Black Beauty

Black Beauty is a book for all—regardless of age, caste, sex, nationality, religion, occupation (and so on). Many times people say that this book is for those who love animals or for those who love horses. I am not an animal lover in the sense I don’t like to keep pets at home (no dogs, no cats). I am allergic. Nor do I cuddle them (blame it on my allergy). But I am not cruel to animals and cruelty to animals annoys me!

The Author

Anna Sewell had injured her knee as a child and struggled with her health for the rest of her life. Anna was a great lover of horses. She wrote Black Beauty with hopes of changing the public’s attitude about the cruel practices inflicted on horses (in those times). When she wrote this story, Anna was bedridden. Unfortunately, Anna did not live to see the success of her work. At Ann’s funeral, her mother stopped the funeral procession to ask several carriages to remove their bearing reins.

The Book

I first read this book a very long time back (while in school), and then re-read it with my daughter (who loves cats and dogs) while she was in school.

In this book, the hero of the story, the horse named Black Beauty tells you the story of his life. There are explanations about the pains and agonies the horses have to go through—most of them because of carelessness!

Some of the points that I liked are:

  • Mother’s advice: In the starting of the book, Black Beauty’s mother advised him about how to behave “You have been well-bred and well-born; your father has a great name in these parts, and your grandfather won the cup two years at the Newmarket races; your grandmother had the sweetest temper of any horse I ever knew, and I think you have never seen me kick or bite. I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play.”Doesn’t this remind us of our mothers? 🙂
  • About kindness: Horses earn for kindness and appreciate it as well. Black Beauty says about one (of his various masters): Our master was a good, kind man. He gave us good food, good lodging, and kind words; he spoke as kindly to us as he did to his little children. We were all fond of him.
  • New terms: You learn new terms, like breaking in. Breaking in means to teach a horse to wear a saddle and bridle, and to carry on a person on his back and to go quietly, just the way they wish.
  • Horses hate: Wearing iron shoes (which they don’t mind later). The stiff heavy collar, just on the neck. The bridle, with great side-pieces. Blinkers, that did not allow them to see on either side, but only straight in front. Crupper, a small saddle with a nasty stiff strap that went right under the tail.

    Probably, what the horse hate the most is to be harnessed. In one place, the mistress wanted the horses to be harnessed as it was a fashion statement. Without a harness, the horse can put the head forward and take the carriage up with a will, but with the harness on, the horse has to pull with the carriage with the head up and that takes up all the spirit out of the horse and strains their and legs.

  • Ignorance. Black beauty tells an incident wherein the groom had to ride in the night for a long time to get a doctor for his mistress. Since the Doctor’s horse was not available, he rode Black Beauty who was already tired. Back to the stable, Black Beauty was sweating badly. The stable boy rubbed Black Beauty’s legs and chest, but he did not put any warm cloth on Black beauty (as he was hot and sweating). Then he gave Black Beauty a pailful of cold water to drink and some hay and corn to eat. Soon Black Beauty began to shake and tremble and turned deadly cold. Fortunately, later the groom came to check on Black beauty and gave him warm water to drink and put on some warm cloth on him.

The book contains so many such incidents which makes it an interesting read. Black beauty tells of his desires and wishes which makes you feel as though a human being is narrating the story! It is also interesting to know what a horse feels about human beings!