Review Of Susan Richards’ Chosen By A Horse, NY, Soho Press, 2006

Copyright © by SuZi, 8/2/06

  To have horses in our lives is to open ourselves to realms of awareness increasingly endangered by the current of our times. We live in an increasingly urban social mindset: one of concrete, ever more restricted spaces, rapacious consumption, frenzy and disrespect. Horses can not exist in such a realm; humans who choose to coexist with horses have to be mindful of a peaceableness that is, today, simply not fashionable.
Susan Richards' memoir confronts what happens when an unfashionable human - single, female, childless, Caucasian, over forty and soul-weary - chooses to not only coexist with horses, but to rescue an abused and crippled ex-racehorse. It is a grueling journey, both for the author and the reader. Richards is not weaving any happy-princess-at-last myths: the narrative has authenticity and thus heartbreak.
  Horses are fragile. True, they are powerful, beautiful and, some say, mystical. Anyone who has been around horses knows the gut-wrenching sensation of the discovery of even minor injuries. By the same token, it takes quite a bit of practice to harden oneself to the sight of a pony tied to a tractor tire in an unfenced yard: while some urban moron might view this scene of torture as ornamental, it's a gruesome daily sight for me.  Richards confronts the ignorance of the abused mare's previous owner in a chilling scene when " The case went to court and the owner won"(53). The rescued mare's previous owner s later arrive "[…]wearing knit shirts, jeans, and shiny black loafers-city shoes"(60) and who then "[…]lit a cigarette and took one deep drag, then flicked the mostly unsmoked cigarette into the long grass"(61-62). Although this scene is fairly early in the memoir, it shows how deep the rift is between those who love horses and those who don't -- those who don't are characterized by Richards as arrogantly disrespectful overall.
  The prose style of the memoir is straightforward and often elegant. Richards tells us of crunching snow and starlight; she also tells us of the emotional landscape she experiences with an aplomb that is winsome: "Maybe because having a horse meant your life had been touched by a beautiful mystery"(219).
  Richards' memoir is a brief reading experience, but a necessary one for any one for whom the emotional or spiritual realm of life has value.

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