The Hearts of Horses

The Hearts of Horses

Book - 2007
Average Rating:
Rate this:
This breakout novel from the author of The Jump-Off Creek tells the heartwarming story of a determined young woman with a gift for "gentling" wild horses.

In the winter of 1917, a big-boned young woman shows up at George Bliss's doorstep. She's looking for a job breaking horses, and he hires her on. Many of his regular hands are off fighting the war, and he glimpses, beneath her showy rodeo garb, a shy but strong-willed girl with a serious knowledge of horses.

So begins the irresistible tale of nineteen-year-old Martha Lessen, a female horse whisperer trying to make a go of it in a man's world. It was thought that the only way to break a horse was to buck the wild out of it, and broken ribs and tough falls just went with the job. But over several long, hard winter months, many of the townsfolk in this remote county of eastern Oregon witness Martha's way of talking in low, sweet tones to horses believed beyond repair--and getting miraculous, almost immediate results--and she thereby earns a place of respect in the community.

Along the way, Martha helps a family save their horses when their wagon slides into a ravine. She gentles a horse for a dying man--a last gift to his young son. She clashes with a hired hand who is abusing horses in unspeakable ways. Soon, despite her best efforts to remain aloof and detached, she comes to feel enveloped by a sense of community and family that she's never had before.

With the elegant sweetness of Plainsong and a pitch-perfect sense of western life reminiscent of Annie Dillard, The Hearts of Horses is a remarkable story about how people and animals make connections and touch each other's lives in the most unexpected and profound ways.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 2007.
ISBN: 9780618799909
Characteristics: 289 p. ;,22 cm.


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Feb 11, 2018

I read this book in one sitting. I absolutely could not put it down. The writing is so clean and spare, but vivid. You can put yourself into the Western life of 1914. It was so vivid that it was almost like watching a movie for me. Highly recommend!

Mar 14, 2016

Quick and easy read, good western!

Dec 28, 2015

A slow, rambling, county-western tale. Not as much of a horse story as I would have liked. More about daily life in a small Oregon town during WWI. It dragged a little for me but I liked the characters enough to make it to the end.

Nov 27, 2014

Well written story that slowly develops a wide range of characters, as well as doing an excellent job of incorporating the "gentle" ways of horse training. She clearly has done her research here and I look forward to reading her next book.

kelsietrunnell Feb 21, 2012

A very, very good book. I love the way it's written and you become very attached to the main character, Martha.

Jul 14, 2011

This book was a surprise, picked up by chance, and it is turning out to be a really excellent read. The characters are believable and the dialogue and descriptions are also realistic and well-written. Doesn't matter if you're a horse-person or not, this is an excellent book. Without being simplistic (good versus evil) or moralizing and without being all sappy or romantic, this is a story of a young woman who loves animals and breaks horses for ranchers. It takes place in the time of WW1 and the author simply tells a great story.

Jul 08, 2011

At first I didn't think this was much of a story however, I came to really like the characters especially Martha. It's lovely how the animals and the humans find ways to connect to each other.

Jul 04, 2011

loved it

Jun 28, 2010

Set in eastern Oregon in 1917, it tells the story of 19-year-old Martha Lessen who pictures herself a cowgirl?horse girl really?who will strike out on her own and break horses in an unconventional way for the times. We find ourselves in a small community with Martha breaking a circle of horses and getting to know the families associated with them in the year the US enters WWI.

Fairly balanced between history and romance, Gloss's goals for her writing are a bit transparent from her depiction of strong women to one farmer's death from cancer. But, aside from that a nice little novel for a summer day. Of course, I thought of Patches, the pinto pony in my life, and the good horsemen I knew growing up?Dad, neighbor Harry and, most of all Uncle Fred who not only trained at Fort Riley, Ks, but worked with horses in the army during WWI in France.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at Library

To Top