In this catalogue of horses and horse folk who have passed through the author’s life, the animals possess tactility while the people are simply too-too.
For someone who has “always tried to avoid a single-minded obsession about horses,” veteran editor and author Korda (Another Life, 1999, etc.) has certainly spent a fair amount of time around the beasts and has thought long, hard, and well about their place in the world, in particular their relationship to humans. So he can be counted among those people who “love horses, or who know horses, or who make their living out of horses, or who just can’t imagine what their lives would be like without horses.” Korda’s hungry curiosity to get into a horse’s head and his interest in the social history of equestrianism give Horse People its charm and energy. He tells us much here about conformation and disposition, pasterns that are too long, the irregularity of hooves, fitting “within the square,” enveloping all of it in a sense of affection. Less attractive is the depthless snobbishness of this world inhabited by the super-well-groomed super-rich, “old-school, good-looking, soft-spoken, wealthy, with perfect manners and a wardrobe full of the kind of country clothes Ralph Lauren has since made a fortune imitating.” (Not that they don’t have their travails: “Sheila, like many horse people, had given way to globalism, in the sense that the bulk of her barn help was Mexican.”) A moderate windiness is excusable considering the sheer volume of material, but not such perfume-thick, studied prose as the “flash of orange, moving slowly” and “somewhere there is a picture of me on a small, shaggy pony at the age of about six,” especially when the photo is reproduced a half-inch below.
Sometimes achingly snooty, but in his stride Korda brings an engagingly lofty hand, both intimate and erudite, to the horses that have shaped his life. (17 line drawings by the author, 24 b&w photos)