Writer, rancher, horseman, and conservationist Thomas McGuane is the author of nine novels, a collection of short stories, several collections of essays on sport and horse, and he also wrote the screen play for "Missouri Breaks."
The latter just goes to show that an author can be an expert on his subject and still end up as a grease mark on the Hollywood Wall of Shame.
I had already read his essay collection, "Some Horses" and eagerly ordered this second title, thinking the two books would be similar. In a sense they are. In fact "Some Horses" contains expanded material from "Horses" which is more of a photo collection by Jay Dusard, and contains only a few essays by Thomas McGuane. If you are interested in McGuane's writing, go for "Some Horses," not this title.
Jay Dusard has been riding and photographing Western horses since 1962. In his introduction to this book, he compares horses to sculpture: "Sculpture that races, rests, fears, flees, fights, bucks, works and plays, lives and dies." "Horses" contains a few very sculptural pictures, almost abstract, of a horse's flank caked in mud, the shadow of a horse's head molded across the rump of another. Most of the pictures show the working relationship between horse and cowboy, mule and cowboy. One of my favorite stories (which I think is written by Dusard) concerns the use of mules on a cougar hunt. The author was mounted on a horse, his companion on a mule, and the cougar they were following climbed down deep into a canyon. The mule plunged down where the horse couldn't follow:
"Like a long-eared hang glider the mule leaped into the abyss, striking long trails of sparks with his shoes...In a matter of seconds he dropped completely out of sight, only to reappear at a high lope on a bench far below. At the end of the bench, and without breaking stride, Mochoma again propelled himself into deep space."
I would have liked to have ridden Mochoma, as the only mule I ever struck up an acquaintance with was a red Appaloosa, who fell down twice on the first day of our camping trip into the Tetons. He ended up permanently in the pack string.
"Horses" would make a nice gift with its gritty photographs and cowboy stories. You'll make your way through it in half-an-hour and be hungry for more pictures and yarns from this photographer and author.