June 1, 1996 – November 13, 2014
Our Lives Will never Be The Same
Cash was the embodiment of The Soul of a Horse. He was The Soul of a Horse.
Never once did I fill my pocket with treats that it wasn’t with him in mind, never wanting to be caught without something that he liked when he walked up and offered me something that I liked.
He was the first one down for every feed, usually waiting for me at the back of the barn breezeway.
I could call him from anywhere and wherever he was he’d come.
He would walk with me from anywhere to anywhere at liberty.
In the evenings he would use the stubble on my chin to scratch his upper lip. I do love that.
He would offer up kisses. And hugs.
When I was loading hay into the Gator he always knew exactly when to back out of the hay shed to get out of my way. Without a word.
He would back up, side step, come forward, straight or at an angle, and move his butt in any direction, all without a touch. Just a point. A word. Often just a look.
He was the most polite, most willing, smartest, most dedicated, most amazing horse I ever hope to be bonded with. And bonded we were. Tighter than super glue. He could see into the depths of my soul with his big browns. And he always knew what I was thinking even before I knew it myself. He wasn’t my horse. He was my little brother.
He was my Cash.
Never once did I talk about relationships with our horses, or with any horses, that I wasn’t actually talking about him. He drove the agenda. And he is personally responsible for changing the lives of thousands of horses (and people) across the planet.
These are the first words I wrote in The Soul of a Horse:
Often, in the early evening, when the stresses of the day are weighing heavy, I pack it in and head out to the pasture. I’ll sit on my favorite rock, or just stand, with my shoulders slumped, head down, and wait. It’s never long before I feel the magical tickle of whiskers against my neck, or the elixir of warm breath across my ear, a restoring rub against my cheek. I have spoken their language and they have responded. And my problems have vanished. This book is written for everyone who has never experienced this miracle.
I wasn’t really talking about “they”. I was talking about one horse.
He made me happy. Every day. So very, very happy.
Then one day, not long ago, he didn’t come in for breakfast. He was parked up the hill, unmovable because his left rear leg was very swollen, especially around the stifle area. The vet came out, gave him a couple of shots and got him down into the round pen. He had obviously had some kind of accident in the pasture, long enough before for the swelling to be really bad. I was out of town, driving in, arriving late that afternoon. I was given the medication drill and was told there didn’t seem to be any fracture, or tendon tear, so it would be good to walk him around the round pen.
Cash has always been the most accident prone horse in our family. I have never been able to balance that with his swift and sure-footed beauty.
The next day he seemed to be doing better. Moving around on his own but applying very little pressure on the injured leg. Which was beginning to wear down his good rear leg. Then the following day the swelling began to migrate down around his chest and abdomen. The prognosis was that there was internal bleeding. He lay down that morning and almost couldn’t get back up. Now two different vets were in agreement that something inside was probably broken and/or some muscles were torn causing the bleeding. He was confined to a very small place because he needed to not move around until the bleeding stabilized. I continued to ask what could have possibly happened? He could have fallen on his hip. He could have slipped and, in effect, done the splits. I suppose it’s possible that he could’ve been kicked but neither vet, nor I, believe that to have happened. There were no markings. And Cash knows who the kickers are and he stays well clear of them. Always. Kathleen and I have combed the pastures looking for clues. A fallen tree limb, any kind of place to get tangled and frightened. We found nothing.
By the fourth day the conclusion was that the internal bleeding had stabilized but he must not do any strenuous movement until there was some healing inside, for fear of restarting the bleeding. Throughout all of this his attitude was just simply beautiful. We moved our evening No Agenda Time into the side shed where he was residing. He smiled a lot, his way of asking for a treat. And he gave out kisses. By now the vets differed in what they thought had happened. One felt it was a bad trauma, probably a fracture, somewhere in the stifle area. The other believed he probably had a fracture in his pelvic region. But the swollen tissue eliminated the possibility of seeing anything on an xRay. Three ultra sounds were done but only confirmed the internal bleeding which withdrawing a sample had already confirmed. And his good rear leg was now swelling and getting weaker from supporting so much weight for so long. Yesterday morning (Thursday as I write this) at feeding time he tried to take a couple of steps backward, to reposition for his feed tub… and stumbled… and fell. And could not get up. He tried and tried. It freaked him out so, and I had no one to help. And no sedative. He re-opened the internal bleeding and in fifteen minutes he was gone.
