One does not have to love horses to appreciate Joe Camp’s new book, THE SOUL OF A HORSE: Life Lessons from the Herd, but it doesn’t hurt. And those who don’t already love horses surely will by the time they finish reading.

Joe and his wife, Kathleen, started their small herd that now numbers six, just three years ago, both without a clue how to care for or train a horse. Because of his success with connecting with dogs in making the Benji movies, Joe thought he knew how to work with a horse. Wrong. As he points out in the book, dogs are predator animals and horses are prey animals. That means they operate from polar opposite perspectives.

Like most novice horsemen, Joe learned some of his lessons by mistakes, but he was also lucky to meet Monty Roberts, the original horse whisperer, who introduced a unique way of connecting with a horse. Through his association with Monty and in doing further research about new approaches to caring for horses, Joe discovered that most domestic horses are living in an environment counter to the natural environment that has sustained the horse for 55 million years.

In the book, Joe addresses issues such as a horse going barefoot, not living in a stall, and not needing blankets or leg wraps. In addition to including his research and experiences in these areas, Joe writes chapters from the point of view of horses living in the wild. Those sections illustrate the point that all horses are genetically the same and are hardwired to live and function the same way.

By studying herd behavior, a horse owner can figure out how horses respond to leaders, how they discipline each other, and how they think. Yes. Horses think. Not on the level that people do, but enough to figure out who poses a threat and who doesn’t. Joe acknowledges that the same people who found his belief that dogs can think will dismiss this part of his book. But maybe a few who really need to learn this won’t.

The book is a “must read” for anyone who owns a horse or works around horses, but it has an even broader appeal. It can show a reader a different way to approach any relationship. As Joe says, “It’s (life) all about relationships, and choices, and trust. And these guys (the horses) taught us that the quality of life is often found in the choices we make. That we should approach every relationship – whether it is with a boss, an employee, a family member, or a spouse – from the other end of the lead rope. In other words, we should walk in their boots, not ours. We should gain understanding of what they’re about, what they want out of life and out of a relationship, and only then move forward.”

As a horse owner, I found the book engaging and relevant. I went out and tried a couple of the training tips and they worked. I also laughed at the foibles and mistakes, many of which I had made as well. My relationship with my horse will forever be changed because of reading this book.

Joe Camp has written, produced, and directed seven theatrical motion pictures (including all of the Benji movies), which cumulatively grossed well over the equivalent of $600 million in today’s dollars, making him one of the most successful independent filmmakers of all time. He has written three novels from his own screenplays, the inspirational nonfiction book Benji & Me , and several children’s books. He has also written, directed, and produced four network television specials and a network series.

The Soul of a Horse: Life Lessons from the Herd
Joe Camp
Hardcover – 256 pages $24.95
Harmony (April 29, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0307406857
ISBN-13: 978-0307406859

Maryann Miller – Maryann’s Web site

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