Book Review: “Hooked: Lessons of the Heart From a Little Horse in Cabo”
“He had taken me when I was broken and shattered, lost and afraid, and he made me whole again. He turned a mirror to my soul and reminded me what I was made of. He succeeded in pulling me from the mist and making my life’s path clear again. To me, it was nothing short of a miracle.”
Today I’m excited to bring you another review and giveaway, this time for the book Hooked: Lessons of the Heart From a Little Horse in Cabo by Christie Bonham! A while ago I was honored to be contacted about featuring this book in a blog post, but at first I wasn’t sure it related enough to therapeutic riding. However, after reading the story, I think the theme of the healing connection of horses is definitely related to therapeutic riding and that it’s a story you all would enjoy!
Amazon’s description of this book is as follows:
He pulled at Christie’s heartstrings the first time she laid eyes on him. Milagro, a broken-down horse tied to a fence in the sweltering heat of the Baja sun. Left to fend for himself along with his herd, something in his soulful eyes resonated in her. She felt as though she knew him. She felt his spirit; she recognized his resilience and his character. Living abroad had not been easy for Christie. A sudden move south had been necessary as the Great Recession pushed her husband Keith to move his job, and their lives, to Mexico. There, Christie begins to struggle with her health, and finding her footing in this new place. As fate would have it, she and Milagro meet in a way that only destiny could explain, and they form an eternal bond that will carry them through life’s ups and downs. And as Christie and her husband decide to make their way back to the mountains, they face a daunting task: how to bring Milagro with them. Life is chock-full of surprises as the journey unfolds to get this family back to Utah. Along the way Milagro shows Christie the value of living life in the moment and the importance of letting go.
In a nutshell, this is a story about a woman going through a series of difficult trials such as moving abroad, the decline of her parents, and personal health issues – and in the middle of it meeting a rescue horse whose spirit and perseverance gives her strength and insight into her own life, helping her cope and heal in the midst of everything.
“I promise that this moment will not define you, and you will not get stuck in this. You will keep moving through this no matter what.”
I really liked this book for several reasons. First, it is well written – Christie is not just someone recording a memoir, she is a writer. Her voice is strong and distinct. She tells a whole story and brings it full circle: it’s not only about her horse, but about her vulnerabilities, her past, and how everything connects. The story keeps your interest, moves at a good pace, and is easy reading. Her writing of horses and the horse world is well done with wording and descriptions that both horse people and non-horse people will understand.
“Even my therapist realized that Milagro was now there to carry me along and that her services were no longer necessary.”
Second, I enjoyed this book because it highlights the horse as a healing companion in one’s life, on its own, outside the world of Equine Assisted Activities & Therapies (EAAT). Christie’s horse Milagro provides inspiration during hard times, and acts as a mirror to her anxiety during stressful time. She learns these lessons on her own, just her and her horse, and with the help of a few horse training friends. For me, it’s a wonderful reminder that it’s all about the horse. So much of the EAAT industry involves being trained in how to instruct or facilitate and the “right” way to do things – and this is all for a good reason, because we want what we do to be safe and effective. But I love hearing stories of how horses heal outside of the EAAT industry, without a mediator, just by being a regular consistent part of someone’s life. These stories are refreshing to me because they serve as a reminder of why I (and most people, I think) got involved in this industry in the first place: because we too have experienced this healing, even therapeutic, relationship with horses in our own lives. In fact, one of the chapters is even titled “Horse Therapy”, which currently is term the EAAT industry tries to stay away from (because it promotes the misunderstanding that we use the horses for licensed therapy and could be used about therapy for horses), but in this book it seems appropriate because her horse basically is her therapist! In an industry where instructors easily get wrapped up in teaching multiple lessons and caring for multiple horses and putting them into multiple relationships, this story about one special horse and his person is a wonderful reminder of what it’s all about and what we are trying to share with each of our students.
“It’s hard to see a parent in the conditions of late Alzheimer’s. But I found that the more often I visited, the more likely I was to get a moment with her when she had clarity. It was a roll of the dice. One day, it was gray and hazy. The next, it was like the wind had swept the air clean and her thoughts were lucid and clear. I never had expectations. I just gave us the chance, and to my surprise, on more days than not, my mother was there.”
