Dark Horses by Cecily Von Ziegsar – Review


Author: Cecily Von Ziegesar

Publisher: Soho Teen

Publication Date: September 13, 2016

Pages: 336

Price: $11.45 CAD (Hardcover) at Indigo Books & Music Online 


Merritt Wenner has been self-destructing ever since the tragic deaths of her grandmother and her horse. After an epic all-night bender, she walks out of the SAT and disappears. Her parents, looking for a quick fix, ship her off to a residential equine-assisted therapy program.

At Good Fences, Merritt meets Red: a failed racehorse and a terror in the barn. Red has never bonded with anyone, but Merritt is not afraid of him, which makes all the difference. Soon they’re sneaking rides after curfew. Red’s owner, recognizing their potential, funds their launch into the hunter/jumper circuit.

Against the cutthroat backdrop of competitive riding, Merritt finds herself unexpectedly attracted to Red’s groom, Beatrice, and at the same time drawn to Carvin, a rival rider. But in Red’s mind, Merritt belongs to him alone. Anyone else poses a threat. And Merritt can’t imagine the lengths Red will go to keep her to himself.

First Sentence 

“I’m dying.”


Surprisingly enough, reading is not the only hobby I have. I like to bike, take pictures, cross-stitch, sleep, but most of all; ride horses. I have been an equestrian for eleven years and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. I’ve tried pretty much everything and I’ve just currently settled on eventing.

It was a random day at Chapters and I was browsing the cheapo section when I ran across Dark Horses, as someone who has read The Saddle Club and Heartland series to their completion during my elementary school days. I was really interested in a YA equestrian themed novel because it is something you NEVER see. i don’t know if maybe I’m looking in the wrong places or the usual equestrian just does not like to read, but I can’t find any books that aren’t for ten year olds on horses. It was in the sale rack on sale for five bucks and they had so many copies of that book so I knew that the book was obviously going to be crappy, but I bought it anyway because, you know, horses.

Right on the first page, I was already in awe at the writing of this book. The novel starts in the POV of Red, a horse. You’d think this would be a cool twist to your average horse crazed girl book, but no! This horse was talking like the girls at my high school, using slang and expressions and had so much attitude! Whose horse is this? Red also know the names of all the tack, judges the main character, Merritt, by the way she looks, and sings along to songs on the radio…. he even knows the artists of the songs. I’m sorry, the horse I ride is scared of fence gate, there is no way that horses think like this at all! Has the author ever been around horses or are we just winging this POV?

Good Fences, the equestrian therapy facility is a cool touch to the story and that is actually the meeting point of Merritt and Red. Although Merritt goes to Good Fences because she’s having a rough time in her life, as soon as she is seen jumping on Red at Good Fences, she’s taken off to like Florida to train to compete… I’m sorry, how does this make sense? If Merritt is in a therapeutic facility, I think it’s for a reason, and I don’t think you can just snatch someone who is having mental health and behavioural issues out of their program just because show season is about to start!

There are also so many parts of this story that they try to make important that really just aren’t, yet Red literally kills a stable hand half way through the book and thats like “not that big of a deal.” There was also a bit of homophobia if you ask me, because Carvin, Merritt’s rival during the shows, seems to show no interest in girls and Merritt talk all the time about how she thinks he’s gay, and how she can’t ask him out because he’s gay. Like how about you stop making assumptions and ask him! Geez!

This novel was much more mature than the other middle grade horse books I’ve read when I was nine, but it was quite cringy nonetheless and not all that fun to read. Also, the ending was absolute trash. I hated that ending, there was no closure and it sorta made it seems like the whole story did not matter and that I just wasted my whole time reading this story.

Final Review/Recommendation 


Was a pretty rough novel. I don’t need to be a horse whisperer to know that no horse acts and thinks the way Red does. Good Fences just seemed like a means to an end, rather than an actual facility for Merritt to get better, the ending was ridiculous and I’d honestly much prefer if Carvin was never introduced because his character does absolutely nothing except make Merritt question if he’s gay every time she sees him. I would give the book one star, but I’m adding another one just because the author tried, I never see any equestrian YA books so she did a leap with this one. Even though her leap, in my personal opinion, sucked, at least I got to revive my nine year old self by reading a horsie book.

I have no idea who I’d recommend this book to… at first I thought a fellow equestrian, but the amount of times I’ve cringed at the inaccuracy was physically painful. Read this if you want to I guess… but I’m telling you now, I was able to buy this hardcover book brand-new for five bucks at Chapters for a reason.