Memory Meadows: Timeless Horse Stories by Grant MacEwan

(First published in1985)

This book contains a fascinating mix of human-interest anecdotes about thirty-seven remarkable horses all shaped into affectionate and appealing short stories. There is something here to please every taste: thoroughbreds, Clydesdales, Arabians, jumpers, broncos, RCMP stalwarts and even the reliable old farm horse and faithful school pony.

Have you ever wondered just how much your horses look forward to coming into their stalls at night?  Does the clean bedding and the pile of hay in the corner look as appealing to them as it does to our satisfied eyes when we finish the barn muck-out? This is one story in this collection that illustrates just how strongly our horses feel about their “home” and the lengths to which they will go to return to that safe haven.

 Thus began the close bond between Supt. Walker and Brownie. Supt Walker started a detachment at Battleford and insisted that no one was to ride his mare but him.  Then in 1880 they were transferred to Fort Walsh, 700 miles away.  Shortly after arriving there Walker was called away to Ottawa for several weeks.  Brownie missed her master and was unhappy in the new surroundings.  By the time he came back from his trip Brownie had disappeared. No one could work out how she had gone, there was no evidence of theft and extensive searching of the near-by hills was to no avail.  Weeks passed and the search continued but there was no trace of the mare. Then came a report from Battleford that the mare had wandered in from the prairie and when the gate was opened she went to the stable and entered the stall that had been her home for so many years.”

Brownie had come home.

(condensed from the original)


Simon Brett

When we had our "Stableyard Store" at Evergreen Acres I was able to indulge my love for horsey books by stacking the shelves with books to please our customers (and Freyr, it seems!)  As a librarian at West Vancouver Library and the Bowen Island Public Library I have also been able to order interesting books on every aspect of the world of horses  The following reviews are taken from submissions I have made to the BIHORA newsletter "The Pony Express" over the years.

My shelves at home are full of the books that I have collected for myself.  I keep some down in the tackroom and nothing would please me more than a client asking to borrow one!

The author has obviously done a huge amount of research for this book and it is full of fascinating details both about the war and how horses were treated and looked after at that time. Of course, this war was horrific in terms of the abuse and slaughter of countless horses on both sides. At the Mane Event the lady showing Highland Ponies told us that the breed was almost wiped out after the war as just about every one was taken from Scotland for soldier’s mounts or to pull the wagons and guns.


Type your paragraph here.

Memory Meadows

Balding, Clare 

War Horse

Thoughts on the film by Steven Spielberg (2011) and the book by Michael Morpurgo (1982)

I read this book with mixed feelings but felt it was worth reviewing as it gave me a lot to think about.

Because I was skeptical about some of the information contained in it I had to examine the reasons for my disagreement with the author and check whether I really was doing the best that I could for the horses in my care. Its easy for things to become a habit and I’m all for having to re- think the way I do things, thus becoming more conscious of why I do them the way I do and how I feel about this.

Joe Camp is a movie producer and director of the Benji movies who has recently become a horse owner and rider. With all the zeal of the newly converted (and with all the confidence and connections of a successful movie producer) he sets about spreading the word on the virtues of building a special relationship with your horse  through “join up”. Fair enough, and his account of successfully bonding with his favourite horse, Cash, shows that he is really aware of how rewarding this relationship can be.

So, I would recommend this book as an interesting read and I think we would all wish JoeCamp continued satisfaction in his experiences with horses but hope that with time he might come to appreciate that there can be some merit in what other horse owners think, and that they too have happy horses!

Building A Life Together: YOU AND YOUR HORSE

Margali ​Delgardo, and Frederic Pignon

“Brownie was a police mare used in the new Mounted Police Force that was recruited for service in the Far West in 1873.  The Force set out in 1874 for a long journey from Toronto via Chicago, St Paul and Fargo to Fort Dufferin in southern Manitoba.  They had a total of 278 carefully selected horses with them but they nearly ended up by arriving at Fort Dufferin as a Mounted Police Force with no horses!  There was a violent thunderstorm one night and the eastern horses unused to such loud thunder and lightning, broke out of their corrals and stampeded into the night. Superintendent Walker dashed out of his tent and grabbed a passing horse, leaping onto its back and stayed with the madly galloping horses until the following day when the storm ended, the sky cleared and the horses stopped running.  Using his suspenders as a makeshift bridle he and his brown mare mount herded the scattered animals and 24 hours later brought them back to the camp with just one missing.

Each of Claire’s ponies and horses played a huge part in her life and received most of her affection. She was obviously a natural rider and as she grew older and gained in experience she eventually did become valued by her father and she was given racehorses to compete on, both in steeplechases and on the flat. She writes in a self-deprecating style of her struggles at home and school but she eventually does become the leading Ladies Champion Jockey and gains a degree from Cambridge University.

ii) Our adoration of successful racehorses ( and unconcern for the many who end up crippled and discarded)

 A particularly colourful story of the value of a horse’s speed is that of Dick Turpin and Black Bess. Turpin was mythologized as a Robin Hood style highwayman in eighteenth-century England. To escape the “King’s men” after one escapade he rides Black Bess at a full gallop from London to York in only 15 hours. Ritter recalls as a child in Grade Two she was reading a child’s version of the famous story out loud to the class while the teacher nipped out for a smoke. “ As I reached the exciting conclusion of the ride, my eyes skimmed ahead on the page – to the paragraph where gallant Bess col- lapses of heart failure. I immediately I burst into tears. ‘What is it? What happened?’ the other kids clamoured. ‘Black Bess is dead!’ Tearful pandemonium broke out among the entire class. Our teacher, redolent of cigarette smoke, came hotfooting it back from the staff room, convinced that a murder had occurred among us.”



SUSAN Raby-Dunne

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in our ambivalent relationship with animals of all kinds– so many we love, so many we kill, and so many we eat. It is a conundrum for owners of animals, especially farmers and of course non-vegetarians This book may change your mind about some aspects of your relation- ships with animals, but at the least it will make you think about those relationships and you will learn a lot in the process.


Interspersed throughout the book are creative chapters about a wild horse herd, describing how they live naturally in the wild and how one human forges a loving relationship with the young stallion. These chapters show the “soul of the horse” living naturally without human interference and also they tie in to Camp’s present experiences with Cash.

Camp never doubts that most horse owners only want what is best for their horses but he challenges many of the accepted ways of caring for horses such as blanketing, keeping in stalls, and shoeing, with a rather cavalier attitude and no appreciation of different circumstances, different skill levels and experience amongst horse owners. I was reading this book when our farrier last came to trim our horses and I asked her what she thought about the “wild horse trim” that Camp advocates. She had just been to a farrier’s convention where they had discussed this very topic and she said farrier’s were somewhat concerned about the strident advocacy of the group recommending this trim as it was really only suitable in a very dry climate and under certain conditions.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book – and it is a quick read as though large it is in double spaced type. I seem to remember the 1st edition as a fairly small book, for this one they have changed the format and Mark has added notes at the end of each chapter reflecting on any new thoughts or perspectives he now has on what he wrote before. I only wish there were some photos of him working with horses, there are a few black and white sketches only.

But, fair enough, this is not an instruction manual but rather an exploration of Mark’s philosophy of leading through working with the horse, responding to what the horse tells and shows you and mostly trusting their judgment – one could almost describe it as taking the easy way out, but the skill is in still achieving what you want. So, very laid back, slow and contemplative. There are interesting stories in each chapter, relating how people have got into difficulties with their horses and what he does to help them, also some problems with horses that he just ended up with –for example on the dude ranch where he worked for many years – and how he figured out the reasons for the problems and took his time to sort it out.

He does take a bit of a dig at some “Parelli-types” whose horses are thoroughly fed up with the whole rope swinging, foot moving routine repeated ad nauseam and with some of the other dominance training methods that I think we have all seen examples of. I find his style refreshingly relaxed and encouraging with its message of being open to what the horses in our lives are telling us every time we interact.

Clare recounts her early life and career as an amateur jockey in England in a series of chapters focusing on the significant dogs and horses that were part of her life at that time. She grew up in a super-busy and distracted household where her father ran a large and prestigious racehorse training stable on the Downs in southern England. Her mother also rode and hunted, loved her dogs and didn’t seem to have much time for her young daughter.

Claire claims that it was her mother’s boxer, Candy, who looked out for the young child as she first learned to walk by the dog pulling her gently forward and giving her the love and protection she needed but didn’t receive as the only girl in a thoroughly misogynist family. (“Women ain’t people’ being the running family joke.)

Claire is now an award winning broadcaster and has presented regular programmes for the BBC. Also she is one of the team of commentators at the Olympics for the British media. I “googled” her after enjoying this book and was interested to see that she has a problem with her weight (she was constantly having to go on strict diets to make the weight while she was racing) and the article I read was all about how she’d managed to lose a bit of weight to look better for her Olympics assignment! Rather a sad legacy from a successful racing career – also she no longer rides although she and her partner do have a much loved dog.

There are lots of photos throughout the book, and a real recognition of the enrichment that horses and dogs give to life. I thoroughly recommend it as a fascinating insight into the life of a particularly determined and talented young lady!

