I am adding another title to my list of all-time favorite horse books, and it is The Power of Herd, a Nonpredatory Approach to Social Intelligence, Leadership, and Innovation written by Linda Kohanov. Linda has authored several other books, her most popular being The Tao of Equus (which is also on my reading list!) Linda started her professional life as a music critic, and her husband is a composer, but Linda left the music world to pursue her work with horses, writing, and research into many of the subjects that are contained in this book. Today, Linda is also well-known as the founder and director of Eponaquest, a company that provides equine facilitated psychotherapy.
This is a lengthy book that actually covers a range of topics. The theme of the book is understanding the difference between predatory and nonpredatory behavior, and how there is a great deal of power in nonpredatory responses to events or insults that could provoke a more violent response. As Linda alluded to at one point, predatory and nonpredatory is similar to the yin and the yang of Eastern philosophy, or the balance between feminine and masculine. The discussion of these two archetypes also leads into understanding of the difference between being a passive leader and an aggressive dominant, a very important concept when interacting with horses.
The book begins by discussing great leaders and innovators and how their involvement with horses, most of them from an early age shaped who they were and taught them the skills they needed to lead people and have the perseverance to see difficult projects through to the end. My favorite example was George Washington, she told stories of his youth, and the influence of his mother, who was also an accomplished rider and a woman with a large amount of presence. In the book, Linda shows how these early lessons affected George and were evident in many of his wartime decisions.
The book also gives very practical advice on handling conflicts and recognizing areas of weakness within ourselves. Linda shares many stories from her Epona center in Arizona where people would come for retreats and to work through interpersonal issues or trauma with the horses as teachers and honest feedback for their progress.
Finally, pieces of the story of Linda’s stallion Merlin are connected through the book, as this abused stallion was an inspiration for Linda’s deeper understanding of nonpredatory power. The training approaches Linda had known before didn’t work with Merlin, and gentleness, sympathy, and understanding had no effect on him, so as Linda states, she had to “access the yang inside the yin.”
There are so many nuggets of wisdom for life throughout this book, and Linda has a style of writing and entwining stories into her message that is really a pleasure to read. If you would like a copy for yourself, there is a link posted below.