I love meeting new people and hearing how the smallest things in their lives have impacted where they are today. Specifically, as an Equestrian Mom. You may remember in a prior blog (How It All Began) I reflected on the riding lessons that I took as an adult. I really believe that those lessons had a direct effect on me becoming an Equestrian Mom. My daughter may have never realized her passion for horses.
At Pony Club festival, an Equestrian mom with 2 kids stopped by the booth to say hello. My sister was working the booth with me at the time. As I started speaking with the Equestrian Mom, my sister suddenly called out “Misty of Chincoteague, I love that book!” One of her children was carrying a copy of Misty of Chincoteague in her arms as she was wandering through the vendors.
I am from a family of 4 girls. There were 4 of us within 6 years so needless to say, we were all very close and we all went through childhood phases together. Our ‘horse” phase was no different. Between the ages of 5 and 10 we were all horse crazy. We did not have a horse, nor did we take riding lessons, but we did what we could to be close to horses. Which meant we read and re-read all of the Marguerite Henry books about horses: Misty of Chincoteague, Justin Morgan had a Horse, Stormy, Misty’s Foul, and King of the Wind, just to name a few of our favorites. The stories were all slightly different and often told the story of an actual horse, but they stuck to a formula that I have become familiar with in “horsey novels”. A child becomes close to a horse, life intervenes with tragedy, then the horse and child together overcome the obstacle and live happily ever after.
I am not criticizing the formula, just acknowledging that it is very familiar to me which doesn’t mean that even as a grown woman, I don’t shed a few tears over the horse and rider struggle at climax of the story. (OK, I usually sob)
Recently, I was at an airport and purchased a novel to read on my plane ride. I was looking for something very simple that would be fun to read with no heavy plots, blood, guts, or torture. I chose The Horse Dancer by Jojo Moyes. (SPOILERS TO FOLLOW IN THIS PARAGRAPH) It’s a lovely book about an orphaned girl who lives with her grandfather who was a great dressage rider in France. The grandfather buys his granddaughter a horse which he trains her on and has big dreams for her in the future. You know the rest. The grandfather falls ill, the girl is sent to a foster home where she can’t keep a horse, etc. until the end of the book which ended happily for all. Just as Misty of Chincoteague ended when I read it so many years ago.
Why do horse stories strike such a cord with readers young and old? I really don’t know. My speculation is that the stories glorify the human/horse relationship that we would all like to have, and that they have predictable, happy endings. What do you, the readers, think? No matter the reason, horse stories are universally loved and cherished and the best ones, stick with you your whole life. (My sister and I figured we last read Misty of Chincoteague about 50 years ago.)
As we were sharing our love of Misty Of Chincoteague with the Equestrian Mom and her two kids, the mom told us how much she had loved the book herself when she was growing up. In fact, she confided to us that had she not read the book as a child, she may never have allowed her daughter to take riding lessons. She also said that her family had taken two vacations to Chincoteague Island to see the horses swim across the channel! What other children’s books have had that kind of impact? It just proves, we all love our horses and a happy ending!