Horse Whisperer

Horse Whisperer

By Andrew Forster

They shouted for me
when their horses snorted, when restless
hooves traced circles in the earth
and shimmering muscles refused the plough.
My secret was a spongy tissue, pulled bloody
from the mouth of a just-born foal,
scented with rosemary, cinnamon,
a charm to draw the tender giants
to my hands.
They shouted for me
when their horses reared at burning straw
and eyes revolved in stately heads.
I would pull a frog’s wishbone,
tainted by meat, from a pouch,
a new fear to fight the fear of fire,
so I could lead the horses,
like helpless children, to safety.
I swore I would protect
this legacy of whispers
but the tractor came over the fields
like a warning. I was the life-blood
no longer. From pulpits
I was scorned as demon and witch.
Pitchforks drove me from villages and farms.
My gifts were the tools of revenge.
A foul hex above a stable door
so a trusted stallion could be ridden
no more. Then I joined the stampede,
with others of my kind,
to countries far from our trade.
Still I miss them. Shire, Clydesdale, Suffolk.
The searing breath, glistening veins,
steady tread and the pride,
most of all the pride.

Summary of  Horse Whisperer

  • Popularity of “Horse Whisperer”: Written by Andrew Forster, a Scottish social worker and poet, “Horse Whisperer” is an excellent piece about a seemingly bizarre subject, and yet it has won great popularity. The poem first appeared in 2007 when Forster published it in 2007 in the collection Fear of Thunder. He is stated to have written the poem when he was going through a book on the same subject, Strange Phenomena. Impressed by the techniques used by horse tamers, he went on to create this phenomenal poem whose impact still resonates among the horse-using communities. The poem has won popularity due to the poetic condemnation of modernization and its impacts on agriculture and nature.
  • “Horse Whisperer” As a Representative of Impact of Modernization: The poet, Andrew Forster, presents a speaker who is an expert in the art of taming horses, which used to be in high demand in the past when horses were the main mode of doing labor in the fields. The people used to shout for him to come to them to train their horses. Whenever such a horse made some strange move, the people would call for him, after which he would weave a magic spell using different strange things and make the horse respect him as well as the owners.
    However, things have changed since then. Now he is no more in demand, and tractors have replaced horses which have in turn, become extinct. He has also moved to far-off places where such things still continue to rule. The horse whispering profession has lost its worth, and he, the horse whisperer, is not considered a “life-blood” of the village life now. Therefore, he has started missing the old breeds of stallions and their shearing ceremonies.
  • Major Themes in “Horse Whisperer”: Obsolete professions, modernization, and change in agricultural methods are three major themes. Although the poet laments that some professions are becoming obsolete and professionals are moving to other countries where such things are common, he also laments the fast modernization that machines are replacing nature, animals, and even human beings. The main impact seemed to have been on the horses without this knowledge that human beings have also become victims of this senseless modernization drive. Tractors have taken the place of horses and horse whisperers have lost their demand and worth. Therefore, it has become necessary for such a professional to feel nostalgic about his past and miss the horses that used to be the mainstay of the agricultural system of the past.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Horse Whisperer

Andrew Forster uses various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of his poem. Some of the major literary devices used in “Horse Whisperer” are as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a/ in “a charm to draw the tender giants” and the sound of /o/ in “when their horses snorted, when restless.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick successions, such as the sound of /f/ in “far from.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /m/ in “scented with rosemary, cinnamon” and the sound of /s/ in “when their horses snorted, when restless.”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Andrew Forster used imagery in this poem, such as “when their horses snorted, when restless”, “but the tractor came over the fields” and “Pitchforks drove me from villages and farms.”
  5. Irony: It means to the contradictory meanings of the words used in different contexts. The poem shows the use of irony in that his gifts were tools of revenge, but now they are useless after the arrival of machines.
  6. Simile: It means a direct comparison of things. The poet used similes, such as “I could lead the horses/like helpless children” or “tractor came over the fields/like a warning.”
  7. Synecdoche: It means to use a part to represent a whole or vice versa. The poet has used hooves for horses which is a good example of synecdoche.
  8. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols such as hooves, straws, fields, and stables to show the natural setting of horses.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Horse Whisperer

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows very good use of formal and poetic diction though used in narrative prose.
  2. Narrative Poem: This means writing write poetry in narrative form. This poem is an example of a narrative poem.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are five stanzas with a different number of verses in each.
  4. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows a didactic, ironic, and nostalgic tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote about one’s expertise in horses.

Still I miss them. Shire, Clydesdale, Suffolk.
The searing breath, glistening veins,
steady tread and the pride,
most of all the pride.