Book Review of Magic Hoofbeats: Horse Tales From Many Lands by Josepha Sherman and Linda Wingerter

by DerdriuMarriner

Cats, dogs, and horses figure high as favorite animals. People like to tell canine, equine, and feline pals all. The horses in “Magic Hoofbeats” reveal what they have to say back.

Award-winning describes author Josepha Sherman (December 12, 1946 – August 23, 2012), illustrator Linda Wingerter, and publisher Barefoot Books.

The three acclaimed artistic, literary, and publishing sources merge in the availability since 2004 of “Magic Hoofbeats: Horse Tales from Many Lands.” Enthusiasm for Ancient Near Eastern archaeology, fiction, non-fiction, and scripts motivates Josepha’s:
• expert retelling of America’s and Eurasia’s horse-related lore;
• fine summarizing of horse and pony breeds.
Experience in graphic arts, painting, puppetry, and sculpture prompts Linda’s illustrations in acrylic on gessoed Bristol board.

Expertise in educational materials results in Barefoot Book’s opting for:
• color separating by Grafiscan, Italy;
• printing on 100% acid-free paper by South China Printing Company;
• typesetting in 14pt Centaur Regular and Catull Regular.

The sound of a horse's hooves is one of nature's most enchanting and most unforgettable melodies:

Front (left) and hind (right) footprints of barefoot mare, 1 year after de-shoeing.
Monfalcone, Gorizia province, northeastern Italy
Monfalcone, Gorizia province, northeastern Italy


The American continent furnishes two of the eight horse tales included in Magic Hoofbeats for children:

  • Aged 8 years and up;
  • Attending third grade and up.  

French Canada gives readers of all ages “Petit Jean and the White Horse.” The story honors brave, hard-working, nimble “little iron” (Sherman, p. 43) horses cross-bred from France’s King Louis XIV’s (September 5, 1638 – September 1, 1715) shipments to the Saint Lawrence River Valley of small, strong Breton and Norman horses. Further southwestward is the bio-geography of “Lone Boy and the Old Dun Horse.” The latter originates in Pawnee lore hallowing piebald and skewbald Pinto and spotted Appaloosa descendants of horses shipped to the Americas by fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Spanish explorers.


Pawnees rode and raised horses, favoring Pintos and Appaloosas:

Pinto horse (left) and leopard-spotted Appaloosa (right)
Pinto (left) with leopard-spotted Appaloosa (right)


One of the European continent’s most ancient and enigmatic cultures inspires particularly heartwarming tributes to equine intelligence and loyalty. The society in question is that of the seven Basque-speaking provinces whose Country straddles northern Spain and southern France. The tale of “The White Mare” indeed memorializes the ancient, even-tempered, hard-working horse breed Anglicized as:

  • Pottock;
  • Pottok.

The equine name originates in the Lapurdian and Navarrese Basque designation pottoka -- pronounced “poht-TOH-kah” -- for “colt, pony, young horse.” The pony resembles horses embellishing prehistoric cave walls at:

  • Altamira;
  • Combarelles;
  • Isturitz;
  • Lascaux.

The story suggests ancient origins since original, pre-Ice Age colorations for today’s black or brown Pottock may be white, from:

  • Colder, drier weather;
  • Rarer forests;
  • Sparser vegetation.


Basque horses: Pottokas

Bianditz mountain, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country
Bianditz mountain, Gipuzkoa, Basque Country


The eco-region of the steppes involves another two of the horse-friendly stories in Magic Hoofbeats. Hungary is the bio-geography of “The Taltos Horse” whereas Russia supplies the venue for “The Little Humpbacked Horse.” The tale from Hungary memorializes ancient folklore regarding the táltos, who is born knowing how to:

  • Cure bodies and souls;
  • Detect enemies and threats.

Each special man or woman in question relies upon a horse whose ugly disguise belies:

  • The beauty of the all-around Nonius, refined Furioso, and wise Shagya Arab;
  • The magic of speech.

Josepha’s retelling from Russia’s lore reveals similar deep truths about the chestnut-colored, thick-coated Bashkir pony that -- like the native Don and Orlov breeds -- survives blizzards and fogs.


Bashkir horses

Southern Urals, western Russia
Southern Urals, western Russia


A steppe is a plain that is characterized by grasses and shrubs rather than trees. Plains, not steppes, therefore may be found alternating with mountains in Albania. The republic historically produces five kinds of horses:

  • Diminutive horses adapted to mountains and plains by the fifth century B.C.;
  • Imported Arab horses of the Ottoman Empire crossbred with pony-sized natives of mountains and plains, fourteenth to twentieth centuries;
  • Imported Haflinger horses of Austria crossbred with mountain horses, twentieth century.

Any one of the first-mentioned four qualify for the unique achievements and appearance of the far-traveling, grey-dun, pony-sized Mingo in “The Boy Who Rode to the Land of the Dead.” The fascinating tale surfaces outside Albania … only … in ... China!


