The most recommended books about racehorses

Who picked these books? Meet our 11 experts.

11 authors created a book list connected to racehorses, and here are their favorite racehorse books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Lord of Misrule

Shelley Peterson Author Of Jockey Girl

From my list on the horse/human connection.

Who am I?

I saw my first horse before I could walk or talk – a humble mare with flies in her eyes and a feed basket tied to her nose. I was drawn to her with a magnetic force, and that attraction to horses never diminished. Over the years I’ve presided over their birth, raised them, and conditioned them to various disciplines. When it exists, the bond between horse and human is undeniable. In my novels—through family disfunction, hardship, adventure, and mystery – I explore how this connection gives young people confidence and the courage to overcome any obstacles.  

Shelley's book list on the horse/human connection

Shelley Peterson Why did Shelley love this book?

Jaimy Gordon has written a beautiful, unforgettable novel that takes place at a run-down racecourse in West Virginia, where a has-been trainer forms a get-rich-quick plan with used-up racehorses. The story of Lord of Misrule, the legendary stakes winner, brings us into the heart of it, where everybody’s searching for something, everything has a price and what’s truly valuable is right in front of your nose.

By Jaimy Gordon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lord of Misrule as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Longlisted for the Orange Prize 2012. He planned to steal with these horses, who were all better than they looked on paper. The trick was to get in and get out fast. But could he really pull it off? Could he be that sure, could he count on being that lucky? Listen carefully my dear. Lord of Misrule, he whispered loudly. Lord of Misrule, Margaret. Memorize that name.


Book cover of Ruffian: Burning from the Start

Dawn LeFevre Author Of Racetrack Rogues: One Woman's Story of Family, Love, and Loss in the Horse Racing World

From my list on horse racing.

Who am I?

Growing up, I was one of “those” horse-crazy girls who devoured every Black Stallion and Marguerite Henry book that I could get my hands on. At sixteen I began working at Atlantic City Racecourse in the summer and after I graduated college with a B.S. in Animal Science, I became a trainer of Thoroughbred racehorses. For thirteen wonderful years, I raced horses in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Due to my insider’s knowledge of the horse racing industry, I based my book selections on accuracy as well as story.

Dawn's book list on horse racing

Dawn LeFevre Why did Dawn love this book?

One look at Ruffian and you knew she was a star. Those long legs, that fire in her eye. And when she ran, it was nothing short of magic. Jane Schwartz captures the heart and soul of the brilliant filly from her wobbly first steps to her devastating last breath. And yes, this book will make you cry.

By Jane Schwartz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ruffian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A colorful story...Ruffian was nothing if not a heartbreaker. Her story, dramatically recounted by Jane Scwartz, epitomizes both the adrenaline-pumping glory and gut-wrenching ruthlessness inherent in the sport of horse racing."
THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
Here is the story f the exceptional filly, a horse so dominating, she was likened to legend. Beginning with her earliest days in Kentucky, the book follows Ruffian at every stage of her career and through the agony of her final hours--venturing behind the scenes of the racing world, and exploring the politics and personalities that came together to shape this exroardiinary filly's life.


Book cover of We Go In A Circle

Miranda N. Prather Author Of Blue Blue Sea Finds His Cape

From my list on horse racing.

Who am I?

Before I could walk, horses were my passion and every thought. At five, Blackie came into my life a black Shetland stud and from there, I've never stopped enjoying a life with horses. Having been born in the 1970's I witnessed some of the horse racing greats from the television, and ever since the Thoroughbred racehorse has been my favorite breed. I've been involved in a variety of ways with the rehabilitation and transition of the thoroughbred from the track to new careers. My most beloved OTTB, Blue Blue Sea, overcame so much, and naturally, I had to memorialize his amazing life as a book. 

Miranda's book list on horse racing

Miranda N. Prather Why did Miranda love this book?

With darling illustrations to engage children, the tale of an everyday racehorse and a future beyond the track comes alive. Young readers easily become connected with the story through the thoughts and feelings of the average racehorse. The horse loves the track and the thrill of the win, but when an injury upends his life, he faces an uncertain future. In the end, he finds an even better calling in helping a special group of children who benefit from hippotherapy. I adore the story of how the second act of the horse is the best one of all.

