Dark Horses and Black Beauties: Animals, Women, a Passion

Melissa Holbrook Pierson, Author
Melissa Holbrook Pierson, Author W. W. Norton & Company $22.95 (254p) ISBN 978-0-393-04947-3
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Paperback - 256 pages - 978-1-86207-485-9
Paperback - 254 pages - 978-0-393-32266-8
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-393-34533-9
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-1-86207-422-4
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During her midlife quest to explain the horse-filled frenzy of her childhood, Pierson (The Perfect Vehicle: What Is It About Motorcycles?) interviews the founder of an equine welfare group who expertly classifies the three kinds of women who love horses: ""[T]hose who want something out of them, personally or professionally; those who anthropomorphize them; and those who are seeking a higher knowledge about horses and humans and the mysteries of their intersection."" The author falls into the last group as she plumbs the depths of both the feminine and the equine, looking closely at how the two intertwine. Although the book freely mixes history, memoir, sociology, psychology and even snippets of poetry, Pierson does follow a clear narrative line. Acknowledging that her love of horses has endured long past childhood, she signs up for riding lessons. As she recalls passages from Black Beauty and describes Breyer model horse competitions from her youth, the author grows into a better horsewoman, remembering riding techniques and recapturing her love for manure's particular smell. As she gets more expert, her meditation on women and horses deepens and ranges more widely, encompassing horse racing, sidesaddle riding, class issues and competition. Pierson's smooth writing style is well suited to her subject, containing bits of breathless enthusiasm one moment and peaceful contemplation the next. Although she doesn't arrive at a definitive answer to why little girls all over the Western world suddenly become horse obsessed, she does provide a host of smaller, personal epiphanies about a woman's need to connect with the natural world, and the empowerment that comes from commanding a larger, more forceful being. (Sept.)
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