A sucker for horses and horse stories, I couldn't resist the beautiful face on the cover. It wouldn't matter if the writing inside were drivel. But it's not. Inside is a lovely story about redemption for both horse and human. Get the kleenex box.
A LitLovers LitPick (March '08)
The horse was Lay Me Down, a tall, scrawny, sick (with pneumonia), abused standardbred mare, with a hostile foal at her heels and a wheezing sigh. The human was middle-aged, also abused (both as a child and in a bad marriage), an AA veteran and the owner of three Morgan horses in upstate New York. The Morgan mare, Georgia, was furious about the new intruder, although, Richards writes, "I blamed myself for creating a monster, a monster named Georgia. All these years of spoiling her, of never allowing anyone else to ride her, of letting her boss me around...." Richards's first book is an engaging, honest and low-key memoir of her love affair with the sweet-natured Lay Me Down and her almost love affair with a fellow named Hank, with many digressions into horse lore as well as life lore. Charming and sensitive descriptions of fiery Georgia; the gallant, lovable old gelding, Hotshot; loyal friend and "horsewoman extraordinaire" Allie; and daily life with animals intersperse with the trials of dating and buying underwear. The end of neither affair is happy, but this is a bracing and likable book, highly recommended for backyard horsewomen and their admirers.
Psychotherapist and animal lover Richards (writing, Marist Coll., Poughkeepsie, NY) eloquently and movingly recounts her relationship with a horse. Hers is the story of how a removed, emotionally damaged person and an abused animal form a bond that is a godsend for both parties. The author, who normally avoids sick and dying animals and humans alike, agrees to rescue an ailing mare named Lay Me Down and nurses her back to health while marveling at how trusting, kind, and gentle she is despite having been neglected and abused by a former owner. Sadly, the mare develops cancer and eventually has to be euthanized. Though this death is heart-wrenching for Richards, her relationship with the mare has helped her regain the will to reconnect with people and to make important changes in her life. Patrons who like Lauren Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit: An American Legend), Jane Smiley (Horse Heaven), and Susan Nusser (In Service to the Horse: Chronicles of a Labor of Love) will love this book as well. —Patsy Gray, Huntsville P.L., AL
Affectionate memoir about an SPCA rescue horse fostered by a lonely social worker. Richards already owned three horses when she responded to a desperate plea from the SPCA asking for volunteers to foster abused mares and their foals. The mare she was given, Lay Me Down, was a lame, half-starved creature who "looked like a complicated wire coat hanger draped with a mud-caked brown pelt." The trusting mare, who had been valued at $100,000 at the height of her racing career some 12 years earlier, now walked with a pronounced limp in both front legs, and had painful arthritis in both rear hocks. Despite her history of injuries and abuse, Lay Me Down retained an affable temperament that deeply impressed her new owner, herself a survivor of childhood and domestic abuse. A little romance even enters the picture when Richards's gelding Hotshot courts the new arrival: "Their mutual attraction was instant and strong. . . . Together, they were a duet of contentment." Inspired by Lay Me Down's example, Richards decides to abandon her hermit-like ways and actually goes on a date: "If Lay Me Down could risk loving, so could I." All too soon, Richards realizes something is wrong with her new equine charge. One of Lay Me Down's eyes protrudes, and she is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. A trip to Cornell's veterinary hospital confirms the worst, leaving Richards to cling to the hope that Lay Me Down, who had been imprisoned for years in a dark stall, live till spring, and bask once more in the sun's warmth. A tender lesson in courage and dependence.
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