For those unfamiliar with “Smoky,” the story follows a horse named Smoky, who was born in the country, wild and free. He spent his early years frolicking along with his mother and other horses in his herd. From beating aggressive old horses to escaping hungry wolves, Smoky has many experiences that help mold him into a horse and turn him into a strong horse that knows how to survive.
In addition to being captured as a youngster with the rest of the herd so that all of the foals can be branded with the Rocking R ranch mark, Smoky has no contact with humans until it is time to “break out” and turn him into a real cowpony. . Field horse “breaking” is tough and eventually wears down Smoky so he can be ridden, but only by Clint, the man who broke him and who rides / breaks all the young horses on the ranch. Clint and Smoky come to an understanding and, although Smoky frequently moves, and moves with such force that no other man can ride him, Clint likes horse fighting. Smoky also has amazing cow skills and quickly proves invaluable to Clint and the Rocking R.
Every fall after the annual roundup is complete, all the cowponies are left free to roam the field until spring. It’s during one of these winters that Smoky and the horse gang he’s with are robbed by someone south of the border. Lost to the Rocking R, Smoky proves impossible to ride and is eventually sold to a rodeo crew. It is here that Smoky is known as “The Cougar”, a bronco that no one can ride. As Clint searches for his beloved horse, Smoky goes through a series of races and owners.
Smoky is a classic in the world of horse books and if you are a fan of this genre, you should read this book. There’s a reason it was made into a movie (twice) and a Newbery winner as well. The only caveat is that because it was written by a real cowboy, in the 1920s, it is dated in the way horses are handled, in the way different people are treated, and in the “cowboy talks “that uses mixed tenses. bad grammar and spelling errors (crethure for creature; edication for education), which are frequent, but at least consistent. It takes a few chapters to get used to the unusual language, and if you stick with it, the payoff will be worth it. The story is interesting and will often touch your heartstrings.
Quill says: A true classic that every horse lover should read.