Originally Published on Suite 101
When I was 29, I ran away from home. That’s a whole other story, but the main gist is that I left behind an extensive collection of horse books. My Mom, knowing that one day I’d return with my tail between my legs, went to my apartment and saved one book from the entire collection – a first American edition of The Ultimate Horse Book by Elwyn Hartley Edwards (Dorling Kindersley; 1991.)
Mom chose well. Although some of the information is out of date (Andalusians are rarely called Andalusians anymore, for example) this is still a book well worth the money. Since this book was so popular on both sides of the Pond, the book is easily found in used book stores and used book online sales. It’s especially good for people like me who do not have a snowball’s chance of ever actually owning a horse. It helps ease the pain of horselessness.
This guy could really write. He appeared occasionally on British television as the token horse expert. His enthusiasm for his subjects shone clearly on his face and is reflected in his words. He had over a dozen books published by this time and would go one to have more than 30 before he died in 2007. His most (in)famous book was the oft-copied Encyclopedia of the Horse (Octopus; 1977.) Even this book is somewhat of a copy of that book.
The collection of photographs assembled was formidable. What is especially nice is that some of the horses are identified in the book’s credits. Many breed representatives were photographed at the Kentucky Horse Park. This was one of the first books to cut out photograph subjects and place them against a bright white background.
There are two unfortunate aspects to this book. The first is that it is so much like Encyclopedia of the Horse (even in some of its chapter organization) that anyone familiar with Encyclopedia of the Horse will not find much new information. The book breed section concentrates on horses familiar to the English-speaking world instead of trying to slog through all of the hundreds of horse and pony breeds in the world.
Another problem is the book’s length. It’s too short. It is in no way a definitive text. You just can’t explain everything about horses in 240 pages (most of those pages with pictures.) It’s good for skimming the basics or for a horse-crazy kid with a short attention span. Still, it’s much better than most other similar books on the market.