Horses Never Lie About Love: The Heartwarming Story of a Remarkable Horse Who Changed the World Around Her
“Readers who know and love horses surely will be drawn in and mesmerized by True Colors and her herd, as will most anyone fond of, experienced with, or simply interested in animals. In fact, the only folks who won’t get caught up in the book are those with zero interest in critters, agriculture, or the Pacific Northwest. Tenderhearted readers will definitely need that box of Kleenex a few times. But anyone who reads True Colors’ story will long remember it.”
Although billed as “heartwarming,” this book has a heartbreaking undertone that goes with the territory. Ergo, have a box of tissues on hand before diving in.
It’s worth the read despite any sadness, because Horses Never Lie About Love is a wonderful true story about a couple that goes into the horse-breeding business and the animals who warm and break their hearts—in particular, True Colors, an “anchor mare” who holds the enterprise together through thick and thin.
It takes everyone a while to understand True Colors’ role and nature. She’s half-feral and never settles into conventional horse behavior despite conscientious handling. For decades, she mystifies, enthralls, and confounds her owners while normal horses come and go. Yet True Colors serves as the farm’s foundation mare, seemingly born to nurture while needing nothing—a pole star around which the author’s universe revolves.
Jana Harris presents the mare as a deep and compelling main character without anthropomorphizing her (or any of the other horses). She also doesn’t romanticize the actualizing of her dream, which the breeding farm represents. Sharing both the guts and the glory, she teaches the reader much about horse mentality and physiology; and, through the (mis)adventures in building High & Dry Farm, she shows the astonishing range of personality types among equines, along with the dismaying range of things that can happen to them.
Her memoir starts with acquisition of the farm’s first bloodstock: True Colors and two foals. More mares and foals, riding horses, even a breeding stallion join the family, putting Ms. Harris and her husband through the emotional wringer as they vacillate between loving the horses as pets on par with children while needing to regard them as livestock.
The horses come to dominate their lives and consume their resources. Some thrive, some die, and some fade away, but True Colors remains constant, teaching her people life-lessons while helping her foals and stablemates cope. The first part of the story focuses on this mare, but then she becomes a background player in the expanding drama of High & Dry Farm. This follows the book’s narrative tempo, which initially measures time in days, weeks, and months, then accelerates to keep up with the number of horses and events that occur over years.
The depth of each scene or situation flattens correspondingly, for an overall effect of a close-up pulling back to an almost aerial view, ending in a fade-out. There is no appropriate close to this story, because the dramatis personae are all still alive and kicking as of publication. Horses Never Lie About Love covers an important segment of the author’s life but not the whole of it.
Professionally, Ms. Harris is a writer and poet—no surprise when you read her prose, which has that poetic quality of just the right words in just the right order. Her language is, simultaneously, stark and understated but always successful in evoking the landscape and seasons of Washington State and capturing the individuality of each equine character. She also deftly sketches her fellow humans but keeps them in the background. This book is about horses—their conception, birth, development, careers, and departure—all of which the human characters serve.
Readers who know and love horses surely will be drawn in and mesmerized by True Colors and her herd, as will most anyone fond of, experienced with, or simply interested in animals. In fact, the only folks who won’t get caught up in the book are those with zero interest in critters, agriculture, or the Pacific Northwest. Tenderhearted readers will definitely need that box of tissues a few times. But anyone who reads True Colors’ story will long remember it.