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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Outside of a Horse Review

The Outside of a Horse
by Ginny Rorby
The stories Hannah Gale’s father told her of breaking wild horses in Nevada one glorious summer when he was just her age have captured her imagination. After her dad is called up to fight in Iraq, she feels most deeply connected to him when she is watching the horses at a nearby stable, and finally gathers her nerve to ask the owner for a job. There, she helps bring a rescued mare back from the brink, takes her first riding lesson, and witnesses the birth of the filly who steals her heart.

Hannah believes the worst is over, when her dad returns from war, but soon she realizes her family’s fight is only just beginning. When his nightmares rock the household, it is to the horses she turns to for comfort. But it is not until she discovers the true gift a relationship with horses can give, does she think they may be the way to help her father heal. She becomes convinced that horses can teach her dad the same lessons of survival and hope they’ve taught her, but only if she can get him to give them a chance. 

NOTE: This book deals with some issues in the horse industry that I am extremely passionate about.

***SPOILER WARNING***
I really wanted to love this book. It had a touching story, good characters, a great voice, and -- best of all -- horses! But I just couldn't. 

It got way too much into awareness with all the talk of the cruelty of horse racing, abuse, neglect, slaughter, and PMU horses. A lot of the plot points that dealt with those felt like they were included simply for awareness purposes, not because they had any relevance with the actual plot. I also wasn't a big fan of the way that Parelli training methods are pitched as the only thing that works.

It worked well having it set in 2006, Barbaro's Derby year, but it also felt weird. I remembered everything that happened. I remember watching him win the Kentucky Derby, the feeling of my heart pounding as he pulled up in the Preakness, the way that I followed his progress, how just before his death I watched a video of him grazing as they hand-walked him. I remember exactly where I was when I found out he died. Going through all that again in the book was strange for me because I knew exactly what would happen.

One part that really got under my skin was Jack's death. I had to stop reading twice, not because I was crying, but because I couldn't believe what I was reading. The first time was when Dillon suggests that they just shoot Jack and feed him to the pigs. It seemed a radical change of heart for someone who was so vehemently opposed to slaughter earlier in the book. The second time was when the vet wanted to inject him with traquilizer first and Hannah thinks that it's because she "wanted more money."

The ending of the book was very touching and that, more than anything, is what really made me want to love this book.

Overall: 6/10. A good story but the author intrusion made it hard for me to enjoy it.

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