Show Off Your Equestrian Style Page by Page
It’s a cold, chilly day outside, and although your heart might be with your horse…the rest of your body wants to cuddle up on the couch with a cozy mug of tea and a good book.
What’s the next best thing to being with horses? Reading about horses, of course!
And even better, looking at stunning photographs of horses. There are people who have dedicated their lives to capturing the spirit of this animal in pictures. I know some of them. I understand how mesmerizing the equine pull on the human heart can be.
There is a longing, almost an ache I get, when looking at live horses. I want to capture them, memorize every beautiful detail of muscle, mane, coat color, every elegant curve. I can’t get enough. I feel the same about the art form of equine photography—some pictures stop me in my tracks, take my breath away. Diving into a good horse photography book is a form of horse therapy. It’s healing, inspiring, and calming.
These are my carefully curated top 10 from my own bookshelf. Some are purely photos, some include more reading. But all are here because they’ve left a hoof print on my horse consciousness. Enjoy!
This book is #1 for many reasons, not the least of which is because it was my first horse photography book.
My enthusiasm for this book was hard to contain—I gave it as a gift often.
It’s become even more meaningful to me, as the cover image is of Icelandic horses; I’ve made two journeys to Iceland in the last five years to experience their unique country and gaits. This is the ultimate spend-an-afternoon soaking up creative horse vision book; it’s like having your own personal art exhibit in front of you.
It took Tim Flach seven years, and a lot of world travel, to create this masterpiece. It deserves its own showcase tabletop.
“From the cave wall to the betting hall, this is a species that has excited our passions for as long as we have known them.”
As part of my journey running a non profit that offers women healing with horses and yoga, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to author/photographer Tony Stromberg and his book Horse Medicine.
We give signed copies of it to our Cowgirls vs. Cancer women.
There are many beautiful horse books out there, but what resonates profoundly about this one is the portrayal of horses as healers. Tony comments on the gifts horses give:
“As an extension of their healing capacity, they teach us about true intimacy and connection, not just with the horse as a dance partner, but with the natural world at large…And ultimately, through teaching, healing, and connection, they help us transcend the human realm and taste the divine.
The horse really can be seen as medicine with the ability to heal us on many levels – emotionally, archetypically, spiritually – and with the capacity to help us restore our lives to a natural balance of inner and outer, of spirit and flesh.”
His introduction is a read to repeat often; then soak up his talent putting images to those words. I also highly recommend following him on Instagram.
Another Stromberg gem that preceded Horse Medicine. The foreword by Linda Kohanov, author of The Tao of Equus, says his photos “reveal nuances beyond words.” Kohanov’s book has deeply influenced my horse journey, and I soak up every word she writes. So a foreword by her, photos by Stromberg—perfection.
The photos are interspersed with quotes that resonate, from the likes of St. Francis of Assisi, the Dalai Lama, Indian chiefs, and many notable horse people.
From Linda Kohanov’s foreword:
“The horse, long a symbol of power and freedom, is more specifically a teacher of non predatory power and freedom through relationship. Those adventurous souls who follow the ways of horses can’t help becoming more balanced, confident and peaceful, more open to the beauty and sacredness of life.”
From Stromberg’s introduction:
“Through the unfolding of this book, I came to learn that horses remind us of valuable truths that are beginning to fade in our culture. These include collaboration instead of dominance. Honesty and authenticity versus manipulation and falseness. Presence versus distraction. Trust and leadership. Harmony, community, and the plain truth that we are all connected.”
The Majesty of the Horse: An Illustrated Story
Part elegant photography book, part breed dictionary. I adore reading about the defining characteristics of horse breeds, especially the ones I’ve had the privilege to ride. This book gives each breed’s history, place of origin and status; for example, a Tennessee Walking Horse is “Historic – United States – Common,” while a Lusitano is “Ancient – Portugal – Rare.”
It also divides breeds into groups with poetic names describing their primary features; for example, “Martial Grace” (includes Lipizzaners and Percherons), and “Sublime Power” (includes Fjords and Clydesdales).
Get lost in this one, and learn a lot.
“In all its many shapes and sizes, the horse is a majestic being, a combination of fire and spirit, kindness and intelligence, speed and dexterity. Even when it is tamed and trained, there always remains a tiny spark of something wild.”
The Horse: Passion, Beauty, Splendor, Strength
Proof that good things come in small packages, this is the smallest of my “coffee table” books. It’s another great combo of stunning photographs and interesting reading; my favorite chapter is “The Spiritual Horse: folklore, myths, and legends.”
There is so much to learn about the physical horse, but delve into the more esoteric side of their history and you will be rewarded.
“Spirited, spiritual – the spirit of the horse is difficult to define and impossible to pin down. But what is clear is that the importance of horses in legends, myths and folk tales from around the world is significant. They impact deeply upon humans on many levels. To storytellers, shamans and truth-seekers of all sorts, this essential connection needs exploration. All the ideas, stories and beliefs that have grown up around this creature reveal one certain thing: at the deepest level of our being, humans need the horse.”
