An award-winning writer and journalist, Marjorie Simmins divides her time between Nova Scotia and British Columbia. Author of the popular memoir Coastal Lives, she teaches memoir writing across Canada. She shares her life with her husband, writer and filmmaker Silver Donald Cameron.
Can you think of any domesticated animal, apart from a dog that has such a rich history with humankind, are trainable, trustworthy and loyal as horses are? Being large, they command instant respect, but they can be the gentlest of creatures as well.
Three months in bed, then she has to teach herself to walk again, never mind getting back on a horse.
Healing and Adventure
But get back on a horse she does, for she knows that is one of her life’s greatest joys and freedoms. The healing begins, and the progress is tedious, for nerve damage recovery is slow; not measured by days or weeks, but months and years. The year 2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse and Ms Simmins is determined to start riding again. There’s a stable near her summer home in Cape Breton where she once again has to learn how to ride; this time with pain lurking just below the surface, along with a little fear of falling again. Then, as her confidence builds and she considers competing, there is the fear of failing, hearing the dreaded “you are excused” from the judge, which happened when she competed back in B.C. as a young girl:She succeeds in facing her fears and the nagging, negative voice in her head and proceeds to have an incredible year of adventures in riding, accomplishing many goals along the way, fully supported by her loving husband, author and filmmaker Silver Donald Cameron.
As a memoir, Year of the Horse succeeds in not being focused entirely on the writer, which is no easy challenge, but Ms Simmins manages to talk about her pain, her family, her recovery and her competing in such a way that the reader is carried along on the journey, not feeling like a bored listener trapped next to the person on a long flight, having to hear them carry on about a life you could care less about. I never felt that way once while reading Year of the Horse. Ms Simmins has a very genteel, self-deprecating manner of writing, and it was a joy to read this book.
Year of the Horse is rather educational as well, for those of us (such as I) who have only been on a horse once or twice in their lives, so know little about them. Ms Simmins explains about English vs. Western riding style, saddles and tack, and even the different types of horses. It was all very interesting, especially the competitions, sensing her nervousness as she and her mount Winnie tackle the challenges before them. Post-competition, she observes:
Year of the Horse is a memoir that will be particularly enjoyed by those who love horses, professional riders or otherwise, as well as those determined to overcome any physical and/or mental challenges life confront them with. A solid 4 stars at Goodreads.