cover image HORSE PEOPLE: Scenes from the Riding Life

HORSE PEOPLE: Scenes from the Riding Life

Michael Korda, . . HarperCollins, $25.95 (367pp) ISBN 978-0-06-621252-4

Korda (Country Matters ; Charmed Lives ) recounts in his trademark affable style a growing involvement over decades with horses and the people who ride them. Beginning with his youth, and following with his reconnection to the horse world when he takes his son to lessons, Korda relates how horses changed his life: he met his current wife, Margaret, at New York City's Claremont Riding Academy, and eventually they purchased a home in Dutchess County with grounds to accommodate a growing number of horses. In one hilarious episode, Korda, the editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster, visits an author in Middleburg, Va., and finds himself, unprepared, on a foxhunting horse jumping over walls and into backyards. He begins to analyze the symbolism of horses ("the horse stood... for social superiority, mobility, and not getting your feet wet and muddy like ordinary folk"), but this meditation is an exception, as Korda favors the anecdote and the caricature. There are rather too many "movers and shakers" for this book to live up to the diversity implied by its title, and while he briefly raises moral questions (about foxhunting, for example), he largely ignores the sociopolitical and emotional aspects of the horse-human relationship. He takes his reader on the occasional jaunt through less tony neighborhoods (with a veterinarian in Rhinebeck, N.Y.; to a rodeo in Archer City, Tex., with Larry McMurtry; and to a correctional facility's horse farm), but he tends to focus on places like Southlands, a privately owned facility in Dutchess County. While the book is more a series of vignettes than a full narrative, Korda's humor will be a delight to anyone who loves the world of riding. (Nov.)