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.

Half Broke Details

TitleHalf Broke
Author
ReleaseFeb 4th, 2020
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
ISBN-139781324003076
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Animals, Biography, Biography Memoir

Half Broke Review

  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    An alternative prison ranch in New Mexico, where non violent prisoners can apply, and serve out the rest of their sentences. Never knew there was such a thing, place. This is part memoir, part horsemanship, and if one loves horses this will fit the bill nicely.Ginger is called to the ranch to help with a renegade group of horses that won't let anyone near. Arriving at the ranch, she feels a connection, to the prisoners and their lives and of course to the horses. Her love of horses once helped An alternative prison ranch in New Mexico, where non violent prisoners can apply, and serve out the rest of their sentences. Never knew there was such a thing, place. This is part memoir, part horsemanship, and if one loves horses this will fit the bill nicely.Ginger is called to the ranch to help with a renegade group of horses that won't let anyone near. Arriving at the ranch, she feels a connection, to the prisoners and their lives and of course to the horses. Her love of horses once helped her and she feels needed at the ranch. We enter the lives and rythems of both the prisoners and the workings of the ranch. Forgiveness, redemption and finding one selves as well as self esteem are some of the themes explored. I very much enjoyed all aspects of this book. Ginger writes the story well, both hers and those she comes to know at the ranch. Of course, I fell in love with a few horses along the way.ARC from Netgalley.
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  • Petra-X
    January 1, 1970
    Gaffney is better at writing about horses than people. Actually she's really better writing about herself in relation to horses than anything else. There is a lot of detail about horses and how Gaffney trains them, rides them, ropes them, rescues them and interacts with them in every way. If that sounds like you really get to know the horses as individuals, you do, to some extent, but it is really what Gaffney does with the horses and works around problems they have. These problems are partly Gaffney is better at writing about horses than people. Actually she's really better writing about herself in relation to horses than anything else. There is a lot of detail about horses and how Gaffney trains them, rides them, ropes them, rescues them and interacts with them in every way. If that sounds like you really get to know the horses as individuals, you do, to some extent, but it is really what Gaffney does with the horses and works around problems they have. These problems are partly because the horses would really prefer to do what they want to do, not what people want them to do and so they must be 'trained'. Or broken. The people are broken anyway. Addicts who have spent more time in thrall to drugs and living in prisons than being free. They broke themselves. Unfortunately they are mostly fairly sketchily drawn and I can't say that I could really identify with any of them and be able to think of what they might do in any situation not described. A well-drawn character is a person that if you had dinner with them, you could predict what they might order and what you'd talk about. As with the horses, Gaffney is better at writing what she does with the people and how she tries to solve their problems.I wish I was more interested in the author, but all I know about her is she had a hard childhood for internal reasons rather than a bad family home, that she had a hard time coming out as a lesbian, and is a small woman with a deep understanding of horses. I can't tell you what we'd talk about over dinner if it wasn't horses, I just don't know her at all.I'm half way through. It's a good book, a 4 star, but hopefully the content will improve and match the writing.
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  • Afton Montgomery
    January 1, 1970
    Sitting in a panel on literature of the West where too many white men were talking too loudly and watching Ginger slowly lean forward and growl into her mic, I hate cowboys, will absolutely be a highlight of my year. Her memoir Half Broke touches so intently on what it is to be human and what is animal in us. While she works as a horse trainer on an alternative prison ranch in New Mexico, she is really living into her notion that honesty and accountability are far more present in the ways that Sitting in a panel on literature of the West where too many white men were talking too loudly and watching Ginger slowly lean forward and growl into her mic, “I hate cowboys,” will absolutely be a highlight of my year. Her memoir Half Broke touches so intently on what it is to be human and what is animal in us. While she works as a horse trainer on an alternative prison ranch in New Mexico, she is really living into her notion that honesty and accountability are far more present in the ways that we move through the world than anything we could ever say out loud. She is there to show the creatures inhabiting the land to be mirrors for any and all human behavior— in devastating and in utterly redemptive ways. I thank her a million times over for writing down what she’s taught and what what she’s learned. Every single person who touches the earth we live on needs more of Ginger’s voice in their head.
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  • Felicity Fonseca
    January 1, 1970
    Compelling read about surrendering control, asking for cooperation, and learning to listen. How we can heal ourselves when we can learn to do these things. All through the vehicle of horse training, and building confidence for people who have not had much of a chance in life. Beautiful, empathetic story driven by fascinating work with fascinating people in a fascinating place.
