Mar 31, 2010

Wild Horse Running

by Sam Savitt

I picked this book up (from a thrift shop) because of the illustrations. I recognized the lively, sketchy style immediately and wondered if it was the same illustrator who had made drawings for an old childhood favorite of mine, Summer Pony by Jean Slaughter Doty. So I brought it home. It was. In this case, the illustrator is also the author. After finishing The World According to Horses, I was in the mood to read another horsey book, and this was it.

Wild Horse Running is the story of a gray mustang stallion. Like a lot of other horse books I read as a kid, it starts out with the horse being born free on the range, growing up learning how to survive the elements and avoid predators. But when man comes along, there is no escape. Our gray hero, Cloud, is eventually captured and because he fights so hard, becomes a rodeo horse. A thunderstorm helps him escape the rodeo and he runs back to the range, only to be caught again, this time by a rancher's son who finds him injured on the ground after being chased by helicopters. This time Cloud is easily tamed by the boy, as he can't fight while injured, and is already used to rope and halter from being in the rodeos. But he still longs for his freedom...

I couldn't help noticing elements that were really similar in this book to other horse stories I've read. The wild horse gentling after being cared for while injured and sick brought back scenes from My Friend Flicka. The simple storyline showing a wild horse growing up, being captured, and always wanting his freedom again was very like Buck, Wild. And the rodeo elements reminded me a lot of parts of When the Legends Die. This book wasn't quite as well-written as any of those, but I still enjoyed it as a quick read. I also appreciated the historical elements; parts of the story address how wild horses in the Pryor Mountains were being rounded up and auctioned off to dog-food factories, until people rallied to save them.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 126 pages, 1973

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