The Soul of a Horse: Life Lessons from the Herd

The Soul of a Horse: Life Lessons from the Herd


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The Soul of a Horse: Life Lessons from the Herd by Joe Camp

Look into the heart and soul of a horse.

A surprise birthday gift plunged Joe and his wife, Kathleen, into the world of horses as complete neophytes without a clue as to what a horse needed or wanted. They searched for logic and sense in the rule books of traditional horse care. What they found was not what they had expected.

Written for everyone who has ever loved a horse or ever loved the idea of loving a horse, this memoir leads us on a voyage of discovery as Joe and Kathleen navigate uncharted territory on their way to achieving a true relationship with their horses. Joe Camp’s inspiring book unlocks the mystery of a majestic creature who has survived on earth, without assistance, for fifty-five million years and teaches us that the lessons he learned apply not only to horses but also to our relationships with people.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307406866
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 04/28/2009
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 153,585
Product dimensions: 7.94(w) x 5.20(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

JOE CAMP is the writer, producer, and director of all the celebrated Benji movies and programs and the creator of the canine superstar.

Read an Excerpt




My name is Cash. I am horse.

I have been on this planet for some fifty-five million years. Well, not me personally. My ancestors. It all began in North America, somewhere near what is now called Utah. We hung out and evolved for forty-three million years, then we began to migrate, to South America, and across the Alaskan bridge to Asia, Europe, and Africa. And, eventually, some twelve million years after we left, we were brought back home by the Spanish conquistadors.

We’ve been through it all. Ice Ages. Volcanic periods. Meteor strikes. Dinosaurs. You name it. And we survived.

We’ve only been carrying man around for, oh, the last three to four thousand years. We’ve helped him farm, hunt, travel, and fight his enemies. We were helping man shape world history, winning wars for him, as far back as 1345 bc. We protected kings’ dominions in medieval times, carried knights into the Crusades, fought on European battlefields all the way into the early 1900s, and helped conquer and settle the American West.

Throughout these millions of years, many of us have always remained wild and free. Even today, our herds roam free in Australia, New Zealand, Mongolia, France, Africa, the Greek Island of Cephalonia, Abaco in the Bahamas, Sable Island in Nova Scotia, the Canadian West, several states of the American West, Virginia, and North Carolina.

And, until recently, we’ve done it all pretty much naked and in good relationship with man. But over the past several hundred years things began to change. These changes are actually inexplicable, given that our genetics and history are widely known. You see, we are not cave dwellers. We don’t like dark cozy rooms, clothing, iron shoes, heat, or air-conditioning.

Humans seem to like all that. And because they do, they presume we should like it too. But we’re movers and shakers. In the wild we’ll move ten to twenty miles a day, keeping our hooves flexing and circulating blood, feeding our tiny little stomachs a little at a time, and keeping our own thermoregulatory systems in good working order.

Think about it. Our survival through all those millions of years has built a pretty darned determined genetic system. And an excellent formula for survival. We are what you humans call prey animals, flight animals. We are not predators, like you. We have survived because we freak out at every little thing, race off and don’t look back. We are also herd animals. Not just because it’s fun to be around our pals, but because there is safety in numbers. And being prey animals, we consider safety just about the most important thing. But our idea of safety is not the same as yours. Our genetic history does not understand being all alone in a twelve-by-twelve stall. Even if it’s lined in velvet, in a heated barn, it’s away from the herd and by no stretch of the emotion or imagination is that a safe haven! Stress is all we get from such an experience.

Stress. Big-time!

Have you ever seen one of us, locked in a stall, pacing . . . pawing . . . swaying . . . gnawing? That horse is saying, Let me outta here!! I need to move! I need to circulate some blood!

And about these metal shoes nailed to our feet. Have you ever seen a horse in the wild with metal shoes? I don’t think so. There is nothing more important to a prey animal than good feet. And ours have helped us survive for millions and millions of years. Rock-crushing hard and healthy.

But once upon a time, back in medieval days, some king decided he would be safer if he built his castle and fortress up on top of a high hill or mountaintop. He still needed us to fight his wars, and move things and people around, but up there on top of the hill, there were no pastures like down in the valley. So he put us in small holding pens where we had to stand around all day, in our own pee and poop, and guess what happened to our feet. It wasn’t the moisture so much as the ammonia. Ate our feet up! So when they’d take us out onto those hard stone roads . . . well, you can imagine.