By Peggy Perry Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Go In A Circle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What happens to a racehorse who hurts his leg? Used to a world where the strongest and the fastest wins, how will he ever feel special and important again? Taken to a new place, the horse is soon carrying some very special riders. Some of them can’t walk and some of them can’t even see, but they play games, they wave, they smile. Like the horse, they may not be the strongest and the fastest, but they are all special and important. In this simple and sensitive story, Peggy Perry Anderson reveals the interconnection between everyone involved in hippotherapy and…


Book cover of Horse

Gerry Wilson Author Of That Pinson Girl

From Gerry's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Late-bloomer Music lover Reader Gourmet cook Cat person

Gerry's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Gerry Wilson Why did Gerry love this book?

The last time I rode a horse, I was twenty years old. I know little about horses or the racing culture, let alone its history. Yet I adored Geraldine Brooks’ Horse, which pairs a modern-day mystery surrounding a discarded painting of a legendary racehorse with a historical thread involving the world of racing in the pre-Civil War era.

I have loved all of Brooks’ historical novels, and as always, I admire the rich language and the attention to historical detail she seamlessly weaves into her stories. I love that she takes Horse a step further, portraying the devastating and far-reaching effects of slavery within the context of horse-racing history.

By Geraldine Brooks,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Horse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Brooks' chronological and cross-disciplinary leaps are thrilling." -The New York Times Book Review

"Horse isn't just an animal story-it's a moving narrative about race and art." -TIME

A discarded painting in a junk pile, a skeleton in an attic, and the greatest racehorse in American history: from these strands, a Pulitzer Prize winner braids a sweeping story of spirit, obsession, and injustice across American history

Kentucky, 1850. An enslaved groom named Jarret and a bay foal forge a bond of understanding that will carry the horse to record-setting victories across the South. When the nation erupts in civil war, an…


Book cover of The Horse God Built: The Untold Story of Secretariat, the World's Greatest Racehorse

Janet Jones Author Of Horse Brain, Human Brain: The Neuroscience of Horsemanship

From my list on horse-and-human teams.

Who am I?

Horses have helped me negotiate the world since early childhood. I’ve worked as a horse trainer, show competitor, catch rider, barn grunt, and riding instructor. As a UCLA-trained brain scientist and full professor, I also taught human perception, language, memory, and thought for almost 25 years. Combining these interests produced an “aha” moment, leading to my development of brain-based horsemanship. Successful horse-and-human teams require an understanding of how prey and predator brains interact. With that understanding, both species learn to communicate mutually via body language. We humans cooperate in this fashion and degree with no other species of prey animal—it’s a rare and special bond! 

Janet's book list on horse-and-human teams

Janet Jones Why did Janet love this book?

The beautiful true story of Eddie Sweat, the groom who bonded with Secretariat for life throughout the horse’s racing career, stallion service, and retirement. Sweat was the son of a tenant farmer in South Carolina, the sixth of nine children in a poor family. His daily efforts and devotion to the finest racehorse of all time were largely ignored until this book came out in 2007 long after Secretariat died. This story took me for a heartwarming ride that reminded me of true horsemanship and the roles of the most important (but lowest paid) people on a performance horse’s successful team.

By Lawrence Scanlan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Horse God Built as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Most of us know the legend of Secretariat, the tall, handsome chestnut racehorse whose string of honours runs long and rich: the only two-year-old ever to win Horse of the Year, in 1972; winner in 1973 of the Triple Crown, his times in all three races still unsurpassed; featured on the cover of "Time", "Newsweek", and "Sports Illustrated"; the only horse listed on ESPN's top fifty athletes of the twentieth century (ahead of Mickey Mantle). His final race at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack is a touchstone memory for horse lovers everywhere. Yet while Secretariat will be remembered forever, one man, Eddie…


Book cover of Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Avalyn Hunter Author Of Dream Derby: The Myth and Legend of Black Gold

From my list on thoroughbred horses and horse racing.

Who am I?

