By the time I was in sixth grade, I had read every horse book in the public library, written an equine novel (all of 5 pages long), and had a horse story published in Pioneer Girls magazine, which is now defunct. (I like to think my story had nothing to do with the magazine’s untimely demise…) My school notebooks were adorned with sketches of horses copied from the artwork of Jeanne Mellin, C.W. Anderson, and Sam Savitt. Although I won several contests, my art teachers despaired of ever getting me to draw anything but horses.
Horse figurines pranced along my bookshelves and there was a shoe box barn in my closet. I even bought a dreadful-tasting bubble gum that came in a drawstring bag I filled with Quaker Oats from the kitchen, thereby supplying my closet barn a legitimate grain bag.
Grandpa Clyde and Uncle Joe both owned horses, and would let me brush and ride their animals during my summer vacations in West Virginia. I learned about tack and harness, and first aid, and getting the horse to understand what I wanted it to do, and then doing it gently. I loved every smelly, sweat-soaked minute. The manure stains on my shoes were like a badge of honor.
When I was 15, my father tired of the suburbs, moved the family to a farm, and bought me a little bay horse. Prince quickly became my best friend and we spent many happy hours exploring the woods, and jumping hay bales in the field. There was just one problem. His previous owner had let him race back to the barn after a ride and I wanted Prince to walk home quietly so he could cool down. But, I had no idea how to teach him that.
Back to the library, where I would devour books on horse training! Names like Ray Hunt, John Lyons, Linda Tellington-Jones, and Monty Roberts became my new best buddies. It took a while, but using the techniques learned from those books, I was able to teach Prince to end our riding adventures by plodding back to the barn, relaxed and calm.
These training techniques became essential after my certification as an equine massage therapist, working with new horses and new problems. Later, I started boarding horses at our farm. Over the years, boarders began asking me for help with their animals and I discovered that, often, the problem was not with the horse, but with the rider. People just don’t think or react like horses because they are not prey animals, and don’t understand why horses do what they do. Weary of repeating the same advice, I wished there was a simple hand-out I could give riders.
Maybe there was a book I could recommend. I started reading some of the newer horse books, and was appalled at what I found. There was little training involved in the stories and what was there was sometimes incorrect or inconsistent. Horses were often written as mere sports figures that required rigorous training with no thought to their individual personalities, or else as beloved pets to be coddled and treated like humans instead of the unique animals they are. Gone were the realistic scenes of “Black Beauty” or the Black Stallion series.
I saw a real need for education but it seemed the only way to get the book I wanted was to write it myself and “Mustang Girl” is the result. An intriguing coming-of-age story is woven with basic horse training gleaned from experts and over 40 years of personal experience. Each chapter is book-ended with an original illustration, and first-aid advice derived from a situation in the story. By the time you get to the end of this book, you’ll have ridden into the minds of some interesting characters–and you’ll know how to train a horse.
About the Author
Kay Flowers is an equine massage therapist, certified under Equissage. She has trained and worked with horses for over 40 years. Kay resides in the rolling hills of southern Ohio with her husband, Denny, a stray cat, and a lazy horse named Jake.
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