The king’s blacksmith came up with the idea of nailing metal shoes onto our hooves, to keep them from disintegrating when pounding the stony roads. There was a much simpler, healthier solution, but, unfortunately, it escaped the king and his blacksmith. So all the king’s men and all the king’s horses went down the hill . . . and all the king’s peasants, living in the valley, where their horses were out in the field, happy as clams with strong and healthy hooves, saw these shiny, newfangled pieces of metal on the king’s horses, and what did they say? Surely the king knows best! We must have some of those shiny metal things for our own horses!

And so it went for generations.

You humans are funny that way. And you say we follow the herd.

Joe and I have had long discussions about all this and he seems to be getting it. So I can shamelessly recommend what follows. Joe has spent much of his life trying to lure you into the heart and soul of a dog, and now he’s trying to lure you into the heart and soul of a horse. For it is there that he first began to comprehend the vast differences between us and you, and the kind of thinking that can bridge that gap and bind us together in relationship. My herd mates and I have taught him well. And, believe it or not, the philosophy behind everything he has learned doesn’t apply to just horses but to how you humans approach life as well. So whether or not you have a relationship with a horse, I think you’ll find this journey of discovery fascinating. I did.

And I already knew the story.


The Herd

The wind was blowing out of the east, which made the beast uneasy. It wasn’t normal. And anything that wasn’t normal made him uneasy. A stray sound. A flutter of a branch. The wind coming from the east.

But there was a scent on this wind. A familiar scent. One embedded in the big stallion’s being for millions of years. He spun on his heels and sure enough, there it was, easily within sight, apparently not realizing the wind had shifted. The stallion screamed to the matriarch, who wheeled in flight.

Like one, the herd followed, racing away at lightning speed, the great stallion bringing up the rear. They ran without looking back for just over a quarter of a mile before the leader slowed and turned.

The predator, a small female cougar, had tired. She had been betrayed by the east wind. The horses had gotten away early, and now she was turning back.

The stallion’s senses had saved them this time. The entire herd was alive and well because those very senses had helped their ancestors survive for some fifty-five million years. Prey, not predator, the horse must suspect everything. Every movement. Every animal. Every smell. Every shadow. All are predators until proven innocent. By taking flight, not staying to fight, they survive.

And by staying together. Always together.

How well the big stallion knew this. He had watched his mother, in her old age, lose this very special sense and drift away from the herd. It was excruciating. His responsibility was the herd. To keep them together, and moving. But his mother’s screams in the distance would live with him forever.

The matriarch began to lick and chew, a sign that she was relaxing, that all was well. The stallion took her signal, and one by one, the herd began to graze again, nipping at the random patches of grass and the occasional weed. But they wouldn’t stay long. The matriarch would see to it. She would move them almost fifteen miles this day, foraging for food and water, staying ahead of wolves and cougars. And keeping themselves fit and healthy.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

