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text 2017-12-27 20:38
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 14 - Dies Natalis Solis Invicti
The Black Stallion Adventure Set: Four-Volume Box Set - Walter Farley
Winnetou I - Karl May
Durch die Wüste - Karl May
Black Beauty (Scholastic Classics) - Anna Sewell

Tasks for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Find the sunniest spot in your home, that’s warm and comfy and read your book. –OR– Take a picture of your garden, or a local garden/green space in the sun (even if the ground is under snow). If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, take a picture of your local scenic spot, park, or beach, on a sunny day. –OR– The Romans believed that the sun god rode across the sky in a chariot drawn by fiery steeds. Have you ever been horseback riding, or did you otherwise have significant encounters with horses? As a child, which were your favorite books involving horses?


When I was very little, horses slightly intimidated me, but -- like everything moderately scary -- they also fascinated me enormously.  By the time I was in elementary school, there was a riding stable and school just a few houses from ours in our street, with one of the pastures coming up all the way to the walkway (we weren't living in Bonn proper but in a village nearby at the time).  One day, as a dare, some friends and I climbed the fence of that pasture and mounted the two horses grazing there -- as luck would have it, they were two extremely friendly and patient fjordhests (Norwegian fjord horses) named, as I would later learn, Charlie and Suraba, who bore our antics with all the goodwill that horses of their breed are capable of, which is surprisingly much.


My mother, upon hearing my guilelessly proud recital of the episode, took this as a sign that maybe rather than going on to naively approach animals considerably bigger and stronger than myself, I ought to have some proper instruction in horsewomanship, and this is how I came to be enrolled for my first riding classes -- for the very first couple of which, as coincidence would have it, I would find myself (this time with due license) again on the backs of Suraba and Charlie.  On their bare backs, that is: riding instruction in this place started you out without a saddle, so as to improve your sense of balance and build up your leg muscles quicker than might have been the case if you had had stirrups to hold you.


I had tremendous fun, but I've never been one for building up proficiency in anything slowly and gradually, so within a few weeks I demanded to be included in one of the several-hour-long jaunts offered by the stables every weekend.  My mom inquired with my riding teacher whether I was ready for this sort of thing (not necessarily hoping to get "no" for an answer, but obviously, to get a genuine assessment).  My teacher thought I was ready and added, "she'll just have to learn how to canter for short periods, which hasn't been part of her instruction just yet."  So, to catch up with the other folks going on the excursion, I was given some extra instruction in cantering. 


The problem, as it would turn out, was that during that lesson I had been in a saddle for a change, as a result of which I still had absolutely no clue what a gallopping horse's movements under you feel like when you do not have a pair of stirrups to give you extra hold ... and just how much harder it is to stay on the horse's back as a result.  Well, you guessed it -- come Sunday, it was back to "no saddle" (thank God, on the back my Norwegian friend Charlie).  Which I enjoyed just fine as long as we were just walking and trotting along leisurely -- but the excursion's first gallop was a major wake up moment.  I managed to hold on (and would have been way too pigheaded to give up anyway), but I was apprehensive of the next time nevertheless; and what had to happen of course promptly happened ... halfway through the second gallop I was no longer able to hold on, and I fell.  For a seemingly eternal moment, I watched Charlie's hooves flying over me: horses will instinctively try to avoid stepping on humans (and all smaller creatures) in their way, and ordinarily Charlie would very likely have stopped and / or veered sideways, but the path was narrow and there were other riders directly behind us, so he probably felt pressured forward, and as a result he did the only thing left to him -- he jumped right over me.  Thankfully, he managed to avoid hitting my head or anything else truly vital -- but one of his hooves left a horseshoe-shaped mark on my right shoulder, and my right collarbone was sprained.  Once my shoulder was righted, of course that horseshoe mark turned out a badge of honor (which I exploited for all it was worth), but I learned the biggest lesson of all horsemanship on that day: Whenever you have fallen, it is vital for you to get right back onto your horse -- if you don't, you'll never go riding again.  (Of course, for the trip home I was given a saddle, and to everybody else's chagrin there was to be no more cantering that day.)


I continued to ride all through my school years until my graduation from high school and abandoned it, much to my chagrin, only when assignment and study pressure in university got too big for me to still be able to invest the considerable amount of time that this particular pastime requires, but I immensely hated having to give it up -- and if by now my backbone weren't a mess of herniated discs, I'd still like to go back to riding.


As far as favorites go, while I (still) love horses of all breeds and colors, I've always had a particular love for the two breeds most prominent in the riding stables where I started out -- Norwegian fjord horses and Haflingers -- as well as Mustangs, and, at the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, purebred Arabians, particularly if raven black.  There was a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing going on with my favorite horse-related reading and TV ingestion when I was in elementary and middle school (I loved Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, the adventure novels of Karl May, whose heroes Winnetou and Old Shatterhand / Kara Ben Nemsi own peerless black stallions, and the various TV "adaptations" -- to use the term loosely -- of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, which basically made Beauty an equine version of Lassie), but in any event, for years I used to dream of owning a black stallion myself -- preferably, a purebred Arabian.


