Book Review: ‘Our Horses, Ourselves’

‘Discovering the Common Body’ by Paula Josa-Jones.

I learned a lot about myself and the way humans relate to horses as I worked through this book — perhaps because I didn’t really like this book at all. I realize that’s a weird way to open up a book review, but stick with me, because I do think there’s an important audience for this work. I’m just not that audience.

Author Paula Josa-Jones is a dancer and choreographer as well as a horsewoman; her equine experience combines elements of Tellington Touch training with dressage as well as dance. Her book Our Horses, Ourselves explores the world of nonverbal communication — human communication is estimated to be 60 to 80% nonverbal — and how we can better understand and hone this to deepen our relationship with horses.

Admittedly, dance is not a form of expression or performance art which I particularly enjoy. I respect dance and dancers, and I appreciate the way that dance can express emotion and thought; it’s just not a medium of art that has ever really resonated with me as an individual. I tried to keep an open mind through Our Horses, Ourselves regardless, believing that even if it were not my medium of choice, there’s plenty to learn and plenty of ways to improve my equine relationships based on these physical forms of communication.

The parts of this book that resonated the most with me were the illustrative vignettes when Josa-Jones describes specific interactions with individual horses, how she approach each problem and how she was able to better communicate and therefore develop the relationship between herself and the horse. The rest of the book was written in more abstract terms that I found harder to follow.

What I did ultimately learn is that there are many ways to approach the same subject material: improving our communication with our horses. As a reader, personally, this book did not “click” with me — but that’s not to say that another reader, perhaps coming from a better appreciation for dance and the physical body, might find chapters upon chapters of wisdom in these pages. Ultimately, I felt that the connections that Josa-Jones described are not anything particularly groundbreaking, but the road that she takes to get there for readers is what’s new and fascinating.

Our Horses, Ourselves is available from Trafalgar Square Books.

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