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Hoofprints: Horse Poems

Hoofprints: Horse Poems

by Jessie Haas

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A VOYA Poetry Pick: Award-winning author Jessie Haas takes readers on a ride back in time to celebrate the special bond between horses and humans

“We have all been changed by the horse, for better and worse.” —Jessie Haas
Jessie Haas travels back sixty-five million years—from 5000 BCE to the present day—in 104


A VOYA Poetry Pick: Award-winning author Jessie Haas takes readers on a ride back in time to celebrate the special bond between horses and humans

“We have all been changed by the horse, for better and worse.” —Jessie Haas
Jessie Haas travels back sixty-five million years—from 5000 BCE to the present day—in 104 poems about our equine friends.
Horses have shared some of the most significant moments in human history. In these lyrical and poignant pieces—some written from the horse’s point of view—readers will meet chariot racers, knights’ steeds, horse whisperers, even Pegasus, the winged horse. In one moving poem, a compassionate colt befriends a lonely man; in another, a starving soldier shares a meal with his mount. Whether it’s the thundering herd of Genghis Khan or a Dutch farmer shielding his horse from the Nazis, these transportive free-verse poems reveal how horses have influenced and enriched our lives. Hoofprints is an awe-inspiring journey through history as we gallop alongside horse and rider and experience “the mid-air moment” when “everything may yet / turn out all right.”
This ebook includes a bibliography and a glossary of equine terminology.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jessie Haas charts equine evolution in Hoofprints: Horse Poems. The more than 100 poems begin in prehistory, contemplating the lives of the biological ancestors of the horse, then move through the roles and influence of horses during Roman times, in battle, in 19th-century urban life and into the present day. In the poem "Two Legs," Haas offers a horse's-eye-view indictment of early man: "Sleek like an antelope,/ Shaggy like a bear./ Smell like a meat-eater./ Slow. Slow./ He can't/ Do much/ Harm." (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Sure to appeal to the horse lover, this collection of poems will also be appreciated for its historical content. In 104 verses Jessie Haas takes the reader through time, from 5000 B.C. to the present day; from the ancestors of equus to her beloved Morgan. Each poem concludes with the time and place depicted. The introduction nicely sets up the historical context of the collection; reading the afterword and glossary first may help some readers interpret the poems more readily. Topics addressed range from the role of horses in building the Great Wall of China, to a Dutch farmer's trick for protecting his horse from the Nazis, to the origin of the word "stirrup." Other poems, such as "The Mid-Air Moment," capture a feeling inspired by riding: "Oh, the mid-air moment is the one/when all is well,/and everything may yet/turn out all right." No matter what the subject, Haas' poems paint vivid pictures and contain musical rhythms. A horse lover will gallop through this book, while a poetry lover may take the landscape of these poems at a gentle canter. 2004, Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, Ages 12 to 18.
—Mary Loftus
This book of free verse poems takes on the challenging task of telling the story of the history of horse and man and succeeds beautifully. Beginning in prehistoric times, the author takes the reader on an epic time-travel excursion that follows the evolution of both horse and man up to the present day. It is fascinating to see how horses have shared some of the most significant moments in human history, including the invasion of Genghis Kahn and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The structure of each short poem is spare but lyrical, with a wonderful rhythm reminiscent of the rocking motion of a rider on horseback. The mood of each poem ranges from the comedic to the tragic. For example, "It's Alimentary: PowerPoint Presentation by Miohippus, Late Oligocene Epoch" is an amusing, whimsical look at how horses developed an efficient digestive system. But then readers encounter the terse and sorrowful poem, "The Knife Cuts Both Ways," which tells the story of how King David cut the hamstrings of his enemy's horses, leaving them to die in agony. This book would have definite appeal to middle school readers who love all things horse-related, and it would be a nice change of pace for readers who have devoured all the usual fiction for horse lovers. The poems would also appeal to reluctant readers who might be intimidated by longer novels. This book is recommended for both public and school libraries. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P M J (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, HarperCollins, 224p.; Biblio. Glossary., and PLB Ages 11 to 15.
—Jan Chapman
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Haas's considerable knowledge, love of, and respect for horses is clearly evident in this collection of 104 poems. Her introduction credits the animal with affecting the lives of Eurasians, North Africans, and Americans ("We have all been changed by the horse, for better and worse"). A nine-page afterword reiterates its history and usefulness. Arranged somewhat chronologically, the poems present, often in abstract terms, a quite thorough view of the horse and its ancestors dating back 65 million years; the character of each evolutionary animal; and the uses of the horse by humans over the centuries. Haas's poetic talent is apparent in her deft use of rhymes and rhythms, descriptive narrative verse, occasional touches of humor, and subtle inferences. Her poems display cleverness and, often, spare, vividly descriptive, well-turned phrases. Understanding them requires some knowledge of world history and familiarity with mythology. A few, like "Dappled Things," are quite adult. ("What's less free than a mare on the urine line/perpetually peeing into a tube,/giving her hormones for women's menopause,/her foals for supper in Paris?") A bibliography is appended, as is a glossary that includes equine terminology, historical empires, places, and people. The collection's major caveat may be that it requires a reader whose fascination with horses equals that of the author's.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Haas takes the idea that poetry can tell stories a step further than usual here: into history, more specifically, the history of the horse. She does this in 104 poems, from the first horse-like multi-toed creatures 65 million years ago ("Couldn't run fast- / just fast enough") to modern-day dressage ("This rider, / in black jacket, white breeches, / is accountable for each step taken"), from Holland to Iraq to Mesopotamia, from the horse as meat to transport, to companion, and back to meat again. The language is precise, careful, and true; the history multifaceted as history should be. "The fantastic happens daily, even now/and daily we record it. / In time our descendents will prove/that it was possible." Ambitious, accomplished, adventuresome. (Poetry. 10+)

