The Gift of Literature

I know none of us are ready to talk about it yet, but we’re inching closer and closer to the holiday season. We’re a scant two weeks from Black Friday, which means that if you haven’t started contemplating gifts yet, you miiiiight want to get on that.

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I won’t be doing any big elaborate gift guides this year. The Black Friday bohemoth post is enough holiday masochism for me, thanks. However, when I was thinking back on my favorite things of the year, the first few items that sprang to mind were all books. To me (admittedly a major bibliophile) a book is a fantastic gift, especially for a horse person. You can find something out there to suit just about anyone. A book can bring so many things to the reader, whether it’s instruction, entertainment, or just pure happiness. What better gift is there than that?

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So for this one I’ve gathered my own personal top 10 horse-related books. Most are recent, but some are older staples that I feel like people should have in their collection. There’s certainly a wide variety, and I’m pretty confident that no matter who you’re shopping for, you can find something here for them. Well ok, unless its me… in which case I already have them all.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse

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If you aren’t following Charlie Mackesy on Instagram then I dunno what you’re even doing with social media. And if you don’t have social media, Charlie Mackesy alone is a good enough reason to get it. His art is simple but beautiful, and his new book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse is guaranteed to leave you with a lot more warm fuzzies than you had when you started. It’s pure simple goodness appropriate for all ages. Plus the hardcover is absolutely beautiful, perfect to display or have as a coffee table book. This one is a must-have, even for non-equestrians.

Riding for the Team

Riding for the Team

Another newer release, Riding for the Team is a collection of inspirational stories from top level riders in all disciplines, all the way from McLain Ward to Tim McQuay. I think it’s always interesting to get an inside peek into what goes on behind the scenes on the world stage, and learn more details about famous horses. Since this one covers show jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, vaulting, reining, endurance, and para-dressage, it should cover the bases with just about any horse person. Who doesn’t love an inspirational story?

Basic Training of the Young Horse

Basic Training of the Young Horse: 3rd Edition

This is, quite possibly, my favorite riding-related book of all time. There is no one quite like Ingrid Klimke, especially when it comes to riding and training young horses. Her approach is simple, it’s correct, it’s classic, and it works. Her principles and ideas are applicable across all disciplines, not just dressage or eventing. She’s an exemplary horseman who always puts the mental and physical well-being of the horse as the highest priority, and it shows. There are so many fantastic nuggets of wisdom contained within the pages of Basic Training of the Young Horse that I find myself looking back through it quite often. This book is a great resource for anyone who might ever find themselves sat on a young horse. Or, if you know someone who’s a particularly big Ingrid fangirl (ahem) there’s also a complete set of all 3 of her books.

World Class Grooming

World-Class Grooming For Horses

If you go to horse shows and don’t employ a team a grooms, or if you care for your own horses in any way shape or form, this book is your bible. From clipping to braiding to cooling a horse down properly to taking vital signs to choosing studs to traveling – this book covers everything (don’t believe me? take a peek at the table of contents) related to horse care. It’s chock full of fantastic tips and advice from, well, world class grooms. They’ve been there, they’ve done that, and this book contains all of the wisdom they’ve accrued over the years. There are tons of photos that help clearly explain how to do things and what it should look like. A grooming book might sound kind of silly as a basic premise, but World Class Grooming isn’t just a grooming book, it’s a complete care guide and has so many great tips that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

Chop Wood Carry Water

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I’ve talked a lot about this book before, and if you haven’t seen me talking about it, you’ve probably heard riders like Jenny Caras and Matt Brown mention it too. Chop Wood Carry Water is simple, full of short little life lessons that are very easy to read, but there’s just something about it that stays with you over time. This is the book that really served to jumpstart my quest to change and improve my mindset when it came to riding and showing, and I still think back to it all the time. It’s a great introduction to the idea of a growth mindset, and got my brain working in the right way to where I was ready to pursue the idea more deeply.  The subtitle of the book is “How to fall in love with the process of becoming great” and that’s exactly what it focuses on. It’s easy in this sport to get so stuck on the end goal that we forget about the journey, and this book does a great job of giving perspective. I think this would be a great gift for just about anyone who participates in competitive sports.

