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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Jonathan Hale Foreman, DVM, MS (University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine)
Description: This manual on natural horsemanship represents an interesting mixture of the American Monty Roberts' school of natural horsemanship with the decades-long experience of the British author, perhaps the preeminent equine physical therapist in the world. The 25 chapters are organized into sections covering conventional natural horsemanship including feeds, therapies (the author's specialty), anatomy, exercise, training, and progressive loading.
Purpose: The author's purpose is "to give the reader...an overview of the horse with emphasis directed towards recreating an approach which is as natural for the horse as is possible in the twenty-first century." This admirable objective is attained effectively by the author, although some sections are much better and more detailed than others.
Audience: The book is directed at the typical twenty-first century horse owner and rider, not the scientist or researcher. This modern owner is often of the suburban variety; rarer now is the owner who was raised "on the farm with horses in the countryside." The author reminds these potentially-naive readers that "ownership of a horse requires the knowledge and the appreciation of the indisputable fact that centuries of domestication have not changed the natural instincts of the animal. The horse does not have a brain like man, see like man, or learn like man...."
Features: At various points, the book discusses the concepts and sometimes the details of natural horsemanship. The most detailed and least scientific portions deal with old (folklore) and newer (homeopathic) dietary manipulations intended to maximize horse health. The author is at her best when emphasizing what she has for decades clearly known best — the anatomy and physiotherapy combined with the concepts of natural movement championed by several other authors including the recently-deceased Sally Sexton. The 29-page chapter on massage therapy alone is worth the modest purchase price.
Assessment: This excellent book combines the concepts of natural horsemanship with the author's documented expertise in equine physical therapy. The anatomical drawings illustrate brilliantly the underlying skeletal, ligamentous, and muscular movements required for lateral or dorsal-ventral motions in typical riding or dressage movements. The section on progressive muscle loading provides a common-sense approach to training the new horse for the first time or the horse returning to work after a layoff for rest or injury. This section should be mandatory reading for anyone needing advice on how to rehabilitate a horse slowly, carefully, and progressively "in the natural way."