The Flying Horse (Once Upon a Horse #1)

The Flying Horse (Once Upon a Horse #1)
Age Range
Release Date
March 14, 2023
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From author of the memoir Horse Crazy, the first in a series of fictional middle-grade novels inspired by real horses and the people who love them

Trendsetter is a horse destined to fly—in more ways than one. Sarah is a horse-loving seventh grader who has a secret and a fear of losing the one thing she loves most in the world. Separated by an ocean, a horse and a girl’s parallel struggles to be their best include lots of luck and grit, some stubbornness, and a few failures. It is only when they find each other that the two kindred spirits find themselves. Together they learn that what’s important in life isn’t greatness—it’s being great at being you. Inspired by a real horse and a real girl, The Flying Horse will make horse-lovers’ hearts soar.

Editor review

1 review
Horses and History
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
In the Netherlands, a horse is born early to Olina, whose heritage includes the famous Nimmordoor, who had a place in the Royal Dutch Warmblood Studbook. Named Trendsetter because of his early birth, Trendy shows great promise and is taken to a keuring to be officially inspected. Here, his chances for the future will be examined. At first, it looks like he will be a jumper like Nimmordoor, but when he isn't, he ends up with Cavalry Master Paula Butscher at a riding school in Austria, where famous Lippizaner stallions are trained. There are elite students at the school, and the one who is supposed to work with Trendy, Charles-Isaac, has some problems in his approach to dealing with the animals. Because of this, Trendy almost doesn't get to be shown, but the cavalry master believes in him, and he eventually is brought to the attention of horse trainer Beverly Moore. She has the horse flown to the US, but as he is getting off the plane, he trips and is injured and rendered unsuitable for competition.

In a parallel story, we meet Sarah, who lives in New York City and goes to an elite private school. Her grandmother survived the Holocaust and is a huge supporter of Sarah, who struggles with spelling and writing in school. While not named, it seems that she is struggling with dyslexia. She does well on multiple choice tests and class participation, but not with writing. At some point, she decides to quit doing her homework, since she doesn't feel that she can do as well on it as she would like to. Since she has made a deal with her parents that she can only continue riding as long as her grades remain good, this is a problem. The school eventually suspends her until she is caught up on her work; on the same day, her beloved grandmother goes into the hospital. While waiting for her to improve, Sarah writes her grandmother's story down, and her grandmother eventually brings this to the attention of Beverly Moore, who agrees to sell the injured horse to Sarah's family.
Good Points
The editor's notes compare this to Sewell's Black Beauty or Henry's Misty of Chincoteague, and those are fair comparisons. Nir's language is very rich, and her descriptions, especially from Trendsetter's viewpoint, are poetic and lyrical. The book is a fun, small size with an appealing cover.

Fans of Random House's Horse Diaries (various authors) and girls with their own collections of Breyer's figurines will enjoy this based-on-a-true-story account of Trendsetter and Nir's journey to one another. There are plenty of equestrian details, especially about the sorting of animals in the Netherlands, that will be new and exciting to even the most dedicated horse enthusiast.

Sarah is in 7th grade, this seemed slightly young, and has a privileged New York City background. The second book in the series, The Jockey and Her Horse, is about Black jockey Cheryl White.
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