Books in Common is delighted to welcome acclaimed horse trainer and writer Ginger Gaffney in conversation with the “Rodeo Queen of American Letters” Pam Houston, for a heartfelt conversation about Gaffney’s memoir Half Broke. At the start of this remarkable story of recovery, healing, and redemption, Ginger Gaffney answers a call to help retrain the troubled horses at an alternative prison ranch in New Mexico, a facility run entirely by the prisoners. The horses are scavenging through the dumpsters, kicking and running down the residents when they bring the trash out after meals. One horse is severely injured. The horses and residents arrive at the ranch broken in one way or many: the horses are defensive and terrified, while the residents, some battling drug and alcohol addictions, are emotionally and physically shattered. With deep insight into how animals and humans communicate through posture, body language, and honesty of spirit, Gaffney walks us through her struggle to train the untrainable. Gaffney peels away the layers of her own story--a solitary childhood, painful introversion, and a transformative connection with her first horse, a filly named Belle--and she, too, learns to trust people as much as she trusts horses. As her year-long odyssey builds toward a dramatic conclusion, the group experiences triumphs and failures, brave recoveries and relapses, as well as betrayals and moving stories of trust and belonging. Resonant, smart, and beautifully written, Half Broke tears at the heart of what it takes to find wholeness after years of trauma and addiction and offers profound insight on how working with animals can satisfy our universal need for connection.
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More about Ginger Gaffney: I am an author, a horse trainer, and teacher of riding and writing. I have been working with horses and their people for over 25 years. I work with experienced riders as well as anyone who wishes to get close to the power and honesty of the horses. I hold an MFA in Creative Writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My work has been published in Tin House and Utne Reader. Half Broke is my first book. In my work with horses and people we work on our horsemanship and, as we do the work, we are working on ourselves. The intersectionality of horsemanship and human growth remains the most important part of my work. I wrote Half Broke as a way to hold close the amazing people and horses I had the chance to work with, and to never forget what we did together. Once a week I return to the ranch, just across the river, where Half Broke took place. Working with a new group of residents every few months, we continue to work on the life skills and emotional growth the horses teach us every minute we are together. I regularly hold horsemanship clinics as well as writing workshops which combine my work with horses and the craft of creative writing.
More about Pam Houston: Pam Houston is the author of the memoir, Deep Creek: Finding Hope In The High Country, as well as two novels, Contents May Have Shifted and Sight Hound, two collections of short stories, Cowboys Are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat, and a collection of essays, A Little More About Me, all published by W.W. Norton. Her stories have been selected for volumes of The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize, Best American Travel Writing, and Best American Short Stories of the Century among other anthologies. She is the winner of the Western States Book Award, the WILLA Award for contemporary fiction, the Evil Companions Literary Award and several teaching awards. She teaches in the Low Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, is Professor of English at UC Davis, and co-founder and creative director of the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level near the headwaters of the Rio Grande.