In this review book club member and reviewer Karen Bentley share's her thoughts on What Horse's Really Want by Lynn Action - Horsemanship Journal Book of the Month November 2020
Wow-what a title! I had mixed expectations of this book. On the one hand, it promised to be all things to all horses and an answer to all our prayers, but my sceptical side told me it couldn't be that good. It proved to be an excellent and thought-provoking read.
It is about a method of relating to horses and "providing leadership that has been used successfully since ancient times because it makes intuitive sense to horses."
I had intended to speed read the book for the purposes of this review, but I became so absorbed and interested in it that I was unable to do so. In the end, I have spent many hours reading and re-reading sections of it. And I'm sure I will continue to do so.
In the first few chapters, the author introduces her general philosophy and ideas, particularly her Protector Leadership concept. Examples are given based on ideas she has gained through her own experiences and from working with her own horses. She is very generous in crediting the trainers she has gained her knowledge from. I did find some parts of this section of the book a bit long-winded, but that is a minor criticism.
The second section is a fascinating description of free-roaming herds of horses and their natural social behaviour; this is then compared to today's domesticated horses and discusses how restrictions in their life affect their behaviour patterns.
Part three concentrates on horses' behaviour, particularly unwanted behaviour and how we, often incorrectly, interpret their actions. Part four introduces ideas of how to communicate with your horse positively and in a friendly way with a strong emphasis on body language.
Parts five and six relate to the horse's investigative behaviour and how we can safely encourage it to build their confidence. There are some really good and relevant scenarios in one chapter which any of us might encounter. They are well described, and the author manages to make coping with a "spooking" horse sound like fun!
Part seven discusses stress whilst on the ground, whilst ridden and in their daily lives. It gives ideas of how to overcome any problems that arise and how to reduce the initial cause of any anxiety.
The layout of the book is excellent, and there are plenty of helpful photos. There is a clear description of the contents of each of the seven main parts and also of each chapter. Each chapter also ends with a clear and concise summary and a useful "things to try" box.
This is not a book of daily exercises to do with your horse but a basic description of a whole philosophy and ethos of communicating with your horse. Anyone can buy a book of exercises but if you don't know how to put them into practice, there is obviously no benefit. This book encourages you to be creative and think of your own ideas by giving you the tools to do that. It also encourages you to explore further by recommending other books and sources of information.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in developing their relationship with their horse and providing a safe and secure environment for them. I shall be pouring over it for many hours to come!
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