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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Art of Working Horses Another Review

Art of Working Horses Another Review


Art of Working Horses – Another Review

by William Reynolds

Historian and writer, William Reynolds has worked to celebrate the culture of the American West for over forty-years. He has written for and published western journals such as Cowboys & Indians, Western Horseman, The Cowboy Way and Ranch & Reata. He has written five books including “The Art of the Western Saddle” and “The Faraway Horses” with his friend Buck Brannaman. Reynolds is currently finishing a book on the artist Joe DeYong.

I have been around horses for over fifty years and I am certainly no expert. Call me a passionate amateur, but one thing I have found over all that time is that horses thrive when they have a job to do. It is easy to see the change in them when they get focused on doing work; they simply come alive. It was fascinating reading through Lynn Miller’s, “Art of Working Horses,” in all of its 365 pages of glory. It’s important to note from the start that the book is made up of stories, musings and ponderings Miller has experienced over a lifetime of working around and with horses. He is a lifelong student of the teamster’s craft and has compiled his stories, with those he has met and worked with along the way who were also consumed with horses in harness. Miller is a celebrated artist, painter, writer, as well as a farmer. How he finds time to do all that and publish the legacy tabloid Small Farmer’s Journal is a continuing wonder.

Art of Working Horses Another Review

One could loosely say this is a “how-to” book but it is more of an “existential” how-to: how to get yourself into a way of thinking about the world of working horses. Maybe we need to explain what a working horse is. A working horse is one, in harness, given to a specific task. So, in that context, the book illustrates the many ways Miller has worked with his equine partners over the years – helping them understand what he wants them to do, as both work together to create relationships that help achieve desired goals — it’s very much about creating win-win relationships between the human and the horse(s) directed at a task. And like any grand relationship, each is filled with nuance and subtlety. Patience, here, is truly a virtue, as most trust-sensitive tasks are, and Miller explains through his own passion and patience for the subject by saying in effect, right from the beginning, “Folks, if you like what you’re seeing, it’s going to take some time.” As like any artful skill, investment of time and practice is key, and success is not achieved overnight.

So one should not look at this book as an A-Z primer, rather it enables the reader to ride alongside Miller and the folks he has met along the way. It is filled with a lifetime of learning and working with horses — and people — that will help you, dear reader, feel what he felt, see what he saw, and help all of us understand the gentle yet purposeful approach he takes to be successful with horses. It is a journey, and one filled with challenges as well as rewards. It is a journey of commitment: to one’s self and to the glorious living things doing the work.

The book itself is arranged so that one is swept up from Chapter One as Miller introduces us to an earnest young man filled with exuberance, a bit of arrogance, and a vitality that made him feel as if nothing was out of his reach. We watch him grow and learn from those around him, and the chapters begin to fly by with stories of success and frustration, but always directed at building a basis of understanding. Growth through experience. We meet and work with horses long gone — and people too — that have “headed on up the trail ahead of us,” but not before leaving lasting impressions.

Art of Working Horses Another Review

We learn about harnesses and harnessing, about bits and biting, and of course about the nature of horses. Did you know that horses eyes have many fixed lenses around the retina? And that horses look out of the top of their eye to see close, and the bottom to see far, and these lenses rotate to focus from close to mid-range? In speaking of man’s potential relationship with horses, Mr. Miller writes, “One way I choose to understand man’s relationship with horses is in terms of electrical current. Horses absorb electricity from everywhere and they give it up only when circumstance or teams connect. When I work my horses I feel an unexplainable difference in myself that I understand as hum without sound. I see the energy of the natural world coming to me through my working partners. When I truly believe in this connection, as I work, my relationship with the horses and our performance together is balanced and effective.”

Ask yourself, do I look for this kind of connection with the people I work with everyday? Do I work to achieve that level of harmony and connection with my spouse or with those important in my life? About half way through the book it begins to transcend its specific subject and move into a greater realm. It reminds one of the wonderful writer Thomas McGuane — no stranger himself to writing great horse stories — who wrote in his short story, titled simply Horses, “Those who love horses are impelled by an ever-receding vision, some enchanted transformation through which the horse and the rider become a third, much greater thing.” I am sure Mr. McGuane would agree that the same transformation, as Mr. Miller describes, is the game changer whether one is riding in the saddle or working horses in harness.

Art of Working Horses Another Review

The book is filled with photos and artwork by Miller, his wife Kristi, and others, as well as historic drawings and diagrams — all lovingly accessible in chapters that could all be titled with the first word being “Adventure:” Adventure – 1, Adventure – 2 and so on through the book’s twenty-one chapters. Horses and people are discussed with equal weight, as of course they would be by one who loves them both. Forward-thinking topics are also presented — such as the future of working with horses and the practicality of animal powered-agriculture in the twenty-first century. I won’t be giving anything away if I tell you that Mr. Miller is very positive on that subject and its ability to not only continue but thrive — which is shown by many — actually most — of the images in the book because they were taken recently. I will let you read through his perspective on the subject but suffice it to say that more than ever, the use of animals on small family farms fits perfectly with the kind of quality, diverse and mixed crop efforts being undertaken and truly appreciated by the consuming public as seen by the huge growth of local, farmers’ markets all over the country.

