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The Heart of A Horselover
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The Heart of A Horselover

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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  1. James Kenway
    what a wondeful post. i myself love doing things from the ground, just being thugether, not ask anything of the horse. i do give treaths too, but not in the terms of learning horses something, but just sometimes when i come, and sometimes when i go, sometimes both. when it comes to learning something for my own safety (like fx be carefull where it set his or her's hoof acording to where my feet is) if it step on my feet, i simpel bit the pain within me, are present with the pain, and say 'avv, please step off nari' and once he step back, i say 'look out where you place your hoof's! im born with feet's not hoof's' weil i invite him closer in to me again. from there on, i simpel just remind them 'beware my feet's' and they will taik there heads down and look after where my feet is, and then step where they not is. then i reward by scratsing there favorits spot's, with love and care and thanx in hearth. i never use force, pressur, or anything phycical, but cumunicate via body langues and feelings alone that is the horses langues.... we humans easy learn body langues, but most people forget to learn to use there feelings as well that travel troug the air like sound, and horses and all animals pick up on this like a langues, and once we are in the horse space, we can learn to use this as a langues too.... if you wish to learn more, try see stormy may's documentary on youtube [the path of the horse] and studie her further from there. you can allso write to my mail julianj@live.dk and be one of my mail students wich cost you nothing as i share what i know for free. becouse for me, horse welfare is more importen then mony.
    1. Mark Calvo
      Mark Calvo
      Same feeling here. Riding is great but being on the ground and communicating is something we all should do. When I finish a ride on my boy Duke and I dismount all I need to do is say "Go to the barn and I will take your tack off, " and off he goes. These are some smart animals.
  2. Mark Calvo
    Mark Calvo
    Keep these coming Jayne. I really enjoy your posts.
    1. James Kenway
      mark. i'm sure you have heard of this. but more and more people realize how painfull the use of bit's in there moute in reality is... horses does not allway's show when they are in pain, as in is in there nature not to, to avoid being choosen as pray by meat eating animal's.... a small update: consider this. the lower jaw ends up in a sharp end that is as sharp as a knife at the point's where there is no teeth (there where the bit's sit's) what is there betwing this sharp jaw, and the bit? gums and nerve!!! and even with the slighets pressur from the bit on thise gum's (done to the rider's pull in the rein to turn left fx) gives signal's of pain troug the nerve that lead up to the brain. the horse (so smart as it is) fast figure out it's the rider who does this to the horse, and it is getting the pain removed again by turning it's head. as that to get the pain removed is a reward. that is in the category of negative reanforcement. the horse reward is that the rider stop the pain again.... wan't more info and link's sent to studie further? write to me on Julianj@live.dk and i'll respond soon!!!
  3. jst4horses
    Lovely warm article. And how true, you never do get over them. I had one horse that after he died, he had stepped in an ant hill out on the mountain and some S. American ants apparently from the health department's view, had come in a pot from a local nursery and set up house on the mountain. The horse was stung thousands of times, and dead before the vet had time to page us back. I had five bites and was sent to hospital unconscious, I was attempting to drive home and started to pass out, stopped at a store, walked through their door and said, can you call an am.........and dropped over from the venom. He was such a special horse. I would sometimes feel him as he used to do, pushing up behind me to see what I was doing, or trying to take the rake and help me, he would even take a brush and try to brush ME! He had a friend, another racehorse from the same training stable I had bought when his racing days were over. He died in a freak accident and then both horses were gone. Being Native American, I felt the first horse had waited for his buddy. People had said to me from time to time something about the big bay horse in my paddock. I had no other big bay horses at the time, just the one who had passed from the ant bites. One day on the trail we ALL heard a horse thundering down the trail after us, and when we turned, nothing was there. Maybe they really do stay around, or come visit?

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