Horse Crazy: Girls and the Lives of Horses by Jean O’Malley Halley is a fascinating cultural and sociological study that explores how our love of animals shapes us and how the horse can be a symbol for the longing for freedom that many marginalized groups (especially women) share.
NetGalley is hosting a “Review A Thon,” throughout the entire month of August. Net Galley is a great website that provides free advanced reader copies to bloggers and readers in exchange for an honest review. I love books and I also enjoy saving money, so Net Galley is perfect for me.
I enjoy reading as a form of self care. Curling up with a good book is a form of stress relief for me. Sometimes I share book reviews here on my website, but throughout the month of August, I will be sharing even more book reviews than normal as I work my way through my massive “To Be Read,” pile on Net Galley.
What are you reading? Let me know in the comments below!
My Review for Horse Crazy: Girls and the Lives of their Horses
Why do girls love horses?
On the surface, it seems like a simple question: Why do girls love horses? I’ve often wondered this throughout my life, but few people have stopped to consider this cultural phenomenon beyond simple established gender norms. Reading Horse Crazy was refreshing because I felt as if someone was finally taking my questions seriously. Often, issues related to women (including women writers and women’s interest) are overlooked.
Halley begins with a history of the horse starting all the way back in prehistoric times. Then, she provides a cultural survey of horses and horse literature. She also explores how writing about horses, as well as a love of horses in general, has helped to forge a space where women are able to express themselves free from the male gaze.
According to Halley, defining oneself as “horse crazy,” allows a third option for girls who may not normally within the confines of society. While modern feminism often argues that women find fulfillment in the workforce and modern conservatism argues that women should find fulfillment through raising children and homemaking, being horse crazy, provides a third option. In this option, women are able to find fulfillment simply from the enjoyment of life through the experience of riding and forging a relationship with another creature.
My mother taught me to love horses.
Growing up, I have vivid memories of my mother’s deep and passionate love for horses. Some of my mother’s fondest memories of her own childhood were the many hours that she spent on horseback. For a variety of reasons, I was not able to have my own horse when I was young. Instead, I had a tiny wooden stable (made by my grandfather) where my Breyer horses lived in stalls along side My Little Ponies.
I learned to love horses because my mother loved horses. Then, years later, when I was in seventh grade, my mother was able to afford for me to take horseback riding lessons. The minute I saw the beautiful and majestic animals up close, I was in love. As my own story shows, the love of horses can be a bond that helps to hold multiple generations together.
But why are so many girls horse crazy?
As an adult, I’ve worked with children in an educational environment. Without fail, there are always young girls who are infatuated with horses. I became even more curious because I slowly realized that many of these young girls who loved horses and unicorns had never even had the opportunity to ride an actual horse.
Reading Halley’s book was refreshing because it felt as if I finally had the opportunity to sit down with a well spoken and very well educated friend and talk through these questions. She uses stories from her own personal history with horses (some of which made me cry) as well as different sociological and psychological frameworks. She also shares results from an interview she conducted with self-identified “horse crazy,” women. The results, especially the way “horse crazy,” impacts members of the disability community, were fascinating.
I recommend Horse Crazy for any animal lover who enjoys reading college level text books. If you’re a giant nerd like me who also happens to love horses, this book will be perfect for you!
Note: I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and options are my own.
Horse Crazy explores the meaning behind the love between girls and horses. Jean O’Malley Halley, a self-professed “horse girl,” contends that this relationship and its cultural signifiers influence the manner in which young girls define their identity when it comes to gender. Halley examines how popular culture, including the “pony book” genre, uses horses to encourage conformity to gender norms but also insists that the loving relationship between a girl and a horse fundamentally challenges sexist and mainstream ideas of girlhood.
Horse Crazy looks at the relationships between girls and horses through the frameworks of Michel Foucault’s concepts of normalization and biopower, drawing conclusions about the way girls’ agency is both normalized and resistant to normalization. Segments of Halley’s own experiences with horses as a young girl, as well as experiences from the perspective of other girls, are sources for examination. “Horsey girls,” as she calls them, are girls who find a way to defy the expectations given to them by society—thinness, obsession with makeup and beauty, frailty—and gain the possibility of freedom in the process.
Drawing on Nicole Shukin’s uses of animal capital theories, Halley also explores the varied treatment of horses themselves as an example of the biopolitical use of nonhuman animals and the manipulation and exploitation of horse life. In so doing she engages with common ways we think and feel about animals and with the technologies of speciesism.
Author: Jean O’Malley Halley,
Genre: Nonfiction/ Sociology & Psychology/ Cultural Study
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Publication Date: July 1, 2019
Other (Horsey) Book Reviews:
The Horse is Never Wrong by Mary Pagones
Also by Mary Pagones- Pride, Prejudice, and Personal Statements – This post includes an author interview with fellow horse lover, Mary Pagones
Tabby’s Big Year- The first British pony book I ever read! The world of book blogging is introducing me to entirely new genres that I didn’t even know existed. Yeehaw!
What are you reading?
What are you currently reading? I’m currently reading Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are on Audible! Have you heard of Audible? You can try Audible and get two free audiobooks as well as two Audible Originals! As a person with low vision, I absolutely LOVE Audible. I use it all the time! Sign up for a free trial and even if you cancel your membership, you get to keep the audioboooks! Try Audible today. Your Ears will thank you!