Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review - The Horse That Wouldn't Trot


The Horse That Wouldn't Trot: A Life with Tennessee Walking Horses: Lessons Learned and Memories Shared

By: Rose Miller
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC
Publication Date: November 2009
ISBN: 978-1608442645
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: Decdember 30, 2012

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to spend your life surrounded by majestic horses, reading Rose Miller's memoir, The Horse That Wouldn't Trot, will give you a very good idea. Miller shares, with unusual candor, the ups, downs, joys, and heartaches that anybody who has loved a horse has likely experienced.

Miller begins her memoir by briefly recounting her early years where her love of horses began. Her father would frequently stop by a nearby stable after church so his young daughter could pet the horses. When she was eight, they moved to a farm and Miller was able to enjoy the family's two farm horses. It was, by all accounts, a wonderful childhood. After marrying Hal, a very patient chiropractor, Miller once again found herself living on a small farm. But their brief stint into farm life was cruelly interrupted by a tornado. Moving to a small house, the farm life, and horses, would have to wait.

Several years later, when Miller's ten-year-old daughter Sharon announced that she wanted a horse, it appeared the four-legged animals would once again be part of Miller's life. The family soon had three horses and needed to find a farm. Once the farm was found, it wasn't long before the herd began to grow. That was in the 1970s and from that long ago decade through 2009, Miller shares with the reader all her triumphs and failures as she learned the business of breeding, raising and showing horses.

Miller's first horses included a quiet, older Quarter Horse and an opinionated Appaloosa, but things would soon change. It didn't take long for Miller to decide she wanted to breed a specific type of horse and she settled on Arabians. That worked well for a while, but eventually Miller's bad back got in the way of training young horses. A client of her husband suggested Miller consider Tennessee Walking Horses, a breed known for their smooth gaits. Miller took the man's advice and when she rode her first Tennessee Walker, she was hooked. Soon she had a breeding program and was showing her horses, fairly successfully, on the local show circuit.

The horses that the reader meets within the pages of The Horse That Wouldn't Trot, are varied, and loads of fun to read about. Miller is open and quite honest about her mistakes as she learned the proper way to train, breed, and show her animals. We see the outcomes of her mistakes, and the wonderful results that her love and talents brought to many animals. Miller dedicates a fair amount of her story to the issue of the "Big Lick," a blight on the world of these magnificent animals. It is a training method in which various, painful, methods are used to increase the action of the front legs. It is a cruel, and highly controversial, subject and the author is to be commended for tackling it in her book. She should also be commended for taking in one of her stallion's daughters, a mare who had serious problems due to "soring," one of the methods used to get the Big Lick look. Cookie would become a treasured member of Miller's family and her story will touch your heart.

While I'm a "horse person" and have had horses almost my entire life, I have never ridden, or known, a Tennessee Walking Horse. Number wise, they are one of the smaller breeds. But Miller's description of these noble animals has definitely piqued my interest. As with many breeds where man has interfered and created a horse for the show ring, while ignoring the true value of a natural horse, the Tennessee Walking Horse has suffered greatly at the hands of those entrusted with its care. Miller believes that the breed's popularity would be much greater if the Big Lick had never been created, or at the very least, stopped. It's hard to disagree with that premise. When you read this book, and meet the wonderful equines that filled Miller's barn, you too will wonder how anybody could inflict such pain to their horses. You will also, no doubt, want to meet a Tennessee Walking Horse and start an adventure of your own.

Quill says: A heartfelt, fast-reading, and eye-opening look into the world of Tennessee Walking Horses and the joy they gave one woman.