I, Siglavy by Lisbeth Asay
BOOK REVIEW – NOVEMBER 2018
‘I, SIGLAVY’ – by Lisbeth Asay
This is an autobiography by Siglavy, a Lipizzaner stallion. As well as being a work of fiction it is based on true life events as known by Margaret, who owned Siglavy for most of his life.The story takes the form of a reflection on his life, during his last days.
It is extremely thought provoking; looking at life through the eyes of a horse. Some may say it is very anthropomorphic. That may be, but so many of Siglavy’s feeling and reactions to events will be recognised by all sensitive horse people, as well as by behaviourists.
It is extremely moving and emotional in parts, but not all sad emotion; just some of the things he says made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up; reminding me of similar events with my own horses.
It is not a ‘Black Beauty’ type of book. Siglavy was very fortunate in having some good and caring owners and trainers. He began his working career in the circus, where he was not at all unhappy; quite the opposite it appears. His owner/trainer was a very nice man, who, due to his own ill health, had to sell Siglavy. He comes into the ownership of Margaret, with whom he immediately finds a kindred spirit and their bond is inseparable. His work and training change completely and we hear all this from his point of view. Sadness comes with the loss of Margaret’s daughter and it is Siglavy who takes it upon himself to ‘bring her back from despair’.
Throughout the book we are given an insight into Siglavy’s relationship with other animals, not just equine; all of which seem perfectly plausible to me, given what I have observed over the years. Whilst human feelings are attributed to Siglavy, I (along with many others, including behaviourists) believe that horses have thoughts, feelings and understandings, way beyond what is normally believed, not to mention what science can prove.
Here is an extract from the book which I think will bring a tear of emotion to a lot of peoples’ eyes, as we identify with the humans Siglavy is talking about:-
“It might be that it takes three human life spans to know all about us, to understand us fuly and thus become one with us. What I do know is there are human babies born whose pull towards us is one of their first expressions. Such children see another world. They see a world of adventure, a fairy tale world, a vanished world now suddenly appearing in front of them. From then on, all they want is to be part of that world. Some of these children never let go of us. As adults they live with us. They devote their lives to know all about us, to work with us and look after us. Our wellbeing is the very core of their lives, not fame and fortune, something very few of them ever receive. This is how riders get the well-balanced, well-behaved horses they can go out and win ribbons with: This ghost army of trainers and grooms and stable helpers, always busy in the background.
Myself, I am drawn to these people who, despite living in this modern and often confusing world, still want to be inside our circle. Some of them have few other people in their lives, either because there is no time left after taking care of us, or, actually quite often, I believe, because they find us more interesting than their own kind. I can understand that.”
It is not a long book and once I began to read I found it extremely hard to put down, due to its fascinating content. It is also very well and clearly written. It would make a great Christmas (or any other time) present for any animal lover. It will appeal to non-horse people too, since it does not contain any technical terms which are unexplained and just touches anyone who has a heart. It may not, perhaps, be appropriate for someone who has just lost a horse, but after the initial grieving may be of great benefit.
Some of my friends will definitely be receiving a copy of ‘I, Siglavy’.