Clifford of Drummond Island is a horse book for horse women – or for those who want to be. Though it is short, the wise reader will consume this book in snippets rather than rush through to the end. It’s a good book to keep in the car and read passages of right before time spent with a horse to help you get into the spirit. I found much insight hereine about horses, humans, families, wildlife, and the pleasures of points north in the great state of Michigan. If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you. Circumspice, citizen.
I feel such a nitwit – I’d never even heard of Drummond Island until I read this book. Clifford of Drummond Island makes me envious, envious I tell you, of the opportunities for horse-bonding and general outdoorsiness that are part and parcel of the life of writer and artist Nancy J. Bailey. Riding your horse all day on an island settled by your own-by-God-forbearers among others? Hello? Is there anything better? I think not .
Nancy is very good at writing narrative descriptions of her training techniques and successes. One chapter about Zack, a Morgan with an issue or two, was especially moving and honest. I could see Zack responding to the clicks and treats after a few bad months of training and I feel I could understand a bit more of how the clicker training works, even more than watching a video. Plus, Zack the horse had a kind of Helen Keller W-A-T-E-R moment with the clicker — and from that point on, he was willing to learn.
She also writes movingly of the pain of losing animals in her life, from her domesticated ones to the wild hawk that chose to accompany her on her drives until he was killed by a foolish day tripper. She also writes about family, how hard it was when her father needed surgery, about the courage and major, major ‘tude displayed by her sister Amanda as she copes with her Down’s Syndrome.
Nancy keeps her family close and her horse family closer, trailering them from her home in the southeastern part of the state whenever she can to participate in the life of the island. And anyone who spends time with animals will recognize the personalities and preferences shown by Nancy’s menagerie, plus there’s Nancy’s artwork to better render animals and humans.
Romping through it all is Clifford, a sturdy Morgan with a sense of humor who aims to please but also aims to have a good time. Clifford comes into Nancy’s life when she least expects it, in fact replacing a horse who died too soon.