In Grabbing Mane, Natalie Keller Reinert breathes new life and complexity into a tale as old as time. Girl rides horses. Parents fund horses. Girl takes a break from riding in order to secure a career to fund horses. Girl is eventually lured back into the wonderful world of horses.
We meet Casey in her early thirties. She has a boyfriend who she loves, a full social life and she is driven but is ultimately unfulfilled by her career. A chance errand to the farm where she learnt to ride, catapults her back into the world of horses. Because as we know, if horses are is in your blood, they will ultimately make their way back into your life in some shape or form.
“Casey glanced over at Brandon with affection. He was adorable to think that riding was a choice. She already knew, despite the aching in her thighs and the pinprick tingling in her heels and the mysterious throb somewhere deep within her shoulder blades, that she was getting back up in the saddle as soon as possible.”
What starts for Casey as a weekly lesson quickly turns into much more. As the partner of any unsuspecting horseperson will attest it’s a slippery slope from ‘just a few lessons’ to horse ownership.
“Casey hardly knew what was happening around her. Things had gone from zero to sixty with alarming rapidity— but it was starting to stop feeling insane and instead feel so, so right. She could make the math work and buy James. It was so obvious! Why had she thought she could make do with riding lessons? Of course she was going to buy a horse sooner or later. Why not now? Why not James? The new ideas began to cheer in her brain ; they’d bullied their way in and they’d won the day. Suddenly everything made so much sense!”
While Grabbing Mane is about coming back to riding after a break, it also speaks to the experience of being an adult amateur rider. It’s a representation that is so needed. While we adult ammy’s won’t be completing a lap of honour at the next Olympics, we are the backbone of the sport, pouring our hearts along with our hard earned cash into the sport.
Reinert artfully depicts the physical pull that horses exert over our lives. Whether it’s simply returning to the saddle or the weather watching from your work desk. The sinking sense of dread that fills you when a day that has been glorious and sunny turns thunderous just as you are preparing to leave work for the barn. And the accompanying lament that if only you were a pro, you’d be feeling sated already having swung into the saddle many times that day.
Grabbing Mane also articulates the challenge inherent in balancing horses and the rest of your life. Watching Casey navigate spending more time at the barn and maintaining her relationship had me rooting for her to find that balance.
“Casey wanted to believe she would find a balance. Things were just shaking out! In he meantime, yes, the riding was snowballing, she could admit that… but the way her horse-time was taking over her life felt good, and right.”
As always the characters that Reinert weaves into the story are pure joy. In this case the ‘barn rats’ were a highlight, for instance, Gwen the talented and plucky teen destined for life as a professional trainer and Arden, the sassy but self assured teen. I grew quickly attached to Casey and her escalating need to be with her horse. I found myself awaiting the moment I could dive back into the pages of the book just as soon as I had put it down.
Since finishing the book I’ve been experiencing withdrawals, which has only been abated by the knowledge that we can expect another instalment in Casey’s story.
Grabbing Mane was gifted to me to review, however the opinions contained within this review are entirely my own.