cover image Half Broke: A Memoir

Half Broke: A Memoir

Ginger Gaffney. Norton, $25.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-324-00307-6

In this powerful debut, horse trainer Gaffney shares stories of her 18-month stint at an alternative prison ranch in northern New Mexico, which she spent teaching its residents how to work with troubled horses. The residents, felons who suffer from drug and alcohol addictions, are intimidated at first by the seemingly feral animals—“giant gods with dominion over all things.” Believing “horses mirror their owners,” Gaffney realizes that the residents have been “beaten down by poverty... by the prison system” and are “unknowingly communicating their pain to the horses.” She begins with basics, telling the residents that, “If you want these horses to respect you, you have to respect yourself.” Reflecting on her own extreme introversion, Gaffney describes how Bella, her first horse, shifted her focus outside herself, a technique the residents learn in their own horse training. Strong bonds develop between trainer, horses, and residents (success is measured by how well the residents and horses cooperate with one another), until an illicit drug cache is discovered in the barn. Half the team is subsequently kicked off the ranch, but Gaffney continues to work hard with the remaining residents. The narrative culminates in a community-wide fund-raiser showcasing the trained horses that are then sold—an event that brings attention to the program. Gaffney’s story will delight horse lovers, and her anxieties as an introvert will broaden the appeal of this passionate memoir. (Feb.)