A YA novel about a young woman and her long-lost stallion taking separate journeys toward fulfillment.
This equine adventure, set in the horse countries of Portugal, California, and Australia, is the first of three planned books in the A Tale of Two Horses series. Horse trainer Anna dreams of becoming a cavaleira (a woman “who fights the bulls on horseback”), so she’s heartbroken when her father sells her favorite young Lusitano stallion, Ulme. As Anna embarks on a search for him, Ulme is resold and ill-used in the bullfighting ring, finally ending up in an Australian dressage stable with a friendly barn-mate named Noodles. The story is illustrated by photographs and enlivened by well-crafted crises (a fire, a flooded barn, injuries, and illness) and colorful turns of phrase, such as Noodles’ view of freestyle horse-and-rider choreography: “That’s a lot of harrumph to push around the arena for six minutes.” As Ulme and Anna find their destinies in dressage, the narration shifts among Anna, the two horses, and fellow trainer Erika; other equine and human voices appear along the way. Layne draws from stories of real-life horses for inspiration, offers details of dressage and other horse facts, and highlights the bonds among horses, riders, and trainers—enough to satisfy any horse fan. However, there are a few errors here and there: the word “smite” is used instead of “spite,” a few lines of text repeat, and the pronunciation of the riding term “levade” is given as “la-veed.” The book also presents bullfighting as a noble sport, showing sympathy for “magnificent horses and cavaleiros” but not for the bulls; Layne explains that in this style of bullfighting, “the bull is not harmed,” as it uses Velcro-tipped poles instead of spears. The book includes a glossary, the stories of the real-life Ulme and Noodles, poems, commentary, and a preview of the next volume in the series.
A detailed story for horse lovers that offers real-world knowledge and messages of strength and purpose.