Horse Books to Read For Black History Month

Happy Black History Month!

I wanted to do a book recommendation list for Black History Month that was horse themed.

So here they are. I will preface that I haven’t read all of these. I picked some based on reviews, recommendation, and scholarship.

Picture/Early Reader Books

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby by Crystal Hubbard and illustrated by Robert McGuire

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby is for kids who have a 1st to 3rd grade reading level. It’s a biography of Jimmy Winkfield, who lived an amazing life around horses and was the last African American to win the Kentucky Derby.

Black Cowboy, Wild Horses by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Black Cowboy, Wild Horses is a for kids with a preschool to 3rd grade reading level. It’s about Bob Lemmons, a legendary mustang catcher. It is an adapted version of Julius’s book Long Journey Home: Stories from Black History.

Bill Pickett: Rodeo-Ridin’ Cowboy by Andrea D. Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Bill Pickett: Rodeo-Ridin’ Cowboy is another young reader book for kids with reading levels between preschool to 3rd grade. It’s a story about the child who became Bill Pickett, the cowboy who is credited with inventing bull dogging. Publisher’s Weekly gave this a starred review: “The author gives Pickett’s (ca.1860- 1932) life story ample context, too, bolstering it with information about the role of African Americans in settling the West; an afterword discusses black cowboys in general.”

Let ‘Er Buck!: George Fletcher, the People’s Champion by Vaunt Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Gordon C. James

Let ‘Er Buck! is about George Fletcher with a focus on his entry in the 1911 Pendleton Round-Up. He became the people’s champion after prejudice clouded his round and a local sheriff raised prize money for him. This was given a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly with ‘a glossary of rodeo and western words and a selected bibliography wrap up this triumphant tale of fairness trumping prejudice for a wrangler extraordinaire.’

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman and illustrated by Daniel Minter

Dr. William Key had a special way with animals. While enslaved, he traveled around Tennessee to tend to sick and wounded animals. Once free, he dreamed of having a racehorse, but the foal was born weak. Key realized his horse’s smarts and began teaching him and showing the world the message of kindness to animals. Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness is a children’s book about Dr. William Key and his relationship with his famous horse, Jim Key. This book is for kids with a second to third grade reading level.

Wonder Horse: The True Story of the World’s Smartest Horse by Emily Arnold McCully.

Wonder Horse: The True Story of the World’s Smartest Horse is a picture book about Dr. William Key and his new foal Jim. It goes into Dr. William Key’s upbringing and how he taught his foal through kindness and patience. This book is for kids with a preschool to second grade reading level.

Middle Grade/Young Adult Books

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri and illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson

Ghetto Cowboy is a coming of age novel. Cole’s mother leaves him with a father he has never known. But the twelve year old is soon introduced to a group of Philadelphian cowboys who use horses to steer youths away from drugs and gangs. This novel received numerous awards including a YALSA Amazing Audiobook pick and a Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice List. It’s considered middle grade. This is going to be a movie that was partially filmed in Philadelphia with Idris Elba!

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nichole Davis

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis is a western inspired fantasy. In this world, children can be sold to ‘welcome houses’ where they’re branded with cursed markings that mature as they age. When Clementine accidentally kills a man, the girls escape and go on a dangerous journey to freedom. They’re pursued by powerful human and inhuman forces while following a story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another.

My Name Is America: The Journal Of Joshua Loper, A Black Cowboy by Walter Dean Myers

The My Name Is America series ran from 1998 to 2004. It was a series of historical novels written in a journal format during an important period or event in American History. The Journal of Joshua Loper, A Black Cowboy was written by Walter Dean Myers. Joshua Loper is a 16 year old in 1871, and records his journey during his first cattle drive while dealing with racial prejudice.

The King Of The Wind by Marguerite Henry and illustrated by Wesley Dennis

The King of The Wind by Marguerite Henry and illustrated by Wesley Dennis is probably the most well known book on this list. I kept flipping between including it and not including it on the list, but eventually decided to because I wanted another fictional book on the list. It won the Newberry Award in 1949. This is the fictionalized story of Sham, one of the founding stallions of the Thoroughbred breed, and his relationship with his steadfast friend, Agba.

The Saddle Club Series by Bonnie Bryant

The Saddle Club series follows the adventures of Carole, Stevie, and Lisa who ride at Pine Hollow Stables. This middle grade series spans 101 books with ten spin offs. The books were published between 1988 through 2001. A seventeen book young adult series that follows the girls four years after the Saddle Club series were also published, but seem to be out of print.

Adult Fiction

Night Hawk by Beverly Jenkins

Night Hawk by Beverly Jenkins is a historical romance set in 1880s Wyoming. Maggie Freeman grudgingly accepts the help of bounty hunter Ian Vance after a vigilante mob wants to see her hanged. On their journey to a safe place to try her case, love and freedom cross barriers.

