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Archive for the ‘Equine Art & Fiction’ Category

Although I haven’t yet really dug in to the subject, I am very interested in contemporary equine art.  My taste is more towards the modern, post-modern, and abstract, but I’m open-minded.  I had the thought that maybe I’d even like to start a gallery here, so if you all have a favorite artist you’d like to recommend, that would be great.

In the meantime, I found artist Barbara Rush, who has a self-described neo-cubist style:

It looks to me like she might be a dressage rider.  What do you all think?

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Of course the largest font on my author tag cloud in the horse fiction library is Dick Francis, who, as you most likely already know, was a champion steeplechase (or, more properly, National Hunt) jockey before he became an incredibly prolific writer. Having read all of his novels, I thought I had some idea as to what a National Hunt race is like, but it turns out I really didn’t have a clue.

Wiola posted a video of the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup – a race Dick Francis never won but described many times in his novels – and I was totally amazed, watching it, to realize I had never seen a National Hunt race. For some reason, all of the imagery I had absorbed from reading tricked my brain into thinking I had actually watched steeplechasing – but seeing the real thing, it was completely different from what I had imagined.

Given the dramatic action of the race scenes in Dick Francis’ novels, the pace seemed slower and the fences looked lower than I expected. I do realize that if I was riding the course – a completely and unequivocally absurd thought – it would most certainly be the other way around (and since Dick Francis writes in the first person that makes sense), but having adjusted my sense of speed from flat racing to harness racing, I still wasn’t prepared for the initial circuit’s lope towards the fences.

In reality, of course, the fences are at least 4½ ft. high and it’s only the talent of horse and rider that makes them seem smaller, but perhaps because of the camera angle they didn’t seem to loom above the horses as I thought they would. I know it’s an optical illusion, but somehow Grand Prix showjumping has ruined my eye for what constitutes a tall fence.

The course itself seems to go on forever – 3 miles 2½ furlongs – and the fitness and stamina of the horses blew my mind, particularly with Cheltenham’s famed uphill finish. It makes a flat racing course, even the most strenuous, seem like a sprint. Harness racing horses are jogged for miles daily to increase their wind, but the actual races are only a mile (longer in New Zealand and Australia.) I can’t imagine the amount of work that goes into conditioning a ‘chaser.

When the narrator in a Dick Francis novel describes a race, it sounds like the course is full of twists and turns, dark alleys where misbehavior can’t be seen by the stewards and hidden pockets out of sight of the cheering crowd where a bystander could be lurking to string something across the jump to fell horse and rider. It’s a testament to the skill of his writing that the atmosphere of his suspense novels is nothing like the cheerful, endlessly green course of the real race in the clear light of day.

It’s interesting how the mind works. I’ve had memories of things that seemed much larger, or imposing, when I was a child, only to find as an adult that they weren’t intimidating at all. I just never realized that the same dynamic could occur with memories that were, literally, fiction.

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Equus Palaverous Horse Fiction Library

Us horse-crazy gals tend to be a wee bit obsessive. I personally never tire of reading about horses, but there are times that I also long for fiction, not another training book that I have to ponder or riding book that I have to decipher. It’s harder than you would think to find fiction books with a horsey theme when you’re using a search function at the bookstore or the library, since it tends to miss a lot of books that don’t list the word ‘horse’ in the title or, even more frustrating, leaves you with a long list of young adult fiction to wade through in your hunt for a decent novel.

So, I’ve compiled a list of horse novels based on recommendations via Amazon’s “Customers who bought this item also bought…” and “listmania!” features, which have led me to some good things in the past. Keep in mind that I’m not endorsing these books as a group – I haven’t even read most of them. I have no idea if they’re brilliant or boring. I’m just looking for as inclusive a list as possible of adult horse fiction.

In my research for this post, I did find a library on ponydom which looks promising, but there’s no way to simply see all the titles without the non-fiction and some Young Adult being mixed in, which is confusing. On the plus side, you can browse by discipline or genre, which is handy if you have one you really like (mystery) or one you don’t (science fiction). It’s worth checking out and obviously the product of yet another horse-crazy gal like the rest of us. I also stumbled across a new blog, Equestrian Ink, which I highlighted on yesterday’s weekly blog round-up, and I have high hopes that these professional writers/horsewomen will make a grand splash into the horse blogosphere.

In order to make this list work as painlessly as possible, I’ve decided to utilize LibraryThing. Why not Google Books, you ask? In this case, Google Book Search can’t help me, but tags and recommendations from other readers can, so LibraryThing’s social bookmarking is a better application for this project. As always, books I’ve actually read can still be found in my Google web library. Neither list is as updated as I’d like, but it’s a work in progress and I will update frequently. Tags, comments, and reviews still need to be added, so if you have any, please leave your thoughts in the comments of this blog and I will add them to the list. I’ve included a link to the EqP Fiction Library on the sidebar so it’s easy to find.

I’d love to hear feedback on the books listed, and more than that, I’d really like some good recommendations that aren’t on the list. My only request is that it be limited to fiction – any genre is fine, so long as the setting includes horses in a meaningful way.

I hope this is useful for all of you who love to read as much as I do and are constantly on the hunt for a good horse book to curl up with at the end of the day.

Equus Palaverous Horse Fiction Library

Note: Looking through the list, it does seem like the mystery genre is over-represented, and I’m not sure why that is, but as I continue to add books that may become less weighted. A good many of the books I found are Young Adult but read by adults as well, much like the Harry Potter series. I’ve chosen not to include these since I haven’t read them and don’t know if they really transcend that label or not.

p.s. If it seems like I’ve included a lot of links to the library, you’re right. After cataloging 168 books over the course of an evening, I may have lost my mind. My lovely boyfriend certainly thought so when he went to bed and I was still feverishly typing, 11 open tags on my browser…. “I’ll be to bed soon. I just have seven more lists to go!”

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