BOOKS: The Whole Horse Catalog & The Horse

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1998:

The Whole Horse Catalog
Steven D. Price, Editorial Director, with Barbara Burn,
Gail Rentsch, and David A. Spector. Illustrations by Werner Rentsch.
Fireside Books (Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas,
New York, NY 10020), 1998. 351 oversized pages, paperback, $20.00.

The Horse: The Most Abused Domestic Animal
by Greta Bunting
(POB 12195, St. Petersburg, FL 33733-2195), 1998.
68 pages, paperback, $13.86.


I write a lot about horse protection
issues, especially pertaining to wild horses,
and have for many years, but I don’t ride,
never have, never wanted to, and will freely
admit that what I know about the practical
aspects of horsekeeping is chiefly jackdookey––i.e.
the stuff I shovel each morning.

The burros who create it (by preference in
front of gates) shake their heads at my apparent
interest in the worthless; I suggest that
they remind me of some of my more prominent
human subjects of coverage; and we all
agree that oats are just fine for breakfast. Our
relationship is eminently uncomplicated.
Horsekeeping, by contrast, has
always seemed immensely complicated, from
the detailed terminology to the flighty nature
of horses themselves, and thus The Whole
Horse Catalog looked at first like a very welcome
handy-dandy decoding device.
But my method of judging the
authority of books on topics I don’t know
much about is to find passages pertaining to
things I do know about. Only if those stand up
do I presume the author(s) are genuinely
authoritative. Going by that method, I find
missing from the two pages of The Whole
Horse Catalog dedicated to “equine humane
movements” anything really useful about
detecting or responding to horse abuse and
neglect. An apparently deliberate insouciance
about foxhunting frankly appalls me more than
the traditional “unspeakable in pursuit of the
inedible.” Donkeys are apparently mentioned
just once, on page 15.
Being also familiar with the treatment
of hogs and poultry, I can find things to
argue with Greta Marsh about, from her title
and thesis in The Horse: The Most Abused
Domestic Animal, down to some of her statistics
and political assessments. But, on the
whole, Marsh’s relatively slim book could
easily become the fully developed chapter on
humane consideration of horses that T h e
Whole Horse Catalog lacks. Her passion is
supported, she engages the range of issues,
she knows her stuff, and I suspect even our
burros would give her a nod.

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