An old photograph shows a little blonde girl trying to climb a fence separating her from a pasture full of broodmares near Louisville, Kentucky. That was me, and I have never lost my fascination with these creatures of beauty, courage, and magic. Combine that with an equal passion for books, research, and writing, and you have the path leading to four books and hundreds of magazine articles on Thoroughbred horses over the last twenty years, with a fifth book due out next spring. The five books I’ve recommended are just a few of those that have provided touchstones and inspiration for my journey as a writer.

Avalyn's book list on thoroughbred horses and horse racing

Avalyn Hunter Why did Avalyn love this book?

When I first picked up Seabiscuit, I was dubious; I had already read too many stories of champion racehorses that were either dry histories or overblown hero-worship.

A hundred pages later (where did the time go?) I was completely engrossed and headed for an all-night read. In Hillenbrand’s hands, carefully researched history became the foundation for a sweeping story of a great horse, the incredible cast of people who gave him what he needed to become a legend, and the world of horses, horse racing, and American life in the 1930s.

If I ever write anything half as good, I will be well content.

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Seabiscuit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of the runaway phenomenon Unbroken comes a universal underdog story about the horse who came out of nowhere to become a legend.

Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes:

Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to…


Book cover of Man O' War: A Legend Like Lightning

Avalyn Hunter Author Of Dream Derby: The Myth and Legend of Black Gold

From my list on thoroughbred horses and horse racing.

Who am I?

An old photograph shows a little blonde girl trying to climb a fence separating her from a pasture full of broodmares near Louisville, Kentucky. That was me, and I have never lost my fascination with these creatures of beauty, courage, and magic. Combine that with an equal passion for books, research, and writing, and you have the path leading to four books and hundreds of magazine articles on Thoroughbred horses over the last twenty years, with a fifth book due out next spring. The five books I’ve recommended are just a few of those that have provided touchstones and inspiration for my journey as a writer.

Avalyn's book list on thoroughbred horses and horse racing

Avalyn Hunter Why did Avalyn love this book?

I was already well familiar with the life and racing career of Man o’ War through earlier reading, but Ours’s book brought fresh life to the history of a horse who was legendary beyond all others before he had even retired, yet was a flesh-and-blood animal with his own unique personality and vulnerabilities.

Add this to the tense web of relationships among Man O’ War’s owner, trainer, and jockeys—all complex characters who defied reduction to a sentence or two—and you have a taut, riveting read that held me spellbound right through the bittersweet notes of the final pages. 

By Dorothy Ours,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Man O' War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

His trainer said that managing him was like holding a tiger by the tail. His owner compared him to "chain lightning." His jockeys found their lives transformed by him, in triumphant and distressing ways. All of them became caught in a battle for honesty.
Born in 1917, Man o' War grew from a rebellious youngster into perhaps the greatest racehorse of all time. He set such astonishing speed records that The New York Times called him a "Speed Miracle." Often he won with so much energy in reserve that experts wondered how much faster he could have gone. Over the…


Book cover of I Rode the Red Horse: Secretatriat's Belmont Race

Miranda N. Prather Author Of Blue Blue Sea Finds His Cape

From my list on horse racing.

Who am I?

Before I could walk, horses were my passion and every thought. At five, Blackie came into my life a black Shetland stud and from there, I've never stopped enjoying a life with horses. Having been born in the 1970's I witnessed some of the horse racing greats from the television, and ever since the Thoroughbred racehorse has been my favorite breed. I've been involved in a variety of ways with the rehabilitation and transition of the thoroughbred from the track to new careers. My most beloved OTTB, Blue Blue Sea, overcame so much, and naturally, I had to memorialize his amazing life as a book. 

Miranda's book list on horse racing

Miranda N. Prather Why did Miranda love this book?

A singular talent of his generation and arguably one of the greatest racehorses of all time, few are unaware of the feats of the immortal Secretariat. Prior to his record-breaking three-year-old campaign, it had been twenty-five years since the sport had crowned a Triple Crown champion. Through immersive illustrations and the words of the prized colt's jockey, Ron Turcotte, the tale comes alive to delight a new generation and bring those who were there back to the glory of the red horse.

By Barbara Libby,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Rode the Red Horse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

This book gives a vivid account of Secretariat's amazing and electrifying Belmont Stakes victory, which he won by an unbelievable 31 lengths to become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years.