When we get towards the end of the book, we know it must happen. Things we love will die, no matter what we do and Mr. Miller handles those moments with grace and respect, that has us look to the horizon and know that there will be more horses, and more fields to work — together. That said, those that came before and gave their all, will never be forgotten.

Art of Working Horses Another Review

This is a book for anyone who loves horses, and stories about horses, and stories about horse people. This is a book written by a man consumed with horses, who simply can’t get enough of them. Frankly I can’t get enough of Lynn Miller’s writing. 365 pages simply aren’t enough.

Spotlight On: Book Reviews

Art of Working Horses

Lynn Miller’s New Book: Art of Working Horses

Art of Working Horses, by Lynn R. Miller, follows on the heels of his other eight Work Horse Library titles. This book tells the inside story of how people today find success working horses and mules in harness, whether it be on farm fields, in the woods, or on the road. Over 500 photos and illustrations accompany an anecdote-rich text which makes a case for the future of true horsepower.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Build Your Own Earth Oven

An Introduction To Cob

Mixed with sand, water, and straw, a clayey-subsoil will dry into a very hard and durable material; indeed, it was the first, natural “concrete”. In the Americas, we call it “adobe”, which is originally from the Arabic “al-toba”, meaning “the brick.” Invading Moors brought the word to Spain from North Africa, where an ancient mud building tradition continues today.

How To Prune a Formal Hedge

How To Prune A Formal Hedge

This guide to hedge-trimming comes from The Pruning Answer Book by Lewis Hill and Penelope O’Sullivan. Q: What’s the correct way to shear a formal hedge? A: The amount of shearing depends upon the specific plant and whether the hedge is formal or informal. You’ll need to trim an informal hedge only once or twice a year, although more vigorous growers, such as privet and ninebark, may need additional clippings.

McCormick-Deering No 7 Mower Manual in English & French

McCormick-Deering No. 7 Mower Manual in English & French

Instructions for Setting Up and Operating the McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 VERTICAL LIFT TWO-HORSE MOWERS — Instructions pour le Montage et le Fonctionnement des FAUCHEUSES A DEUX CHEVAUX McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 À RELEVAGE VERTICAL

Basic Blacksmithing Techniques

Illustrated guide to basic blacksmithing techniques, an excerpt from Blacksmithing: Basics For The Homestead.

Aboard the Planetary Spaceship

Aboard the Planetary Spaceship

SFJ Spring 2016 Preview: Edward O. Wilson’s new book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, offers a plan for the problem of species extinction: the dominant species, man, must hold itself back, must relinquish half the earth’s surface to those endangered. It is a challenging and on the face of it improbable thought, expressed in a terse style. But his phrases are packed because the hour is late.

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.


Driving Fence Posts By Hand

Where the soil is soft, loose, and free from stone, posts may be driven more easily and firmly than if set in holes dug for the purpose.


Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

Retrofitting a Fireplace with a Woodstove

How to Retrofit a Fireplace with a Woodstove

Because the venting requirements for a wood stove are different than for a fireplace you need to retrofit a stainless steel chimney liner. A liner provides the draft necessary to ensure that the stove will operate safely and efficiently.

Haying With Horses

Haying With Horses

If the reader is considering the construction of a barn we encourage you to give more than passing thought to allowing the structure of the gable to be open enough to accommodate the hanging of a trolley track. It is difficult or impossible to retrofit a truss-built barn, which may have many supports crisscrossing the inside gable, to receive hay jags. At least allowing for the option in a new construction design will leave the option for loose hay systems in the future.

Woodstove Cookery at Home on the Range

An Illustrated Guide To The Wood Fired Cookstove

Illustrated guide to the wood stove and it’s accoutrements.

Why Farm

Farming For Art’s Sake: Farming As An Artform

Farming as a vocation is more of a way of living than of making a living. Farming at its best is an Art, at its worst it is an industry. Farming can be an Art because it allows at every juncture for the farmer to create form from his or her vision.

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

Book Excerpt: The enclosed gear, late model John Deere, Case, Oliver, David Bradley, and McCormick Deering International mowers I (we) are so fond of had a zenith of popular manufacture and use that lasted just short of 25 years. Millions of farmers with millions of mowers, built to have a serviceable life of 100 plus years, all pushed into the fence rows. I say, it was far too short of a period.

Livestock Guardians

Introducing Your Guard Dog To New Livestock And Other Dogs

When you introduce new animals to an established herd or flock, you should observe your dog’s reactions and behavior for a few days. Since he will be curious anyway, it is a good idea to introduce him to the new animals while he is leashed or to place the new animals in a nearby area.

Making Buttermilk

The Small-Scale Dairy

What kind of milk animal would best suit your needs? For barnyard matchmaking to be a success, you need to address several concerns.

Dont Eat the Seed Corn

Don’t Eat the Seed Corn: Strategies & Prospects for Human Survival

from issue:

Gary Paul Nabhan’s book “WHERE OUR FOOD COMES FROM: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine” (Island Press, 2009) is a weighty tome, freighted with implications. But as befits its subject it is also portable and travels well, a deft exploration of two trips around the world, that of the author following in the footsteps of a long-gone mentor he never met, the Russian pioneer botanist and geneticist Nikolay Vavilov (1887-1943).

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT