Posts Tagged horses

Falling for Eli: book review

Falling for Eli by Nancy Shulins. Publisher: Da Capo (May 2012). Memoir/pets. Paperback. 272 pages. 978-0-7382-1527-3.

Arduous though it is, dressage has its hooks in me right from the start, with its promise of a seamless, harmonious connection between a quiet, balanced rider and her calm, obedient horse.

In my youth—from childhood through high school—I rode horses and competed in three-phase events [dressage, eventing and stadium jumping] as well as in horse shows. In short I was an accomplished equestrian. I rode year-round sometimes on two and three-hour-long trail rides. I took lessons, attended clinics, belonged to pony club and 4-H.

Former AP writer Nancy Shulins failed to get pregnant in her late 30s as she’d hoped. The unsuccessful fertility treatments proved heartbreaking especially surrounded by her friends’ and neighbors’ babies and children. She needed to divert her attention from not being able to get pregnant and a friend suggested she visit a barn because she’d liked horses when she was younger. She soon became quite involved in the stable and fell in love with a young horse which she purchased and named Eli.

A novice at horse ownership, she boarded at a fancy barn in Connecticut with an indoor and live-in manager and used a trainer. Her horse Eli, a thoroughbred, taught her quite a bit. Unfortunately an unschooled [or “green”] horse and inexperienced rider aren’t always the best combination. Shulins learned how to ride dressage– a disciplined form of riding which incorporates posture, movements and precision. Sadly, Eli got sick and hurt about five times. I’m not sure why when she took such impeccable care for him. When you care for a horse, you invest as much time and energy as you would in caring for a child. If you do it right and Shulins certainly proves so in Falling for Eli.

Shulins utilizes her journalistic skills to provide plenty of well-researched information on horses and thoroughbreds. It’s an easy-to-read memoir for any animal lover. Plus if you’re lacking in equine knowledge, Shulins simply explains everything. Horse lovers will particularly appreciate it. My mom enjoys reading anything horse related and thought that Shulins provided interesting facts, particularly about thoroughbreds.

purchase at Amazon: Falling for Eli: How I Lost Heart, Then Gained Hope Through the Love of a Singular Horse

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The Rescue of Belle & Sundance: book review

The Rescue of Belle and Sundance by Brigit Stutz and Lawrence Scanlan. Publisher: Da Capo (March, 2012). Non-fiction/ animals. 978-0306820977. Hardcover. 240 pages.

Many of the rescuers paid a price for their participation: sore backs, frostbite, lost wages, mental anguish. On or off the mountain, volunteers felt the same- the horses never left our thoughts. The digging was actually a relief because the labour offered an antidote to all the worry. Of course, no one suffered more than Belle and Sundance, and what they had endured put everything else in perspective.

In the Canadian Rockies in December of 2008, some snowmobilers spotted two horses trapped in over six feet of snow. As horses will do, these two have trampled down enough snow to form a little enclosure to huddle within but they cannot get out. They’re frostbitten and starving. Their owner cruelly abandoned them on this mountain. The Rescue of Belle and Sundance tells the heartwarming, remarkable story of an entire village coming together to bring this horses down out of the harsh elements.

Author Birgit Stutz, an experienced equestrian and riding instructor, lives on a ranch in the Robson Valley near the town of McBride in British Columbia. Stutz becomes involved in the rescue efforts. As a writer/journalist she takes notes along the way. She also takes pictures to chronicle the rescue efforts. She describes the Canadian environment in the first chapter and throughout the book. There’s even a bit about its high unemployment and divorce rates. Many seek employment in oil fields in other parts of Canada or the Middle East.

She also adds bits and pieces about the characters and lives of several of the volunteers. Stutz includes many details about her own horse experience including information about her teaching and about the horses she owns. She explains horses. Her basic explanations and no frills writing enable any level of reader to follow this story. Sometimes that can be an annoyance and bog down the story. The writing remains dry and while it’s a horrific situation for these horses, the story lacks true emotional impact.

The predicament of these two packhorses, a young mare name Belle and an older gelding named Sundance, stirs almost the entire McBride community to participate in some manner. Winters sound extremely harsh and I live in New England. Temperatures drop 30 below zero. I really don’t know how people function. Some deliver food to the horses, others make food for the volunteers, some spend days shoveling a pathway for the horses to be transported off the mountain. Others make phone calls and create an online presence. A core group of volunteers [plus some other helpers] spend nearly a week digging a six feet deep, 3 feet wide, one kilometer passageway [dubbed “Tunnel to Freedom”] to lead the horse out to the 30 km. [18 mile] logging road which leads off the mountain.

Neglect charges get brought against the horses’ owner. The Rescue of Belle and Sundance is both the story of perseverance to help these voiceless and dependent horses and the story of a small town mobilizing for a common goal. It’s amazing what these people did. Despite some mucky writing, this story remains compelling to keep the reader involved to the end. Now both Belle and Sundance happily live in new homes and receive plenty of attention and excellent care.

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