Mary Gaitskill’s contemporary novel The Mare features a special bond between Velvet Vargus, an inner-city Brooklyn girl, and an abused mare. Through the Fresh Air program, Velvet spent two weeks during the summer when she was 11 years old with Ginger and Paul Roberts. During her first visit, she was introduced to horseback riding, a skill at which she excelled. She continued to visit the Roberts and ride through the course over the next three years. Velvet’s story weaves through her life at home where she was abused by her mother and her life with Ginger where Ginger had an almost fanatical love for Velvet as she tried to make her own life have meaning. Themes in the novel include the negative power of abuse, the healing power of love, and the therapeutic value of horseback riding.