TPH Book Review: Horse Crazy

By Annie Birmingham

Horse Crazy is the latest endeavor of Pulitzer Prize- nominated New York Times reporter Sarah Maslin Nir. Nir, an avid amateur hunter rider and lifelong horse lover, delves into anecdotes ranging from her days as a junior at the Hampton Classic Horse Show to stories from the back of a Marwari stallion in India, and everywhere in between. Each chapter is named for a horse she has met along the way. Within these narratives are Nir’s own personal experiences, from her father’s escape from persecution in the Holocaust, to a lonely childhood in Manhattan spent “looking for horses,” many of which became like family. Her experiences are unique, but unite in one common theme—the love we all feel for horses.

While Nir’s attraction to the sport began like many, (from a horse sighting during a car ride as a child), her experiences along the way are nothing short of remarkable. Growing up in New York City’s Upper West Side, Nir reflects on what it feels like to constantly be “looking for horses” in an urban environment. She found them in various, unusual ways: on weekend trips to her family’s summer home in East Hampton, riding at Claremont Riding Academy, a multi-level barn built into a townhouse near Central Park, and in a volunteer position with the New York City Parks Department Mounted Unit, patrolling the parks on a Belgian Draft named Samson. Nir also took a job as a mounted trail guide at a stable in Montauk in order to compete on borrowed show horses at an East Hampton show barn.

While the book features some truly remarkable horses, it also details the stories of the people who dedicate their lives to them. From Monty Roberts, a California trainer whose patient training tactics earned him the nickname of “the man who listens to horses,” to Francesca Kelly, a Nantucket woman whose desire to rescue an endangered breed of horse has shaped the course of her entire life. One theme is clear throughout—you simply cannot understand the captivating nature of these animals unless you’ve experienced horses for yourself.

Horse Crazy is an engaging narrative for any horse lover, from those fortunate enough to own and compete, to those who simply savor a quick pat over a fence. And while there is no real answer to why these animals tend to draw people in, Nir’s storytelling reminds us all that when life gets difficult, we can always look for the horses.

Horse Crazy is available now.