A Maine Horseman on Loving the American West, Avocados, and Watership Down

It isn’t uncommon to have an experience that marks a major life change–a dramatic meeting, a sudden loss, an unexpected epiphany…all of these can inspire a re-evaluation of who we are and what we are doing with our lives. When Chris Lombard suffered a breakup that upended his life and left him searching for meaning and purpose, he headed west to learn how to work with and ride horses–something he knew nothing about. We caught up with Chris and talked to him about the book that tells his story, LAND OF THE HORSES, and how a single moment can herald seismic events.

TSB: Your book LAND OF THE HORSES explores a year you spent traveling the West, searching for opportunities to be with and work with horses, having never done so before. What inspired you to share this particular story with the world? 

CL: Well, first off, I just enjoyed writing about it. It was fun to revisit it all. In the writing I would remember the beauty, the adventure, the inspiration. And also the little moments. Moments that meant a lot back then, but also moments that only upon further reflection did I realize how meaningful they were to me. To put this time of my life into a story—into something tied together into one cohesive journey—has been a gift to me. And, as I’ve learned, the best thing to do with a gift is to give it away to others. 

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TSB: In your book, there are a number of themes, including what can or can’t be seen in someone’s eyes. What is it about the eye, and in particular the horse’s eye, that you find profound?

CL: In the eyes—our eyes or an animal’s eyes—is truth. It’s a common truth that is inherent to us all, ties us together, and unites us. The look and feeling in our eyes also speaks more clearly than any words or sentences or whole books ever could. The eyes give us a look into the soul, and how that soul feels, and what it truly wishes to communicate to the world. And this is not so much something that is learned or practiced or trained—it’s something always there, and we just have to get ourselves and our mind and our thinking out of the way of it. In the eyes is where we can best see and feel the unseen world of the soul.  

TSB: You are lucky to meet many horses as you learn to ride and strive to become a horseman. Tell us about one of the horses that had an impact on you during that time. 

CL: Cheyenne, a Mustang mare. She was thirteen when I met her. She had lived in the wild until the age of two, was rounded up, then adopted. But never tamed. She spent the next eleven years of her life successfully fending off any attempts at domestication. She was the most challenging horse I have ever worked with. She helped me to learn and feel what my entire being was saying and doing when around horses. She taught me how to slow down, believe, to love unconditionally, and that trust is never, ever made to happen. And that with trust is the ONLY way a horse can and should be led.    

TSB: You are from Maine but admit a distinct love for and connection to the American West. What is it about the West that you love? What is it about the West that makes it a place you cannot stay but can only visit? 

CL: I sure do love the West. The land feels wise, wild, and ancient. It’s deep, magical. I am also very tied to the indigenous people’s ways of living and being, so that holds me there. And also the horses—it’s no mistake that most wild horses on this continent have settled around that area of North America. It’s the type of land that they are most comfortable living on. But Maine is home. At the end of the day, Maine has a wonderful variety of land, and the ocean. And I love the people there. So Maine is home, but I will always adventure and journey into the West. 

Photo Courtesy of Chris Lombard

TSB: What is one lesson you hope readers will take away from your book?

CL: That we all have a passion, a love, that is inside us that is uniquely our own. For me, I need to have horses in my life. For others it’s the piano, or gardening, or painting, or cooking, or something else. And when we are following our passion, it gives love to us, arising naturally from within us. We’re happy. And this unique passion we have turns to a gift that we can give to the world. And then in the giving of it we are happy. It seems we are all given a part to play in this great world, and when we find that part, when we play it, it gives back to us in all ways.   

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

CL: A Mustang and Watership Down by Richard Adams.

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

CL: Ride with Rocky across the country bareback and bridle-less, even with no halter and lead-rope for when I get down to lead him…. Impossible? I think about it all the time.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

CL: Trust. Common answer, and there’s a good reason why. 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

CL: Horse-ness. Horse happiness. Free to be themselves. 

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

CL: That I won’t “get myself out of the way of myself” enough to fully give everything I want to give to the world.

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

CL: Avocados!

TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

CL: I would like to slow down in many ways that would allow me to do more with the life I have.

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

CL: Broccoli.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

CL: To recognize in every moment how much love and beauty there is all around us.

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

CL: Caga Mato Wanbli, also known as Frank Fools Crow, an Oglala Lakota holy man. 

TSB: What is your motto?

CL: Live from your love within.

LAND OF THE HORSES is available now in print and eBook format from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

What they’re saying about LAND OF THE HORSES:

“A well written and heartfelt book that demonstrates the positive and often life changing promise that horses have to offer—when we let them.” —Mark Rashid, author of Journey to Softness, Finding the Missed Path, and Horses Never Lie

“This book gave me pause. I was absorbed in Chris Lombard’s words of wisdom about being with and connecting with the horse. His thoughts on horses and life resonate truth. They are simple, yet profound. It made me want to run out to my barn to work with a small and troubled horse that is new to my farm and seems angry at the world. I slowed down with him and started seeing a shift and a softer eye. Land of the Horses is definitely worth the read!” —Cindy Meehl, Cedar Creek Media, Director and Producer of Buck7 Clinics with Buck Brannaman, and The Dog Doc, and Executive Producer of Rewind, The River and the Wall, For the Birds, UnbrandedTrapped, and Dogs on the Inside

“This book needs to be read. I am changed by it. It has a quietly powerful way of bringing home the connection between the human and the horse.” —Joe Camp, author of The Soul of a Horse

“I love linear timeline books such as this…narratives that take you on an emotional and physical journey while periodically dropping you into very different worlds along the way. Chris Lombard’s story is told with an adventure essence that kept me connected the entire time—from teaching children in a school to guiding night rides in Los Angeles to working with dudes in Arizona. It’s a story of adventure steeped with the discovery of finding oneself—and the horse serving as the catalyst for that discovery.” —Bud Force, Co-Director, Producer, and Director of Photography for the feature film Cowboys: A Documentary Portrait 

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