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  • Stephanie Crowe
    January 1, 1970
    Powerful memoir! Raw and honest I was captivated by the pain expressed by Ginger and her livestock team. But there was purpose ,hope and progress and this made for an inspiring read. I loved it and couldnt put it down! Powerful memoir! Raw and honest I was captivated by the pain expressed by Ginger and her livestock team. But there was purpose ,hope and progress and this made for an inspiring read. I loved it and couldn’t put it down!
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  • Kayla Mckinney
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for allowing me to read this ARC!Ginger Gaffneys Half Broke will likely be filed under nonfiction as It deals with the rehabilitation of both humans and animals on a New Mexico ranch. I would like to suggest it have be given the sub-categorization of poetry, because within these pages is the poetry that can be found in the shine of a horses coat or the movements of its muscles under the skin, as well as the poetry of lost, broken, and wounded things. Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for allowing me to read this ARC!Ginger Gaffney’s Half Broke will likely be filed under nonfiction as It deals with the rehabilitation of both humans and animals on a New Mexico ranch. I would like to suggest it have be given the sub-categorization of poetry, because within these pages is the poetry that can be found in the shine of a horse’s coat or the movements of its muscles under the skin, as well as the poetry of lost, broken, and wounded things. (Interestingly, Gaffney wrote the chapters, in some cases, as essays, but they felt to smooth, creative, and flowing for that format, at least to this reader).The author is summoned to a ranch run by inmates and former inmates because they have a problem with horses that have become mostly feral and incredibly dangerous, so dangerous that the author considers abandoning them. She writes, “I must be careful with my body; it’s how I make my living. … No one has offered to pay me. … Should I really keep coming?” Soon, however, she is won over by the broken people on the ranch trying to mend themselves as well as the broken horses who have been “punished” with “the pain” of those who have come there. Soon the question of why she should come is replaced by a need to be there. She makes the reader need to be there, too! Blending her own story – of silence, of finding herself, of loss – in with the story of the lost and the traumatized people who call the ranch home, Gaffney traces a personal homecoming alongside the triumphs and tragedies of those on the ranch and the horses that heal and are healed by them. I’ve read many books that look at disadvantaged groups or addicts and this one distinguishes itself through moving language, an almost physical/visceral knowledge of its subjects, and a compassion that never veers into the preachy. It is to be hoped that Gaffney’s work will inspire more programs like this one to help more addicts/criminals to find their way back to themselves and to society.
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  • Ken Oder
    January 1, 1970
    Gaffney's story in this non-fiction memoir is unique. She is a horse trainer hired by an alternative prison, a horse ranch, where inmates are sent for rehab from addiction and lives of crime in part based on a theory of equine therapy. The horses have sensed the weaknesses and infirmities of the prisoners and exploited them. Normally prey animals, they have become predators, regularly attacking the inmates. Gaffney's job is to tame these wild creatures and recapture the original purpose of the Gaffney's story in this non-fiction memoir is unique. She is a horse trainer hired by an alternative prison, a horse ranch, where inmates are sent for rehab from addiction and lives of crime in part based on a theory of equine therapy. The horses have sensed the weaknesses and infirmities of the prisoners and exploited them. Normally prey animals, they have become predators, regularly attacking the inmates. Gaffney's job is to tame these wild creatures and recapture the original purpose of the ranch, the equine therapy for the inmates. The book is at its best describing the thoughts and feelings of the horses. Gaffney is a horse whisperer extraordinaire. The thoughts and feelings of the inmates and of Gaffney herself are less compelling. They seem oversimplified and unrealistic even though based on real experiences and the writing style left me cold in places, but the story is nevertheless interesting and the tales of her connections with the horses hold your interest to the end.
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  • Caroline Hedges
    January 1, 1970
    This book appealed to me because I love horses and have been volunteering at an Equine therapeutic center for a number of years and have seen the transformational work horses and people make with each other. Ginger Gaffney lays bare her fears and opens up about feeling different at a time and place before Pride and the LGBT community helped people feel good about who they were. My real interest was in the prison ranch and what they were doing there. The correlation between broken horses and This book appealed to me because I love horses and have been volunteering at an Equine therapeutic center for a number of years and have seen the transformational work horses and people make with each other. Ginger Gaffney lays bare her fears and opens up about feeling different at a time and place before Pride and the LGBT community helped people feel good about who they were. My real interest was in the prison ranch and what they were doing there. The correlation between broken horses and broken people was clear and I respect Sarah and Flor, the leaders of the livestock team at the ranch for reaching out for help. Gaffney helped tame the wild horses and in turn tamed the wild prisoners who were all battling with their own demons. She instinctively knew that to help one she had to help the other too. Here were people and horses that had been so damaged by life that their only instinct was to hurt, but Gaffney showed them that by persistence, patience and kindness she could make them see the good in others, themselves and life again.This isn't just a book for horse lovers, this is a book for anyone fighting demons, interested in human/animal connections and someone who loves a good ending.
