Grand Theft Horse
Writer G. Neri has a cousin, Gail Ruffu, who’s an opinionated horse trainer working to make racing a more ethical sport. She was also the first person in 150 years to be charged with Grand Theft Horse, taking her case for rescuing an injured thoroughbred all the way to the California Supreme Court. Here he tells her story, illustrated by Corban Wilkin.
It’s a gripping tale of dedication and a real-life fight for justice. This graphic biography is all the more affecting because people just don’t act like that any more. Gail bankrupted herself, living out of her van for many years, for principle and love of an animal.
The style relies on dense pages and strong lines that capture the majesty and excitement of seeing a powerful horse run. There’s a ton of detail here, filling out what drove Gail to steal her own horse, including how she grew up. The lettering, in a handwriting style, reinforces the feeling of hearing Gail’s own story, while she’s drawn as strong and solid.
She loved horses from a young age, eventually becoming a licensed trainer. When she found Urgent Envoy, she knew he could make him into a champion, but she had to form a partnership with a lawyer in order to purchase him. The lawyer and other partners began ignoring her advice and wanted to race the horse before she thought it was ready. Once the horse was injured, Gail took it away to prevent further damage, which led to her prosecution.
There’s a legal showdown, various sneaky shenanigans, and an outright villain, making a compelling read. Gail provides an afterword with some statistics about the excesses of racing and how horses are treated. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)