Book Review - The Horse Angels by Mark Neihart

Friday, October 17, 2014


If you enjoy a good story, you will enjoy this book. If you love horses, you will love this book. I admit I am a horseman. Still, I approached this novel in a circumspect frame. I thought “Oh, another horse novel by a first time author who happens to be a horse person.” I have read several of these novel types. I am usually not impressed. However, I was pleasantly surprised that this was so much more than just another horse novel. I was also surprised by how quickly I was drawn into the story. I kept turning the pages. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. Mark Neihart, a first time author, brings his knowledge of the landscapes and politics of the Intermountain West and his experience in equine related businesses and the horse culture to a good result in this fast paced fictional novel - The Horse Angels.

Ann Harper, a Sacramento area TV news reporter and her daughter, Samantha, have been making the best of their lives following a tragic accident. Things change when Ann is sent by her station boss to cover a story at a horse sanctuary in remote Nevada. A group of wild horses is at the center of a dispute between the keepers of the ranch, the local sheriff, the BLM and a powerful US Senator. Ann and Samantha find themselves in the middle of whirling energy that involves, politics, cultures, mystical forces and the long standing bond between humans and horses. Soon Ann finds herself being accused of murder.

The author’s plot elements and writing style made the story interesting to me and kept me reading. Multiple themes add to the interest of the story and the complexity of the tale. These themes include historical elements of the connection between man and horse. How this connection with the horse allowed many of the changes that we associate with advancing human civilization.

Also explored are the strong bonds between horse and man that have developed from the historical connection. Why do we still have horses now that their utilitarian uses have been assumed by machines? As the author notes “One hundred and fifty years ago it was the horse pulling the cart. Today we see the Chevy Suburban pulling the horse, within the trailer.”

The ethics of the current uses and training techniques of horses and the “management” of wild horses are examined. Is the nature of the horse adequately considered or is the primary driver of these interactions based on our human ego needs?

The back drop of the story includes many political issues current in the Western United States, such as uses of the land and natural resources; the treatment of wild animals and wild landscapes and the tension between private and public interests.

The multiple cultures of the West are also on display. These include Native Americans, “gringos” that live in the city and those that live on the land, as well as equestrian cultures and environmental protection cultures. Mystical shamanistic practices and beliefs also inform and influence the development of this story, creating an enhancing aura around the tale.

This interweaving of the plot line and the multiple themes was used to great effect. As the author noted in his opening note “This story started out as that epic tale about the history of horse and man…the somewhat boring historical details were shed in favor of something much more interesting for the common reader….” I think the author succeeded in his effort of creating a compelling tale.

The writing and narrative style is simple and direct. It reminded me of books written by the late Tony Hillerman, the New Mexico based author, best known for his Navajo Tribal Police detective stories set around the Four Corners region. The landscape descriptions drew me into the scenes. It was easy to imagine being in the places that Neihart describes.

This is an engaging story that is worth a read. You will experience a story well told and learn some things about the cultures and politics of the West. You will also think more about our human connections to Nature. Are we as separate as we believe? What part of our psyche and/or soul is in need of the energetic boost that only Nature can provide?

In this novel the horse is the primary symbol used to represent Nature. It is a metaphor used to good effect by the author. However, whether you are a “horse person” or just a “common reader”, I think you will enjoy “The Horse Angels” by Mark Neihart.