Historical Novel Reveals Enriching Bond Between Humans and Horses

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She Who Rides Horses by Sarah V. Barnes

What’s it About?

The story of Naya, the brave yet tenderhearted girl who was the first person to ride a horse.

If you’ve ever had the privilege of looking a horse in the eye, you may have noticed a shimmer of recognition. Eyes are the windows to the soul after all.

Horses and humans have a long history together, from work and war to sports and recreation, from the days before combustible engines to the modern equine-assisted therapies. Yet the details of their domestication — the when, where, why and how — remain shrouded in mystery.

In her debut novel, She Who Rides Horses (Lilith House Press), historian and equestrian Sarah V. Barnes takes readers into the distant past (over 6,000 years ago) to witness the first person to ride a horse. Through the brave yet tender heart of young Naya, Barnes reveals how the bond between human and horse is a spiritual one, similar to how we bond with other people.

Wild Horse, Untamable Girl

Set in the ancient Pontic-Caspian steppe, the story follows Naya, the adolescent daughter of her clan’s chief. Naya is an unusual girl — not just because of her fiery red hair, but because of her bold nature. Girls in her tribe are not meant to be so hardheaded and independent, and so Naya spends most her time alone wandering the steppe. But she soon discovers another fiery spirit: a young filly with a coat the same chestnut as her own wild locks.

As the clan embarks on their annual winter trek toward less hostile lands, Naya begins the painstakingly slow process of befriending the filly and her small herd. A special bond between girl and horse begins to bloom until the arrow of fate intervenes — literally. Standing unnoticed amongst the herd, Naya is struck down by a young stranger’s arrow.

Left too wounded to travel with the rest of the clan, Naya and her mother stay behind with the young stranger and his father. Together, the four must survive a harsh winter as Naya regains her strength. But among all their hardships, relationships blossom — between human and horse, and between boy and girl.

In the end, will Naya be reunited with her clan? Will she be able to ride the filly and prove to her clan that horses are more valuable than their meat? The answers will shock you — and leave you begging for more.

History with Heart

Within She Who Rides Horses, Barnes creates a vivid world of the ancient steppe and the cultures that dwelled there. Her knowledge as a historian shines through in the amount of details she intertwines with the story, but not once do these details bog down the narrative. While heavily inspired by loads of historical research — which is detailed in extra pages at the end of the book — the heart of the story is tied to the fictional characters and their intricate personalities and relationships.

While Naya’s voice drives a majority of the story, the readers also get to see through the eyes of her mother, Sata, and the two strangers, Aytal and Oyuun. These additional perspectives round out the story, allowing readers to understand the intricacies of their relationships.

And I, for one, loved how these relationships unfolded! The budding romance between 14-year-old Naya and 16-year-old Aytal was so cute and full of teenage shyness and curiosity. You’ll also be shocked to discover other relationships developing within the story — but I won’t spoil anything!

She Who Rides Horses brings heart and emotion to the forefront, and leaves you satisfied yet hungry for more. Within its pages, Barnes explores the spiritual relationship between humans and horses, leaving readers to wonder at the true beauty of this bond.


About Sarah V. Barnes:

Sarah V. Barnes is both an historian and a horsewoman. When she is not writing stories, she practices and teaches riding as a meditative art. She also offers equine-facilitated coaching and wellness workshops. Sarah holds a Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University and spent many years as a college professor before turning full-time to riding and writing. She as two grown daughters and lives with her husband, dogs and horses near Boulder, CO.

She Who Rides Horses by Sarah V. Barnes

Publish Date: 3/28/2022

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Author: Sarah V. Barnes

Page Count: 275 pages

Publisher: Lilith House Press

ISBN: 9781736967331

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