I had the great honor of interviewing one of my favorite authors, Joe Camp, last week. Camp went from writing, directing and producing the successful Benji movies to becoming a horse whisperer and writing many horse-keeping books, including the national best-seller “The Soul of a Horse - Life Lessons from the Herd.” Cash, his first horse bought 10 years ago, was his equine soulmate and inspiration. Camp shared with me some of the lessons has learned in his lifetime.
“Some people are against giving their horses treats, but I find treats are the quickest way to communicate,” Camp says. “My horses never get one until I've asked them to do something and they've done it. Cash would often come up to me and perform for a treat. He had a broad repertoire. He could wave 'hello' with his foot, bow to me, bow with me.”
Cash would often try to get a treat by coming up to Camp showing a big smile which was a great way to start the day. On one particular afternoon, Camp had been working with Cash to teach him that when he said “other” to give Camp the opposite front hoof from what Cash had.
“I thought we had worked enough and would continue our lesson another time,” Camp recalls. “So I turned him loose to go out to the pasture but he continued to hang out with my wife Kathleen and I as we reclined in our chairs by the house. He was hanging over my shoulder and Kathleen said, ‘I think Cash is asking you a question.’ I turned to see all teeth showing, as Cash smiled for a treat. I said, ‘No, we're done,’ and turned to Kathleen. I glanced back to see he was waving with his foot and I said again, ‘We're done.’ I gave him my back and Kathleen laughed, ‘You’re not done!’ I looked around at Cash and there he was, waving the ‘other’ to prove he had mastered his lesson and was earning his treat.”
The final "Life Lessons from the Herd" that Cash has taught him was that good-byes are a sad part of life. Cash was injured out in the pasture last November and died from internal bleeding, and as Camp talks it's obvious how badly he still misses him.
“How do you get over the loss of your favorite horse?” I asked Camp, hoping he could help me to fill the recently-created, horse-sized hole in my own heart.
“I don’t know ’cause I haven’t,” his soft voice quivers. “I still look for him around every corner.”
Me too. I can only give the final word to another of my favorite authors, A.A. Milne, who wrote — “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Photo courtesy of Kathleen Camp
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