Monday, February 27, 2012
Fixed, by Paddy Head, was an interesting read. Set in 1970's at New England racetracks, the author gives a realistic portrayal of life as an apprentice jockey.
Andrea "Andy" Crowley transfer from Belmont to a track in Boston and learns about New England hospitality - the mob way. She thinks she is just being tested by the regulars, but really she is being watched by some shady characters.
She makes friends with other females in the business, including a jockey named Denise - who was actually a real jockey during that time and later became a friend of mine in Florida before her sudden death to an illness. The book was dedicated in part to her, which was so kind of the author. Denise was one classy lady.
Anyway, between the detailed racing scenes, the backstretch banter and the horses (of course) readers who enjoy horse novels will love this one. Even those who don't know much about racehorses will learn a thing or two about what makes a jockey love what they do!
To learn more about the author and her racing background, see http://www.paddyhead.com/
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Black Beauty, published in 1877 and set in Victorian London, was Anna Sewell's only novel. Yet it has remained a classic for 140 years.
Anna Sewell (English Quaker 1820-1878) was one of the first equine advocates, if not the first to write a children's novel about a wonderful horse and the cruelty of man. Black Beauty is the autobiography of a horse.
Told from the horse's point-of-view, Black Beauty describes his birth, early training and his fondness for his first master, Squire Gordon, stablemates Ginger and Merrylegs and grooms John and James.
For fashion's sake, some owners insisted the grooms harness the carriage horses with their head's held high with the check rein. This made it difficult for the team to pull as well as caused other long term problems. Squire Gordon was against such devices.
When James plans on moving on, little Joe Green is trained for his position. The young boy makes a grave error in Beauty's care after the horse is ridden hard to fetch the doctor for the mistress, and the doc rides him hard back. Beauty survives the incident, but when the mistress needs to move due to her illness, all the horses must be sold.
After that, Beauty describes his life with various owners. Some are ignorant, some cruel but a handful give him the best care they can including a cab driver. Life is hard, and the author gives details of the cruelty of some grooms, drivers and owners.
At least Sewell gives the story a happy ending.
I first read this as a teen, before I took riding lessons. Looking back, I think Sewell's insight helped me decide my path on my journey to becoming a professional horsewoman.
I would recommend this book for all horse lovers except the very young.