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Soul of a Horse 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended this book to me and I wasn't sure why since I have never owned a horse..nor did I plan to own one. But I bought the book anyway....always up for learning something new. This book swept me away. From the first to last page I felt transported! I could imagine myself sitting on the porch of the Camp's home watching these magnificent creatures. I learned SO much about horses and their SOULS. With everything that's been going on in the world of horse racing, this could not have been written at a more appropriate time. The book is clever, witty and inspiring. A very fast read. I was sad when I finished it because I wanted to read more! And so many of the lessons can be applied to LIFE...not just horses. You will not regret reading this book. And I will never look at a horse the same way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Changes your relationship with your horse.Makes you realize why a horse does what it does and how horses can view us as predators.very well written!
scott-lee More than 1 year ago
Describes well the spiritual, developmental and emotional needs of a horse quite well. Digs into these areas from both an individual and herd basis, and explores how the human treatment and interaction of the horse works with the individual and herd. Also investigates training methods, horsekeeping philosophies and some other facets of natural horsemanship. I gave away an older horse to a new owner, and this is the only book I gave her to go with the horse..
melissa_g More than 1 year ago
5 STARS!! I love horses and I never thought about the things listed in this book and all of the side affects of things that seem small to us but are bad for horses. This is a great book for people who want to give their horses better and happier lives and want to have a relationship with their horse. First Reaction after reading the book: "OMG the colt was Cash"
K-Dog48 More than 1 year ago
I loved it! The book gave me so much insight into the mind of a horse. Mr. Camp writes passionately and shares his lessons and his personal insights. He does a good job of educating the reader about the wild horse model. This book has helped me to have a better relationship with the horses that I ride. They are amazing animals that are very capable of interacting with and responding to us. The principals in this book will help to unlock your horse's true potential (as well as yours).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book offers lots to think about and plenty of resources to begin followup research if desired.
brenpom More than 1 year ago
I read this book twice and gave it to all my horse loving friends and family, whether they had previously owned a horse or still own one. All my family and friends loved the book and read it twice also. Each gave one to someone else or shared theirs with a friend. I believe more people are going towards Joe's way of treating their horses than the other way. I never had shoes on my horses and neither did my relatives and friends in Az. Now living in Pa, my cousin raises Arabians and has gone out west on trail rides and found most people did not have shoes on their horses so she is considering the same. She rides English style, and her horses are a picture of beauty. So perfect. This book is the best book for horse owners and horse lovers. Everyone should read it before riding a horse or taking care of one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book!!!! So much so, I read the entire book in one day and will read it again!!!! I have been into horses for 14 years and presently have 6 wonderful geldings. What I loved so much is that I could identify with everything that was written! Buying the first horse, is this really the horse for me, should I sell this horse, bringing your first horse trailer home, first time using the trailer with a horse in it, fear, lessons, training, shoes - no shoes, stall or not to stall, should I feed this or that.... everything! So very well written and so very true in every aspect. I know if I sat down and spoke in person with this author we could talk for hours and I'm a very quiet person!!!!!!! Thank you for this fantastic book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellant book! True knowledge and understanding of horses and what the need. I wish all horse owners understood what he and his wife figured out in their 2 years of ownership. Truly a must read for all horse lovers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having spent about 5 years learning about natural horsemanship methods, I thought I'd read most everything I needed to know. Joe Camp's book opened my eyes to the truth that there was more to be learned! The Soul of a Horse is a great combination of helpful, practical horse-keeping advice thought-provoking stories research and heartfelt sharing of the Camps' journey into the world of horsemanship. I came away inspired, challenged, and motivated to make some changes for the good of our herd of 8 horses here at Shily's Promise Youth Ranch. More than that, I feel as if I found a couple of new friends in the Camps.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alleluia!! Someone else on this planet has the same thought path as myself!! This love story of horse language and understanding is the most compelling book that I have ever read. On finishing the book I felt like I wanted to jump in the truck and drive to CA to go and see Joe and Kathleen, I felt such a connection with them, I belong to their herd because THEY GET IT!! Keep writing Joe, My soul needs feeding too!! If you are a horse lover it is vital that you read this book, for the welfare of your horse and to allow you to truly love your horse and your horse to truly love you. 'Let a Horse be a Horse'
Guest More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended this book and its a page turner. It is part memoir, part fable and part what the heck have we been doing? I've never particularly wanted a horse and have only ridden few times but this book captivated me. In a nutshell, it tells the story of how Joe and his wife Kathleen found themselves with 3 horses before they even knew how to care for them, much less ride them. First they learned how to have a real relationship with their horses, and the rest was a quest of sorts to do the best they could by their horses when most of the information out there was from 'traditional' horse people. The very beginning really grabbed me, and I was really impressed that Joe's wife Kathleen allowed her fear of horses to be completely exposed. I laughed several times with the situations she put herself in, and could identify with a lot of what she experienced. A second is story woven through about an Indian boy, who grows up and matures with his best friend, a wild stallion. Beautiful writing as you might expect from the 'Benji' guy. Can't wait for the next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was an amazing read. I literally could not put it down. I'm not a horsie person, but was fascinated by how traditional thinking on horses was exposed as just not right. The story made me laugh out loud, tear up a couple of times, get angry, and question how I communicate with my employees. Camp suggests that we learn to communicate with others first by looking from 'their side of the lead rope.' I loved this. It goes beyond walking in some one else's shoes. That's what this book does throughout makes you open your eyes to new ways of thinking without being aware that you are learning because it is so entertaining. I've read a ton of the 7 steps to this or that books. This book doesn't break things down that way because it's a story. The story of Joe and Kathleen's journey is punctuated with a fable running throughout of a young Powatan boy and his relationship with a wild stallion...breath taking. I'm getting a copy for my Mother for Mother's Day...she's not horsie either but I know she'll love it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful wild mare padded in. She had a mane and tail of the darkest glossiest brown. Her mane was long and flowing not ugly cut and short like show horses. The rest of her was a dark redish color brighter than rust, duller than regular orange. Her eyes were a sparkling green. She looked out on the vast medow and smiled.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She coos
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I left a post for you at our place. The result is number seven now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm back from camp!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My name is flamenight these are my kits milkpaw and loudpaw milkpaw is a girl and loudpaw is a boy
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Please stop advertising! Its anoyang
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pitfur and blackfeather @ cat assassins r3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What positions are open?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im willing to join