Horse People: Scenes from the Riding Life

Horse People: Scenes from the Riding Life

4.6 6
by Michael Korda, Michael Korda

View All Available Formats & Editions

Bestselling author Michael Korda's Horse People is the story — sometimes hilariously funny, sometimes sad and moving, always shrewdly observed — of a lifetime love affair with horses, and of the bonds that have linked humans with horses for more than ten thousand years. It is filled with intimate portraits of the kind of people, rich or poor,


Bestselling author Michael Korda's Horse People is the story — sometimes hilariously funny, sometimes sad and moving, always shrewdly observed — of a lifetime love affair with horses, and of the bonds that have linked humans with horses for more than ten thousand years. It is filled with intimate portraits of the kind of people, rich or poor, Eastern or Western, famous or humble, whose lives continue to revolve around the horse.

Korda is a terrific storyteller, and his book is intensely personal and seductive, a joy for everyone who loves horses. Even those who have never ridden will be happy to saddle up and follow him through the world of horses, horse people, and the riding life.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
“Characteristically amusing...[full of] exploits, peculiarities and foibles [that] make delicious anecdotal material.”
The Washington Post
Korda's a lovely raconteur -- self-deprecating, informative, poignant, richly funny. He gives us not a gallop but a mosey through the equine world, illustrated in part with his own charming drawings. — Diana McLellan
The New York Times
Horse people, like yacht racers or Nascar enthusiasts and members of cults everywhere, can seem awfully myopic to civilians, their concerns so far beyond the ken of normal life it's hard to get a pulse going for them. And yet, there are times when the drama of the thing -- and there are dramas -- leaks air into this hermetically sealed environment. Think of this year's horsey heroes -- Seabiscuit and Funny Cide -- their improbable, riveting stories, their quirky and engaging human handlers. In this, the Year of the Horse, Korda's timing is perfect. And, happily, there are quirky and engaging humans all through Horse People. And a few horsey heroes. — Penelope Green
Publishers Weekly
Korda (Country Matters; Charmed Lives) recounts in his trademark affable style a growing involvement over decades with horses and the people who ride them. Beginning with his youth, and following with his reconnection to the horse world when he takes his son to lessons, Korda relates how horses changed his life: he met his current wife, Margaret, at New York City's Claremont Riding Academy, and eventually they purchased a home in Dutchess County with grounds to accommodate a growing number of horses. In one hilarious episode, Korda, the editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster, visits an author in Middleburg, Va., and finds himself, unprepared, on a foxhunting horse jumping over walls and into backyards. He begins to analyze the symbolism of horses ("the horse stood... for social superiority, mobility, and not getting your feet wet and muddy like ordinary folk"), but this meditation is an exception, as Korda favors the anecdote and the caricature. There are rather too many "movers and shakers" for this book to live up to the diversity implied by its title, and while he briefly raises moral questions (about foxhunting, for example), he largely ignores the sociopolitical and emotional aspects of the horse-human relationship. He takes his reader on the occasional jaunt through less tony neighborhoods (with a veterinarian in Rhinebeck, N.Y.; to a rodeo in Archer City, Tex., with Larry McMurtry; and to a correctional facility's horse farm), but he tends to focus on places like Southlands, a privately owned facility in Dutchess County. While the book is more a series of vignettes than a full narrative, Korda's humor will be a delight to anyone who loves the world of riding. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In books past, Korda, Simon & Schuster's editor in chief, has ranged from getting and keeping Power! to the Charmed Lives of his fabled family. Here, he explores something especially near and dear to his heart: the riding life and the people who love it. Korda details his rediscovery of riding when he decided that his young son needed lessons (he himself had ridden as a child in England), then paints incisive portraits of a host of fascinating "horse people," from an instructor who insists on proper riding attire to the woman author who invites him to ride with her hunt. We also learn how he romanced his second wife through riding. The world Korda depicts is rarefied indeed, and though to his credit he doesn't share the snootier attitudes of some of its inhabitants, he knows it well enough to make it engrossing. What's missing here is the rapturous joy of riding through a field, wind in your hair and a huge, gorgeous animal rolling along beneath you-an experience anyone can have, even in dirty jeans. For public libraries that serve horse people.-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this catalogue of horses and horse folk who have passed through the author's life, the animals possess tactility while the people are simply too-too. For someone who has "always tried to avoid a single-minded obsession about horses," veteran editor and author Korda (Another Life, 1999, etc.) has certainly spent a fair amount of time around the beasts and has thought long, hard, and well about their place in the world, in particular their relationship to humans. So he can be counted among those people who "love horses, or who know horses, or who make their living out of horses, or who just can't imagine what their lives would be like without horses." Korda's hungry curiosity to get into a horse's head and his interest in the social history of equestrianism give Horse People its charm and energy. He tells us much here about conformation and disposition, pasterns that are too long, the irregularity of hooves, fitting "within the square," enveloping all of it in a sense of affection. Less attractive is the depthless snobbishness of this world inhabited by the super-well-groomed super-rich, "old-school, good-looking, soft-spoken, wealthy, with perfect manners and a wardrobe full of the kind of country clothes Ralph Lauren has since made a fortune imitating." (Not that they don't have their travails: "Sheila, like many horse people, had given way to globalism, in the sense that the bulk of her barn help was Mexican.") A moderate windiness is excusable considering the sheer volume of material, but not such perfume-thick, studied prose as the "flash of orange, moving slowly" and "somewhere there is a picture of me on a small, shaggy pony at the age of about six," especially when the photo isreproduced a half-inch below. Sometimes achingly snooty, but in his stride Korda brings an engagingly lofty hand, both intimate and erudite, to the horses that have shaped his life. (17 line drawings by the author, 24 b&w photos)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.86(d)

Read an Excerpt

Horse People
Scenes from the Riding Life

Chapter One

My Kingdom for a Horse

The Statistical Abstract of the United States, a bottomless compendium of useless facts, indicates that there are over 5 million households owning a horse or horses in America today, and that the total horse population is, give or take a few horses, about 13.5 million.

