If you have a horse lover in your life, get them this book for Christmas.
When I was 12, I went to horse camp in Lac La Hache, BC. Growing up in urban Vancouver, I didn’t know the first thing about horses or the people who devoted their lives to them. Walking through the barn in the cowboy boots my mom had bought me from Sears, a grizzled cowboy looked up and told me I have one leg that’s longer than the other. It’s true, but the difference is minimal. He had noticed by the sounds my boots made on the floorboards. We didn’t dwell on it — he mentioned it in just a few words — but it was the beginning of my respect for cowboys and their less-is-more way of detailed observation.
A cowboy in Horses Don’t Lie, who is simply called ‘the Old Man,’ brought that memory back. He rarely speaks, but when he does, it is honed wisdom, there for the taking. Author Mark Rashid chose to take it, and build on it, with a theory of passive leadership, developed from a life lived around horses.
Rashid’s quiet, thoughtful prose is an example of passive leadership in itself. In conversational, homey style, he explains how a happy horse will try its hardest to work for you. He believes in watching for a horse’s tries, versus forcing the issue in alpha leader style.
Now that I’ve owned horses for three years, I know enough to know that I still have a lot to learn. This winter, my ponies Gabby and Simon are on vacation, out in the pasture with their friends at the Calgary Polo Club. We’ve been having an unusually warm fall, so I’ve gone out every few weeks for a casual ride. When you enter a pasture of thirty shaggy, fat horses who are all too happy to be on holiday, it’s a huge compliment when your horses mosey over to say hello.
It makes me hope I’m doing something right! But still, I found Horses Don’t Lie is not only full of ideas how to do things better with horses, it suggests how to observe things better, before the doing. In that cowboy way.