By Lynn Reardon
Hard cover, 304 pages. Published by New World Library
Reviewed by Mary Daniels
I don't think the author meant this to be a suspense story, but it qualifies. There were parts that raised my anxiety to lip-biting level and until the last pages I wasn't sure how things would end. The premise alone is enough to raise eyebrows if not blood pressure. A Washington, D.C., accountant and adult beginner with horses, decides on a midlife change. She and her husband, who knows even less, buy a Texas ranch where she plans to rescue Thoroughbred racehorses needing their own career change because of injury or ineptitude.
I was drawn by the drama of these horses; lives depicted with the kind of good writing that sets you smack dab in the middle of the many perilous situations in which she finds herself often alone and clueless. For example, at 3 a.m. she debates whether or not to insert pieces of rubber hose up the nostrils of a miserable and breathing-impaired 3-year-old, who has been bitten by a rattlesnake. Complicating matters, she doesn't have (at least for starters) even minimal equine paramedic skills (but she does become handy at speed-dialing the vet, even in the dark). Nor is she savvy about stallions, one of which she takes in early on. Fortunately, he turns out to be a fairly polite gentleman. Nearly every horse she takes in has some quirky past, jeopardized present or iffy future. Many are born aristocrats of the track, with names such as Seattle Slew and Princequillo in their pedigrees.
Enter colorful track characters (many who care), helpful neighbors and gallant veterinarians who give discounts while dealing with tracheotomies, infected coffin bones, shredded legs and more. Soon after come hunter-jumper trainers, dressage riders and even recreational trail riders who find her sanctuary a source of riding-horse talent. One of the funniest parts, and I am not sure she intended it to be that way, is when she takes part in a natural horsemanship colt-starting clinic. Her budget does not allow for a professional, so she decides she is going to learn how to do it herself as most adoption prospects want a horse already started. As the famous clinician calls Yoda directives, she feels her filly's back muscles tense. She pulls the fuming filly over to the clinician, tossing her human pride down, and says, "I need some help, please." He replies, "Well, yes, I know you do."
Reardon survives through pluck and persistence and what she calls her stubborn "inner teenager" simply refusing to give up. So today, she is the founder and executive director of LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-Racers (LOPE), successfully placing more than 145 horses through the ranch facility near Austin, Texas, and transitioning another 580 through the LOPE Web site listing service. Her prose is crisp, honest, authentic, full of self-deprecating humor and a passion for doing what is right. I loved her many movie metaphors that kept me going to the last page where she says "the reality is that the horses saved me from a dull, ordinary life lacking in purpose, adventure and growth."
I am just glad she survived those adventures and can inspire others to get out and do whatever they can to help re-home these magnificent equine ex-athletes.