5 great horsey novels (that will have you cancelling all your social engagements)

  • There are some horsey books so gripping, you'll be tempted to cancel all other weekend plans you had to carry on reading

    There are lots of fantastic horsey books for kids — the Ruby Ferguson Jill series, Black Beauty, The Horse And His Boy by CS Lewis — to name but a few. But what about us grown-ups? Are there any good horsey reads out there for a slightly older audience? Why, yes there are. Check these out for starters…

    1. Riders by Jilly Cooper

    After being bullied at school by the rich and handsome but cruel Rupert Campbell-Black, horse-whispering gypsy hero Jake Lovell is determined to thrash his bitter rival where it really counts — in the showjumping ring. Who will eventually come out on top in the final showdown at the Los Angeles Olympics? Written in the 1970s, Jilly pretty much invented the bonkbuster with this novel, her first about the rutting and riding Rutshire set, and doesn’t beat about the, erm, bush about it. Sex – check. Glamorous people behaving badly – check. Humour – check. Horses – check. What’s not to love? And the book has recently hit the headlines for its new, toned down front cover (see above, right)…

    2. French Relations/Well Groomed by Fiona Walker

    A cut above your average chicklit writer, Fiona Walker writes romances, but she does it so entertainingly. French Relations and its sequel Well Groomed follow the — admittedly somewhat unlikely — fortunes of Tash, a tall, clumsy 26-year old photographer with an unsuitable boyfriend who goes to visit her folks in France, only to find her mum has bought her a world-class event horse. Well, it could happen to anyone. Can Tash rise to the challenge of riding this horse to eventing victory, while bagging herself a totally hot new man in the process? No spoilers now!

    3. The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

    The debut novel from this English author, The Horse Whisperer went on to become an international best-seller, spawning a film starring Robert Redford and Scarlett Johanssen. Teenage Grace is severely injured in a riding accident that also leaves her horse Pilgrim so traumatised that it seems putting him down may be the kindest option. Her mother, Annie, ropes in a Montana horse whisperer, Tom, to help them, and as Pilgrim begins to recover, so does her daughter — but it comes at a price. Make sure you’ve got a box of tissues to hand as this is a real weepie.

    Continued below…

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    4. Dead Cert by Dick Francis

    An ex-jockey himself, all the late Dick Francis’s thrillers are set in the glamorous but often murky world of racing. Amateur jockey Alan York’s best friend Bill’s horse is a ‘dead cert’ to win but falls in the race, killing Bill. Discovering a coil of wire at the finish, Alan suspects sabotage. But who would kill Bill — and why? Once described as ‘chicklit for men,’ Francis had a gift for crafting a great page-turner, helped by his in-depth knowledge of the racing industry. One for the Christmas stocking.

    5. Flambards by KM Peyton

    Sent to live with her hunting-obsessed uncle and male cousins after the death of her parents, heiress Christina Flambard quickly becomes obsessed with hunting herself — riding side-saddle, as this book was set at the turn of the 20th century. One of her cousins is brutish and handsome; the other gentle and scared of horses after a hunting accident. With the First World War threatening any chance of lasting happiness, which cousin will Christina fall for? Glossing over the fact that falling in love with your cousins is a bit odd, this is the first in a series of classic books about love, loss and horses that can’t fail to strike a chord with anyone with a passing interest in any of those things.

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