A collection of essays that reclaim the titular stereotype to ask bold questions about autonomy and desire, privilege and ambition, identity and freedom, and the competing forces of domestication and wildness.
This is no collection of cliche musings about the bond between horse and human. These are essays—cerebral, emotional and deeply intimate—by writers including Jane Smiley, T Kira Madden, Maggie Shipstead and Carmen Maria Machado, all of whom have had a formative relationship with horses. These provocative memoirs explore big subjects: childhood, power, independence, desire. The authors don’t sugarcoat. The pain they express at times is palpable, and because they represent such a refreshing diversity of voices, there’s a story here for just about everyone ... After reading their stories, I’ve come to see a horse girl as a brave, young, empathetic seeker of freedom and connection, someone who may or may not identify as a girl but surely identifies with the power and potential of a massive animal with steely muscles and a soft nose ... Anyone looking to connect with the fire in the belly of their girlhood, or anyone simply drawn to books about people and their passions, will find something to love about Horse Girls.
What makes Horse Girls such a moving read is that it often explodes these ingrained ideas. Horse girls can be queer, nonbinary, Asian or Black or Latinx or multiracial. They can be middle class (like me) or poor. Even when a horse girl looks like an ‘80s Ralph Lauren ad, there’s always more to the story ... I was last on a horse about eight years ago in Big Sur. I was humbled by how terrifying it was to be on top of a massive animal, at its mercy. I treasured the experience but thought I never wanted to repeat it — until I read this book. Now I’m itching to know that freedom and fear again.
Essays like Enelow-Snyder’s give Horse Girls grit and heart. Dipping into broadened narratives is what makes the book a pleasure to read ... Some essays in the collection are not this strong. In fact, a few read as if the writer was responding to a generic prompt: write about horses. Unfortunately, Marcus puts the weakest essay at the beginning, so after the first few pages I worried all of the collection would be half-baked ideas about horses and girlhood. Thankfully, I kept reading and discovered essays worth their weight in gold towards the middle and end of the volume ... And after spending what feels like an eternity at home, unable to travel, thousands of miles from family and friends, I positively needed this book to transport me to woodland trails, dusty arenas, and the beautiful landscapes such as Mexico, Pakistan, and Iceland. For this form of vicarious travel alone, I’d recommend Horse Girls to horse lovers from all walks of life.