Black Beauty is one of those rare books that can preach without being preachy. Anna Sewell wrote this to illustrate the abuse of horses, in particulary the harsh use of the bearing rein. The bearing rein was used to get the horse’s head arched, but made it difficult for the horse to breathe and near impossible for the horse to pull a carriage uphill. When Sewell died, the hearse to carry her body used horses with bearing reins. Her mother went out and made the driver get rid of them.
Another Sewell story. On her way home, driving her own trap, she was able to tell that her horse picked up a stone simply though the reins.
Sewell was an awesome woman.
Sewell was truly a horsewoman and an educator, both of which are on display in Black Beauty. The plot deals with the abuse and mistreatment of horses; it teaches and raises awareness while it entertains. Sewell respects readers of all ages enough not to shy away from unpleasentness, though she never ever descends into shock value (and disregards more pressing questions for the adult reader wonders if Beauty is a gelding). She makes both her animal and human characters real and doesn’t over romantize the story, as has been done in some adaptions of her work.