Book Review – Smoky the Cowhorse
For those unfamiliar with “Smoky”, the story follows a horse named Smoky, who was born on the beach, wild and free. His early years were spent frolicking with his mother and the other horses in his herd. From fending off aggressive, older horses to escaping hungry wolves, Smoky has many experiences that help shape him as a horse and make him a strong horse that knows how. survive.
Aside from being captured as a youngster along with the rest of the herd so all foals can be branded with the Rocking R Ranch brand, Smoky has no contact with humans until it’s time to him to be “broken” and transformed into a real cowpony. . The “breaking” of the horses in the range is harsh and eventually wears Smoky down so he can be ridden, but only by Clint, the man who broke him and who rides/breaks all the young horses on the ranch . Clint and Smoky get along and while Smoky fights frequently, and so hard no other man can ride him, Clint loves the horse’s feistiness. Smoky also has some strange cow skills and quickly proves invaluable to Clint and the Rocking R.
Each fall, after the annual roundup is over, all the cowponies are released to roam the beach until spring. It’s during one of these winters that Smoky and the band of horses that accompany him are stolen by someone south of the border. Lost by the Rocking R, Smoky proves impossible to ride and is eventually sold to a rodeo outfit. It is here that Smoky is known as “The Cougar” – a bronc no one can ride. While Clint searches for his beloved horse, Smoky goes through a series of careers and owners.
Smoky is a classic in the world of horse books and if you’re a fan of the genre, you really should read this book. There’s a reason it’s been made into a movie (twice) as well as a Newbery winner. The only caveat is that because it was written by a real cowboy, in the 1920s, it’s both dated in the way the horses are handled, the way different people are treated, and “cowboy speak” which uses mixed tenses, poor grammar, and frequent but at least consistent misspellings (crethure for creature; eddication for education). It takes a few chapters to get used to this unusual language, and if you stick with it, the reward will be worth it. The story is interesting and will often strike a chord with you.
Quill says: A true classic that every horse lover should read.