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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

Book of the Week: The Perfect Horse

In the chaotic last days of the war, a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers capture a German spy and makes an astonishing find—his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world’s finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine—an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food. With only hours to spare, one of the U.S. Army’s last great cavalrymen, Colonel Hank Reed, makes a bold decision—with General George Patton’s blessing—to mount a covert rescue operation. Racing against time, Reed’s small but determined force of soldiers, aided by several turncoat Germans, steals across enemy lines in a last-ditch effort to save the horses. Pulling together this multi-stranded story, Elizabeth Letts introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters: Alois Podhajsky, director of the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a former Olympic medalist who is forced to flee the bomb-ravaged Austrian capital with his entire stable in tow; Gustav Rau, Hitler’s imperious chief of horse breeding, a proponent of eugenics who dreams of genetically engineering the perfect warhorse for Germany; and Tom Stewart, a senator’s son who makes a daring moonlight ride on a white stallion to secure the farm’s surrender. A compelling account for animal lovers and World War II buffs alike, The Perfect Horse tells for the first time the full story of these events. Elizabeth Letts’s exhilarating tale of behind-enemy-lines adventure, courage, and sacrifice brings to life one of the most inspiring chapters in the annals of human valor.

There is quite possibly only one place where not only can a person see wild horses on the beach, one can share a home with them. The Northern Outer Banks of North Carolina contain a majestic wild horse herd that lives on a barrier island sandwiched between the Currituck Sound, the Atlantic Ocean, and undeveloped False Cape State Park, Virginia. Literally at the end of the road, North Carolina highway 12 becomes the beach, embarking on a thirteen-mile journey of sand roads, houses, and wild horses. The author spent five months living inside the horse preserve, intent on photographing the horses in their natural state, sharing them for all to enjoy. Containing 103 images, the book captures these magnificent creatures being themselves alongside the Atlantic Ocean, stirring the wild horse in all of us.

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