Book Reviews

“How often do we riders wonder what our horses are thinking? A Marvelous Mustang is a fascinating story seen through the eyes of Skandranon Rashkae (Skan), a Spanish Mustang. Author and Skan’s owner, Janice M. Ladendorf, relates the tale of Skan’s first four years of life, from his birth as a wild horse on the range at Horse Head Ranch in North Dakota, to his capture, gentling, and eventual acceptance of life as a riding horse.

Ladendorf effectively illustrates Skan’s character and tells of his experiences in a charmingly realistic manner. As a reader, you almost believe that you are reading the horse’s words as he wrote them. As he learns to accept a halter, shelter, and finally a saddle and rider on his back, and then finally places his full trust in “Wind” (Skan’s name for Ladendorf).Skan’s story invokes a tremendous amount of empathy. It is a thought-provoking look at life from a horse’s perspective.

This book comes highly recommended to all, from the non-horsey person looking for a good read to the serious rider looking to gain new perspective on the inner workings of a horse’s mind.”

Jess Hallas-Kilcoyne. Canadian Horse Journal, March 2012.

 

“One might think that the age of 4 is rather young to write one’s memoir. But it suits Skandranon Rashkae (Skan) just fine. This, after all, is the most important part of his life, when he learns what he needs to know to live safely and comfortably with humans, a species whose nature – possibly predator – he is never quite sure of. … From the photos in this marvelous little book, there can be no argument as to his aristocratic ancestry.

… That he is a clever autobiographer is also not debatable though, admittedly, he has had excellent help in the interpretation from his human. … I am well aware of how such a memoir can get out of (or paw or hoof) into cuteness overload, blocking the message from coming through, and there always is one in the best of these.

That never happens here I am happy to say. By using this literary device, our interpreter highlights a horse’s point of view as he studies humans and discovers how to communicate with them and overcomes his reservations about their behavior. I enjoyed it immensely and it all to ring true and to coincide with my own observations with starting young horses.

… This unique approach, laced with wry humor and charm as well as touching compassion, makes the point of how we must be sensitive to horses’ stresses, emotions and anxieties, which often stem from their just not knowing what we want of them, more powerfully than in a straight pedestrian text.

… Hopefully, this book, a kind of contemporary Black Beauty, can inspire and lead amateur trainers to listen carefully to the true nature of their horses and be humane in their treatment.”

 Mary Daniels. Dressage Today, Nov., 2011, pp. 80-82.

 

"A Marvelous Mustang tells the true story of Skan, a registered Spanish Mustang who was bred and raised on the ranges of North Dakota by the Horse Head Ranch. While he was “owned” by humans, he really was born wild, enjoying his first months of life roaming with the herd. One day, while he was still at his mother’s side, he was rounded up and sold to “Wind”, a human so named by Skan because of her clean scent. This is the story of how Wind tamed and trained Skan, while he, at the same time, trained Wind to ways of the mustang.

Told in the first person by Skan, the reader sees and experiences everything the young mustang encounters. From his early fear of humans, to his encounters with a veterinarian and blacksmith, Skan has a lot to share. During the horse’s first year, he slowly comes around to easing his fear of humans, but also tests them to see just who is herd boss. As an example of this testing, once the colt had figured out that treats are good, he decided that perhaps he could control how many (more, lots more) treats he could get. He used horse language (what else?) to “encourage” Wind to dispense more treats. He laid his ears flat back against his neck, and pushed her with his nose. When that didn’t work, Skan next bared his teeth and finally charged at her. But Wind also “spoke horse” and body slammed the colt, almost knocking him down. Lesson learned.

The book follows Skan through his four-year old year and saddle training. He gets moved to a few different barns and reading his reactions to new environments is fun and informative. The horse must adjust to new smells, new horses, and new people. Along the way, the much loved mustang also observes a couple of other horses being mistreated by their humans. When he tries to figure out why a human would want to hurt their horse, the reader too, will be wondering.

Told in the first person by a horse, a story such as this can be hard to pull off. I admit that it did take a little used to as Skan told his story, but after the first few chapters, it failed to be an issue and the story could be enjoyed. Chapters were fairly short and made for easy reading, broken up into sections by the age at Skan. Also, at the end of each chapter were “New Rules for My Survival Code” which was a summary of what Skan had learned in that chapter.

There are a lot of lessons in A Marvelous Mustang, both for the horse as well as the humans involved as the author explores the mind of a mustang. Skan is not a “normal” (raised from birth in captivity) horse ad so his reactions can be a bit different. Fear must be overcome – slowly – before any real training can begin. Again and again, fear came into the picture as Skan resorted to his strong, natural survival instincts. Some of the horse reactions, explanations, and training methods are fairly basic and will do well to educate the new horse owner, while there are still several where experienced equestrians just may learn a thing or two."

 Ellen Field, Feathered Quill Book Reviews, April, 2013.

 Quill says: "Whether a new horse lover or an experienced horse trainer, A Marvelous Mustang is sure to entertain."