The soul of a horse : lessons from the herd

joe Camp

I particularly like the way that at the end of each chapter there is a brief summary of the “Highlights” covered in the text.  This makes it easy to dip into the book and pickout topics of particular interest and also emphasizes what are the most important things to remember about each topic.

So, don’t be distracted by the rather trendy title – this book is packed full of sound information and common sense and interesting stuff about brains.  I would recommend it as fun to read and keep close at hand for constant reference (or, just keep checking it out of WestVan Library!) 

This lovely big book with beautiful colour photographs contains twenty-five true stories of horses that have made a real difference to their owners’ lives. In some cases they have actually saved the person’s life by preventing injury, in others the relationship between horse and owner has restored that person’s mental well-being or given them a much needed purpose and joy in life.

As riders and horse owners most of us have our own memories of disasters narrowly averted or of precious moments when our horses’ serenity and friendliness gives an extra warmth to our day. There are those other moments too when things don’t go so well, but by and large I think that all of us would agree that our horses make our lives richer. Reading the stories in this book makes you appreciate the deep bonds that can develop between horse and rider and the many ways that our relationships with them can help us.

I particularly liked this bit that Frederic says about one of his own favourite horses

“ I occasionally let Phoebus push me about a little. In a way it strengthens our bond but there is also a loss. Worse still, it makes me smile.”

I defy any horse-lover to read through this lovely book and not get the occasional lump in their throat or even wipe away a tear! Everything is beautiful in this perfect world!

The book is available at West Vancouver Library – when its not at my house!

Christine Miller
Written in Jan 2015

The Canadian horse: The fascinating story of canada's national breed

art montague

The dog by the cradle,the serpent beneath : some paradoxes of human-animal relationships

Erica Ritter

My Animals and Other Family

“She managed to control herself very well,” replied Carole, with appropriate respect  for such restraint. “Hm,” Jude said. “I Ihink her reaction was more one of relief. She’d been really worried that one of the horses had been injured. When she found out it was just her husband murdered, she didn’t seem so bothered”

The title of this book refers to the story of the master who leaves his faithful dog to guard his  only child sleeping in a cradle and on returning to find no sign of the child, blood everywhere and the cradle over- turned, immediately kills the treacherous dog. It is only when the cradle is turned upright to reveal the still sleeping child and the bloodied remains of a venomous snake are found tossed into a corner, that the master realizes how he has misjudged his valiant dog. Erica Ritter has been haunted by the pathos of this story for years and she sees how it embodies some of the contradictions at the heart of mankind’s relationship with animals. There is much of interest here with regard to all animals and a great depth of reference in exploring her topic – from slaughter houses to the Garden of Eden, from Temple Grandin defending MacDonald's , to Greyfriars  Bobby statue and all points in-between! A couple of the sections that concern horses are of particular interest:

i) Our use of horses in war

She describes the scene in the film version of Ian McEwan’s novel “Atonement” where the camera pans to a line of horses in the long, sweeping sequence of British and French soldiers awaiting evacuation from Dunkirk.  They are being systematically shot, and as they quietly await their fate their innocent unwittingness sums up the true brutality of war more affectingly for many of us than any other elements of this scene of wide- spread carnage.


horses never lie: tHE hEART OF pASSIVE LEADERSHIP


This beautiful glossy book contains over 300 pages of horse photos and stories about people’s favourite horses.The entries include show jumpers, rodeo horses, dressage horses, eventers, driving ponies, hunter jumper and police and army horses.

 Each segment is about 3-5 pages long and there is information about the chosen person, their history, riding successes, business and family together with lots of pictures of them on the horse they have chosen as their favourite as well as others they have ridden throughout their lives.

 The majority of the entries are from Ontario and I did not know the horses or the people but there were a few names that I recognized including : 

-Judy Wise, show jumper and trainer, from Langley, B.C. (her niece Sarah Scouten used to live and ride on Bowen Island).

-Nick Kleider who now has a veterinary practice just outside Fort Langley. It was interesting to see what a successful career he had as an eventer in Ontario.

His definition of a passive leader needs to be understood as the member of a herd that the other horses choose to follow and respect because of their judgment and personality as opposed to a dominant leader that rules by fear and intimidation but is not someone that the other horses choose to be around even though they obey his commands.

Zen mind zen horse;the Science and spirituality of working with horses

Allan J. hamilton

Although only 0.6 of the estimated 950,000 horses in Canada in 2010 are registered Canadians the breed is now firmly established in the country and is seen as a valuable asset both for its own present attractiveness and as a reminder of the history and traditions of the country.
Photographs and illustrations throughout the book add a visual dimension to historical and equine information it contains.

