Because 2014 is the "Year of the Horse
," what better way to start the new year than with a horse book. I recently finished Thou Shalt Fly Without Wings,
written by one of my Facebook friends, Rhonda Tipton.
I've been a fan of her blog, Song of the Raincrow
, for quite a while, so I figured I'd like her book. I did.
Thou Shalt Fly Without Wings
is a collection of essays about Rhonda's life-long involvement with horses. Most of the essays are about her work on Thoroughbred breeding farms in Kentucky, but some are about horses and mules that she has owned or known, and a few are about her childhood experiences with horses. I'd classify the book as a cross between memoir and partial autobiography.
From the title, I'd expected the book to be about Thoroughbred racing. Instead of being set a the track, however, it was a look behind the scenes at Kentucky farms that bred, raised, and sold horses for the track. Through the years, Rhonda and her husband worked in both foaling barns and yearling barns at several farms, and she skillfully shares many adventures from these times. She also shares stories about mules, about horses she has known or owned, and about people she knew who worked with horses.
I especially enjoyed her recollections from her childhood in the Kentucky Mountains. She learned horsemanship from her father, who provided her with many horses as she was growing up. Some of my favorite parts of the book are ones about her childhood: her first pony, Freddy-Boy who "was not of a mind to tolerate any shenanigans except his own"; the country horse sales where her father sometimes made purchases—"like many friends, we met, taught each other a lot, ad then passed on along some path life had laid out for each of us"; and a memorable ride one winter day on her favorite mare, Bess. "Everyone should have one perfect memory to carry them through the hard times," Rhonda writes in the intro to that ride, "times when life's everyday sludge gets too deep and treacherous." Here's a small portion of her ride's description:
Bess took the bit in her teeth and I let her. Blood-dark tail a-flag, she blew hot steam from her nostrils as she pounded the ground with hard hooves. The swing of her gallop up a slight rise reached fever pitch, those short perfect ears flattened back angrily, furious at not being able to take full flight.
While the content was both interesting and informative, the book—only the second book produced by a very small new publisher—needed a table of contents. The endnotes, which weren't really needed, were a bit distracting. For the few terms that a reader might not know, a glossary would have worked better. Perhaps in a later edition, these changes could be made.
Target readers for Thou Shalt Fly Without Wings
are horse people—those who have loved horses, owned horses, want to own horses, or want to know more about what happens at the big Thoroughbred barns. If you fall into that category, odds are good you will enjoy this book.
Thou Shalt Fly Without Wings
is available both as an e-book
and as a paperback
Labels: book review, horses