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  • Nicole Dake
    January 1, 1970
    A calming read, focused on the ephemeral bond between horse and human. The author easily and sometimes poignantly connects how our past traumas influence not only our mental state, but also our physical presentation.
  • Enchanted Prose
    January 1, 1970
    Broken horses, Broken people how they can save each other (northern New Mexico, March 2013 September 2014; 1990s flashbacks): The historic relationship between horses and people goes back centuries. Yet its only been since the 1950s that a therapeutic bond Equine Therapy has been seriously applied to physical and mental health rehabilitation and healing.In Ginger Gaffneys remarkable memoir, the horse-human relationship goes much further psychologically. Its a last shot lifeline for a select Broken horses, Broken people – how they can save each other (northern New Mexico, March 2013 – September 2014; 1990s flashbacks): The historic relationship between horses and people goes back centuries. Yet it’s only been since the 1950s that a therapeutic bond – Equine Therapy – has been seriously applied to physical and mental health rehabilitation and healing.In Ginger Gaffney’s remarkable memoir, the “horse-human” relationship goes much further psychologically. It’s a “last shot” lifeline for a select group of prisoners on a “livestock team” at an “prison-alternative” 17-acre ranch north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Horse therapy in this “river valley dealing with the blight of poverty and drug addiction much longer than the rest of the states” offers a “sliver of hope” for some convicts stuck in a pernicious cycle in and out of prisons.Half Broke is a beautiful read, with an empowering message of inspiration and hope that some castaways can find a way out from their inner demons, as impossible as that may seem. Making the memoir a call to prison activists urging reform of our broken criminal justice system.The author has changed the names of the people in this story out of respect for their privacy. It’s likely, though, she hasn’t for the “giant gods” – “traumatized” wild horses so mistreated and misunderstood they terrorize, having become “dangerous” creatures no one could touch. When they do, horses and people get hurt.That’s what inspired the prison ranch story. In March 2013, Gaffney received a frantic call from the DS Ranch that one of their wild horses, Luna, was beaten so badly she could lose her eyesight. The caller, Sarah, and Luna, are part of the ranch’s innovative horse-people “gentling” program.This is no ordinary Western ranch. It’s managers, the “elders,” unconventional ranch owners (no authorities, only prisoners). Residents are not typical ranch hands. Nothing ordinary is happening in these pages. And, candidly, Gaffney tells us she’s not ordinary either, profoundly connecting this enormously talented horse-trainer with 25 years experience to dysfunctional souls and wild horses.Horses feel “every little touch.” You too will feel the sensitive and perceptive touch of the author’s toolbox of skills to gentle horses and people society has given up on.Miracles can happen, but not for all. When things go wrong – and plenty does – the prose rises to a suspenseful rhythm and pace, evoking the edge at which “recovery can be slipped away.” Including the author’s.This searing tale has everything to do with trust, starting with Gaffney who deeply trusts the power of horses to save people. When a significant breach occurs, it shatters Gaffney’s trust in the team. She’s fragile, just like them. Occasional flashbacks to the author’s childhood and coming-of-age years enlightens.For the first six years of Gaffney’s life, she barely spoke a word. “Extreme shyness” shaped enduring feelings of loneliness and isolation. An unintended benefit of those silent years resulted in Gaffney becoming a keen observer of people’s non-verbal body language and movements, enabling her to quickly assess visual clues as to the emotions these behaviors are communicating. Relating to them personally, she doesn’t act condescending towards the prisoners. She treats them as equals, expecting a lot. She does so for 1½ years, never getting paid. Money isn’t her objective. This becomes her mission, her calling. In turn, everyone is respectful to and grateful for Gaffney’s perseverance at a place “she’s never seen anything like.”Gaffney’s personal story starts first with sizing up people, then horses. A pro at understanding what the “complex communication systems” of horses are telling us.Most of the novel is structured in 2013/2014 ranch chapters, a month a time. A step-by-step approach similar to the mantra of taking things one day at a time. Except here it’s literally, gravely, “one step at a time.” One measured, mentored step at a time.