We've all read them.
Books that have a horse on the cover. Purport to have a stirring equestrian background. A title with a horsey term, something like, oh, I don't know... Flying Changes.
(I'm sorry, it is a beautiful term. But I have read at least three books with that title and there are more than half a dozen different books by that title on Amazon. I think it's been done.)
Anyway, books that supposedly have an equestrian bent, written by equestrians, but which are, in fact, written so that a person who has never been inside a barn and wouldn't know a poll from a stifle can enjoy them without having to look up a conformation chart.
I'm sure people who have never been inside a barn and don't know basic equine anatomy can be nice, but their idea of a "horse book" and my idea of a "horse book" are awfully different.
As different as a poll from a stifle.
Every now and then I come across a book that just passes my strict "horse book for horse people" test. Sara Gruen's pre-Water For Elephants books. (One of which is called Flying Changes.) Barbara Dimmick's In the Presence of Horses.
For some reason I can't nail down, both of these are really melodramatic over-the-top emotional roller coaster books, but I enjoyed them, not least because they contained horse-people-only words like "Kopertox."
And that small little shout-out, that "Hey look I know horse things too!" cameo appearance of horse-centric words, was just the reality for a long, long time. If you were looking for a book that only appealed to a small, niche audience -- and shocking as it seems, I guess equestrians are a small, niche audience, maybe because most of them don't have time to read because horses -- then you just took what you could get and tried not to get overly annoyed with books that routinely described twelve-year-olds in red coats showing their ponies over fences or horses who were tied up by their reins while their riders picnicked or did a million other completely wrong things.
But e-publishing has changed things. E-publishing, and self-publishing, and tiny independent publishers have changed things. Now you can publish a book for the fraction of the overhead that the great big machine of agents and editors and illustrators and designers and printers and shippers and retailers and etc. etc. etc. have created for themselves. Less overhead means less investment is required. It means less sales are required to make it out of the red. It means the audience can be tighter, more defined, and, in the case of horse-people, more awesome.
Now we can have nice things that aren't for everybody. They're just for us.
Just for horse people!
Now: an example.
I spent the weekend with two teenagers.
I was reading the first two books of the Bittersweet Farm series, by Barbara Morgenroth: Mounted and Joyful Spirit. I was really, really enjoying these books, not just because they are clever and witty and beautifully written, but also because horse people were doing horse things and they were doing them right and there wasn't a hastily written explanation for every least little thing the horse people were doing.
A horse could be put on the cross-ties, and that was that. I didn't have to slog through a paragraph about what a cross-tie was, or what it was for or why it was safer or anything like that. The book hadn't been dumbed down and over-simplified. ME GUSTA.
(Just ask my nine-year-old, who reads so many British books on his Nook, looking up the words he doesn't know as he goes, that he now gets notes on his spelling tests: "Please use the American version of the word.")
So hurray for horse books for horse people! There are more of them now than ever before. Maybe we can all live in a world safe from twelve-year-olds going to horse shows in red jackets forever more.