The Perils and Pitfalls of Horse Ownership documents many of the essential blunders which have often been made by horsey folk when they are at the less experienced end of the scale. As the owner of the Rein and Shine Equestrian Centre I have spent much of my time teaching people to ride, training horses, and observing horse owner's special brand of behaviour when it comes to their favourite horse. I try to highlight the humour of the small things in the equine world, which horse lovers of course can blow out of all proportion; such as the way keeping a horse warm at night can turn into sheer frivolity of ceremony, with many horse owners adorning their horses beyond normal measures, to the point where the horse has more clothing and a comfier bed than they do!
The oversensitive nature of horses is something I have always enjoyed cartooning; a paper bag for example can become a demon when caught by the wind, and a cross country fence a place off utter terror! Yet to a human these appear to be normal and everyday objects. The wiring of a horse's brain can be a minefield, they so often have become misunderstood creatures and labelled as "naughty" or "too flighty", at times the real problem is the fact they have been mixed with the inexperienced horse handler!
For many people the "joy" of learning to ride can be the fondest of their horsey memories, I will always remember leaving the arena in floods of tears as a child when scolded for not holding my hands in the "correct" position! The overbearing instructors words have never left me! At the time this was an event which nearly put me off riding, as I look back now I can laugh at myself and the tyrannical teacher, but cunningly I have added her to the book as an advert for bad instructors! The idea behind The Perils & Pitfalls of Horse Ownership has always been for us to be able to laugh at ourselves – I have been the subject of many of these illustrations over the years, poking fun at my own inexperience when I was at a point of buying my first horse and loaning my first pony, I now see others treading the same path I did all those years ago. I like to explore through my work (now that I know) what the horse is really feeling and thinking, and conveying this with as many human qualities as possible so the reader can understand what the world is like looking at it through the horse's eyes.
The first twelve months of owning a horse are considered to be the hardest months of all. This is where you really learn that the outside appearance of glamour attached to the equine world is really just that, an appearance! The smallest part of owning a horse is the riding, the rest is simply navigating through a battle of wills between the horse and the owner. Many new owners give up in this time finding the commitment too hard for almost no reward, as the book unfolds it is clear that horses can rung rings around us in very funny scenarios, but it also shows that sticking with it does bring the reward – and this is the real message behind the humour. I hope that many horse fans and horse owners will be able to relate the pages to their own experiences, and see themselves or someone they know in the pages, and like I have done, perhaps look back and have the opportunity laugh at those treasured moments we all took so seriously at the time.