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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book Review - Amazing Grays

Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace

Pursuing relationship with God, horses, and one another

By Lynn Baber



There are so many books in the world and so little time to give even good books the time they deserve. Some books, as you read them, are so rich, so full of imagery and truth, that you take your time, trying to absorb every nuance and make your own connections. Tess of D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, and specifically two of CS Lewis’s books (4 Loves, Mere Christianity) hold a special place in my heart as these kind of books.

I can add Lynn Baber’s book “Amazing Grays” to that particular book shelf.

The book’s unassuming in appearance, less than ¾” thick, belies the thickness of idea, thought, and philosophy that permeates every page. I received my review copy as I boarded the plane to Demopolis AL and I was excited – a light read about horses, relationships, and delightfully entertaining stories that tied everything in a neat little bow for the plane ride. Instead I found myself only able to read one chapter at a time, and sometimes barely able to do even that! Half way through the chapter I would find my head so stuffed with new perspectives and ideas that I would have to skim the last half of the chapter to insure none of the things I wanted to further contemplate on got pushed out of the way.

My relationship to horses has always been emotional and indefinable. Baber has come the closest to explaining that relationship in all its intricacies. She clearly defines the relationship between horse and handler and the responsibilities of each in a way that I have come to intuitively understand, but have also had trouble explaining.

To fellow Christians, I think the religious foundations of the book will suit any denomination. Like CS Lewis in Mere Christianity, I feel Baber has steered clear of details that divide and instead focuses on the theology we can all agree on. I’ve often thought that God gave me the love of horses in order to help me understand relationships of friends, family, and God and Baber appears to agree. Baber alternates between horse philosophy and religion to illustrate whatever principle is the focus of the chapter – sometimes she uses religion to explain a certain facet of the horse relationship, sometimes vice versa.

For the non-Christian, I would encourage them to give the book a try, especially if you are having a problem your horse relationship. You might gain an insight into what is putting the brakes on the deep relationship with your horse that you crave. Even if you chose to ignore the religious content, Baber’s horse philosophy may give you a new perspective.

The book concludes with a beautiful story of a very special horse (not one of the greys) that Baber feels she “failed” and squandered a beautiful gift from God. It is moving and very touching as I think most horse people have regrets or feel guilty about a particular horse.

In conclusion I would like to share some of the ideas I’ve been recently contemplating based on my reading of “Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace”

  • A horse that “loses” it (even by degrees) is experiencing a lack of leadership. For example, if you ask a horse to do something during an endurance ride that it would normally do at home, but refuses at a ride (let’s using standing still when asked as an example…) there’s a lack of leadership. The horse is no longer putting its complete trust in you and is looking inwardly for that leadership.
  • The point of trailering out and riding in new places is not to desensitize the horse – it is a test of your relationship and leadership. I think showing (like a dressage test) is a good way of testing relationship as well – because it demands that you do a certain movement at a certain time, in a certain spot.
  • The better trainer will know lots of different ways to get the same result
  • There is no substitute for time in building a relationship
  • If the horse refuses something politely, insist politely
  • Being the judge in the middle of the ring is a whole ‘nother perspective than being a competitor on the rail
  • The habit of obedience versus the habit of task
  • Most horses accept the offer of Leadership and Relationship. A few must be dominated before accepting Leadership.
  • “You get what you breed. If you breed an idiot, you will likely get an idiot. It is a truism that the one characteristic you do not want reproduced in a foal s the one you are most certainly going to get. Yes, there are exceptions, but why accept such long odds when there are so many great horses out there already?”


  1. Sounds like a must-read! Thanks for posting the review, it looks like this book is going on my "wish list".

    And I just have to add that if you feel like God gave you horses to help you understand relationships, you will (assuming parenthood is in your future someday down the road) be blown away by how much becoming a mom will give you further insight into that as well.

    Definitely interested in reading this book - I'm going to mosey on over to her blog and check it out as well.

  2. Very interesting, I'm going to have to check this book out from the library!

    At my house we've decided that Fiddle is NOT the horse I would've chosen for myself (I like short, sweet horses), but she is definitely the horse that God chose for me to allow me to grow in ways that I needed to grow. I haven't before needed the skills that she requires, and it's been good for me to aquire them. Not painless, though.


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