Feb 17, 2014

Conversations with a Prince

A Year of Riding at East Hill Farm
by Helen Husher

Wonderful book. Found it at a book sale, not sure when/where. It's about horses, the intimate and subtle communication that can happen between the animal and its rider. In ways I never will understand or experience, but am fascinated to read about. You know when you watch dressage (I have on very few occasions) and it looks like the rider is doing nothing but the horse moves purposefully and gracefully through a series of complicated steps, as if it were reading someone's thoughts? Husher explains how they get there, by describing her own journey learning to ride horses again as an adult, not just sitting on them and directing them down a trail or in circles around a practice ring, but really riding. All the struggles and frustrations, the pitfalls and setbacks, the bad days and panicked or crazed horses. The ones that have bad habits she finds ways to work around or modify, the ones that are finely trained and make her feel dull and inept. Her mistakes and those of the animals as well, and how slowly she learned to communicate with them and turn riding into an act that they did together, not order and comply, push and pull, but unity.

I am probably not describing this very well, but then I don't know if I understood it well, having never ridden a horse like that myself. But I was enthralled by her descriptions, not only of the horse behavior and what it felt like to be working with them, but also how she figured out what they might be thinking, what got the message across, what gave her insights into why they act or do certain things. Horses can be complicated creatures, and remarkably straightforward at the same time. Husher's language is honest and intricate, and I love the way she thinks and outlines things. She tells stories of her own experiences with a handful of different horses, and also refers to some works of literature about horses, what they tell us about our connection as well. Even while pointing out the books' flaws and inaccuracies, she lauded their precision in communicating certain aspects of the horse/human relationship, which is probably why those stories have lasted so long. In particular two that I myself have and love- Black Beauty and National Velvet. The way Husher talks about those books makes me want to read them again, right now.

And read whatever else this author has written, that I can find. Whether it's about horses or something else entirely.

Rating: 4/5    182 pages, 2005

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