Also there was a very interesting segment on the RCMP Musical Ride and another on the Newfoundland Pony breed which was only recently saved from extinction.

This is definitely a “coffee table” book, much too heavy to carry around or read in bed but I would thoroughly recommend it as a fascinating treasure trove of horse history!

Horses that save lives :

True stories of Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Rescue.

 Cheryl dudley

BONFIRE, the true story of John McCrae’s journey through WWI, as told by his war horse, Bonfire.
By Susan Raby-Dunne. c2012.

Since I work at the West Vancouver Memorial Library I cannot avoid thinking about war at this time of the year. To me the saddest of all horrible wars was WWI and it seems many people feel this way as there is so much media attention paid to this period.

This book, "Bonfire", is a fascinating account of the war from the Canadian perspective, and in this case from the point of view of a Canadian horse. This is no ordinary horse as Bonfire was a beautiful chestnut Irish hunter and his rider through the war was Dr John McCrae the author of the much-loved poem that is often read out on Remembrance Day, “In Flanders Field.” Throughout the text there are photographs taken at the time, these show what the conditions were like as described by Bonfire – we also see him and his beloved John McCrae.


More graphic and detailed than “War Horse” and definitely darker than “Black Beauty”, this book continues the tradition of anthropomorphism that critics can despise but horse lovers find hard to resist.


Ride the course, not the jumps
Ride to the middle of every fence
Keep the horse level, especially through the corners.
Look ahead ten strides, not two or five.
Maintain a rhythm
Look up, never down

​​​Evergreen Acres

Here is one story that I particularly liked both for the insight it gives into some of the challenges faced by the early Mounted Police of Canada and for the glimpse we have of the loyal, home-loving brown mare, Brownie.

Book Reviews

HORSE OF A lIFETIME: CANadians Reveal thEir History and Depth as Horse People.

helen douglas

is a very readable and attractive book that covers just about every aspect of dealing with horses.  It is well laid out with coloured line drawings to illustrate the author’s points and also with some interesting colour photos.

The author does not look like your typical “zen-type” – he is a rather crusty looking old cowboy but the first part of this book explains his interest in the difference between how a horse’s and a human’s brain works (and since he is a brain surgeon he should know) this part of his writing is what most interested Margaret in this book.

  I have yet to read this in full as I just skimmed through the later part that deals with his theories on working with horses. He refers to one’s chi in getting the horse to move away and towards you, I think we’re familiar with the energy and focus needed here that trainers such as Jonathan Field and Paul Dufresne have shown us.

 He has many interesting stories to tell in amongst the instructions and teaching parts ofthe book.  He first learnt to ride at a horse camp n the state of New York where he gained quite a reputation early on when he rode a horse bareback all day out in the pasture.  He got on the horse as it stood by a fence and then he couldn’t get off so he had to stay on it until nightfall when someone came looking for him and lifted him down to the ground! Although very sore and stiff, that was the start of his love of horses and riding.

The tension in the story comes from this underlying worry that Jack may be claimed back by the mare’s owners, and also from Abby’s growing maturity as she copes with her heavy riding schedule, her worry over the height of the jumps she is faced with, keeping up with her school work and friends and accepting her status in the competition world as the badly dressed daughter of strictly religious parents.

Throughout the book there are many valuable horse lessons that are easily learned as they form part of the entertaining narrative. I particularly liked the quick reference to feeding hay out in the field - four piles for three horses so they can move freely from pile to pile.  Also the following list that Abby’s father makes her learn and repeat before each ride until it all becomes second nature to her:

by Art Montague.c C2010

This little book (its only122 pages long) is a fascinating story as it traces the history of what we now call “The Canadian Horse” through its introduction to Canada from Europe, its near extinction in the twentieth century and its promotion and recognition recently as the national horse of Canada.

The book gives many interesting details about life in Canada during the early days of settlement and exploration. This horse was involved as a farm work horse, a pack animal and a war mount. In addition to learning about Canadian history there is also information about the historyof settlement in the United States and Mexico as this breed and its close relation, the Morgan, played a vital part in the settlement and development of these new nations – their wars and their pioneering work.

This is a book for young readers by an author who has written many, excellent adult fiction novels, including the Pulitzer Prize winning AThousand Acres which was also set on a horse ranch.

