I’ve always loved books—they were a temporary escape, a source of freedom, for me for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I primarily borrowed them from the library, but I also had a small, perpetually growing, personal collection. Most of them had been purchased second-hand from musty old shops with names like, “The Rabbit Hutch” or “Marshall’s Attic” but some rare few were purchased new from a Scholastic book fair at my school. And they were almost always softcovers. Hardcover books were an incredible luxury and I owned only a very few until recently.
My first ever hardcover book was a copy of The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. It still have it. It is inscribed:
Merry Xmas Rhonda
1984 means I was eight years old when I received it. Eight years old and crazy about horses. I never owned a horse—oddly enough they tend to be even more expensive than hardcover books—but from Kindergarten to grade three I spent every lunch hour and recess playing ‘Unicorns’ with my friend Linda, and every Friday I’d sleep over at her house and we’d ride her horses. Her real horses.
A couple years later we moved and I made a new friend—Miranda. Miranda also had horses—Raven Chick and Mr. Tuxedo. We called them Raven and Tux (or Tuxy) for short, and I spent a lot of weekends at Miranda’s farm. Weekends that always included some horse time.
While our mutual love of horses wasn’t the only thing that informed my friendships with Linda and Miranda, horses were one of the reasons we were friends. Horse people attract other horse people—even beyond childhood. To this day a great many of my best friends and favourite people are horse people.
And of the horses themselves, what is the attraction?
I can’t speak for anyone else but for me it’s a whole lot of things. Physically they are gorgeous, gorgeous creatures. They’ve great, dark, gentle eyes that might just be the origin of that whole ‘windows to the soul’ idea. And they are so strong, so clever, so amazingly intelligent—yet they let us ride on their backs. Their spirits are wild, and they are freedom made physical.
There was a lot I wanted to escape from when I was younger, and what could possibly be a more romantic escape—more freeing—than galloping off into the sunset on the back of a horse?
Given how often horses, books and imagination had provided an escape for me (separately as well as in different combinations with one another) how could I possibly resist the idea of making the final installment in the Magical Menageries anthology series about horses? I could not.
I didn’t have a good answer to that question either, which is why in this anthology you’ll find stories of horses, and unicorns, and flying horses, and Sleipnir, and demon horses, and… you get the idea.
They are all here, waiting to gallop you away new worlds, new adventures with them. And the two things they all have in common is that they include an equine creature and an offer of freedom.
When I was re-reading these stories during the production process the themes of escape and freedom came up again. And again. And again.
I hadn’t consciously chosen freedom-themed stories for Equus, but as it turned out, that’s what I ended up with.
And given my history with horses and escape, I couldn’t possibly be happier. Things worked out perfectly.