________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 18. . . .May 2, 2008


Horseback Riding. (Outdoor Adventures).

Heather Kissock.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, 2008.
24 pp., hardcover, $21.95.
ISBN 978-1-59036-661-5.

Subject Heading:
Horsemanship-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Renée Englot.

**½ /4



People have been riding horses for centuries. In fact, the first record of horseback riding dates back as far as 4,000 BC. At first, people rode horses to travel from place to place. When people began to use horses in the military, more formal riding techniques developed.

A man named Xenophon founded modern horsemanship. Xenophon lived in Greece more than 2,000 years ago. He wrote a book about riding techniques. It included the correct way to mount a horse. Many of Xenophon's riding techniques are used today.

Over the years, two basic styles of riding developed. They are English and Western. English riding first began in Europe. Riders use both hands to hold the reins. They use the reins and pressure from their legs to guide the horse and control its speed. English riders must maintain a strong, upright posture.

Western riding first began in North America. Western style is more relaxed than English. Reins are used to steer the horse, but they are held in one hand. Western riders shift their body to direct the horse.


For reasons which mostly elude me, interest in horses and horseback riding is considered to be a largely feminine enterprise. I suspect it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Girls are believed to the ones most likely to read about horses or play with horse toys, and so girls are targeted in the marketing. Books about horses and toy horses are designed and packaged to appeal to an audience of young girls. This packaging makes the books less desirable for boys to select. A book with a girl and a horse on a pink cover is less likely to appeal to a boy. Many boys don't want to be seen reading a book that looks 'girly.' For the most part, the designers of Horseback Riding have tried to keep their book gender neutral. It is part of a series called "Outdoor Adventures." Perhaps because of the adventure focus of the series, the publishers see the work appealing to a broader audience, one which includes boys. There is a female rider on the front cover, but there's a good balance of males and females in the pictures within the book. There's no "cutesiness" to the design.

     The design is both a strength and a flaw. The book is quite attractive. A table of contents and an index make it easier for young readers to find specific information. Bold words are explained in a simple glossary at the end of the book. The writer, Heather Kissock, has tried to avoid large chunks of text within this nonfiction work. Each two page spread features multiple colour photographs. There's also extensive use of charts. Charts compare horseback riding in the past and present, equipment for Western and English riding, and the characteristics of trail rides at different levels of expertise. Unfortunately, information is sometimes mixed willy-nilly, jumping from Western to English with no discernable pattern, complicating chart reading. A quiz about breeds is offered though the book offers almost no information on breeds.

      The content is a combination of information book and how-to manual, but the how-to portions are not sufficient to stand on their own. They serve more as a sampling for children who are interested in the idea of owning or riding a horse.

      Several websites are listed for extra reading. When publishing website addresses, there is always a risk that the websites will change or disappear. Such is the case with at least one of the addresses. Another address is missing a backslash, making the content difficult to find.

      Those who are interested in horseback riding will enjoy this attractive book. It's not terribly long or dense with information, and so it will not be daunting to young readers, but other than its gender balanced approach, there's little to recommend it over other similar books on horses and horseback riding.


Renée Englot, a former junior high school teacher, now works as a professional storyteller in school settings. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Children's Literature.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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