Finding the Magic

By Dan Sumerel

Copyright 2000 by Dan Sumerel

ISBN: 1-890306-23-1

Warwick House Publishers

287 pages, Approx. $30


Beginner's luck is everywhere and happens to many. Few people, however, end up taking it to the heights that Dan Sumerel has taken his. Admittedly, he knew little to nothing about horses when he first bought a horse for his wife, but what he learned and experienced after that first horse in his life is a story like no other. Finding the Magic will have the reader laughing, crying, gasping, cheering, and most certainly identifying with the author and the situations portrayed. But most of all it will convince the reader that horse people can do so much better in dealing with their horses than they ever thought possible.

This most enjoyable book describes and explains so much about the magnificent horse, and what reality is to him, that the reader gains a profound insight into what matters to the horse and how this can help one relate to the horse. If one learns what the horse understands and what makes sense to him, and understands and utilizes that information, there can be effective communication between man and horse. Dan emphasizes that it is most important to consider the horse's perspective when interacting with him. He explains the role of the alpha in a herd and what a horse wants in a leader. If man can earn the leadership of this two-member herd, cooperation will come willingly from the horse. To understand how this can come about, Dan discusses horse psychology, including what makes sense to the horse, what is meaningful to the horse, the nature of discipline and the importance of animation and timing, how one can really control the horse without fear or intimidation, and more.

Dan is a true horse lover and a leading educator for horse people and their horses, and his methods of equine communication are a wonderful blend of his own tried and true techniques and natural horsemanship techniques taught to him by other natural horsemen and women. He has worked with thousands of horses, of all kinds, with amazing results and his clinics always show the effectiveness of what he teaches. In Finding the Magic, Dan describes his process step by step and explains why his techniques work. He points out the errors in many commonly used methods of dealing with horses and explains why they don't work. He stresses that what is looked upon as normal by horse folk is not always natural or effective and often makes no sense to the horse. Dan cleverly gets his point across to the reader with amusing comparisons that hit home.

Dan uses, as an extension of his arm, a wand with a plastic bag tied on the end of it instead of a rope or lasso, and implements horsemanship techniques that do work. He initially uses a round pen so there is a controlled environment, and he takes the reader through various well-explained steps from getting the horse's attention to getting the horse to follow, then how to make the transition to outside the pen and to under saddle.

In Finding the Magic, Dan also discusses the purposes and uses of equipment. He points out when equipment is a crutch, abusive or unnecessary, and how to evaluate it from the horse's point of view. He also shares his viewpoint and experiences with the use of verbal communication. He delightfully describes and discusses human tendencies, and what to avoid doing when working with horses. He explains and demonstrates what turning the horse loose can really tell one about a horse, and how to use that information. This book offers a lot of 'how to' with great ideas that really work, because they are based on the horse's perspective.

Dan ends his book with a final chapter on 'the physical horse' in which he shares a variety of things about his experiences with caring for the horse. His point of view about proper horse care and how he arrived at these conclusions are explained, and he says knowledge is gained through study and experience. He has found that many things can be done to make life with humans better for the horse. He discusses the use of drugs, technology, the hooves, saddles and saddle fit, bits, and more.

Finding the Magic, as it says on the cover, is "a history book, how-to book, philosophy book, and most of all a love story," and is definitely a must-have for any horse lover. It is a wonderfully fun, educational, and inspiring book for anyone.


When the Body Says "Ouch!" - Identifying Pain in the Performance Horse

Part One: Standing

By Kim Henneman, DVM

© 1997 Kimberly Henneman, DVM

Choices In Health

150 Starview Dr.

Park City, Utah 84098 USA


60 minutes, $49.95

When the Body Says "Ouch!" is an information-packed video about how to identify pain in the performance horse by observing his posture and stance. It is Part 1 (of a series yet to be completed) and gives the viewer a firm and rather broad foundation by which to learn the horse's language of pain and discomfort. There are many things that may go unnoticed as a problem is developing, and Dr. Kim Henneman points out these subtleties. Early intervention can prevent a developing problem from becoming a real problem, and that's the main reason for this video. If one can recognize the symptoms, one can do something about them.

Kim's explanations and demonstrations take the viewer through a series of biomechanical principles so the viewer can gain an added awareness of the postural differences between a horse that is in balance and a horse that is in pain. She begins with a look at overall stance, discusses and depicts the consequences of unbalanced posture, and moves on, part by part from head to tail, pointing out how to interpret what the horse's postural language means. She demonstrates how postural changes are early warning signs.

The functions and interactions of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles are cleverly represented with the use of some interesting food (and other) examples with which Kim demonstrates the principles very well. She explains tissue tension (stretching, pulling), compression, torsion, and shear and how they can work for or against the horse. This is referred to at various times throughout the video to emphasize or support  

Using an equine skull, she explains mouth anatomy and how it affects the TMJ and performance. Equine dentistry is discussed, and Kim shows the viewer various ways to detect possible dental problems in the horse, from outside of the mouth. She explains and demonstrates how the TMJ and jaw joint affect the neck and back area due to the cranial nerves passing through, and how pain in the jaw and TMJ area can cause numerous problems.

Conformation and posture are two different things, and Dr. Henneman explains why and how many things affect posture. Posture is changeable and conformation is not. She shares observation hints on how to look for subtleties and how to evaluate the stance. Comparisons of 'before and after bodywork' are also shown. The skeleton and musculature of the body, and its functions, from the neck through the withers, back and pelvis, are depicted and thoroughly discussed. The section on the functions and workings of the back also includes saddle fit and placement. Bending and stretching mechanics are also discussed, as is looking at shape and angles, and how the legs and pelvis relate.

Leg placement, as another area to observe, is explained. When the horse is walked and stopped, where and how he places his feet and legs can indicate problems. Observing the horse from the side, from behind, and from above is important to recognize asymmetries and detect subtleties that can lead to big problems. Kim also explains balance and what is normal, for the front and hind ends and at varying stages during growth. 

When the Body Says "Ouch!" is vastly informative and provides the viewer with many tools to identify and understand what the horse is trying to say by its posture and stance. It is entertaining with footage of real performances and real problems, with various sketches and colorful diagrams, and clever and effective demonstrations and comparisons. Kim's narration is effortless and interesting, and easy to follow and understand. There is so much information included that it will probably not all be absorbed in one viewing, so it is an excellent video to refer back to often. Every horse, horse owner, trainer, and caretaker, and anyone about to purchase a horse, can benefit greatly from this video, and hopefully the subsequent videos will come soon.