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Wednesday Book Review: ‘Beyond the Homestretch’

Horse Nation bookworm Erin McCabe mends her dashed Triple Crown dreams with this tribute to life lessons learned from ex-racehorses by Lynn Reardon.

From Erin:

I’ll Have Another Book about Ex-Racers, Please

I’m having a hard time letting go of my racing book obsession.  It’s even worse because my hopes for a Triple Crown winner in my lifetime that I can actually remember were dashed so hard, yet again.  Sigh.  So, when I got a hot tip from Kathy and amazon.com on the same day, I pretty much had to read Lynn Reardon’s book, Beyond the Homestretch:  What Saving Racehorses Taught Me About Starting Over, Facing Fear, and Finding My Inner Cowgirl.  When I realized that Lynn Reardon founded her own Thoroughbred rescue organization and has a ranch where some of the horses come and live, I knew I needed to get her book Right. Now. because I maybe kinda sorta would love to do the same thing.  Just don’t tell my husband.  He already thinks I might be an animal hoarder.

I have this theory that most HorseGirls are secretly (or maybe not-so-secretly) know-it-alls.  This is based on my years of personal observation, very rigorous collection of statistics on temperament and intimate self-knowledge.  But then Lynn Reardon comes along and has to burst my bubble.  As she details her journey to becoming a horsewoman and tells the stories of the various horses she helps rescue, Reardon comes across as being the least know-it-all HorseGirl ever.  She admits all the things she doesn’t know, she confesses to being scared and feeling like an imposter, and she does it all with self-deprecating humor.  Of course, it also becomes pretty obvious as the book progresses that Reardon actually does know quite a lot (between in-the-field tracheotomy assisting, learning to give IV injections, and starting up a non-profit Thoroughbred rescue and placement organization how could she not?), but it also becomes obvious that the horses (and vets and trainers and exercise riders and…) have taught her even more, opening all kind of doors to self-discovery.  Maybe I’m being a know-it-all HorseGirl making a huge generalization here, but for most of us who stick with horses for the long haul, horses and what they teach us about ourselves almost becomes a kind of religion.  I mean, seriously, what do I want to do every Sunday morning?  Go riding, of course!

That’s not to say that Reardon is at all preachy or judgmental (even when she very briefly mentions some of the facts and statistics about the racing industry and the fates of ex-racers).  In fact, Reardon’s writing style is breezy, funny, honest, and immensely readable.  Although her book contains some great life lessons, she never hits you over the head with philosophical ideas or deep thoughts, but they’re still in there, making the book a guilty pleasure without the guilt.  In other words, her book is a perfect beach read (assuming you go to the beach to read and not to ride in the surf).  The only downside is that you will just want to read it straight through and you’ll forget to put on sunscreen and you’ll end up with a sunburn.  You should also only read this book if you have Internet access nearby because immediately upon finishing the book you will need to check out Reardon’s rescue organization LOPE (LoneStar Outreach to Place Ex-racers), which you can find at http://www.lopetx.org.  Then you will have to figure out how to convince your parents/spouse/significant other/trainer/bank account that you need an(other) OTTB.

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