Unfortunately, virtually all of my horse- and riding-related photos were in one of several albums drowned in the floods of a broken pipe in their place of storage while I was living in the U.S., so literally all I have left is a photo taken by a French penfriend, whose family owned horses and whom I visited shortly before graduating from high school -- and a photo taken a few years earlier, during a vacation in Austria, where I made friends with a mare and her filly that we passed on a walking trip (I was unable to walk by any horses without trying to get their attention and pet them at the time):


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review 2017-12-16 00:00
Black Beauty (Scholastic Classics)
Black Beauty (Scholastic Classics) - Anna Sewell I remember having read this in 3rd or 4th grade and having liked it. Basically, we have the autobiography of a horse. Black Beauty, it seems, is a stallion (or gelding, we're never told). I always assumed that with a name like that he was a she. But nope! A guy horse. None-the-less, all the 9-year old girls who love horses will adore this book. So, also will old Calvinist moralists, like myself, who like animal stories dosed with some good, old fashioned moralizing.

Anyway, this was quite a fun book. Beauty narrates his life from colthood to old age. He sees many changes in that he switches hands from time to time from a good "master" to a not-so-good one, from good care to negligent care, from proper work to over work, and so on. Along the way, we learn the stories of some of the other horses with whom Beauty shared a stable, and we learn much about the proper way to care for a horse so as to get the best work from him. Horses like to work hard for people they like. Nope, don't mind it a bit. Bless their equine hearts.
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review 2017-02-21 00:00
Black Beauty
Black Beauty - Anna Sewell ~*Full review here on The Bent Bookworm!*~

“Good luck is rather particular who she rides with, and mostly prefers those who have got common sense and a good heart.”

Black Beauty is a book of anthropomorphic animals. Highly intelligent animals. While told in the language of its time (roughly the 1870s-1880s), it still has an appeal to anyone with a love of animals and an even slight interest in history. The details included are absolutely fascinating and paint a exquisite picture of England and London at that time. I love books that give such perfect, clear pictures of their time – without it feeling like an info dump. Of course, we can only hope that the author gave accurate descriptions, but even today the world Black Beauty lives in feels very real.
“Do you know why this world is as bad as it is? Because people won’t trouble to stand up for the oppressed.”

Some words are as true today as over 100 years ago. This book is 20 times better than the last anthropomorphic animal book I tried ([book:Smoky the Cowhorse|2705881]…which earned a BIG FAT NO). The animals are all different, with their own experiences and personalities – and so are the humans! Of course the reader’s first loyalties lie with Black Beauty and his friends, but he has some genuinely kind, good owners that are good characters in their own right. Ginger, another horse with whom he becomes friends early on, truly stole my heart.

There are some beautiful quotes, even if the prose occasionally descends to a bit of a preachy tone when it comes to how we treat animals and our fellow man. That is my only real complaint about this lovely story, which, despite having a few notes of sadness (as any good story ought, in my opinion), is a completely worthy addition to any reading program or library.

“Don’t you know that [ignorance] is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness?”

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review 2016-04-08 00:00
Black Beauty (Scholastic Classics)
Black Beauty (Scholastic Classics) - Anna Sewell 3.5 stars
This is one of those books that makes you think. Anyone who wants a pet or who wants to learn about horses should really read it. It's from the horse's POV and tells things humans don't think about. Also, it has lots of great life lessons. It's a good read for all ages, but I recommend it more for kids and teens. I really liked it a lot, but it was pretty depressing for me. I felt very sorry for the horses.
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review 2016-03-25 00:00
Black Beauty
Black Beauty - Anna Swell I read this as part of Dead Writers Society Literary Birthday Challenge for 2016. I don't know what else to say about this book was that I found it to be sad and uplifting in parts.

Told in the first person, we have a young horse named Black Beauty describing his life and constantly changing homes throughout the years during the late 1800s in England.

Black Beauty was great as a narrator to his own life story and those of other animals he met. I loved so many of the other characters we meet like Ginger and Merrylegs.

I loved the fact that the other animals could "talk" to each other and relating their own stories to each other about what good men they had met and what cruel men they had met shaped them. Even though Black Beauty in the end more than anyone I think would have been justified in giving up, he still did what he could to be a "good" horse.

I was very disheartened to think upon what fates befell Ginger and Merrylegs and was really angry at the owners in this story who just kept selling horses to people with what I thought was very little thought made to what would happen to them afterwards.

For me, what made this story so fascinating was that I had no idea at all about things going on regarding horses in Victorian times. Reading about how men and women in high society wanted their horses craned very high in order to make them look more fashionable made me ill. I seriously had no idea this was even a thing. I guess I just thought people just put saddles and had reigns around horses and that was it.

The writing was really good. For someone with no idea about technical terms or anything else regarding horses, groomers, etc. this book was not too technical. I also really liked the flow of the book and thought the pace was pitch perfect from beginning to end.

The setting of England during this times also brings in discussions about the working class and looks more deeply at men who were cab drivers, groomers, farmers, squires, etc.

The ending made me very happy and actually tear up a bit.
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