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Monday, November 12, 2007

More Horse Stories

Saturday morning brought unexpected sunshine on bright fallen leaves, and we had more of the same today. Oak trees along Grand Traverse Bay looked as delicious as buttered toast. The cherry orchards have too many colors to name, all mingling richly together.

Meanwhile, indoors, I’ve discovered a contemporary series of horse stories for young girls. The appeal of “Heartland” is both modern and timeless. Characters use cell phones and computers, and the young horse trainers use techniques like T-touch massage and “joining up” to bring traumatized animals back into trusting relationships, but central plots still involve humans and horses and the age-old bond between them. OUT OF THE DARKNESS (Heartland #7), for example, tells the story of a racehorse injured in a stable fire, sent to Heartland as a last resort. Gallant Prince is a prisoner of his fear, locked in a dark past and so unmanageable that he is dangerous to those trying to help him. Moreover, his nervous restlessness quickly spreads to the rest of the horses at Heartland.

Can Gallant Prince be saved? What of the threat of bad publicity for Heartland if this rescue mission fails? And where is the stable boy who loved this horse but locked himself away emotionally after the fire? The happy ending is not a surprise but doesn’t feel contrived. Amy is often discouraged and fearful herself and has to through her own self-doubt (when others would have had her give up), along with Prince’s terror, but even that is only part of the story. Only 15 years old, Amy’s life is full of challenging physical work, school and homework, personal and social questions and uncertainties.

I found this young people’s novel so thoroughly engrossing that David couldn’t help laughing. I didn’t care. I was 15 years old last night, training horses in Virginia!

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