“Fascination with horses came from a place inside me I have never understood,” says the author. We see how this plays out in those few flashback-to-the-90s chapters; few because this memoir isn’t meant to be about her, though she’s at the center of it. We do, though, learn some key things about the author’s emotions: she’s an extremely private person, who didn’t feel she belonged anywhere until horses came into her life. “We all come from somewhere, but that doesn’t mean we belong.” The honesty of horses is what she profoundly cherishes, trusting these majestic animals far more than people. We see how much that matters when the author’s first horse, Belle, rescues her.At the ranch Gaffney feels she belongs. Eventually, she feels most at home there. While she has a supportive partner, Glenda, she describes her sexuality as another reason she’s felt like an outsider. Not at the ranch, where everyone is an outsider.For someone whose been quite uncomfortable around people, with a horse Gaffney shows an exceptional touch with those in a “sunken place.” She gets their “broken parts” – “their lack of attention span, their wounded bodies, their anger, the dullness in their eyes” – saying they “look like me.” Or, how she used to look, be.Her human team consists, over time, of three of about 10 women at the ranch: Flor, Sarah, Eliza. Of the 90 or so men, there’s Tony, Randy, Marcus, Rex, Paul, Omar. The horse team includes sisters Luna and Estrella, Hawk, Billy, Moo, Joker, Izzy, Willie. They represent a number of breeds, such as Painted Horse, Morgan Gelding, Lusitano.All the people/horse names means there’s a lot of characters with individual traits. Horses loom large. A breathtaking challenge for this horse-trainer/psychologist who must keep track of all, to protect, and earn and keep the fragile trust.Trust is fundamental. Not easy for prisoners lacking role-models, who’ve been let down over and over; people who then let themselves down to a point of feeling there’s no return.Trust is not easy for Ginger Gaffney either, who “learned to hide, to become invisible.” But now she must be visible. More so, as she has to put herself out there, in harm’s way. Once she evaluates and treats Luna’s emergency, and assesses the team, she leaps in:“If you want these horses to respect you, you’ll have to respect yourself … How you walk, how you hold your posture, this will tell the horses whether to stomp you or follow you. It also tells them if you are trustworthy or fake.”There’s more going on at this ranch than horse-training: vocational skills training to fix cars and other mechanical objects, plumbing, ceramics, cooking. Life skills for earning a living when prisoners complete their sentences and are ready to venture out.Should you Google the DS Ranch, you’ll come up empty. The author has obscured the ranch’s name too, presumably to protect its space. If you keep at it, you may make an eye-opening discovery that this unusual ranch exists elsewhere around the country; and that there are other alternative prison programs managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conceived as an approach for handling some of the heart-tugging controversy over what to do, if anything, about mustangs running wild on Federal lands in the West.“I’ve always felt that riding horses was like riding a wave. The wave rolls you along. You don’t kick the wave, or beat it, or even think you can control it. Every wave is unique,” says the author. Though horse therapy programs are fanned out across the country, the people and horses in this vivid, stunning memoir are unique.Lorraine (EnchantedProse.com)
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  • Julie Stielstra
    January 1, 1970
    When you have been around horses long enough, you begin to see and feel and understand things about them and their relationships with humans that other people simply can't. I can't watch a Western movie without judging how well the actors ride (Redford, Duvall, Mortenson - they can sit a horse!). There are times when I've read novels in which horses feature prominently, and think: this writer "gets" horses (Madison Smartt Bell, Mary Doria Russell, Dick Francis at his and Mary's best), and sure When you have been around horses long enough, you begin to see and feel and understand things about them and their relationships with humans that other people simply can't. I can't watch a Western movie without judging how well the actors ride (Redford, Duvall, Mortenson - they can sit a horse!). There are times when I've read novels in which horses feature prominently, and think: this writer "gets" horses (Madison Smartt Bell, Mary Doria Russell, Dick Francis at his and Mary's best), and sure enough, they have been around them in a serious way. And so, by god, has Ginger Gaffney. She "gets" how they look, how they move, what they like, how they snuffle and snort and bare their teeth and lash out. And she can write about it - beautifully, vividly. What makes "Half Broke" special and rising way above most the of zillions of "how this [horse, rescue dog, stray cat...] saved my life" memoirs infesting the book shelves these days, is how she, as a introverted, silent person so uneasy with people that she barely spoke until the age of 6, takes what she has studied and internalized about horses and interacting with them and uses it to learn to relate to a group of damaged, bottomed-out drug addicts and criminals on an alternative prison ranch in New Mexico. Gaffney, an experienced horse trainer by vocation, is called in to the ranch because the half dozen or so horses who have been "donated" to the ranch are basically feral. Unschooled, unbroke, violent, uncontrollable, they represent the "most dangerous horse situation [she has] ever encountered." And she has zero experience or training for working with the ranch residents: some cocky and defiant, others caved in on themselves, traumatized, manipulative, or hostile. Over the course of a year or so, Gaffney has to figure out how to get these two herds to settle, to relate, and to not kill themselves or each other.One by one, horse by horse, person by person, she confronts, soothes, observes, teaches, and