THE BOOK OF HORSES, edited by Fred Urquhart (Morrow, $29.95). The horse in art and literature, from "Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross" to the plough teams of Ronald Blyth's Akenfield. All of the great literary horses are here, like Don Quixote's Rocinante and Anna Sewell's Black Beauty. Among the many writers represented are Tolstoy, Hemingway, Melville, Shakespeare, John Betjeman, Saki, and James Thurber; in fact, the horse has figured prominently in world literature, which is not suprising, but it takes a book like this to awaken us to the fact. The artists represented include George Stubbs and Landseer, but also Renoir and Gauguin. If you had to pick one book about a horse, this would be it.
AMERICAN STABLES: An Architectural Tour, by Julius Trousdale Sadler Jr. and Jacquelin D.J. Sadler (New York Graphic Society, 219 pp., $29.95). The stabling of rich men's horses is a serious affair, but no more serious than the stabling of poor men's horses, as this book, the definitive history of American architecture for the horse, conclusively shows. There are a surprising number of stables in America, from the huge U.S. Cavalry stables at the Presidio in San Francisco to the stables at Monticello, but the poignant ones are the small livery and blacksmith stables that survive here and there. Most impressive, of course, are those of millionaires, like the Shelburne Farms breeding barn near Burlington, Vt. As Leland Stanford, the railroad tycoon who endowed the university, said: "A horse should be treated like a gentleman." Amen.
SADDLES, by Russel H. Beatie (University of Oklahoma Press, 391 pp., $35). The author is a self-described "saddle nut" and he here relates the lore of the saddle, of which there is an astonishing amount. A modern western saddle, for instance, has 51 parts. With 800 photographs and line drawings, this is an easy ride.
HORSE TACK: The Complete Equipment Guide for Riding and Driving, edited by Julie Richardson (Morrow, 192 pp., $25). Breaking and school, riding, driving, stable equipment and clothing for the novice and the expert.