A horse lover has released a modern take on Black Beauty in a bid to improve equine welfare and encourage equestrians to reflect on the way they treat their horses.

The young adult novel Life of Malé is written by rider and horse owner Sabrina Ballentine. It tells the story of thoroughbred Malé, following him from the start of his life on a racing yard in Oxfordshire, to the height of his career as a prized showjumper alongside his best friend Joe. It touches on themes of welfare and rehabilitation, telling the story from the horses’ point of view.

Author Sabrina has two appaloosas, Dave and Grace, and has ridden since she was nine. She told Your Horse she has always been a fan of Black Beauty and has fond memories of watching it on television as a child.

“It was shown on a Sunday afternoon and I would go round to my neighbour’s to watch, as they were the only ones who had a colour TV,” she said.

Sabrina was taught horsemanship at her local riding school, which installed her values for keeping equines.

“There were 30 horses all kept naturally, never clipped and never rugged,” she said. “I learn’t the basics from the horse’s point of view. We weren’t allowed whips or spurs, only a plain snaffle.”

Although this is her first published novel, business analyst Sabrina is used to writing, as she creates radio sketches for radio, which she said helped her with the discipline of working to a deadline.

She described Life of Malé as a “passion project”, which she hopes will appeal to a variety of readers, and not necessarily those from a horsey background. She believes non-equestrians can be more open to less traditional methods of horsemanship, like keeping them barefoot, which is championed in her novel.

She said at times the book is moving, and she hopes it will encourage people to think about things from the horses point of view, and in doing so improve conditions for equines in the future.

Life of Malé is published by Clink Street Publishing and is available to buy online from retailers including Amazon, and can be ordered from all good bookstores.

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