Jane Smiley is a horse owner and she is described in her author’s notes as someone who “rides horses every chance she gets”  It is evident from her writing that she really understands horses, how to look after them and how to ride.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story of young Abby who lives with her religious parents on a horse ranch in California.  Her father is a good judge of horseflesh and he goes to Oklahoma to buy horses cheaply that they can then condition and train so they can be sold at a profit.  Sometimes he comes home with a diamond in the rough, as he did with Black George, a gifted jumper who Abby shows successfully for him.  The “good horse” of the title is either George, or, it could be Jack, a young colt that was born on the ranch from a mare in poor condition bought  with several others at the By Golly Horse Sales and given to Abby on her 13th birthday when he is eight-months old. It turns out that Jack’s mother was a pedigree mare who had been bred to one of the top thoroughbred racehorses in Texas and was then stolen and later let loose to fend for herself.

All sensible advice, and obviously written by someone who has experienced what they are writing about.  There are lots of other examples of this throughout the book and for this alone I would thoroughly recommend it, even if you feel you have moved on from the childhood “horsey” book phase of your life!  It can stand for some re-visiting!

This book contains some amazing photographs by Gabriele Boisellet of these two former stars of the original Cavalia show.  I never saw the show as I was somewhat wary of the glitzy, showbiz aspect of it but I have heard very good reports from those who did see it and thought the horses looked happy and well cared for.

The life of this couple is described  as they work with their horses in Provence.  It is best to put aside all  skepticism while reading this – they really do seem to be extraordinarily blessed with devastating good looks and exceptional skill in handling horses and building a trusting working relationship with them.

They particularly stress the need for patience and understanding in working with young horses or with older horses that have had bad experiences. The way they describe it all sounds wonderful and of course the results they achieve with their beautiful, huge horses are spectacular.

I haven’t finished the book yet as I am taking it slowly and really enjoying the gorgeous photographs and the glimpse they give of a magic world.  Magali and Frederic also say a lot of very wise and sensible things about working with horses and they are not too “preachy” about it.

There are many horse-loving people who probably won’t go to see this film knowing it is bound to be a tear-jerker and full of upsetting scenes.  If there were any First World War Veterans left around

the same might well apply.  There is something about this war that is particularly heart-breaking as so many mistakes were made by the politicians and military leaders and so much misery and needless death was the result.  The National Army Museum in London has a special exhibit with mirrors cleverly reflecting scores of cut-out horses multiplied into infinity to represent the over eight million horses on all sides that died in the war.  Many of these horses were noble cavalry chargers, highly trained and loved by their riders who obeying the orders of a completely-out-of-date military command, rode bravely into battle to be mown down by machines guns.  Eventually the commanders realised that swords and horses were no match for pistols, grenades and machine guns and so they put the horses to work pulling carts to get the wounded off the battle field and to medical help or to move the huge artillery weapons around the muddy battlefields.  Many of these horses had been pets, hunters, show horses and such, some were draft horses but even they would find the work hard with little food and no rest or comfort.


These aspects of the war are well reflected in this film and it is well done.  A point to remember is that we are assured that “no animal was hurt in the making of this film”.  Great care was taken to make sure that the horses were not overworked and were well cared for. There were fourteen different horses playing the part of Joey – the War Horse of the title – and several hundred were trained and conditioned for their respective roles in the film.  The only time when a dummy horse was used is at the end of the film when Joey is caught up in barbed wire after his panicked, headlong gallop through the German lines and into ”No Man’s Land”  I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that finally things start to go Joey’s way as the soldiers on both sides work out how to rescue him, and eventually the strength of his early relationship with the young Devonshire farm-boy Albert, and  the love of an old French grandfather saves him.


There are many changes from the book which is slightly more low-key and not so melodramatic as the film is in places. It is written from the point of view of Joey himself, so there is more emphasis on his love for Zoey, the old farm horse that teaches him to plough, and Topthorn, the magnificent black thoroughbred who charges with him through the German battle lines and works side-by-side with him pulling carts and guns though the mud. Joey also cares for the young French girl who finds Topthorn and him where they were hidden in a windmill – in the book they spend a happy year with her and her grandfather – and an old German soldier who tries to look after them as they are worked to death by the German army.  He loves Albert too, but it is he that recognises the boy when they are finally reunited while Albert is not interested in him until a good wash reveals his distinctive markings.  They had to change this bit for the film – and they come up with a much more dramatic reunion scene.  In fact it is because the film is so overly spectacular and melodramatic in places that I was able to watch it – if it had been more low-key and realistic I don’t think I could have stood it. So. Hooray for Hollywood ! (though this was filmed in England) they know how to serve up the unpalatable with a spoonful of sugar – and they have ensured that we remember all those helpless horses that were caught up into the midst of mankind’s madness.