I also appreciated this book for the insight it offered into dealing with certain physical challenges. The author herself discovers she has potentially disabling disease, while at the same time dealing with her mother who has Alzheimer’s. Anytime I read someone’s story about their experience I feel it develops in me more empathy for my riders and their families. What more, the openness with which Christie shares her connection with Milagro, how she identifies so richly with him, and how her life builds a story around him, helps me see how riders I teach do the same thing. Horses touch people in their heart, not just their body, and that plays just as big a role in healing as actually riding. So I am encouraged to help my riders develop their own relationship and story with their horses.
Lastly, I enjoyed this book because Christie expressed gratitude throughout the whole story, and it’s contagious. It’s a very positive, motivational read and by the end I felt more thankful for the little things in my life and for my relationship with my own horse!
Overall, I’d recommend reading this book for its enjoyable and inspiring story. For therapeutic horseback riding instructors, it’s a reminder of why we do what we do, in hopes of bringing this healing power to people who otherwise might not have access to it. For people who know nothing about horses (and maybe just don’t “get it why we love them so much), it is a great introduction to why these animals are so important in our lives! I would definitely recommend it as a Christmas gift!
About the author:
Amazon’s author description is as follows:
Growing up on our mini ranch in the hills of California was the perfect place for me to nurture my love and appreciation for animals. I was involved in 4-H and showed Nubian dairy goats, the cute ones with the long floppy ears. We had lots of other animals including sheep, ducks, and of course our family dogs and my pet cat Taffy, who I won in an Easter egg hunt at my Aunt’s house. Along with all these animals we had our horses. Dandy was my pony and together we conquered many of an adventure. We also competed in barrel racing and other events in Gymkhana. Dandy was the horse I had always dreamed of. He opened my eyes and my heart to my true passion in life. Years later, after a lot of growing and change in my life, I met Milagro and what a special surprise this was. A horse with a shattered past came into my life and taught me how to rise above adversity. He has not only been a healing force and a true friend, but he inspired me to write my first book. The motivation to tell my story, his story, all stems from the eternal bond we share. It seemed so natural to share this story that I feel I have ignited a real passion for writing. Its as though this was a journey I was meant to live and to write about. Although I have to admit I am not someone who felt a yearning to become an author, I think that we all have a story to tell. Mine started long ago and once I met Milagro, it all fell into place.
Buy the Book:
You can buy the book on Amazon here, or through my affiliate link here!
Also check out Christie’s website and Facebook page.
Enter the Giveaway to win a Free Copy!
You can enter by doing BOTH of the following (read that again: BOTH OF THE FOLLOWING!)
- Using the sign up below by entering your email or Facebook account! AND
- Leaving a comment on this page, I’d love to hear about a horse that helped in your own healing!
(If you’re reading this in a subscription email you will have to go to the blog itself to do this).
Entries are open through Sunday night. The winner will be drawn and contacted on Monday. Good luck!
Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement! If you would like to contribute an activity or article, please contact me here, I would love to hear from you!
I’m a therapeutic riding instructor and offer equine assisted learning. I’m lucky enough to see on a daily basis what a difference that horses can make in a person’s life.
It’s such a lucky thing that instructors get to see horses making a difference, daily! Thank you for entering!
Thanks for always sharing such great books and ideas here. My horse growing up was always there for me, good days or bad. I thought of him as a second father at times. Just having that consistent listener was important and helped so much in such a small way.
You’re welcome! I can relate, growing up, the horse I leased was my biggest listener.
So happy to see book reviews in your blog! So helpful since there are too many good books to read and not enough time to enjoy them.
Over the course of owning horses for around 60 years, I have been blessed with many special horses that had the personalities to read my emotions and show empathy. One important memory is a day when I was standing at the pasture fence looking at my three horses and crying because I was going through a divorce and did not know if I would be able to keep any of my wonderful horses. One mare that I had raised from a foal came over to me and gently touched my right cheek with her soft muzzle for a few seconds while I sobbed even harder. She continued to stand close to me and let me hug her for comfort for as long as I needed. She came to me without me calling or coaxing her with treats so I knew it was her way of showing me she cared about my emotional problem. I will always remember this event as proving how horses can and do connect with their owners on a deeper level.
Cindy thank you for sharing your story! It’s amazing how horses respond in just the right ways in our vulnerable times. What an important moment.