I think most of us horse people have harbored fantasies of taking off across country on horseback. John Egenes actually did it.
“Man and Horse” is the story, told by John himself, of how he, as a callow 24-year-old, and his Quarter Horse Gizmo, as an even more callow 4-year-old, rode from California to Virginia in seven months. Why? Why not. Because they could.
The book alternates between chapters about the journey, John’s backstory as the son of a single mother with money troubles, and musings on life and philosophy. All parts of it are fascinating, although as a former teenage girl myself I found the bits about the inherent wisdom and power of teenage girls to be a bit amusing. Ah, men, men…
Anyway, we learn how John grew up a loner with a penchant for wandering and a love for horses, and how he developed an obsession with making a ride across America in his teens. Instead of giving up on that obsession, he decided to turn it into reality. The ride with Gizmo was his second attempt at it, and his first successful one; he’d made an attempt with Gizmo’s dam earlier but had to turn back.
The descriptions of the difficult terrain they cross, including the Mojave, the Sonoran, and the Painted Deserts, and the people they encounter along the way, are fascinating. If you have a thirst for adventure and a desire to explore America, you are likely to enjoy that part of the story, whether or not you’re a horse person.
But if you are a horse person, then the stories about Gizmo and the other horses that John encounters along the way are what will really shine. Gizmo comes across as a delightful and fully-fledged character, and John gives him full credit for his part in their mad adventure, along with expressing reservations about the trials he put Gizmo through in his quest. A quirky and quintessentially American story that will appeal to horse lovers and adventure lovers alike.
Get it on Amazon.