good that they are “spirited”? Whatever that means.
For that matter, why do all (human) characters always, always effectively have their own spirited horse? I guess you can argue that it wouldn’t be a horse story without it. Fair enough. But it drives me nuts that the horse is always this “spirited horse” that requires an “expert” rider. Still, even characters that explicitly don’t or can’t own a horse (and thus supposedly symbolizes the readers who can’t own horses)….they effectively do have a horse when they seem to have endless access unless they don’t feel like it. What’s that? All the benefits of owning a horse without any of the trappings? Seriously. Whenever they want to ride….”their” horse is there.
For that matter and this extends to all horse fiction (and even non-fiction) media – not just literature is the focus of inherently talented horse people. Why are ALL protagonists in these stories are ALWAYS inherently talented at riding? Even if the protagonist is not a superbly talented rider like in some novel I don’t remember (it was still equestrian fiction but not children lit)….the protagonist is still talented at working with horses and stable management (I think it was Riding Lessons by Sara Guen but I really don’t remember. Edit: It may have been Horseplay! by Judy Reene Singer. Not sure.). Very rarely do these books have characters that suck at riding and with horses! And of course if they are not naturally talented, than they are rich.
Also, these characters either grew up riding (and thus, is superb at it) or just picked up the sport yesterday and is so naturally pro at it….such as Lisa in the Saddle Club (and there are passages that outright state that Lisa is not as experienced as the others but quickly caught up) or even, for a non-literary example, Georgie in the Heartland TV series (Season 6). And course, they are riding “spirited” horses because all riders in the horse fiction world must ride “spirited horses”. And if the horse is normally too well…spirited, somehow their super horse-whispering powers and talent will befriend the horse so the horse is ridable to them. Yes, taming “wild horses” the whole shebang. Seriously?
Oh yes. People like that might exist. I’ve even witnessed it to an extent before. But WHY DOES EVERY CHARACTER IN A HORSE STORY MUST BE SO TALENTED? Why does every horse need to spirited? Why do they rarely get chucked off their “spirited horse”…oh right, they are magically talented. Whatever. (Maybe Lisa in the Saddle Club TV sarees in an exception as she always gets hurt for various reasons….but only a few times with horses).
I admit I am jealous as I won’t be owning a horse anytime soon in this universe and I am not a very good rider or good with horses (I don’t ride “spirited horses”, usually anyway). I’m experienced (I’m been riding for a long time) but not very advanced and I only ride weekly or at the most (in the past) a few times per week. I didn’t grow up with horses. I’m not talented at all with horses (I’ve even had one bully me around) and I’m in no way a talented rider (I walk/trot/canter in circles and that’s pretty much it….and I’ve been riding for over a decade).
In addition, the calm and placid horse is always presented as the “beginner horse” and is thus, dismissed as such. (Personally I find lazy horses harder to work but anyway…). Maybe that’s true in real life to an extent. I don’t know. I spook easily so I don’t usually like crazy horses. But it annoys me why it must be so in nearly every instance of horse fiction. (Or even non-fiction). It also annoys me that the protagonist must be so talented at riding and with horses. Can’t they just like it without being super talented? Wouldn’t there be more depth if they loved the sport but struggled with it? Maybe. I don’t know. The books that are set in the higher class (like Chestnut Hill by Lauren Brooke) I couldn’t relate to at all with nearly every single character being either super rich and/or super talented at riding. Ugh! Is it a requirement for the genre that the protagonist of a fictional horse story most be either insanely talented and/or rich? Maybe.
Despite all that, I still don’t know what the hell “spirited horse” is supposed to mean because other than a toss of the head (some horses do it…but it doesn’t mean the horse is crazy…could even be lazy and still tossing it!) or the occasional prance, the books usually don’t go into the details. I get that some of the book authors may not have actually experience with horses like Bonnie Bryant (author of the Saddle Club)…but most of these books are ghost-written! In fact I think the majority of the Saddle Club series/spin offs, Thoroughbred series/spin offs are ghost-written (only a handful written by the officially credited author) and apparently, Lauren Brooke (the author of Heartland and Chestnut Hill) is a pen name for a group of ghost-writers (so is not even a real person!).
All that and I still don’t exactly know what a “spirited horse” is and what level of crazy is that supposed to be or what is that supposed to mean. Anyway, yeah… Wow over 1000 words! I did say it was a rant!
PS: most of my books were bought used and some were ex-library books. I did not steal books from the library. (Although the “juvenile paperback” designation of many of these books in the so-called “cataloging” system is very annoying.)