Break In by Cheryl Lowry
When I was a young girl, it was a common stereotype for a twelve year old girl to have a passion for horses, even if the closest she ever came to them was a well-worn stack of novels.¬†¬†¬† I could easily describe a slew of these books, remembering the dog-eared pages and the easy Sunday afternoons that would pass while curled up with an old favorite.¬†¬† But it was a mystery novel by Dick Francis, called Break In, which kindled my personal passion for horse racing and the race courses of England.¬† To me, a pre-teen in a small town in the U.S., England itself was as far away as the moon.¬†¬† But one day browsing through the small town library, I saw the logo of a jockey on a horse on the cover of a book on display.¬†¬† It quickly joined my weekly stack of check-outs, based only on that graphic outline of a horse.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Mr. Francis‚Äô plot is fairly simple, but the first person narrative and the English race course setting, soon swept me into the race world of Kit Fielding, as he bends over the powerful shoulders of the delicate thoroughbreds racing to the finish line, while on the side, he solves the mystery of who was wrecking the life of his twin sister and her Montague husband.¬† Of course, Kit, the stoic hero, saves the day and gets the girl.
Until then, the stories of horses that I had read had revolved around Western ranches or wild Arabian ponies.¬†¬† They were romantic scenes, but I recognized them for the unachievable fantasies that they were.¬†¬† But with Break In, I was taught the real agony of the jockeys as they tried to keep down their weight in order to meet the race allowances.¬† I understood the process of ‚Äúweighing in‚ÄĚ with my saddle in hand and wearing the silk uniforms in the owner‚Äôs colors.¬†¬† Even though he was the male character of the story, it was Kit‚Äôs stoic strength, loyalty, and mental connection to the speeding thoroughbreds, which I, a young girl, hoped to embody.¬†
While writing an entertaining adventure of evil entrepreneurs and rascal newspapermen, Mr. Francis also introduced me to his world of racing and horses.¬†¬† As I watch the Derby on television, or when I eventually made it to Kentucky to watch races in person, I never again look at the horses or their jockeys in the same way.¬†¬† Without having ever touched a racehorse, I intimately recognize the sweat, the toil, and the passion with each race.¬† Thank you, Mr. Francis, for this and the other books set in what is now ‚Äúour world‚ÄĚ.¬†