That seems like a lot of horses in a country where most people had already made the switch to the automobile by the end of World War I, and in which horses -- with a few exceptions like police horses, or carriage horses in places like New York's Central Park, or among the Amish -- are no longer working animals, strictly speaking.

When I was a boy in England, the milkman had a horse that not only pulled his milk wagon but knew enough to stop at every house to which he delivered milk on his route, and fresh fruits and vegetables were hawked from horse-drawn carts, but all of that is long since gone. Even on cattle ranches, the horses are more ornamental and traditional than useful these days.

At the same time, horses aren't exactly pets, like dogs and cats. For one thing, they don't live in the house, or even visit it. However domesticated the horse is, he's not part of domestic life; his place remains firmly outside, in the field, the corral, the paddock, or the stable, depending on the part of the country you live in. You go to visit the horse, the horse doesn't visit you. In other cultures -- among the Mongols, for example -- horsemen sleep with their horses, for warmth, one presumes, but that has never been the Anglo-Saxon way, even among old-time cowboys. However fond the rider may be of his mount, it's our custom to bed down at some distance from it. Little girls may fantasize about sleeping with their ponies, but not many actually do it, which is just as well, since horses of all sizes are restless sleepers, and very likely to kick out when disturbed. In any case, horses do most of their sleeping standing up.

So the horse occupies a peculiar and privileged position, not quite a pet, no longer a working animal, rooted, for many people, in the past, but flourishing in the present, admired even by people who don't ride, and apt not only to survive but to thrive almost anywhere.

A few words about my own involvement with horses. I came to horses early in life -- somewhere there is a picture of me on a small, shaggy pony at the age of about six -- but although I learned to ride, living as we did in Hampstead, on the outskirts of London, we never owned a horse.

My father Vincent and his two brothers, Zoltan, a few years older, and Alexander, the eldest, had grown up in rural Hungary before the invention of the motor car, so horses were neither a mystery to them nor an enthusiasm. Their father, Henry, a man with a fierce military bearing and mustache but with curiously melancholy eyes, had been a cavalry sergeant during his military service before he became the over-seer of the immense estate of the Salgo family on the Hungarian puszta, or plains, and certainly he rode a horse to go about his job. Of his children, neither Alex nor my father rode as adults, though both had been on horses as children, if only to take them back and forth from the fields to the stable. When World War I began, however, my uncle Zoltan was called up for military service and actually became a lieutenant in a cavalry regiment in the Austro-Hungarian Army, unusual for a Jew in those days, particularly in the army whose most famous veteran was the title character in Jaroslav Hasek's classic novel The Good Soldier Svejk. Zoli saw combat on the Galician front and was wounded, gassed, and taken prisoner by the Russians. He rode in at least one cavalry charge, and perhaps as a result, in later years he showed no desire to mount a horse again. Uncle Alex's eyes were bad enough to exempt him from military service. My father was conscripted and sent to an infantry regiment, where the colonel soon discovered both his ineptitude as a soldier and his talent as a painter and promoted him to sergeant, giving my father a small, cozy cottage as a studio, where he busied himself painting portraits of the colonel, the colonel's wife, the colonel's daughters, and the colonel's dog (a dachshund), as well as nudes of the colonel's mistress, until the war was over and he could return to art school. When he was not painting, he looked after the colonel's horse, and in later life, whenever he saw a horse in the street, he would stop, pet it, and feed it one of the lumps of sugar that he took from restaurants and kept in his pocket for just that purpose. He remained distantly fond of horses, if only because they reminded him of his youth -- the colonel's horse, he liked to say, had given him a good deal less trouble than the colonel's wife or mistress -- but not so fond as to explain my own involvement with horses over the years.

On my mother's side of the family, which was staunchly English, it's harder to say for sure what part horses played. My great-grandfather was always described rather grandly by his daughters -- Annie, my grandmother, and her more formidable older sister Maud-Mary -- as "having owned horses all his life," which was true enough, since he had a horse-drawn cart pulled by a succession of bony old nags, with which he made his way daily around the Liverpool streets, crying out, "Coal, coal!" to housewives.

My maternal grandfather, Octavius Musgrove, must have been interested in riding at one time ...

Horse People
Scenes from the Riding Life
. Copyright © by Michael Korda. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Michael Korda is the author of Ulysses S. Grant, Ike, Hero, and Charmed Lives. Educated at Le Rosey in Switzerland and at Magdalen College, Oxford, he served in the Royal Air Force. He took part in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and on its fiftieth anniversary was awarded the Order of Merit of the People's Republic of Hungary. He and his wife, Margaret, make their home in Dutchess County, New York.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a pleasure to read. It starts out a little slow giving you personal details of the author, but soon picks up. It tells of the horsey experiences the author has had. He describes the horse world most accurately as well as adding in his humor. You feel like you really come to know the characters and the horses as well as falling in love with them. You d=won't want the book to end because the author makes it so much fun to read. And you might just learn something as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Good book, both about the author's personal life with the equine life and different experiences he had with other horsey organizations. I liked the different experiences better, like the hunt rather than his commentary on the different horses he owned. Good book overall.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Acording to first studies the first horse or eohippus which means dawn horse. We werent here first. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago