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Some Horses Hardcover – June 1, 1999

4.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Since his arrival as a novelist and essayist in the late 1960s, Thomas McGuane's elegant and muscular prose has left its print on the trail of American letters, exploring the American landscape and exposing the American heart. In the nine finely tooled essays that make up Some Horses, McGuane explores and exposes his own passionately layered relationship to the cutting horses he rides and works on his Montana ranch. The author's admiration for his four-legged characters is displayed with perceptive wit and clear affection: "If a horse were a Ford," he suggests, "the species would vanish beneath lawsuits engendered by consumer-protection laws." As both participant and observer, McGuane makes sure his readers feel the unique intimacy of the man-horse relationship. "We have saturated the horse with our emotions," he writes. "Yet, a lover of horses has nothing to prove and no expertise to reveal. It is important that we find animals to love, and that is the end of the story."

Actually, for McGuane it's just the beginning. Moving with introspection and grace, he kicks up plenty of dust, description, and insight in essays that probe the intricacies of riding horses, working horses, caring for horses, breeding horses, and competing on them in the roping and displays he so loves. In the magical "A Foal," he contrasts the anxiety of a favorite mare's overdue pregnancy with the joy that finally attends the successful introduction of a healthy newborn into the fold. Also scattered through the collection are marvelous insights into the writer's life--and, in one particular passage, the hands that have produced his life's work: "I looked at my hand, crooked thumb, rope burns, enlarged knuckles, and I felt good because I'd always been afraid that, as a writer, I would always have these Ivory Snow hands." But it's the bigger picture that ultimately interests McGuane: "The open range, the open sea, the open sky, the open wounds of the heart, that's where writers shine." McGuane shines on every page. --Jeff Silverman

From School Library Journal

YA-Nine lyrical, informative, and often moving essays about the Western horse and associated traditions. McGuane's horses will seem real to those already familiar with these fascinating, quirky animals and the difficult work they perform. For readers who think horses are just old-fashioned motorcycles, or who are familiar only with eastern riding styles and traditions, this book can be a revelation. McGuane tells of camping in the mountains, working cattle, and experiencing the challenges of roping and cutting horse competitions. Illustrated with evocative drawings of horses and riders, these essays include studies of outstanding horses such as Chink's Benjibaby, a genius of a cutting horse who nearly missed his calling, and Roanie (McGuane's "one great horse"). Readers also see what life can be like for the people whose lives revolve around these horses. Teens can enjoy this book whether their interest has been sparked recently by Horse Whisperer; or they have a broader interest in Western history, life, and lore; or are interested in animals and their relationship to humans. Finely crafted personal essays about lives well lived.
Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 188 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558218912
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558218918
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,476,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful book for all horse lovers! I enjoyed every page, and am looking forward to reading more by the author on this subject. This is not another piece written on "horse whispering" in order to cash in on the latest craze. McGuane reveals himself as a true horse person with just the right amounts of humor, insight and truth. Great Christmas gift for your horse lover friends, whether they are into cutting, dressage, or just being around horses.
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Format: Paperback
I greatly enjoyed this well-written and amusing book of essays by novelist Thomas McGuane. Although I have ridden a horse and get out to the occasional rodeo, it's mostly my interest in Western literature that got me to read "Some Horses." And it turned out to be an entertaining journey into the complex relationship that can exist between human and equine intelligence.
One essay is about rodeo calf-roping and another about mountain trail riding and camping in snow, but most of the essays are about McGuane's experience with cutting horses. Developed as a specialized skill of horse and rider on open rangeland, cutting is the exacting art (and now sport) of separating out a single cow or calf from a herd of cattle. Given the strong herd instinct of cows, this is no mean feat, and it takes a fine horse, superior training, and a competent rider to do it well and consistently. In these essays, each devoted to individual horses, McGuane invites the reader into this world of nonverbal communication between horse, rider, and cow.
In the hands of another writer, this subject could easily be arcane, technical, vague, or dry as corral dust. But McGuane makes literature of it. The opening essay owes its rambling form and spirit to Montaigne, and all of them are rich with sharply observed details, nuances of emotion, and fascinating character sketches of both people and horses. The only thing dry is McGuane's wry sense of humor. In the essay about a winter road trip with his wife and four horses from Southern California to Montana, I was laughing out loud.
You don't have to be a horse lover for this one. All that's required is a curiosity about animal psychology and the place where it comes in contact with the psychology of humans.
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Format: Paperback
Some books are hard to classify, in spite of their seemingly simple titles. Among them are "Rats, Lice, and History" by Hans Zinsser, most of John McPhee's natural history books, and "Some Horses" by Thomas McGuane. One could call them philosophy as focused through Nature--the very opposite of religion as focused through the tribal mind.

I've been on enough horses to know that you don't tell them what to do. You ask them, and if the horse trusts you, he'll respond favorably if he knows what you want. The author discusses the equine-human relationship in depth, focusing on the art of cutting cattle from a herd. I suppose if McGuane had been more mellow Californian and less Wyoming rancher, he would have called this book, 'The Zen of Cutting Horses.'

Writer, rancher, horseman, and conservationist Thomas McGuane is the author of nine novels, a collection of short stories, several collections of essays on sport and horse, and he also wrote the screen play for "Missouri Breaks."

The latter just goes to show that an author can be an expert on his subject and still end up as a grease mark on the Hollywood Wall of Shame.

My favorite essay in "Some Horses" concerns Chink's Benjibaby, a black cutting mare, who worked cattle with an intensity that verged on loco. She went through many owners, including the author, until she found her rider. The author asks, "How did you train the mare?"

'"I didn't," says [Chink's new owner]. "I never won a fight."'

The black mare had a glint of what McGuane calls 'unlost wildness.' She knew she was special and demanded respect.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Some Horses is an honest work by someone with a mastery of saying just what they mean. The prose is spare enough to stay out of your way, but descriptive enough to carry you deep into the story. They key to how good I think the book is comes from my response, I am not a "horse person" yet nowhere feel snubbed by the fact that the horse world is really a pretty tight sphere of people, horses, situations, and landscapes. McGuane opens the window to the world he experiences with insight and humour and lets you know something of the fabric of traveling to cuttings, training intractable animals, and ending up pretty close to ground level. I put the book down feeling right at home with the author's western writing style(Abbey to Stegner I guess, an appreciation of his deep feeling for western life and horses, and I think I'll pick it up again when I feel the need for a dose of fine prairie dust and open space....maybe it will serve you the same way
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By A Customer on January 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a horseman - - McGuane knows and loves his horses, and conveys that well.
As an author - - his work is a great pleasure to read... he does have fine a way with words.
The best comment that I can make is that after reading Some Horses we're back on line to buy a bunch more of McGuane's books.
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