Sweetbriars, Leaving the City: British Equestrian Book Series ~ Hollie Anne Marsh (age range: 9-12 years)

“Welcome to the yard! Come and meet the girls... Cate, Tabby and Violet and their beautiful horses. Cate is uprooted from life as she has known it. Along with her family and her gorgeous palomino show horse Odette, she moves to a charming farm deep in the English countryside.

Cate is torn. Upon moving to horse heaven, she had to leave behind her best friend Beth and her beloved horse-riding instructor Bridget. On the other hand, she has fallen in love with Sweetbriars, the farm her family has bought to make their dreams come true. Setting up an equestrian centre at Sweetbriars is fun to Cate, but settling into a new school and having a stern Pony Club riding instructor that teaches dressage is less so. At school, Cate makes friends with Violet, who is confident and wacky, and through Pony Club she gets to know Tabby, who is sweet and popular, but hides a family secret. When the eccentric neighbor Sophia becomes a regular 'drop in' to the farm, Cate begins to learn about acceptance and what friendships really mean. The girls’ lives will be intertwined in ways they could never have imagined thanks to their shared passion for horses and Cate’s determination to make Sweetbriars a success. Will Cate ever settle into living in the countryside?” ~Amazon description

Brittney Joy’s Review ~ I enjoyed this romp through the British countryside and would recommend Sweetbriars for any pre-teen (9-12 years) horse-crazy reader! Sweetbriars is a good, wholesome story filled with lessons for any horse-lover — for beginner or advanced riders. I really liked how Marsh was very detailed in the barn and riding scenes and explained horse terminology, movements, etc. The main character, Cate, is very knowledgeable concerning horses and her two friends, Tabby & Violet, are as well. However, there is a Sophia character that doesn’t know anything about horses and I really enjoyed seeing Cate teach her things - like how horses shed in summer and get thicker coats in winter and how you don’t need to brush a horse’s teeth, but they do need dental work because their teeth keep growing.

This book also shows how riding isn’t easy and it takes hard work and commitment to get better. I also love that this book features dressage. I don’t run across many fictional books that feature a dressage rider (Cate) and the author did an amazing job of describing her lessons and tests (at the horse show). This is a wonderful start to a middle grade series and I’m curious if the next book will continue to follow Cate or if the sequel will follow Tabby or Violet — two of the other girls in the friend group.

Some other fun facts about Sweetbriars:

  • The cover features a real young rider and her horse! Isn’t that cool?! The Sweetbriars cover star is a thirteen year old rider named “Faye” and the palomino photographed with her is her pony, Gigman Boy George.

  • The back of the book contains an “Ears to Tail Glossary of Horses” which is a horsie dictionary! This is amazing because young readers can learn even more about the terminology used in the book. Horse colors like chestnut, buckskin, and bay are defined as well as tack such as girth, head collar (or halter), and crop. And, more advanced riding terminology is defined as well — such as counter canter, diagonal, hacking, and forward (or impulsion). This is something I haven’t seen before in equine fiction and I think it’s just marvelous and such a handy learning tool for young readers! Bravo, Marsh!

  • A percentage of each book sale is donated to a wonderful equine charity - RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) :)