The best middle-grade books about brave kids and horses

Troon Harrison Author Of Cold Freedom
By Troon Harrison

Who am I?

I was four years old when I was given a pony. The freedom of roaming the countryside with her was amazing, and I was hooked! All horse breeds have supported humans; their strength and speed have enabled farming, war, travel, and settlement. Horses feature in the art, religion, and sports of diverse cultures. My Historical Horse series contains three books—each one is a completely different story about a specific breed of horse, and a fictional girl who loved it and depended on it, even to stay alive. Writing the books was like time-traveling with horses!

I wrote...

Cold Freedom

By Troon Harrison,

Book cover of Cold Freedom

What is my book about?

It’s 1945, and brutally cold in northern Europe. Young teen Eva and her purebred horse are fleeing hundreds of miles for their lives. Red Army planes bomb them and other refugees as they head onto the ice of the Baltic Sea. What will it take to survive? Eva’s little brother and sister grow weaker as grueling weeks pass. Their horses’ shoes are falling off, their legs are injured, their bellies empty. Yet Eva has promised her beautiful mare that one day she’ll canter in green fields. This dream is almost all that helps Eva face hunger, typhoid, and exhaustion.

Based on true events, this novel traces the history of Trakehner horses, which walked out of Prussia during WWII in an incredible feat of endurance.

The books I picked & why

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Riding Chance

By Christine Kendall,

Book cover of Riding Chance

Why this book?

What about inner city kids, can they enjoy a special bond with a horse? In Philadelphia, a very special, real stable offers disadvantaged kids the chance to hang with horses. This book is the fictional story of one such kid. Troy loses his way in the tough streets after his mom dies. When he is forced to work at the stables, he has the opportunity to save himself, through the fast and skillful sport of polo. I like that urban horses rock too! 

Paint the Wind (Scholastic Gold)

By Pam Muñoz Ryan,

Book cover of Paint the Wind (Scholastic Gold)

Why this book?

This book contains two stories that intertwine: that of a girl who has lost her mother, and a mustang mare struggling to keep her foal safe. I like how the mare is portrayed as intelligent and brave, just as the girl is. Both living beings are important characters in the plot, which is wonderful. The prose is skillful and beautiful, and suits competent, older middle-grade readers who will be transported into the wild landscape. 

Only My Horses Know

By Cinda Jo Bauman,

Book cover of Only My Horses Know

Why this book?

The healing power of horses is used nowadays in formal equine therapy, but young people have always known their horses could nurture them. I love this book because it shows how a horse can provide support in a situation as challenging and stigmatizing as the mental illness called bipolar. Horses provide a wonderful way for readers to come to terms with such a complex topic. I love the premise that horses help kids to cope with human difficulties. 

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

By Megan Shepherd,

Book cover of The Secret Horses of Briar Hill

Why this book?

I love horses and also fantasy; the chance to dream and let my imagination go at full gallop! This book contains both elements, as well as a WW II premise, and shares the mysterious happenings that unfold when a girl sees winged horses in the mirrors of a children’s hospital that was once the home of a princess. This story will appeal to all fantasy readers, with its emotional content and lovely illustrations. 

Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West

By Marguerite Henry, Robert Lougheed (illustrator),

Book cover of Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West

Why this book?

This true story was one of my favorites growing up, and I’ve read it many times. Annie is a polio survivor with a limp, but this doesn’t stop her from riding the range.  Neither does being a girl stop her from battling a terrible situation: the slaughter of mustangs. Annie risks her life to photograph mustang roundups and then takes the fight to the US government, finally getting a bill passed to prevent the inhumane treatment of wild horses. So inspiring!

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in horses, Wyoming, and orphans?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about horses, Wyoming, and orphans.

Horses Explore 80 books about horses
Wyoming Explore 20 books about Wyoming
Orphans Explore 99 books about orphans

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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