Monday, October 05, 2009

REVIEW: Horses with a Mission

Horses with a Mission: Extraordinary True Stories of Equine Service
by Allen and Linda Anderson
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: New World Library (September 22, 2009)

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Horses with a Mission: Extraordinary True Stories of Equine Service is a feel-good book that any animal lover can appreciate. Featuring 21 dramatic true stories of courageous, loyal, and loving horses who found their life's purpose, this book reveals the wonders possible when both humans and horses are encouraged and allowed to follow their best instincts.

While I am a dog person at heart, I found many similarities in the stories included in Horses with a Mission and several of the dog-human stories I've read in the past. This is a brilliant compilation of loving, heart-warming stories and would make a wonderful gift for any animal lover on your list this year.

You will meet several heroic equines throughout the pages, including:

Sankofa, an Arabian stallion, who made it possible for social studies teacher Miles J. Dean to complete a cross-country journey in tribute to African American ancestors. Millions of adults and schoolchildren followed their odyssey as Miles and Sankofa made history come alive.

Diana, a wild horse of the rare Gila herd, who proved to be a proud and resourceful lead mare who protected her herd and taught the great lesson of forgiveness.

Butch, a retired gelding, who showed such an unswerving belief in a profoundly mentally retarded girl that he restored a mother's hopes for her child's future.

Molly, a pony who survived Hurricane Katrina and the loss of a leg, who spreads her message of hope to disabled children. Her story went viral with coverage on the Internet, in the New York Times, and on the CBS Evening News.

Molly's story was one of my personal favorties in the book. When asked about this particular story, authors Allen and Linda Anderson said "Kaye T. Harris worked tirelessly to rescue animals with MuttShack Animal Triage Center in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. She rescued a pony named Molly who had survived the storms and having a tree fall into her stall. After Kaye brought Molly to her ranch where she raises ponies, in a freak accident, a rescued dog chewed off Molly’s leg. With her loss of a leg, surgery, and prosthetic device, Molly inspired the people of New Orleans and admirers around the world. Now Molly and Kaye visit children’s hospitals, nursing homes, and other places that invite them to spread their message of hope."

The following is an excerpt from Horses with a Mission...

Horses with a Mission
Charlie, the White Marble Statue Healer
Meaghan Martin, Hollis, Maine

In the winter, horseback riders in Maine are allowed by the town of Scarborough to trailer the horses to Pine Point Beach and ride as long as we have a current permit from the town. One year my friend Emily and I went to the beach with Charlie, my seven-year-old white-gray Standardbred gelding, and Camelias (Cam), my twenty-five-year-old Standardbred mare.

After Emily and I spent a couple of hours galloping on the sand with Charlie and Cam, jumping driftwood logs, and playing in the water, we brought the horses back to the trailer. We untacked them and decided to hand-walk them on the beach to cool off and roll in the sand, if they wanted to. I had been riding Charlie, but since Emily and I still had on our helmets, we decided to switch horses so that I could ride Cam. I handed Charlie to Emily, and she gave me a boost onto Cam’s bare back.

We stopped and spoke to people here and there, enjoying the fifteen or twenty minutes before we had to leave the beach. I noticed a woman watching our horses carefully. She was of Asian descent, with braided midnight-black hair wound beautifully around her head. I made eye contact with Emily, and she nodded. She, too, had seen the woman observing our horses.

We approached the woman and asked if she would like to meet the horses. Instead of speaking to us, she did sign language, and we realized the woman was deaf. She motioned toward her husband, who was aiming a questioning glance at us, and their two dogs. We nodded to her, and she waved her husband and dogs in our direction.

The woman was able to read lips and speak to an extent. She managed to ask Emily what Charlie’s name and age were. After silently greeting Charlie she asked Emily, “Therapy horse?” Emily replied, “No, he is just a really good boy.” The woman smiled and moved toward Cam.

Usually Cam is the horse people are drawn to, with her kind, wise mahogany brown eyes and mellow disposition. But the woman remained with Cam and me only long enough to ask Cam’s name and age. She smiled and stroked Cam’s nose for a moment but then went straight back to Emily and Charlie.

Charlie is young and goofy and has an engaging personality, but he is certainly not the type of horse to stand still for hugs and kisses. Usually he pulls away and sends a dirty look to any giver of affection. Perhaps, though, that woman needed Charlie, and he knew it. What Charlie did that day was something I have never seen him or any horse do.

When the woman went back to Charlie, she began stroking his neck before wrapping her arms around him in a loving embrace. He stood, like a white marble statue, as the woman rested her face on his neck. Instead of moving away, Charlie turned his head to look at the woman and nuzzled her gently. He wrapped his head around her entire body and stood perfectly still.

Waves crashed behind us, and gulls swooped through the air, their cries sounding over the din of pounding waves. An expression of pure peace and happiness lit the woman’s face. In that moment, the world became silent, and time stood still. Nothing else mattered. By the time she released her arms from Charlie’s neck, tears had filled her eyes. Over and over again, the woman signed “Thank you” to me. Then she, her husband, and two dogs walked away from us as silently as they had come.

I knew we were on the beach that day for a reason. Maybe it was so that this beautiful woman could meet Charlie and have a moment of connection with him. Charlie understood her in a world where she must have felt like so few could. Horses change lives. They reach out to people who may not trust humans. They heal broken spirits, they heal broken people, and they heal broken hearts.

MEDITATION
Charlie understood that the deaf woman needed his love and attention. While Meaghan watched the startling encounter unfold, she knew she was in the presence of something much greater than herself, or even of her horse. When have you been blessed with the gift of healing at a moment you least expected it?

From the book, Horses with a Mission. Copyright © 2009 by Allen and Linda Anderson. Reprinted with permission from
New World Library.

About the Authors: Allen and Linda Anderson are founders of the Angel Animals Network, inspirational speakers and bestselling authors of several books, including Angel Cats, Angel Dogs and Angel Horses. They share a home in Minneapolis with their family of animals and donate a portion of the sale of their books to animal welfare organizations. You can find out more about them at their website and you can also read my review of their book Angel Animals Book of InspirationDivine Messages of Wisdom and Compassion.


3 comments:

Channon said...

Neat! I think I'm going to buy it for Uncle to give his wife for Christmas...

Sue said...

That will be perfect for my sister-in-law. She loves horses and it's always hard to come up with something new for Christmas. Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

Amazing. Viola is my nieces horse and it's no wonder they bonded. Both are blonds. They work of each other and their future looks bright.