worries. Before the residents can handle the horses, she has to teach the humans how to walk: upright, head back, loose relaxed strides... they barely comprehend what she means. But it is crucial: it's the body language, the projection of confidence that horses, creatures of movement and flight and tension, rely on absolutely for the development of trust and understanding.It is hard work. There are setbacks: residents we have come to root for and care about fail and it's heartbreaking. But as a recovering addict friend reminds her: "You do know not everyone makes it out, right?" There are moments of grace, moments of fear, moments of challenge, moments of triumph. There are also moments of some overwritten navel-gazing that, while they explain some of Gaffney's own back story and troubles, are not as compelling. There's a terrific chapter about a clinic with "a famous trainer" who pressures Gaffney into ignoring her own (extremely sensitive and astute) instincts regarding a willful, terrified filly that results in injury to both Gaffney and the horse - she learns she need to listen to the horse and herself, not necessarily the "famous trainer" and his swaggering male acolytes.And the cover illustration is absolutely gorgeous. What more could you want?juliestielstra.com
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  • Judy Beetem
    January 1, 1970
    Ginger Gaffney has written a poignant, thought-provoking accounting of her time on a ranch in New Mexico. Ginger is a horse trainer who specializes in horses who are the most difficult to train - those with damaged psyches as well as damaged bodies. This ranch is like no other - it is a ranch where felons apply to work, to learn a trade, and to take care of the animals. In addition, they learn social skills and other things they need to fit back into a society that has spit them out again and Ginger Gaffney has written a poignant, thought-provoking accounting of her time on a ranch in New Mexico. Ginger is a horse trainer who specializes in horses who are the most difficult to train - those with damaged psyches as well as damaged bodies. This ranch is like no other - it is a ranch where felons apply to work, to learn a trade, and to take care of the animals. In addition, they learn social skills and other things they need to fit back into a society that has spit them out again and again. Ginger was called because the horses have been running in a pack, rather than a herd, and biting, kicking and trying to hurt anything that gets close to them. Ginger works with the horses to regain their trust and heal them, and with the residents who need to heal and learn to trust themselves and each other. Ginger, herself, has led a rough life and finds herself learning much from the horses and people too.I was drawn to the cover of this book - a beautiful line drawing of a horse, half-in-shadow which is a great representation of Gaffney's tale. She flashes back to the events that got her involved with horses and the life that led her to mistrust herself as well as other humans. It is through working with horses, especially those who are as damaged as she, that Ginger finds a life that she loves. Her descriptions of the horses and people she encounters are so vivid they brought me to tears on many occassions. She's real and truthful without being overly sentimental. Horse-lovers will enjoy this book as will anyone who enjoys an interesting, enlightening read.
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  • Ivory Castle
    January 1, 1970
    inger Gaffney lives in Mexico and has been training horses and educating owners for twenty years. One day she receives a call from a prison ranch desperate for help with a herd of problem horses. Most of the residents are multiple offenders transferring from the prison system after gaining approval to complete their time at the ranch. The whole operation is run by the residents and for some of them the ranch is their last chance. Horses have been running in packs like dogs, chasing and sometimes inger Gaffney lives in Mexico and has been training horses and educating owners for twenty years. One day she receives a call from a prison ranch desperate for help with a herd of problem horses. Most of the residents are multiple offenders transferring from the prison system after gaining approval to complete their time at the ranch. The whole operation is run by the residents and for some of them the ranch is their last chance. Horses have been running in packs like dogs, chasing and sometimes injuring the residents. Scared by life and the prison system the residents have unconsciously passed their pain to the horses. Working with the ranch may be her biggest challenge yet.I felt involved when I was reading and shared the disappointment etc when things didn’t go as expected.It is clear she has handled some pretty dangerous situations even for an experienced horse person. Ginger has her own issues eg she mentions feeling like a stray dog when meeting new people and is able to relate to the men, women and horses on the ranch by drawing on her own experiences.I am a horse lover/owner who 110% recommends this others (not limited to) with similar interests. There are many things Ginger mentions which are relevant to more than just the horse world. I think everyone can learn something from this one.Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free digital copy of the advance uncorrected proof in return for an honest review.
