It wasn't a good time for a horse to be born into the Victorian Age. Anna Sewell (1820-1878) surely thought so too. In Black Beauty she lets a beautiful and well-tempered horse tell his story. Black Beauty is a grateful horse most of the time, happy about a good stable, good food and fair treatment, and very willing to work. But he also criticizes the things that went wrong during that time. Humans had flaws and the general view on animals was that they were beasts without a soul. But Sewell thought to change the cruel misuse of horses in a time when carriages still were used to get around a already very busy London but weren't treated as sentient beings.
Black Beauty has a very intense way of telling his readers about the right and the wrong ways to treat a horse while also touching a number of other problems in society of the time. I wasn't surprised to read that it became a bestseller in 1878, influencing the ways people thought about horses and even achieving some changes in the way carriage horses were bridled.
The author didn't really intend it to be a children's book but rather thought it as a guide for people working with horses. Unfortunately, she died from a long illness shortly after her book was finished so she couldn't see the impact her book had.
The Sterling Classic edition has very nice illustrations by Scott McKowen but I also listened to parts of the book with the librivox recording (by Cori Samuel) which was very good.
Anna Sewell, Black Beauty. Sterling, London 2004.