Product Details

Open Road Media Teen & Tween
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt


Horse Poems

By Jessie Haas


Copyright © 2004 Jessie Haas
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-6260-5


    Ride Back with Me

    Saddle up,

    ride back with me.
    You take the Thoroughbred you have lessons on;
    I'll ride my fat Morgan.
    We'll travel past buckboard wagons, buffalo hunts,
    conquistadores, cavaliers,
    and every sort of infidel invader.
    We'll skirt the edge of battlefields,
    follow the tinkling bells of pack trains.
    Cling as your mount changes beneath you—
    hack, charger, destrier, rouncy, pad.
    The stirrups will drop away,
    the girths will snap—
    hold fast.
    At last we'll ride dun ponies,
    along the rims of glaciers.
    While they are horses we will ride them.
    Then we'll get off and walk,
    45 million years or so,
    our brown-spotted companions
    pattering beside us,
    on an ever-increasing number
    of toes.

    How the World Makes Horses

    She drives the continents apart.
    She heats and wets and dries and cools the land,
    Makes winter, summer, rainfall, grass.
    Then out of a nub of guinea pig—like flesh
    She spins her long fantastic thread,
    Pulling and twisting and whirling.
    She sets up land-bridges,
    Spills her animals across,
    Walls them behind ice,
    Islands them, and isthmuses, and peninsulas them,
    And reconnects when they are stubby ponies
    Or tall dry desert runners;
    Combines the separate kinds she has created,
    Throws away ninety-five percent,
    Preserves the remnant on a whim,
    And twines them at last with the human-thread
    She has been simultaneously spinning
    To create a two-ply
    Of considerable strength.

    The Grandmother


    There were dinosaurs still.
    Whales ran over the earth like foxes,
    and everywhere strange blunt creatures—
    wolves with squared-off jaws,
    enormous rodents,
    sharp-toothed sheep—
    ran and ate and roared and grunted.
    No word had yet been spoken,
    and if some thinker had a thought
    we have not learned to recognize it.
    In the bushes hid
    a little brown animal,
    call her the Grandmother.
    Grandmother of horses.


    Warm world.
    Wet world.
    Jungle-covered world.
    The Grandmother hid among jungle leaves,
    and ate them.
    She padded softly on soft ground.
    Mud squeezed between her toes.
    She couldn't see far—
    just far enough.
    Couldn't run fast—
    just fast enough.


