Whilst I really loved Ren Hurst’s book Riding On The Power Of Others, in my last book review. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about this book, Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal by Tim Hayes.
And that surprised me. The book is very professionally presented with a great cover, a foreword by Robert Redford, and a publisher known for their high standards (St. Martin’s Press). But honestly, by page 70 I was still wondering: Who is the intended reader of this book?
The bulk of the content in Riding Home is devoted to beginner-level explanations of natural horsemanship, equine-assisted therapy, and mainstream psychology. And you don’t just get those explanations once, no, you get them repeatedly, throughout the book – related in a dry, factual manner.
And may I take a time-out here for a brief rant about equine-centered books in general? Personally, I am getting SO sick of every author who writes a horse book, going through the same spiel about traditional vs. natural horsemanship. Followed by the same stock explanation of what natural horsemanship is. Gah!! And yes, I know that although the purchaser of said book is no doubt someone who already owns a horse, just in case there might be a total newbie in the readership, we should present an overview. But you know what? One or two paragraphs would do the job sufficiently. Unless you’re going to say something new or interesting about natural horsemanship, why write the same few pages over and over again and think that will serve your reader?
Okay, rant over, back to the book review…
I kept running through a list of potential readers I could gift this book to – looking for WHO might be the intended reader for this book, who would actually enjoy the book… and I couldn’t come up with anyone.
If I gave it to someone who knew nothing about horses, they likely wouldn’t make it past the first chapter or two – due to the dry, textbook-like presentation of equine information. Then I imagined giving it to a friend of mine who is a psychologist – but no, the psychology info in the book is likewise beginner-level stuff and I doubt she would wade through that to get to the good bits.
And yes, there are some good bits! The good parts of this book are the STORIES. Hayes tells stories here and there of equine therapy clients who were not helped by other modalities; but received significant shift and healing via equine-assisted therapy.
Unfortunately, most of the stories are also told in a fairly dry, factual manner – not a lot of in-depth exploration of characters or situations, and lacking a discussion of the layered contradictions that are usually present in healing journeys. In fact, there is only one client story (Sergeant Francis Kirkson – suffering PTSD from an 8-month stint in Iraq) that stands out – where he gave me enough of her holistic story that I was left thinking about it afterwards.
Basically, if you like a more formal, stiff writing style, with easy-to-understand, one-dimensional representations of trauma/woundings and the downstream healing process, and you know very little about the therapeutic process, psychology, horses and natural horsemanship, then this is the book for you.
Having written my review, I then headed over to Amazon to see what other readers thought about this book…
Much to my surprise, Riding Home has a 4.8/5 stars rating by 57 readers! As I read through them, it seems that the newbie market for equine content is indeed growing and perhaps this book is well-positioned after after all, as evidenced in this review from Amy C.:
“I absolutely loved the book, Riding Home: The Power of Horses to Heal. I only picked it up because of my daughter’s love of horses. I honestly did not expect much of the book. To my surprise, I was hooked from the beginning. I learned so much about horses, that I contacted the local horse rescue to start volunteering there with my daughter. Highly recommended. 5 plus stars.”
A number of the other positive reviews came from people already working in, or utilizing equine-assisted therapy, who were thankful to have an easy-to-understand explanation of this process to pass onto others.
So what I experienced as boring, simplistic and one-dimensional, they are enjoying as easy-to-understand! So there you go, different blokes for different folks.
Personally, I think Linda Kohanov’s Tao of Equus does a fantastic job of explaining the equine therapeutic process. And the easy-to-understand, yet still powerful and engaging, version that I would pass onto anyone is Wyatt Webb’s It’s Not About The Horse.
Jini’s Rating: 2/5 stars