Why I Did
1. I read and reread Walter Farley's The Black Stallion. It was one of the first books I ever read to myself without stopping. I recently picked it up again and had the same experience. I then rewatched the Coppola movie which is nowhere near as fast-paced. However, I enjoyed it! The Coppola movie is not a true rendering of the book (although it follows the plot fairly closely) but more a nostalgic rendering of one's memory of the book--more on this later.
2. I took horseback riding lessons as a teen, thanks to my parents. My foray into jockey-dom didn't last, mostly because, well, they were lessons. I found riding around in a circle with the proper posture to be almost as dull as walking around in a circle with a book on my head. The most exciting event occurred when I lost control of my rather sedate horse (not on purpose) and went flying around the track. The trainers were mad; I was thrilled (but wisely didn't say so).
|That's me in the blue pants.|
So I enjoy riding horses though I haven't the discipline to do it seriously.
Why I Didn't
1. I read no other horse books, not even Farley's many, many books (The Black Stallion Returns, The Black Stallion and Flame, The Black Stallion Goes to Vegas, The Black Stallion Does His Taxes--okay, I made up the last two). Many, many, many years later, I read the exhilarating Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, which I recommend. And I did read Black Beauty at some point: if Farley is the action-packed adventure horse story, Black Beauty is the look-at-all-that-scenery horse story. I barely remember it.
2. I collected zero My Little Pony trinkets.
In fact, I don't think I even had horse stuffed animals. My animal-of-choice as a child was cats: I had cat wallpaper, cat stuffed animals, cats in the house, and I read (and enjoyed) The Incredible Journey. However, despite the cat fetish (which I suppose never went away), I was never a fan of books exclusively about animals or even primarily about animals. I am human-centric when it comes to reading.
Back to The Black Stallion
In the initial book, the bond certainly exists--but there's a strong thread of pragmatism about how horses actually get trained. Alec gets thrown many more times than in the movie, and he never fully tames the Black, getting kicked by him at least once (in the movie, probably for safety reasons, the horse being used was a show American Stallion, Cass Ole, about whom people are constantly milling). Alec barely handles the Black on the racetrack (Farley does a thorough job expounding on the sheer stamina and upper body strength that a jockey needs to control a horse: Alec doesn't control the Black; he simply hangs on. In Seabiscuit, Hillenbrand argues, with reason, that jockeys are the strongest athletes in the world).
|One of the most exciting vignettes|
|in the book and movie.|
But the mystical relationship, particularly Alec's intuitive understanding of the Black IS the book's takeaway. Somehow. It was my takeaway long before I saw the movie. It was my memory of the book long after I read it. I was actually a little surprised reading it this time around.
Farley is the ultimate show don't tell writer and I think through sheer forceful imagery, he conveyed an idea/feeling that I doubt he was fully aware of until later.
In any case, the book has stood the test of time remarkably well. It is a stunning good read!