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A Year of Riding at East Hill Farm

by Helen Husher

Pub Date: May 1st, 2005
ISBN: 1-59228-693-3
Publisher: Lyons Press

A graceful and leisurely memoir of the author’s midlife return to horseback riding after a seven-year hiatus.

A weekend trek to a nearby horse show rekindles Husher’s longing for the “strange, beautiful grammar” of riding lessons. Her education begins with Prince, a muddy buckskin “with a blocky head, a flat top line, and a tendency toward discombobulation.” The gregarious Prince is a lesson horse, a mount ridden by a variety of students at Vermont’s low-key East Hill Barn, and the author quickly realizes that Prince is a good-natured mount with something to teach her. Husher (Off the Leash, 1999, etc.) is extraordinarily perceptive, and her observations about horses in general, and Prince in particular, are nuanced and thoughtful without drifting into sentimentality. As the author’s lessons progress, she recalls other mounts, including Gem, her much-loved childhood mare, a hyperactive pinto afraid of red buckets, tree stumps and mailboxes. Back at East Hill Barn, Husher regretfully trades in Prince (on his small frame she loomed “like some monstrous bag of laundry with a helmeted head on top”) for Reba, a thoroughbred mare from the track. Using what she learned from Prince, the author tackles dressage and comes to love the dish-faced mare. Despite the book’s title, Prince is absent after the middle of the narrative—a shame, since Husher has made him so completely appealing.

Still, a finely written chronicle that should charm equestrians and non-horsy types alike.