My favorite series as a young reader was the Black Stallion by Walter Farley. I read that entire series, forwards, backwards, out-of-order, over and over. My family already had horses, so I was very empathetic with Alec. There may have been parts of the various books acted out with my own horses, much to their chagrin.
The Black Stallion was started while Walter Farley was in high school, finished while he was in college and published when he was 26. The epic adventure of a young boy and his wild stallion who responded only to him won the hearts of young readers around the world.
Farley began his own love affair with horse at an early age while growing up in New York state. He was fortunate that he had an uncle that was a horse trainer and he got to spend quality time with horses as he grew up. His uncle switched disciplines frequently; giving Farley a wide education of show horses, jumpers, pacers, and trotters as well as racers.
Walter Farley was uniquely qualified to write The Black Stallion series and perhaps that is why it has stood the test of time. The original book came out in 1941 and is still being printed today. Farley’s understanding of horses, their actions as well as how they show affection, made his books realistic and honest.
“I always wanted to write,” Farley told members of the press in Canada, “It’s the only thing I’ve ever done.”
The series was interrupted by WWII, as Farley entered the service. He primarily served as a reporter for The Yank, although he did train with the Fourth Armored Division. After the war he left the service, and continued the series with Son of the Black story. His original nine books have grown as he continued to add more characters and stories. Walter Farley was once told that he could not make a living writing children’s fiction. His active life and stories have proven that person very wrong.
His family is intertwined in the Black Stallion’s family of stories. Many of the later stories were told to his own children before they were able to read their father’s series themselves. His son Tim now runs a very active website for all fans of The Black Stallion. And his son Stephen continues the series, enchanting a whole new generation with stories filled with equine heroes. Walter Farley enjoyed horses until he died in 1989. He rode dressage, and was seen at many equine events around the world. He had many close equine friends of his own, and never stopped loving the ideal of the horse.
“Many kids would rather ride on the back of a horse… than pilot a spaceship to the moon,” he has said.