    The world changes slowly, but it always changes.
    A cool wind blowing, not as much rain.
    Tomorrow it's colder, only a sprinkle.
    Trees dying,
    Grass growing.
    Nowhere to hide.
    Better run.


    I Just Wonder

    Were they pretty?
    Did they shine?
    Were they plump,

    Or sleek and fine?
    Were they striped
    Or were they spotted?

    Dappled, streaked,
    Or polka-dotted?
    Did they smell nice?
    And what sound

    Did their paws make
    On the ground?
    Did they squabble?
    In a fight

    Did they kick,
    Or scratch and bite?
    Did they squeal
    Like colts and fillies?
    Were they playful?
    Were they silly?

    They lived very
    long ago.
    Still, I hope
    Someday we'll know.



    This video moves so slowly
    that motion is impossible
    to detect.
    The growth of a sequoia is rapid
    by comparison.
    Speed the tape up to make sense of it.
    A short-faced berry eater
    runs out of berries,
    switches to leaves.
    The trees thin.
    She drops her head to graze.
    Grass screens her eyes.
    Is something sneaking?
    Her face lengthens.
    Her eyes widen,
    as if in a cartoon,
    and migrate to the sides.
    Large and dark, perpetually shocked,
    they brim above the grass-tops.
    The foot beside her quickly cropping muzzle
    is not the same foot she began with.
    The paw that tracked soft forest floors
    has only three toes now;
    the middle one bears the weight.
    When she thinks she hears a sound
    that hard hoof spurns hard earth,
    and she's halfway across the prairie
    with her herd.

    Now adjust the audio frequency.
    There is a sound,
    also undetectable.
    It booms and grumbles through the ground
    like the voices of elephants, miles apart.
    We do not hear it with our ears.
    Our bare feet barely catch
    a small vibration.
    Do not expect to understand.
    The word is long and spoken slow
    and we are only partway through
    one syllable.


    It's Alimentary: PowerPoint Presentation by Miohippus, late Oligocene Epoch

    There are only so many things to eat in the world,
    and several competitors for each.
    As we start to feel the pinch,
    I'd like to propose a bold strategy.
    If you'd dim the lights, please?

    It's all about cellulose—
    which, I don't need to remind you,
    is the main ingredient of leaves and grass.
    The bad news?
    We can't digest it without fermentation.
    The good news?
    Neither can the competition.
    But reports indicate they're using a new strategy:
    Believe it or not, they chew, swallow,
    ferment their food for a couple of hours
    in a couple of stomachs—they have four!—
    then burp it up and chew again.
    but it makes pretty efficient use of feedstock.

    The direction I suggest we take is this:
    ferment our feedstock in a single chamber.
    Less efficient per unit of feed.
    Speed. Our throughput time
    should be roughly half of theirs.
    That means we could eat faster—eat more!—
    because there's no downtime, no cud-chewing.
    Further advantage?
    We don't compete directly.

    Let them exploit the low-fiber market;
    we'll own high-fiber.
    Interestingly, this gets easier if we grow.
    The bigger we are,
    the less energy we need per cell.

    So, in conclusion, friends,
    I recommend we aggressively go after:
    Fiber. Speed. Size.
    It's niche-craft at its best,
    and I think it's going to surprise the heck
    out of the competition.
    What do you say?


    Global Warming: What Survives Is Also Beautiful

    When you are thinking of ice melting,
    Of seasons heating, of sands spreading,
    When your heart despairs at beauty ending,
    Hug your pony.

    Out of rain forests drying and shrinking,
    Over the lost lands rising and drowning,
    Past ice reaching and ice withdrawing,
    Came your pony.

    Formed by changing that looked like ending,
    He can't see what the future's bringing,
    But around corners he's come galloping.
    Hug your pony.