Adult Nonfiction

The adult nonfiction list was the last I compiled. Finding books in the other categories felt like pulling teeth. This one was marginally easier. The books primarily settled in two categories: Black cowboys and Black jockeys.

African American Women of the Old West by Tricia Martineau Wagner

African American Women of the Old West by Tricia Martineau Wagner highlights 10 Black women from backgrounds ranging from slavery to freedom. Included are the biographies of woman like Elizabeth Thorn Scott who made it her mission to educate Black children.

Black Cowboys of the Old West: True, Sensational, And Little-Known Stories From History by Tricia Martineau Wagner

Black Cowboys of the Old West: True, Sensational, And Little-Known Stories From History by Tricia Martineau Wagner highlights Black western cowboys. The author wrote, “Black Cowboys of the Old West highlights the accomplishments and achievements of black cowboys, giving them the recognition they deserve. History is not being rewritten to make room for cowboys of color; the record is simply becoming appropriately inclusive.”

Race Horse Men by Katherine C. Mooney

Race Horse Men by Katherine C. Mooney is an an excellent book. She highlights the intersection between American racing and slavery. Horse racing was America’s first spectator sport. She highlights major players in America’s horse racing history and the role that Black jockeys, grooms, and trainers played in it.

The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy by Pellom McDaniels

Most horse books that highlight horse racing and records will have his picture. Issac Burns Murphy is considered to be the most winning jockey. The Prince of Jockeys by Pellom McDaniels III is a biography of the famed jockey who was not only an incredible horseman but also a cultural figure.

Black Maestro: The Epic Life of an American Legend by Joe Drape

There are some stories that seem so incredible that they read like fiction. This is Jimmy Winkfield. Black Maestro: The Life of an American Legend by Joe Drape follows Jimmy Winkfield’s life from the 17th child of sharecroppers to being the last Black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. He survived the Klu Klux Klan and Nazis before finally settling in France.

The Great Black Jockeys by Edward Hotaling

The Great Black Jockeys by Edward Hotaling highlights some of the famous Black jockeys ranging from the 1700s to the 20th century. The book highlights jockeys like Austin Curtis.

The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Black Cavalry in the West by William H. Leckie with Shirley A. Leckie

The Buffalo Soliders by William H. Leckie and Shirley A. Leckie gives a comprehensive history about the Buffalo Soldiers. The Buffalo Soldiers were formed during the Civil War because of a need for more soldiers. They weren’t known as the iconic name then, but the name eventually became a generic term for all Black soldiers. The book begins at the creation of The Buffalo Soldiers and ultimately ends with recent developments (as of 2007) of efforts to memorialize them.

Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed the World by Mim Eichler Rivas

Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed the World by Mim Eichler Rivas is about Dr. William Key. He was a former slave, Civil War Veteran, and veterinarian who turned an ugly duckling colt into a beloved hero. Dr. Key and his wonder horse performed across the country for nine years and earned respect from some of the most influential figures of the time.


My initial criteria for picking the books started as this:

  • Must feature a Black person as the protagonist, not as a supporting character
  • Horses must be a part of the plot or in the world ex. Western themed
  • Available to buy (independently or major press published, it couldn’t be out of copyright and unavailable).

While this list isn’t as long as I wished, I hope you will look into them. I will not lie and say I scanned every book available out there–so if you know of any horse novels that feature Black protagonists, please send them my way.

Sergeant Reckless

Sometimes you find yourself in the right place at the right time. This happened at Breyerfest 2019. I can’t remember where I was coming from nor my final destination, but I found myself near the indoor warm up arena. I saw a few waiting Civil War Union dressed horses and riders.


I turned around and saw servicemen leading a black horse.


A chestnut mare with military attire appeared and I stayed as they maneuvered the two horses for a photo op.


During the photo op a few people mentioned going to the Sergeant Reckless statue for pictures and I found myself joining the small entourage. Robin Hutton, the author of Sergeant Reckless, was a part of the group. Silly me forgot to bring my copy of the book to Breyerfest!


It was slow moving because people wanted to take photos with the mare. She was adorable, so why wouldn’t you? It gave me a chance to take pictures of her tack.


You can never have too many reference photos.


Eventually we made it to our destination. The Kentucky Horse Park unveiled their statue of Sergeant Reckless in 2018. The Kentucky Horse Park isn’t the only place to have a sculpture of the mare. Susan Bensema Young of Timaru Star II saw another statue in Virginia.


Not Sergeant Reckless posed next to the statue.


A Sgt. Reckless blanket was brought out and more photos ensued.


I’m happy I was in the right place at the right time to take these photos!


Winter Institute 2020

Last week, I attended ABA’s 2020 Winter Institute. It’s an annual conference for booksellers and publishers to interact and meet. ABA is the American Booksellers Association.