The Horse Encyclopedia
The slogan of the publisher of this book, DK, is “for the curious.” If you are curious about over 150 breeds of horses, this one’s for you. Horse lovers of all ages will enjoy the compendium; I like to picture horse crazy girls poring over it together, picking out their favorite breeds.
It also includes sections on history, horse care and management, and physical characteristics.
Fun factoids abound, like this one about a horse’s “sixth sense:”
“There are numerous examples of horses demonstrating an almost inexplicable perception. The reluctance of horses to pass reputedly haunted places is well documented.”
The Horse Lover’s Encyclopedia: An A-Z Guide to All Things Equine
This one is pure fun. When you need to know something related to horses, look it up in this equine dictionary that is alphabetically arranged. Then, get sidetracked by 1700+ other entries on horse things you didn’t even know existed.
What sometimes feels like another language is translated here, “from braids to breeds, fetlocks to forelocks, and gaits to gates”.
“Over the centuries of partnership between horse and human, an enormous amount of wisdom and general lore has accumulated. Modern ‘horse sense’ has evolved from the experience of horse people of many cultures, including Arabian and Native American trainers; British Thoroughbred breeders; the cowboys and herders of Spain, Mexico, and the American Southwest; the military horsemen who laid down the fundamentals of precise horsemanship that later became dressage; and countless other breeders, trainers and instructors. Every horse lover can benefit from studying equine history, physiology, and psychology.”
Horses: Stunning Photographs from the Equine World
Breed-hop all over the world, with pictures of horses in action in their homelands.
In Types of Horses, notice India’s Marwari horse’s unique inward turning ears; these horses were trained to fight sword-wielding enemies riding elephants. The Indian cavalry made fake trunks for their horses; they then resembled baby elephants, and the adults would not attack them. Bask in the glow of the Akhal-Teke, Turkmenistan’s ‘golden horse’ with a metallic sheen to its coat.
Learn about some of the oldest and rarest horse breeds in the world.
In Horse Anatomy, soak up facts to help you understand why horses do what they do, and impress people with your detailed equine knowledge. Did you know that their ears can move independently of each other, and can rotate up to 180 degrees?
Or that they have the largest eyes of any land mammal, and can see 350 degrees in any direction? And one of my favorites: it’s not colder weather that causes horses to grow their winter coat, but diminishing daylight.
In Working Horses, travel by horse-drawn sled in the Transylvanian Alps. Respect the authority of police horses, from Rome’s Carabinieri Mounted regiment to New York City’s Mounted Police Unit. Witness the excitement of Italy’s Palio di Siena’s bareback horse race, which dates back to the 16th century.
“The importance of horses to human society is reflected in the sheer number of everyday words and phrases that reference them. The measure of an engine’s performance is still made in horsepower. To ‘take something in your stride’ is a horse racing term meaning that you’re doing well. To ‘chomp at the bit’ means to be eager to begin…The saying ‘no sweat’ refers to a horse’s ability to make even the hardest job look easy—to do it without sweating.”
Bob Langrish’s World of Horses
A Master Photographer’s Lifelong Quest to Capture the Most Magnificent Horses in the World
This is a new fave, for when you want to be an armchair equestrian traveler. It’s grouped by environments around the world – Beaches & the Seaside, Mountains & High Plateaus, Forests, Jungles & Woods to name a few—and each photo has a world map marked with where it was taken.
Photographer Bob Langrish has spent decades on six continents capturing horses in their natural glory and native habitats.
From the Introduction, by equestrian Olympic gold medalist Jane Holderness-Roddam (who also authored photo captions):
“Bob’s travels have taken him to virtually every region, country and continent where horses and ponies are known to exist. He has met so many amazing owners and stewards of these horses…He has walked with kings and sheiks, as well as with some of the poorest owners who rely on the horse for their very survival. He has seen first-hand that all share the same special bond with this special animal, which has enriched human life since time immemorial.”
Horses of Iceland
Confession: I don’t have this copy yet (it retails for almost $90!), but it’s at the top of my horse book wish list. Why? Because Icelandic horses have made their way into the forefront of my horse dreamscape.
I’ve been to Iceland twice now to ride them, and explore their enchanting, otherworldly island.
Icelandic horses are the purest breed—they haven’t been crossbred since they arrived on the island with Vikings around the year 900. If they leave Iceland, they can’t come back. Iceland is a horse-centric culture, whose human history is deeply intertwined with their horses. You can feel that influence everywhere.
Icelandic horses are a gaited breed that are strong, sturdy and sweet. Their tölt is comfortable and quick, and their incredibly thick manes bob with their gait to make them look muppet-like, yet majestic. There are many beautiful horses from many beautiful places, but this one’s magical, mystical origins have won my heart.
Hitting “add to cart” now.
Cuddle Up with a New Book
I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual book shop tour and that you find at least one fresh read you can’t put down. Each book on my list also makes for a wonderful present if you need gift ideas for equestrians who seem to have everything. And now, I’m off to brew a fresh cup of tea and get lost in the magnificent world of horses, yet again…
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