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  • O Prism
    January 1, 1970
    A most moving memoir from Ms. Ginger Gaffney. I enjoyed this read very much, as Ive worked with horses off and on for decades, including therapy horses, and worked with female inmates, some on a prison work release program. Ms. Gaffney offers a brutally honest look at the ranch and its residents and how they relate (or not) to the horses and the program. As the residents gain confidence in themselves and their abilities, so does Ms. Gaffney. Her writing is beautiful and poetic; at times she is A most moving memoir from Ms. Ginger Gaffney. I enjoyed this read very much, as I’ve worked with horses off and on for decades, including therapy horses, and worked with female inmates, some on a prison work release program. Ms. Gaffney offers a brutally honest look at the ranch and it’s residents and how they relate (or not) to the horses and the program. As the residents gain confidence in themselves and their abilities, so does Ms. Gaffney. Her writing is beautiful and poetic; at times she is as skittish as the residents and the horses, yet she emerges strong and courageous, with a deeper knowledge of self. I could relate to her struggles as well as the residents and their equine charges. A touching and passionate look within, at the human condition, our self-esteem, how some people can be delicate and frail and broken over past events as well as the wonderful horses (some having been abused before their arrival at the ranch), and both triumphs and failures of the human spirit, and the human-animal bond. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would highly recommend it. Thank you to Netgalley, Ms. Gaffney, and the publishers for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. #halfbroke #gingergaffney #netgalley
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  • Steve Peifer
    January 1, 1970
    This is an absolutely fantastic book. Sometimes you have to fight your way into a book; you read a page and realize that you are in the hands of a master. What you think the story is going to be about is prisoners learning to be responsible and conquering a new skill set. But the author is a wizard with horses, and teaches them how to listen and observe them. Im vaguely aware of horse therapy, but seeing these very wounded people begin their healing due to working with horses is profoundly This is an absolutely fantastic book. Sometimes you have to fight your way into a book; you read a page and realize that you are in the hands of a master. What you think the story is going to be about is prisoners learning to be responsible and conquering a new skill set. But the author is a wizard with horses, and teaches them how to listen and observe them. I’m vaguely aware of horse therapy, but seeing these very wounded people begin their healing due to working with horses is profoundly moving.It’s more than prisoners being healed; it is the author realizing how broken she is herself, and the realization that we are all broken is moving. When the author realizes that helping the prisoners heal is part of her own healing, it’s a magical moment.It’s only February but it’s a contender for best book of the year.
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  • Mackay
    January 1, 1970
    Churchill said "The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse," and this moving, utterly engrossing memoir proves it. Gaffney is a horse trainer, and this is the story, in episodes, of how horses gave her a life and a vocation. She was painfully introverted as a child, not speaking till she was six, and also gay, so unsure of herself and her place in the human world, but horses showed her herself. Then, as a professional, the vital vocation arrived, helping the prisoners on an Churchill said "The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse," and this moving, utterly engrossing memoir proves it. Gaffney is a horse trainer, and this is the story, in episodes, of how horses gave her a life and a vocation. She was painfully introverted as a child, not speaking till she was six, and also gay, so unsure of herself and her place in the human world, but horses showed her herself. Then, as a professional, the vital vocation arrived, helping the prisoners on an alternative prison in New Mexico. The prison is a ranch, the inmates and their horses equally broken and in need of help. If I had quibbles (what happens to some of the inmates? or to the horse Rootbeer?), maybe that's part of the point--Gaffney herself doesn't know. Anyway, a lovely book full of compassion, horses, and how mankind needs the other life-forms on this planet to survive.
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  • SouthWestZippy
    January 1, 1970
    I was drawn to the book because it is about a prison ranch in New Mexico, my home state. I got much more than just a book about horses. Ginger Gaffney puts her world out there to read about, she is very open and raw about her relationships with humans and animals. Some stories pull you, make you think and a couple stories cut short and leave you hanging but overall it is a great book. The best quote, I feel truly says it best, is from the write up about the book. "As Gaffney peels away the I was drawn to the book because it is about a prison ranch in New Mexico, my home state. I got much more than just a book about horses. Ginger Gaffney puts her world out there to read about, she is very open and raw about her relationships with humans and animals. Some stories pull you, make you think and a couple stories cut short and leave you hanging but overall it is a great book. The best quote, I feel truly says it best, is from the write up about the book. "As Gaffney peels away the layers of her own story— a solitary childhood, painful introversion, and a trans-formative connection with her first horse, a filly named Belle— she, too, learns to trust people as much as she trusts horses. Half Broke is a resonant memoir with a spirited, memorable cast that describes the fascinating ways both horses and humans seek relationships to survive."
