ZEN MIND, ZEN HORSE: THE SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY OF WORKING WITH HORSES. BY ALLAN J. HAMILTON, MD. SOFTCOVER. 2011. STOREY PUBLISHING. $24.95. AVAILABLE AT WWW.HORSEBOOKSETC.COM, 800-952-5813.
This book allows you to become quietly, confidently enlightened about your mind and your horse’s mind, a concept we find appealing.
Anyone involved with horses knows there’s an intangible aspect to training and communicating with horses. And nearly everyone understands the concept of “Zen,” a school of Buddhism that emphasizes meditation, with methods you can use to clear your mind, find inner peace and harmony in the world.
The author is an experienced, earnest spiritual practitioner and horseman. He’s also a neurosurgeon, which may be why the book is heavy. At times, it contains more than we need, or maybe want.
The practical training exercises included are good, based heavily in natural horsemanship methods. He stresses how important it is to make a connection between how the horse interacts with his world (through feelings) and how we normally interact with our world (through words) and explains how these exercises can help achieve that. He believes that the most productive communication occurs between horse and handler when the handler can truly understand the spiritual lives of horses and the inner working of their psyches.
There is a lot of good in this book, including interesting philosophical platforms to explore. But sometimes you need to be willing to work to get there.
Bottom Line: It contains fascinating observations about equine and human brains, and the spiritual, intangible aspects of horse training, but it can get bogged down.
Best suited for: The experienced horseman with a strong interest in spiritual writings.
You’ll be disappointed if: You’re a novice. There are really two books here: one spiritual and one practical, and both require a certain level of education and familiarity to be useful.