    Przewalski's Horse

    The P is silent.
    Also the R and Z.
    Say "Shah-val-sky."
    Don't read the placard
    kindly provided by the zoo
    to misinform you.
    This is not a primitive horse,
    not ancestral
    to Blaze, or to Black Beauty.
    This horse is new,
    and beautifully adapted.
    The large nose warms
    the crystal air
    so it will not shock the lungs.
    Big feet easily
    traverse the bogs.
    Heavy body, short ears,
    long shaggy coat
    keep the claw of cold
    from reaching to the heart.
    If you want a name you can pronounce,
    this is the horse the Ice made,
    the last Ice, the Würm Ice.
    Call her Glacial Horse.


    Endless Grasses

    We are galloping this sea of grass,
    Sunrise to sunset, sunrise to sunset.
    No sound but our breath,
    No sound but our galloping.
    No sound but the wind, and the tall grass shhhing.
    The sky is broad and blue and endless.
    Endless are the grasses.
    We crossed new land where none had been before,
    Land from the sea, land between the seas.
    Now on and on the grass stretches.
    On stretch the herds.
    Mammoth and reindeer, bison and rhino,
    And horses.
    Our hooves beat the earth-drum.
    Our voices speak.
    Doe to her fawn.
    Cow to her calf.
    Mare to her foal.


    Two Legs

    Who is this
    Two legs,
    Walking out of Africa?
    Sleek like an antelope,
    Shaggy like a bear.
    Smell like a meat-eater.
    Slow. Slow.
    He can't
    Do much


    The Great Hunt

    Not a needle,
    Not a nail,
    Not a net and
    Not a pail.
    Not a shirt and
    Not a rope,
    Not an arrow,
    Not a hope.
    Thus it was in oldest times,
    Not in yours and not in mine.
    Now we sew our clothes of skin,
    Now we flake the spearpoints thin.
    Hunt the mammoth, hunt the deer,
    Hunt the horse, and eat, and cheer.
    Round the fire, tell the story,
    Tell the daring, tell the glory.
    Paint it deep inside the cave,
    You and I and they were brave.
    Thank them all for food they gave us,
    Fat and meat and hide to save us.
    It's a good life here, my daughter,
    Camped beside the flowing water.
    Hear the beating of the drum.
    Hear the vast herds, hear them come.
    This is how we'll always live.
    Herds will give and give and give.
    Mammoth roam and wild horse run,
    From moon to moon
    And sun to sun.

    35,000 B.C. TO 5000 B.C., SOUTHERN EUROPE

    Rope Halter

    It's a rope halter, isn't it,
    on this neighing pony?
    He's tethered, isn't he,
    And calling to his herd?
    You've seen a pony call like that,
    Tied, and his stablemate departing.

    But it's thirteen thousand years ago
    And we say, with all our knowledge,
    That no horse was tamed then and so
    None was haltered,
    And we'll never know.

    At a cave's mouth
    In a green and sheltered valley,
    Did someone have a pack pony?
    Milk pony?
    Decoy pony,
    tied out to lure the others to the spear?

    Or are these rope marks
    cut into the antler
    by our own imaginations?
    Is this lonely neigh,
    the openmouthed, left-behind look
    the mere slip
    of an unskilled craftsman's hand?

    11,000 B.C., FRANCE

    The Colonists

    They'd sent out colonists,
    wave on wave—
    the large, the small,
    the many-toed, the single-toed.
    ice from the north devoured the homeland,
    divided and whittled the herds.
    Yet they lived
    many carefree generations,
    each believing the pastures
    had always been this size,
    each believing that the world
    ended at the ice-wall.
    This proved false.
    The people from beyond
    had seen horses before
    and knew well how to hunt them.
    The horses did not know how to be hunted.
    In the ice-bound meadows
    they had nowhere to run,
    no time to learn.
    So in America, where they began,
    horses ended—or paused.
    A long pause: some eleven thousand years.
    But out in the wide world
    horses continued,
    and at last returned to the home-place,
    to find the folks all gone.



Excerpted from Hoofprints by Jessie Haas. Copyright © 2004 Jessie Haas. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Jessie Haas is the author of numerous acclaimed books for young people, including Unbroken, which was a Publishers Weekly Best Book. She lives in Westminster, Vermont, with her husband, Michael J. Daley, a children’s author. Haas began writing about horses from a young age and wrote a story during her junior year of college that became her first novel, Keeping Barney

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