I read quite a bit of fiction in several genres--romance, mystery, fantasy, historical drama--and in each of these are quite a few books and stories in which horses play a significant role. Not the hero or heroine, usually, but horses figure prominently. When I do book signings or speaking events, I'll sometimes suggest a particular book as an example of good writing which happens to include horses. I'm always a little surprised to hear from at least one reader, "Oh, I don't like horse stories."
I'm intrigued, truly. I don't hear that same comment about any other animal--cats, dogs, rabbits, or cows, for instance--but a good number of people have told me that if it's a "horse story", they won't read it. When I started thinking about this, I realized that I had never followed up on the comment properly. I'm not sure what the phrase "horse story" actually describes. Nora Roberts' first book Irish Thoroughbred is a story about a young woman living on a horse farm. Some of us here at the Avalon blog write Westerns. Lots of horses there. Historical romance always features a horse or two, especially if the hero has a favorite. Dick Francis writes mysteries associated with British steeplechasing, but his heroes are the stars. Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart is a favorite romantic suspense of some of our writers here.
So I have two questions today for all you readers out there. In the context I've described, what is a "horse story"? Second, why don't readers like them?