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  • Shauna Roth
    January 1, 1970
    This book had me by page 2. It is a most emotional story. It starts off about people healing some emotionally disturbed horses and quickly turns into horses healing people. And is everyone cured? Not by a long shot, but its about starting right here right now, and not fixing everyone, but helping people and ponies right here right now. Are horses judgmental? Oh yes...they are prey animals whose instincts tell them its flight or fight. This book is all about listening....and not speaking....and This book had me by page 2. It is a most emotional story. It starts off about people healing some emotionally disturbed horses and quickly turns into horses healing people. And is everyone cured? Not by a long shot, but it’s about starting right here right now, and not fixing everyone, but helping people and ponies right here right now. Are horses judgmental? Oh yes...they are prey animals whose instincts tell them it’s flight or fight. This book is all about listening....and not speaking....and movement....about letting animals come to us. I work in an elementary school. I so wish I could bring in a big old dog, and let her energy spread throughout the space. Thanks to publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.
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  • Anne Wolfe
    January 1, 1970
    Ginger Gaffney is a remarkable person. A long-time horse trainer, and now holder of an MFA in writing, she lives in New Mexico and has written a gripping and painful memoir. She is brutally honest, both about herself and her personal issues as well as those of prisoners who are the survivors of abuse, drugs, alcohol and incarceration.This book will break your heart but also want to make yourself into an advocate for children of dysfunctional families and people who are trapped in the prison Ginger Gaffney is a remarkable person. A long-time horse trainer, and now holder of an MFA in writing, she lives in New Mexico and has written a gripping and painful memoir. She is brutally honest, both about herself and her personal issues as well as those of prisoners who are the survivors of abuse, drugs, alcohol and incarceration.This book will break your heart but also want to make yourself into an advocate for children of dysfunctional families and people who are trapped in the prison system. If, additionally, like me, you are a person who knows and loves horses, you will be given an insight and understanding of equine individuals. They are as unique and different at each of us.Congratulation to Gaffney for writing a deeply personal and affecting book.
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  • Sharlene
    January 1, 1970
    There is a ranch in New Mexico that is an alternative prison. Back in 2013 they had a band of horses running wild, terrifying residents. Well-known trainer Ginger Gaffney got a call to see if she would look into what's happening and help solve the problem. What follows is the events of the next 18 months as she worked with residents and horses. Because I raise horses this was a particularly great read. But, even if you never spent time with a horse this is also the story of the troubled souls There is a ranch in New Mexico that is an alternative prison. Back in 2013 they had a band of horses running wild, terrifying residents. Well-known trainer Ginger Gaffney got a call to see if she would look into what's happening and help solve the problem. What follows is the events of the next 18 months as she worked with residents and horses. Because I raise horses this was a particularly great read. But, even if you never spent time with a horse this is also the story of the troubled souls that inhabit this ranch and a look into the life of Gaffney who has fought her own demons. It's a reminder that we should never give up on anyone even if there are failures along the way.
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  • Tara
    January 1, 1970
    My favorite book that I've read in years and years and years. Lyrical writing and a true rendering of the beautiful and sad brutality of living in Northern New Mexico (where I live and ride horses), a culture where drug addiction, alcoholism, and hopelessness reign aside the stunning physical beauty of the varying landscape. This story about how horses saved the author Ginger's life and affected the lives of the prisoners at a rehabilitation ranch in Velarde, NM, is the Southwest's version of My favorite book that I've read in years and years and years. Lyrical writing and a true rendering of the beautiful and sad brutality of living in Northern New Mexico (where I live and ride horses), a culture where drug addiction, alcoholism, and hopelessness reign aside the stunning physical beauty of the varying landscape. This story about how horses saved the author Ginger's life and affected the lives of the prisoners at a rehabilitation ranch in Velarde, NM, is the Southwest's version of Hillbilly Elegy, though far better and more poetically written. A quiet tour de force not to be missed.
