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Booktalking "A Year at the Races" by Jane Smiley


Interestingly enough, some of horses' behavior can be traced to their relationships with their dams (mothers). Some horses' temperaments seem to be similar to those of their parents. When animals are randomly deprived of food, they can become anxious and less attentive mothers. Some horses are driven and ambitious just as some people are so focused and determined to achieve success. For example, Secretariat displayed those qualities. They are interested in their work and they try to improve for themselves, not simply for the trainer's approval. They are less distractible. Horses have different athletic inclinations and preferences for certain kinds of work (e.g., trail riding, eventing, dressage, barrel racing, etc.)

The horse industry is male dominated. Women jockeys are given a hard time and sometimes do not even have lockers or changing facilities at racetracks because they are so rare.  

The author included several fascinating stories of the behavior and training of horses that she has known. The intellect of horses is incredible. They are more kinetically intelligent than humans; they require fewer repetitions to learn something. This is why horses learn dressage or another discipline much faster than humans learn to ride horses performing a particular discipline. They are adaptable and can adjust to many different owners and names in their lifetimes. Horses are very attuned to the nonverbal behavior of humans, and they know when it is race day because the procedures of the day are different. They know when they have won a race. 

A Year at the Races: Reflections on Horses, Humans, Love, Money, and Luck by Jane Smiley, 2004 

This was one of the most interesting books on equine psychology and training that I have ever read at the library. The insights it provides are similar to the articles featured in Practical Horseman magazine. I have never owned a horse myself, so it was intriguing for me to learn about a horse's development from foalhood to adulthood.

In the racing industry, sometimes a million-dollar horse does not earn much moneypan out. Horses develop physically until they are five or six years old, yet Thoroughbreds are raced as three-year-olds. Horses are so fragile that if they break a leg, they need to be euthanized. I was a hot walker while in Australia, and that was an eye-opening experience into the racing world for me.

The author recommends that people interested in horse behavior read as much as they can about the topic and take riding lessons to improve their skills.  

Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner


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