Brain Training for Riders

Brain Training for Riders

Along the same vein, my favorite equestrian-specific mindset book has been Brain Training for Riders. I think it breaks things down in a way that’s easy to understand, and it gives you tips for how to handle pressure, emotions, and fear. We all know just how mental this sport can be, and this book is really great at helping us understand why we feel the way we do, and how to change it, or how to move past disappointment or handle embarrassment. I have said before that IMO the mental side of riding is something we don’t talk about nearly enough, but it’s so incredibly crucial to our success and well-being. Every rider needs to own this book, and every trainer needs to read it.

Modern Gymnastics

Modern Gymnastics

Switching gears back into the actual riding side of things – if you jump, Jim Wofford’s Modern Gymnastics (which also comes as a DVD, if you’re friends with some weirdo who doesn’t like books) is a must. There are so many ideas for exercises, and it explanations what each one is aiming to accomplish. If this book can’t keep somone busy and invigorated during a long cold off season, nothing will. Great reference guide to keep a horse and rider tuned up!

Core Conditioning for Horses

Core Conditioning for Horses

Along the same vein – if you don’t jump, or if you also want a full arsenal of flatwork exercises to help keep your horse strong and loose, check out Core Conditioning for Horses. I have ridden with a Charles de Kunffy protege for years, so this book piggybacked perfectly off of his concept of dressage as a way to “gymnasticize” the horse’s body. The goal of flatwork should always be to make the horse stronger and more supple, and this book includes plenty of exercises (and pictures) to get you there. There are even suggestions for things to try for horses with kissing spines, for example. None of the work is particularly difficult to understand, so any semi-competent rider should be able to get something useful from it. Think of it as being kinda like yoga for horses.

Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere

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I think pretty much any human being on the planet would enjoy Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere. Horsey or not, avid reader or not, it just has such universal appeal. This book is a collection of stories from a veterinarian, most of them funny, some of them sad, some of them just downright jaw-dropping. The stories are all pretty short and easy to read, but the writer is an absolutely captivating storyteller. Oh, and who is that veterinarian writer? None other than the owner and head vet at the clinic where Presto spent the first few weeks of his life. They are great people.

In the Middle are the Horsemen

In the Middle Are the Horsemen

I’m not sure how many riders are left in America that don’t already have this book, but I feel like pretty much anyone would enjoy it. It’s just so… relateable. Tik Maynard has had an interesting journey throughout his career, and he’s learned a lot from so many different people along the way. In the Middle are the Horsemen a refreshingly honest story about what he did right, what he did wrong, and how all of those things shaped the thoughts and methods he has today when it comes to riding and training. Eventers, h/j folks, dressage riders, even western riders – this book combines all types of horsemen and shows us that there’s something to be learned from everyone.


I had to limit myself to 10, otherwise we’d be here all day, but these are definitely a good representation of my favorites. I tried to keep a wide variety, so hopefully there’s something on this list for just about anyone on your shopping list! If not, Trafalgar Square‘s (I send you there because they have such a good selection of horse books) website is conveniently set up so that you can shop by category, if you’re looking for something more specific, or they have a decent selection of DVD’s, or you can even just buy a gift certificate. Plus their shipping is free, you know how much I like that.

When in doubt, buy a book. Even if they don’t read it, they can just smell it until they’re happy.

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18 thoughts on “The Gift of Literature

  1. Charlie Mackesy’s book is already on my Christmas list for many people, most of which aren’t horse people. I love following his instagram.

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  2. Oooh! Love new book suggestions! If you’re looking for another good mental skills book, try How Champions Think by Bob Rotella. He is a renowned sports psychologist that McLain Ward credited for changing his career. Easy to read and very useful!

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  3. Thank you for the book reviews and link. I’m looking for a Bookclub read for a group of non horsey women. Recommendations welcome!

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  4. Ahh, these all look so fantastic — and some are ones I’ve been thinking about getting so it’s great to hear your take on them!

    My actual Favorite Novel Ever is Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven, which I got as a present as a teenager from my grandmother. She obviously picked it just because it was a horse book on the bestseller’s list (it wasn’t the *most* appropriate for a 14 year old), but it’s turned into one of those books I reread every few years just because it’s lovely and thoughtful and, honestly, has some fantastic advice in it to boot. Highly recommend it, if you’re ever in the mood for fiction!

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  5. Love this, thanks! I’ve added a couple of these to my own list and I think I’m going to get one or two of them for my mom.

    And I don’t understand people who don’t love books. Books are great.

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  6. Just ordered like half of these… stop spending my money. Also, not sure if you shop at Thriftbooks, but they had several of these titles at low prices. They may not anymore though… since I bought them.

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