One of Albania's five kinds of horses: crossbreeding of Austria's Haflinger horses with Albanian mountain horses ~

Haflinger horses display close similarities in coloring and profile.
Haflinger horses


The drought-devastated, sand-shifted, and wind-reconfigured Thar Desert makes its bio-geography felt in the culture and politico-economy of northwest India’s Rajasthan state. The region memorializes such a drought-riddled, drought-tolerant landscape with the historical name of Marwar (“the region of desert”). It offers to all northern India Marwari horses as one of the region’s most beloved, iconic, remarkable animals. The non-terrifying folktale about the royal city of Anga’s “Terror” indeed provides evidence of some of the breed’s most people-friendly, world-famous behaviors:

  • Adaptable intelligence;
  • Extreme courage;
  • Heightened senses;
  • Quick reactions;
  • Strong loyalty.

But one of the Marwari horse’s most recognizable traits remains absent from the description of the smooth-coated, wave-tossed, wise “hallowed horse” (Sherman, p. 16): curvy, inward-turning, rotating ears.


Marwari horse with characteristic inward-curving ears

village east of Jodhpur, central Rajasthan, northwestern India
village east of Jodhpur, central Rajasthan, northwestern India


Difficult terrain necessitates long- and short-distance navigation by animals of:

  • Speed;
  • Stamina;
  • Strength.

Western Asia particularly needs such horse breeds to dominate challenges in the current Islamic Republic of Iran’s geography of:

  • Basins;
  • Lowlands;
  • Mountains;
  • Plateaus.

Ancient Persia’s and modern Iran’s faunal populations offer Caspian horses. Every image and word of “The Colt Qeytas” indeed profile the intelligent, nimble, petite horse’s:

  • Delicate head;
  • Dished face;
  • Flaring nostrils;
  • High jumps;
  • Large eyes;
  • Silky mane and tail.

The folktale remains among the most enduring in Iran’s literary heritage because of:

  • Depictions on Persepolis’s carvings and King Darius’s (550? B.C. – 486 B.C.) seal;
  • Disappearance with Muslim invasions, 627 – 654;
  • Re-discovery by Louise Firouz (December 24, 1933 – May 25, 2008), 1965.


Caspian horse in playful turnout

BGD Ranch, Province of Alberta, western Canada
BGD Ranch, Province of Alberta, western Canada



Cats, dogs, and horses universally appeal to:

  • Pet-owners;
  • Wildlife-lovers.

Their life cycles and natural histories converge to inspire heart-warming experiences and stories. The artistic, literary, and publishing style of Magic Hoofbeats indeed epitomizes what is most appealing and insightful in equine and human interactions. The book’s content and the design facilitate:

  • Employment for education;
  • Enjoyment as entertainment.

The sights and the sounds from respectively relishing the artwork and savoring the storylines remain undiminished with:

  • Subsequent study academically or independently;
  • Successive readings aloud or silently.

The beautiful, beneficent, brave horses and ponies and their blessed, fortunate, human friends will find ways to enter even the busiest hearts in this “must-know, must-own” book for all peoples, places, and times.


Magic of horses in "Magic Hoofbeats": The ugly appearance of táltos horse in "The Taltos Horse" belies equine attributes, such as wisdom of Shagya Arabian, breed developed in Austro-Hungarian Empire during 19th century ~

High-carried tail of Shagya Arabian
Une jument shagya grise



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


In addition to children's stories such as "Magic Hoofbeats," Josepha Sherman wrote in other genres:

Josepha also excelled in fantasy/science fiction writing, contributing to novels spinning off television series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek.
space and time 110

Sources Consulted


Lorimer, D.L.R. (David Lockhart Robertson), and E.O. (Emily Overend) Lorimer, trans. 1919. Persian Tales. Written Down for the First Time in the Original Kermani and Bakhtiari. With Illustrations by Hilda Roberts. London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd.

  • Available via Internet Archive at:

Sherman, Josepha. 2004. Magic Hoofbeats: Horse Tales from Many Lands. Illustrated by Linda Wingerter. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books.


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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Magic Hoofbeats: Fantastic Horse Tales by Josepha Sherman

horse-themed tales

Magic Hoofbeats by Josepha Sherman ~ Paperback with CD

A must for horse lovers everywhere, the book is written by horse whisperer Josepha Sherman and illustrated in radiant hues by artist Linda Wingerter.
horse-themed tales

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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/02/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 11/19/2014

burntchestnut, Yes, horses do seem magical. I also enjoyed the Black Stallion books.
It's interesting to see, via Josepha Sherman's book, the way in which horses are viewed worldwide.

AngelaJohnson on 11/19/2014

There is something magical about a horse. I read the Black Stallion books when I was a kid back in the 1960s.

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