4 Classic Horse Stories by Women Authors

National Velvet 1944 film

What is it about horse stories that kids, and dare we say especially girls, love so much? There’s something grounding and down to earth about the bond between the beautiful animals and humans devoted to their welfare when illuminated in fiction. Here, we’ll take a quick look at four of the most enduring classic horse stories by women authors.

The novels Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, National Velvet by Enid Bagnold, My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara, and Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry seem to have all stood the test of time.

Though they’re now classified as children’s books, they were intended by their authors to be enjoyed by “children of all ages.” Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why they were all adapted to film, reaching wide and appreciative audiences.

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Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (1877)

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Though Black Beauty by Anna Sewell is one of the best-selling children’s classics of all time, Anna Sewell hadn’t intended as a children’s book. She wrote it for those who owned or worked with horses, “to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses.”

The story is told by the horse; it was, after all, subtitled The Autobiography of a Horse. Beauty shares his thoughts and feelings and thoughts as his story unfolds. 

His idyllic existence as he grows from a colt frolicking in the fields with his mother into a full-grown horse comes to an end. He falls on hard times, in spite of his devotion to his owners and his hard-working ways. 

Beauty passes through various masters— some kind, some careless, and others quite cruel. This moving story of Black Beauty’s quest for love and kindness, told from his own perspective, had inspired generations of readers to gain more empathy for animals. There have been numerous film adaptations and spinoffs of Black Beauty, and it remains the most iconic of classic horse stories.

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National Velvet by Enid Bagnold (1935)

National velvet by Enid bagnold

National Velvet by Enid Bagnold is the story of 14-year-old Velvet Brown, daughter of a working-class family in England. She’s so horse-crazy that she imagines herself taking journeys on them, leading them to pastures, and grooming them. Miraculously she wins a piebald horse in the village raffle, and at the same time inherits five other horses from a rich old gentleman. 

Velvet and Mi Taylor, her father’s hired man, train the unruly piebald horse to race in the Nationals. However unlikely, the story of overcoming long odds to realize a dream, has captured the imagination of generations of readers. In her breakout role, a young Elizabeth Taylor starred as Velvet Brown in the 1944 film version of National Velvet.

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My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara (1941)


My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara

My Friend Flicka, the 1941 novel by Mary O’Hara, was this author’s most enduring work. The ranch life and rugged Wyoming backdrop that she actually experienced inspired the novel. It’s the story of Ken McLaughlin, a rancher’s son, and his horse Flicka.

Ken’s father, a practical Scotsman, had no patience for his son’s dreaminess, so out of place in the harsh realities of the family’s horse breeding farm. Ken was smitten with a wild colt, who he called Flicka, meaning “little filly.” His devotion to the horse and to taming her grows along with his acceptance of responsibility as a young man.

My Friend Flicka became part of a trilogy, followed by Thunderhead (1943) and Green Grass of Wyoming (1946).

This novel became the basis of a successful 1943 film* starring Roddy MacDowall. It was also adapted to a television show, airing from 1956 to 1957,  and was re-run throughout the 1960s.

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Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (1947) is set in the island town of Chincoteague, Virginia. It’s the story of Paul and Maureen Beebe, orphan siblings, who work to earn enough money to by Phantom, a wild pony mare. The children save Phantom from a cruel fate and raise Misty, her filly born. Misty was inspired by a real-life pony of the same name, and real events and people of Chincoteague. 

Marguerite Henry followed the success of this book with a series of sequels about Misty, including one about her own foal, Stormy. A 1961 film titled Misty was based on the book.

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One Response to “4 Classic Horse Stories by Women Authors”

  1. Love this post! I was obsessed with horses when I was young. I read Black Beauty so many times and wrote little sequels which I still have. And I wrote a song about the ponies of Chincoteague. The Charleston Chew candy bar had a contest back in the 1960s where you could win a pony and I entered constantly, certain I would win. Good thing I didn’t because we had no place to keep one! Thanks for these wonderful memories.

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