8 brilliant books to curl up with this Christmas

  • 1. Valegro: Champion Horse

    Valegro Champion Horse
    Author: Carl Hester
    Publisher: Third Millennium Publishing
    Price: £20
    ISBN: 9781908990532
    This beautiful book tells the story of the superstar from his first steps to his team debut, the euphoric Olympic victory and all that followed. We hear from several of those whose lives “Blueberry” has touched, from his breeders, Maartje and Joop Hanse, to “super-groom” Alan Davies, to the many judges he has wowed. The story is as gripping as Valegro’s performances, with beautiful, rarely seen photos. Above all, the reader gains a sense of the extraordinary partnership between Valegro, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester. The photos showing Carl watching the pair at their first championships from behind a pillar, sobbing like a proud father, are one particularly moving episode.

    2. Katie Jerram’s Modern Horse Management

    Katie Jerram's Modern Horse Management
    Authors: Katie Jerram and Carolyn Henderson
    Publisher: J.A. Allen
    Price: £22.50
    ISBN: 9781908809278
    Although written by one of the country’s leading showing riders, this easy-to-read, well-illustrated book is useful for every horse owner. It is essentially an A to Z for keeping horses, with all sorts of stable management areas covered, from feeding and clipping to grooming and rugging up, plus fitness, safe travel and lungeing — and much more besides. The text is split into manageable chunks, with Katie explaining the way she does things and why, rather than straightforward dos and don’ts. Even if you’ve owned horses for years, this is a helpful reference guide for brushing up on your equine husbandry skills.

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    3. My Way: How I Train For Success

    Mary King
    Author: Mary King
    Publisher: Acanthus Press
    Price: £25
    ISBN: 9780992995102
    A stalwart of the British eventing team for a number of years, Badminton and Burghley winner Mary King shares the secrets behind her success in her latest training book. She opens the doors to her yard to reveal her polished management and training system, giving aspiring equestrians the ideal opportunity to learn from one of the world’s most famous and well-loved equestrian personalities. From purchasing an event horse, to preparation for all three phases, providing the best stable management routine and achieving your goals in the world of competition, Mary is generous and honest with her knowledge.

    4. Henrietta Knight: Not Enough Time

    Henrietta Knight
    Author: Henrietta Knight
    Publisher: Head of Zeus
    Price: £20
    ISBN: 9781784971335
    Henrietta Knight’s latest book gives a glimpse into the life that she shared with her great love Terry Biddlecombe. It follows Hen and Terry from their lives before they met, their first date and through the highs and lows of their life together. From the moment she starts writing about Terry there is a noticeable warmth to Hen’s writing that contrasts with the factual way she describes her life before him. The beautifully written narrative feels truly honest and flows in a way that makes it seem as though Hen is there, telling you the story personally. It is peppered with tiny details, fond memories and hilarious anecdotes from the couple’s friends. How she took a suitcase of Best Mate’s fan mail on holiday so she could reply to well-wishers, and her description of how they would prepare the owners’ open days are just two examples of how Hen’s writing makes you feel as if you are watching the scenes unfold. Only a cold-hearted person wouldn’t shed a few tears at some point while reading this book. Best Mate’s first Cheltenham Gold Cup win in 2002, his death in 2005 and Hen’s account of caring for Terry during his illness are powerful and deeply moving.

    5. The Queen’s Backyard

    The Queen's Backyard
    Author: Anderson & Low
    Publisher: Dewi Lewis Publishing
    Price: £30
    ISBN: 9781907893704
    Our fascination with The Queen and horses is unlikely ever to waver — and this offering from photographers Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low is the perfect fix for every equestrian royalist. Anderson and Low have gone behind the scenes at the Royal Windsor Horse Show to give us an insight into the participants of the show that a general admissions ticket could never offer. The images take us from The Queen visiting the Household Cavalry at the stables, to band rehearsals, nervous Shetland jockeys pre-race to grazing horses in the car park. As The Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations at next year’s Royal Windsor draw closer, this compendium of images should take pride of place on any coffee table.

    6. McCoy: The Complete Story

    AP McCoy copy
    Author: edited by Brough Scott
    Publisher: Racing Post Books
    Price: £20
    ISBN: 9781910498187
    A fantastic compilation of Racing Post articles documenting the life of the remarkable AP McCoy. Stretching from his early childhood years to his final day in the weighing room at Sandown Park in April — a momentous day no racing fan shall ever forget — the pages provide a fitting tribute to the sporting legend. Edited by Brough Scott, the substantial book brings alive not only AP’s career in the saddle but his life off the track — his family life and the daily pressures of being the 20-time champion jockey. Thanks to a combination of interesting articles and vibrant photography, readers can delve into AP’s fascinating life and mindset.

    7. The Enchanted Horse

    The Enchanted Horse
    Author: Magdalen Nabb
    Publisher: Harper Collins
    Price: £9.99
    ISBN: 9780007580309
    This is a heart-warming, magical tale of a lonely girl who finds happiness when an old toy horse in a junk shop comes to life. Irina lives a dull life helping her parents on the farm — but everything changes when she realises that her wooden horse is real. With the opening chapter aptly starting on Christmas Eve, the style of descriptive writing is utterly captivating. The story was first published in 1992. This new edition, sealed within a powder blue cover, is packed with beautiful illustrations and would make a welcome surprise at the bottom of a child’s stocking.

    8. Cartoons From The Horse’s Mouth

    Cartoons From The Horse's Mouth
    Authors: Spencer Hill and Vicky Oakey
    Publisher: Kenilworth Press
    Price: £8.99
    ISBN: 9781910016053
    Cartoonist Spencer Hill and Vicky Oakey, who has a masters degree in equine science, have created this light-hearted paperback, which is sure to make any equestrian giggle. With more than 100 illustrations, it offers a great insight into what horses and ponies are likely to freely discuss when their riders are not around — ranging from Pony Club and poo-picking to poll guards and yard drama. Some favourites that we sniggered at were: “Quick Bob, someone’s coming! Chatter your teeth and they will take us somewhere warm!’’, “All of our poop has been stolen again” — “why do the humans find it so fascinating?” and on the subject of plaiting: “I know it’s traditional, and I’m sure I look gorgeous, but this hairstyle makes me feel like a chump.” This book is easy to read and beautifully presented. You’re sure to recognise your own horse among the cartoons, making it a must-have for any tack room table.

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