Horse books

Horses I Have Known, by Doris Kay HalsteadHorses I Have Known - Review

Horses I have Known by Doris Kay Halstead is appropriately described as a book about the application of physical therapy techniques to improve the comfort of both horses and riders.  Skeptical?  Admittedly, I was, too, that is until I read the intriguing twenty-six stories that did away with such skepticism and also convinced me that horses could teach humans many lessons about life in regard to communication and love. Being an animal lover (my own two dogs are at my feet as I write this review), I hoped that I would like this book; however, this reading experience went beyond the simple enjoyment of the stories and illustrations.  I found myself wishing that I owned a horse.  Yes, yours truly, a grandmother who has never ridden a horse or pony, except at the fair grounds, suddenly wished that I had enjoyed the companionship of any one of the animals that Ms. Halstead so skillfully depicts in this book. Let me tell you briefly about three of them. 

Nana Carver was the first horse owned by the author; the animal was 17 and pregnant when they brought her home.  In order to feed Nana extra protein while pregnant, her new owners, at the suggestions of friends, tried feeding her calf manna.  Though the pellets of the manna were the same size as the pellets in her regular feed, she ate around them, separating the pellets that had been mixed thoroughly together.  When finished eating, the calf manna remained.  The pellets of the manna were a different color than those of the regular feed, so it was easy to determine that Nana had her preferences.  She didn’t like the manna. 

Betsy’s Rocket (BR) was a gangly looking, seven-year-old horse when the author first got him.  Both she and her son discovered that he was multitalented; he could go Western for her son, English style for her and jump a reasonable course for both of them.  He was playful and delightful, and very good with children.  He carried many of them to a ribbon in nearly 50 small open and 4-H horse shows.  Evidence of the care he gave to others was revealed in the case of a young lady with a severe head injury that resulted in paralysis.  When she was able to stand and get into a wheelchair, she was discharged from rehab where the author worked as a physical therapist.  The patient went to her therapist’s farm where she, with some assistance, mounted BR who then walked very patiently, recognizing that he needed to be extra gentle with his cargo.  Eventually the young lady, became more balanced, stronger and in control of her movements.  The horse listened to her, and she listened to him.   

Blue was a key school horse because he did not object to different people handling and riding him.  This friendly and cooperative horse helped JW—who had been living at a detention home—realize his full potential.  It soon became evident that JW did not belong in classes for the disabled.  When JW came to the farm to live with Ms. Halstead, Blue literally became instrumental in the making of a whole human being.  JW studied faithfully, learning the patterns for jumping and did 4-H projects that required planning and public speaking in behalf of Blue. His confidence grew and his grade point average improved to just below the honor roll.  This is an example of the miraculous power of love and communication. 

These are only tidbits taken from the 101 pages of the twenty-six life-giving stories; it is impossible to describe all the emotions, experiences, and memories, conveyed within the pages. The appreciation that the author has for her four-legged friends is obvious…an appreciation that you, the reader, will share as you learn, by example, how to listen with your eyes, ears, hands and intuition.  The author is a physical therapist, licensed to practice in seven states of the US.  Around twenty years ago, she began applying these skills to help horses by retraining them to normal movement.  She learned to listen with all her senses to what the horses told her so she could effectively diagnose a problem and solve it whenever possible.  She quotes one of her favorite and successful trainers as saying, “Set it up so the horse cannot fail and then reward him for succeeding.”  When you think about it, parents might take heed of such advice.  But it all begins with listening.  

The stories and information in this book include the horses on Ms. Halstead’s farm as well as her work with 4-H groups and a handicapped riders’ program.  There are also the horses she was asked to evaluate from the physical therapy point of view.  Who better to tell her what was wrong than the animals in her care?   

When we humans visit our physicians, many of us feel that the doctors don’t understand what we are trying to say.   Perhaps such physicians could take heart from the lessons illustrated so beautifully in this book.  Perhaps they need to listen with all their senses!  I recommend this book, without reservation, to those people who are involved with horses and those who are involved with life.   

Bettie Corbin Tucker
For IP Book Reviewers 


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Horses I Have Known
by Doris Kay Halstead
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