If you’re looking for a great Christmas gift for an equestrian bookworm, then you need look no further than these fabulous horsey books that are sure to be a safe bet under the tree this year.
The “Greatest Briton in History” might have been top of the curriculum when you were at school — but what they are likely to have failed to dwell on was the Prime Minister’s prowess in the saddle. Former jockey and racing journalist Brough Scott delves into this often-unknown part of Churchill’s life, from riding ponies around his grandfather the Duke of Marlborough’s ancestral park at Blenheim to his army days spent riding, and his success as a racehorse owner in later life. The collection of black and white photos of Churchill in all his equestrian guises — cantering a Lipizzaner aged 72 is a highlight — will have you diving back into this book multiple times.
Racing Post Books, RRP £25
Since Nick Skelton won Olympic gold in Rio last year, we’ve been clamouring for the showjumper to update the autobiography he released in 2001, after he’d been forced to quit the sport with a broken neck. And this new version is an absolute cracker. The inside story of Nick and Big Star’s rollercoaster ride to gold is sure to carry you through every spectrum of emotions, while the tales of his antics from the good old days — from the strawberry jam in the jacket pocket incident to “borrowing” a Disney World-style train to return to his Olympic apartment in Atlanta — reveal his brilliant sense of humour. But a real highlight is the book’s opening quote from Heartsill Wilson, which starts “This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will…” — it motivated Nick on the biggest day of his life and it sticks with you throughout these inspirational memoirs.
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, RRP £20
Standby for an emotional roller-coaster with Clover Stroud’s memoir, that will choke you from the off. A riding accident when Clover was 16 left her mother first in a coma, and then with such severe head injuries that she lived out the rest of her life in a home with round-the-clock care. It cut short an idyllic horsey childhood for Clover in rural Wiltshire. And what followed for her was a wild journey travelling from gypsy camps in Ireland, to the rodeos of west Texas and then to Russia’s war-torn Caucasus, with horses acting as a precious tool for coping with the grief throughout. You will reach the end of this book feeling exhausted, a little envious of Clover’s bottomless zest for life — and grateful that you too know that to talk about horses as just a sport or hobby is a wild underestimation.
Hodder & Stoughton, RRP £20
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When the adults can get as much enjoyment as the children from the illustrations in a storybook, you know you’re onto a winner. Alarm bells may ring for horse owners at the prospect of a pony who was found loose on the M4 motorway, ending up kipping down on a four-poster bed and being tied to an Aga rail. But author and illustrator Juliet Blaxland’s latest children’s book takes young readers on a fast track guide to horsecare — from bedding and feeding, to quick-release knots and laminitis. Approved by the Pony Club, this short paperback offers some light relief for budding young riders, who can feel bombarded by wading through heavy-going horsemanship manuals.
J A Allen, RRP: £7.99
This book is a recollection of Adrian Dangar’s time on the front line of fox hunting while master and huntsman of Spooners & West Dartmoor, the Sinnington and the Quorn, where he was the first amateur huntsman in 80 years. Adrian’s depth of knowledge and humour makes it a fascinating read, where he discusses, among other topics, modern hunting and hound breeding as well as his other pursuits of hunting correspondent, hound judge, all-round countryman and his riding safari business. The book is complete with some wonderful photos of hunting landscapes and of various hunting characters he has met over the years. A must-read for any hunting enthusiast.
6. Shetland Pony by Troels Dalberg
Could there be a better way to lift your spirits than 400 pages dedicated to the Shetland pony? Not just for the hardcore Shetland fan, this coffee table book, which takes you through the history of the breed from ancient times to modern day sport and leisure, is illustrated by world leading equine and wild-life photographers, including Christiane Slawik, Bob Langrish, Richard Smucksmith and Julie Wilson, as well as featuring Thelwell cartoons. And with such striking photography — ponies silhouetted against a sunset, or galloping along a white beach — these pint-sized creatures give the thoroughbred a run for its money in the beauty stakes.
Troels Dalberg, RRP £48
For 177 Christmas gift ideas for horse lovers, don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (16 November 2017)