First, the facts about this book. It is a collection of 21 first-hand accounts of encounters with horses. The people writing them are all “horse people,” folks who have a lifetime love of horses, and most with a lifetime of experience around them as well. Each account is relatively short, very well written, and clearly very personal.
The book is divided into five chapters, with several stories in each chapter. The chapter titles are: Offering Service, Inspiring, Teaching, Healing, and Bringing Joy and Hope. Deciding which stories best fit each heading was surely a challenge. So many could have fallen under several of these headings. In fact, I didn’t particularly notice when the focus changed as I went through.
I am definitely an animal person, and I spent quite a number of years with horses as well. As I read these essays, I was frequently touched. I found that many of the stories resonated with me, some even moving me close to tears. The authors of each account clearly are speaking from their hearts.
One does not need to be a “horse person” to empathize with these stories, however. While each is a unique experience, they have a common thread - connection. If you have ever had that moment of connection with an animal, any animal, you will understand the strength and emotion of these stories.
The stories cover a wide range of situations. From Molly, the pony with a prosthetic leg who now serves as ambassador to children’s hospitals and retirement home, to Charlie, the normally fidgety horse who stood like a statue as a stranger simply hugged him, these animals affect their owners and others in remarkable ways.
The editors were careful to ask each author to be conscious of how they used equine-specific jargon in their stories. Terms such as “founder” and “casting,” which would be confusing to someone unfamiliar with horse health and behavior, were explained with ease. Also clear is the amount of personal, financial, and emotional investment necessary to properly care for these marvelous animals.
The accounts in this book also span a breadth of faiths and philosophies. One author talks about the rainbow bridge, while another contemplates the birth of Jesus after a Christmas Eve foal is born. The hard science of constructing a prosthetic leg contrasts with holistic medicine and animal communicators. There is no preaching, however. Each of these things is simply a matter-of-fact account of how different owners and caretakers deal with their horses.
At the end of each short essay, the editors add a “Meditation.” Most are only two sentences long. The first sentence provides a very short summary of the focus of the previous story, while the second is an invitation to contemplate a similar feeling or situation you may have encountered in your own life (in the form of a question). I am not entirely convinced that this works throughout the entire book, however. After the first few meditations, it seemed to me that the editors were beginning to struggle and stretch to find an appropriate meditation question to ask. All of the meditations can be summed up in one statement: consider how your life has been affected in a similar fashion.
This frustration with the meditations may have been the result of reading the book cover to cover as well. If you were to read one single chapter, then really stop to meditate on it, you wouldn’t notice the similarities as much. Of course, one could simply read the book without even glancing at the meditation suggestions, without sacrificing the impact of each story.
This is a book I highly recommend. It is a book of connections between human and animals. The stories exemplify how we interact with our animals, and what we can learn from them about ourselves. Whether you are drawn to horses specifically, or to other animals, here you will find tales that touch your heart and soul.
~review by KatSai
Editors: Allen & Linda Anderson
New World LIbrary, 2009
pp. 186, $14.95