This was the conference’s 15th year and the biggest turn out yet. Over 700 booksellers, 140 authors, and 160 publishers convened in Baltimore for 4 days of panels, sessions, and book signings.

This was my first time attending the Winter Institute. In June, I went to the the children/young adult version in Pittsburgh.


The three of us left at 4:30 am. I needed to be there so I could go on a tour and my co-worker needed to be there so she could attend an Anti-Trust Symposium in Washington, DC.


I toured Penguin-RandomHouse’s warehouse. It was amazing. One of the managers is a plastic pony collector so we fangirled over books and Breyers. The two most important things. We were asked to not take pictures of the actual warehouse. But I’ve never seen so many books before.


The first night we went to two parties. The first was a welcome one. The second party was romance themed and hosted by Harper. It was nice to attend a party that surrounded romances in multiple genres. I met all of the present authors and had books signed.


Throughout the whole conference there were various signing parties.


The galley room opened after breakfast on Wednesday. OMG. THERE WERE SO MANY BOOKS. The galley room was full of finished and unfinished copies of books that the publishers wanted industry professionals to see. And see them we did.


Lunch over the course of the conference meant meeting with various publishing houses and being pitched their upcoming releases.


The sessions and panels ranged from podcasting to historical figures. One such panel was about Black booksellers in the 1960s. The FBI wrote thousands of pages about them because they encouraged reading, their community’s engagement, and Civil Rights. Oh the horror. Their stories were powerful.


I watched an incredible panel with Jason Reynolds and Ibram Kendi about their collaboration called Stamped. It’s the young adult version of Kendi’s nonfiction book called Stamped From The Beginning. Stamped is one of my most anticipated reads of the year.


I was invited to a small dinner hosted by Disney publishing managers and some of their authors. One dessert was a cake made from the cover of Brandy Colbert’s The Voting Booth which is coming out later this year.


I came home with some amazing books. One afternoon I meandered around in the galley room and ran into an article writer for ABA’s website. I was quoted in their Winter Institute article about my feelings about the conference.


We woke up on Saturday to rain. It continued until we reached Pennsylvania. The four days of being surrounded by so many awesome people was over. However in no way did we come home empty handed. The minivan was filled with books–the majority of them being ARCs. ARCs are advance reader copies that publishers distribute to booksellers, reviewers, and influencers to create buzz for upcoming books. So I have a lot of reading to do!


The Real Horses of Breyerfest

Breyerfest is less than 7 months from now.

In the mean time, here’s a look back to the 2019 Breyerfest. On the day of the Breyerfest Open show, I left the show to wander the park. The Kentucky Horse Park hosts a diverse array of equine breeds so I decided to watch some of the breed Show.

First up was the Akhal-Teke, which is one of my favorite breeds. This is Magnatli, a 2003 gelding.

So pretty!

Next is the Gypsy Vanner.

They always have such a distinctive look to them.

After watching some of the show, I moved towards the barns.

The owners and grooms of these high caliber horses are always so generous with allowing attendees access to them. This was one of the sweet police horses.

I love meeting the real life counterparts of models. Here’s Dominate XXIX.

Patrick the Mini Horse.

Palomino paints are one of my favorite equine color combos. This is King.

Voyeur is an Olympian, and it was amazing to hang in his stall for a few minutes.

Cobra the Mustang.

Latigo Dun It (I think).

This was the cutest duo of the whole three days. They were so cute and this was the best pony.

Sergent Reckless in front of the statue.

I can’t wait to see what real horses will be in the park for Breyerfest 2020!

hello, it’s me 2.0

My name is Kristian Beverly, and welcome to my new blog!

Since this is the first post, here’s a bit about me.

I’ve been collecting model horses, particularly Breyer horses, since I was in the single digits. I’ve gone on to travel to Breyerfest, judge, and show. Performance and tack making are my favorite aspects of the hobby but over the years I’ve partaken in pedigree assignment, photo shows, and customizing. The hobby is vast so there’s something for everyone.

Eight years ago I created Five Paws Studio. It’d been born from lots of poking from my friend Madison.

First blog post from 2012.
The best ideas occur in the middle of the night.

In the years of having the blog, I graduated from high school, graduated from college, made lots of tack, participated in many shows, and lost four of the five pets that’d made up the whole Five Paws part.

This year it really hit me that I’d outgrown the Blogger platform. Initially, Blogger had a more controllable platform for creators. It also had a phone app. Things have slowly simplified and now I want more control (and a phone app). Hello WordPress!

This blog will be similar to Five Paws Studio. Plastic pony talk and tack. But there’ll be more book talk! I read a bit of everything. Nonfiction, fiction, teen, middle grade. If it’s good, I’ll give it a try.

So hello 2020s. May the odds be ever in our favor.

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