Experience history with horses and the people who loved them

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 

Love horses? What about biographical history? Sonrise Stable Books sent us this super fun History on Horseback: The Early Years for review through the Homeschool Review Crew. This book has fifty-three interesting stories of horses and history from 1493-1866. Regardless of your age or whether you homeschool or not, if you love horses and/or history this book would be a great addition to your library.  

The stories are mostly two pages each and can be read independently, so you can skip around if you’d like. They’re written for ages 12 and up, but I shared some of them with our whole family and the younger ones enjoyed them, too. Black and white photographs or artwork accompanies the articles. 

This book is great for a homeschool history supplement. The stories could be expounded by in-depth research or projects. The author, Vicki Watson, is working on a study guide to accompany this book. She’s also releasing a second book and study guide this year, and a third in 2021.  

As a horse-lover myself, I was excited about this book, and it lived up to my expectations. Our third grader lives and breathes horses, so I wanted her to love it as well. It was a little above her level on its own, but she did enjoy some of the stories I read aloud. Her main complaint was that some of the horses or donkeys had unhappy endings and that was too sad for her. I’m hoping in a few years she will be ready to read it on her own. She had just completed a horse lesson through our homeschool curriculum that included information about the thoroughbred breed, so it was neat that the third chapter in this book is Thoroughbred Family Tree. 

Some of my favorite stories include:  

  • Arriving With Bells On: an article about the Conestoga wagons. My mom was born and raised in the Conestoga region of Pennsylvania, so I grew up hearing stories on the Conestoga Valley. 
  • Copenhagen at Waterloo: the Arabian Thoroughbred mix was the war horse for the Duke of Wellington. “Copenhagen was considered nearly as much of a hero as the Duke. Women picked strands of the horse’s hair to turn into jewelry” When the faithful steed died, the Duke was furious to arrive at the stable to say good-bye and find his right forefront missing. “A servant had cut off the hoof to keep as a souvenir… The horse’s missing hoof was returned after the Duke’s death.” 
  • Young, Skinny Orphans Wanted: In the article about the Pony Express, the advertisement read, “WANTED: Young Skinny Wiry Fellows Not over eighteen. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 per week.” Ironically, I read this story on April 3, 2020, and the Pony Express officially opened April 3, 1860. Along with the origins and history of the Pony Express, the article states that “During its nineteen months of operation, 35,000 pieces of mail were delivered. Horse and rider teams had traveled more than a half a million miles… Although short-lived, the Pony Express served as an important role in connecting the East and the West at a time when the country was splitting apart.” 
  • White House Stable Fire: A story about Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln’s four sons, their horses, and the barn fire that claimed the Lincoln’s beloved animals.  
  • Beautiful Jim Key: This story is at the end of the book and is a preview to History on Horseback Vol. 2. This was our family’s favorite story, a horse that was thought to be a “spingled, shank-legged” nothing at birth, but was trained to “act sick,” learn the alphabet, understand math facts, and lived and slept next to his owner almost his entire life. His owner, Dr. William Key, was a former slave. When offered $100,000 for Jim Key, Doc declined. “He knew what it felt like to be bought and sold. He couldn’t bring himself to do that to Jim Key.” A group of Harvard professors observed Jim Key’s antics and concluded his acts were not a hoax, but a true testament to the relationship between horse and owner. The man/horse duo became known for their exhibition against animal abuse. “Two million children joined the Jim Key Band of Mercy and signed a pledge that stated, ‘I promise to be kind to animals.’” This story alone is worth the entire book.  

I highly recommend this book to all households who love horses, history, good non-fiction stories, and as a homeschool history supplement.  

Other families also reviewed this product. I encourage you to click on the graphic below to see how they experienced them.  

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