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  • Jackie
    January 1, 1970
    "Half Broke" by Ginger Gaffney.This is a fascinating memoir, about Ginger Gaffney, who is a gifted horse trainer and rider. She volunteered her time working with and teaching prisoners at an alternative prison ranch in New Mexico. She taught them all about horses, their care in every aspect. There were miraculous results, not only in the prisoner's lives, but in understanding her own life.This is a wonderful collection of stories about her experiences, early in her training, and more recently on "Half Broke" by Ginger Gaffney.This is a fascinating memoir, about Ginger Gaffney, who is a gifted horse trainer and rider. She volunteered her time working with and teaching prisoners at an alternative prison ranch in New Mexico. She taught them all about horses, their care in every aspect. There were miraculous results, not only in the prisoner's lives, but in understanding her own life.This is a wonderful collection of stories about her experiences, early in her training, and more recently on the ranch.I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads Giveaway.
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  • TheBookGroupie
    January 1, 1970
    All through time, horses have helped people to do their work, carry their loads, and make their journeys. In Ginger Gaffney's "Half Broke" we see how horses, with their subtle interpersonal cues and incredible strength, help people to move beyond troubles and traumas and difficult pasts. I've never heard of a horse trainer with an MFA degree before; this one has combined her talents just perfectly in this riveting and inspiring book. Linda Tashbook, Author of Family Guide to Mental Illness and All through time, horses have helped people to do their work, carry their loads, and make their journeys. In Ginger Gaffney's "Half Broke" we see how horses, with their subtle interpersonal cues and incredible strength, help people to move beyond troubles and traumas and difficult pasts. I've never heard of a horse trainer with an MFA degree before; this one has combined her talents just perfectly in this riveting and inspiring book. Linda Tashbook, Author of Family Guide to Mental Illness and the Law
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  • Melanie
    January 1, 1970
    When Ginger Gaffney gets a call about some horses acting like a mob towards people, she goes to see what's going on. What she finds is, at a sort of alternative prison site where inmates work in the garden,or the kitchen, or in the carpentry shop, or, yes, in the stables, a destructive interaction has sprung up between human and horse. With her knowledge of horses, she is able to change the situation to one where horse and human have a bond. The story of the horses and the inmates is broken up When Ginger Gaffney gets a call about some horses acting like a mob towards people, she goes to see what's going on. What she finds is, at a sort of alternative prison site where inmates work in the garden,or the kitchen, or in the carpentry shop, or, yes, in the stables, a destructive interaction has sprung up between human and horse. With her knowledge of horses, she is able to change the situation to one where horse and human have a bond. The story of the horses and the inmates is broken up with Gaffney's own life story, and the pieces fit together well. Very good read!
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  • Ann
    January 1, 1970
    Broken people, broken horses, thrown together in an alternative prison ranch in New Mexico and when Ginger Gaffney arrives, all are gently guided to their better selves.This is a wonderful memoir filled with hope and disappointment, laughter and tears, horse shit and bull shit. Thanks Ms. Gaffney for a terrific read. And thanks for your good work and the good work of the folks and horses at this desert ranch.Support your local independent!
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  • Sasha
    January 1, 1970
    First I would like to state that I have received this book through goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank the author for giving me this opportunity and honor in being able to read this book. When I received this book I began reading it at once. This book was a very interesting read. It pulls you in and keeps you wanting more. I would recommend this book to others. It is a very good read
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  • Kirsten
    January 1, 1970
    well-written narrative that unfolds in an engaging manner. readers who happen to be horsepeople will appreciate the details and observations about equine behavior. readers who happen to not have prison backgrounds will appreciate the author's attempts to NOT dehumanize the population with whom she works. not always a pretty story but a very honest, straightforward one, it is ultimately uplifting.
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  • Mary McBride
    January 1, 1970
    There are many ways to deal with trauma. Animal-assisted therapy is one of the best. Add a horse to the mix and the results can be astounding. With great honesty, Ginger writes about the weaknesses she addresses in herself, her horses, and the wounded inmates she works with at an alternative prison ranch.
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  • Marna
    January 1, 1970
    A memoir I found difficult to put down. Horse trainer, Ginger Gaffney is called to deal with horses at an alternative prison who have become dangerously uncontrollable. Working with the horses teaches some of the inmates something about themselves. And Ginger, who knows a lot about why horses do what they do, while working with the inmates, discovers a great deal about herself.
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  • Christina Dudley
    January 1, 1970
    If you like horses, memoirs and generally hopeful stories about people overcoming trauma and addiction, this is a good one. Not everyone overcomes, of course, but the horses generally do, under Ginger Gaffney's watch.
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