Sometimes I hear people saying that this is a story about horses but it has never been that way for me. It’s a story about human beings and how, in the stress and mayhem of every day life, they can sometimes lose themselves and forget the essence of being human. The damaged horse of the story, Pilgrim, was for me a real creature of course, but he was also a metaphor for the dark whirlpool of pain into which Grace, Annie and Robert get plunged. A hand of love and understanding, Tom Booker, the whisperer, reaches down to rescue them.
Researching the book was a life-changing experience for me. I travelled for many weeks around the American West and met three astonishing horsemen: Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman (who did the horse work for the movie). One day at Tom’s place in California, I watched him sort out a traumatized horse in the course of a few hours. He turned him from a terrified and terrifying wild creature into a soft and gentle one. Tom said afterwards: ‘He’d just forgotten how to be a horse. All I did was help him remember.’ He showed me the trick with that piece of cord that Tom Booker shows Annie in the book. I still have the cord he gave me.