“If you knew a horse, you could depend on him and if he was going to do something bad, you could depend on him to do that too. I always understood horses better than I did people.“
This opinion on the staightforwardness of horses is from retired US Captain Thomas Stewart. His story is in The Tao Of Horses: Exploring how horses guide us on our spiritual path by Elizabeth Kaye McCall. At the end of WWII, Capt. Stewart and Dr. Rudolph Lessing, a German army captain and veterinarian, got 200 Lipizzaner stallions and broodmares out of Czechoslovakia before it was given to Russia in the Allied division of territory.
The Lipizzaner story is in the chapter entitled ‘Peace – The unequivocal ambassador.’ This book has many such stories – individuals and breeds of horses that are particular noteworthy in the equestrian world. It’s a small book and it covers a lot of ground. Each chapter focuses on a few people and the breed of horse with which they work. You get the story of the breed, including individual horses, people and their philosophical musings on what horses and their particular branch of equestrian activity gives them mentally and physically. The author adds her own thoughts, short sections at the end of each chapter with a physical or mental exercise, travel tips and internet search suggestions.
I stay well clear of any book with ‘Tao’ in its title, too New Age self-helpish for me. But when I found a copy in a thrift store – why not? I’m very glad I bought it.
Before I read it, I did not know the singer Wayne Newton is a well-respected breeder of Arabian horses. I did not know that the drummer of the 1970s band Three Dog Night, Michael McMeel, was inspired by the movie City Slickers to set up an equestrian programme for Los Angeles “at risk” kids. The book tells the horse stories of people you have heard of and those you have not but are happy to learn about.
This book is what its title says, a look at the way of horses. It discusses them and their relationship with humans in all ways – practical, emotional and psychological. You get an easy to understand overview of breeds and equestrian arts as well as a lot to think about in terms of how horses and humans connect at the heart. You can read about the art of dressage, for example, and learn some technical points of it. You also read about a family who have spent their whole lives in pursuit of this dance between human and horse. You are moved to think about that expression of balance and fluidity in terms of your own life, with and without a horse to share it.
It is a self-help book but it doesn’t outline steps to fix your life. It gives you something better. Food for thought about yourself and your emotional interior and about creatures – human and equine – outside yourself. It also teaches you about horses and equestrian disciplines from reining to racing. A lovely book, and well worth its full price for horse- and non-horse people alike.
From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Nov. 10, 2011