Top positive review
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Understand horses, understand yourself.
on 6 October 2005
As someone whose password for amazon is one of their horse's names and date of birth, I do understand horses, or thought I did until I read this book. Reading this book has altered my view considerably on how I regard my own horses and ponies and has allowed me to acknowledge what I have really always known, that they are all individuals, that there is a key for each and everyone of them and that we have to find it or if we can't, find the human being who can find it. As with relationships, there is an ideal horse or pony for each of us, one that we understand and can respect. There is a passage where I think it is deidre talks about the effect that riders have on horses and then the faults they have are made by the riders. That if someone rides a horse on a tight rein, it becomes shorter and shorter in movement and then this is seen as the horse's problem, when really it is totally manmade. The horses themselves are not over emotionalised, I think Jane Smiley has done a good job of seeing the world through a horse's eyes and recently I acquired a 15 year old welsh mare who had spent all her life in a big grassy space and thanks to this book, I was far more aware of how she felt, more aware of how to please her and more patient with her and with myself. I think she was lucky to arrive just after I read this book and it gave me the confidence to deal with her in a calm and thoughtful manner. Too many so called horse people scream and shout and there is another passage in the book where it says that horses don't like loud or edgy people and they don't. I've seen it time and time again in my own ponies. They take a step back. The louder the people get, the less co-operation the horses have for them. Many insights like that have crystallised what I think and rather than read dozens of 'How to ride, train, do dressage with etc' or even the rash of behaviour books on the market, this book says it all. Jane is not sentimental, she acknowleges that horses, like people, have to do a job, not always comfortably, not always in the best circumstances. The horses themselves acknowledge they have to do a job.
I approached this book with extreme caution as nearly everyhting I read on horses irritates me enormously as most of it is written by people with tunnel vision and a lack of empathy. I wish I read this sooner.
As for the human characters, they too are truly sympathetically drawn. Jane does not criticise, she merely lets them behave and be themselves. Rosalind and her affair was so realistically drawn and the end of it, so unexpected, so likely and her love for her husband who at no time was let of the hook by the author, he remained himself and so did Roz, they just learnt to appreciate each other. So much more realistic than the undying love stuff of other books. Joy is exactly right for depression and again well-drawn and not romanticised, including how it hurts those round her. Deidre is a memorable character.
I learnt a lot about american racing from this book as well. But I also learnt a lot about myself.
And finally I shall be writing out the passage on if you don't take responsibility for your own actions someone else takes responsibility for you and using it with problem teenagers. It is the single most sensible and obvious statement I have heard on dysfunctional behaviour and should be written large in schools and counselling surgeries.