Just like that.
I have yet to stop crying. My life will never be the same. Nor will Kathleen’s.
It’s so random. It wasn’t supposed to be his time. He is only 18. Healthy, hardy, with the best immune system of the bunch. We were supposed to grow old together.
In Todd Burpo’s wonderful book about his young son Colton’s visit to Heaven during a near-death experience, Colton tells us that Jesus was on a horse. That’s good to know, Colton. Thank you. He now has the most polite, amazing, smart, funny, connected, caring horse in the world, who can still see into the deepest parts of my soul.
For some reason I woke up that morning with Garth Brooks’ The Dance in my head. I tried humming every other tune I could think of, but I couldn’t shake it. It wouldn’t go away. The last few lines are:
And now, I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could’ve missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss… the… dance
Yes, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. But the crying won’t stop.
The most amazing thing happened with Cash on this day! It reminded me why we have been so obsessive about getting the relationship right with each of our horses before anything else. Even before training. I was so lucky to have a video camera handy. Watch how joyfully he comes from so far away.
How It All Began
I remember that it was an unusually chilly day for late May, because I recall the jacket I was wearing. Not so much the jacket, I suppose, as the collar. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing at full attention, and the collar was scratching at them.
There was no one else around. Just me and this eleven-hundred pound creature I had only met once before. And today he was passing out no clues as to how he felt about that earlier meeting, or about me. His stare was without emotion. Empty. Scary to one who was taking his very first step into the world of horses.
If he chose to do so this beast could take me out with no effort whatsoever. He was less than fifteen feet away. No halter, no line. We were surrounded by a round pen a mere fifty feet in diameter. No place to hide. Not that he was mean. At least I had been told that he wasn’t. But I had also been told that anything is possible with a horse. He’s a prey animal, they had said. A freaky flight animal that can flip from quiet and thoughtful to wild and reactive in a single heartbeat. Accidents happen.
I knew very little about this horse, and none of it firsthand. Logic said do not depend upon hearsay. Be sure. There’s nothing like firsthand knowledge. But all I knew was what I could see. He was big.
The sales slip stated that he was unregistered. And his name was Cash.
But there was something about him. A kindness in his eyes that betrayed the vacant expression. And sometimes he would cock his head as if he were asking a question. I wanted him to be more than chattel. I wanted a relationship with this horse. I wanted to begin at the beginning, as Monty Roberts had prescribed. Start with a blank sheet of paper, then fill it in.
I’m not a gambler. Certainty is my mantra. Knowledge over luck. But on this day I was gambling.
I had never done this before.
I knew dogs.
I did not know horses.
And I was going to ask this one to do something he had probably never been asked to do in his lifetime. To make a choice. Which made me all the more nervous. What if it didn’t work?
What if his choice was not me?
I was in that round pen because a few weeks earlier my wife, Kathleen, had pushed me out of bed one morning and instructed me to get dressed and get in the car.
“Where are we going?” I asked several times.
Being the paranoid, suspicious type, whenever my birthday gets close, the ears go up and twist in the wind.
The brain shuffled and dealt. Nothing came up.
We drove down the hill and soon Kathleen was whipping in at a sign for the local animal shelter.
Another dog? I wondered. We have four. Four’s enough.
She drove right past the next turn for the animal shelter and pulled into a park. There were a few picnic tables scattered about. And a big horse trailer.
The car jerked to a stop and Kathleen looked at me and smiled. “Happy birthday,” she said.
“What?” I said. “What??”
“You said we should go for a trail ride sometime.” She grinned. “Sometime is today.”
Two weeks later we owned three horses.
We should’ve named them Impulsive, Compulsive, and Obsessive.
One nice thing about being a newcomer is that you start with a clean plate. No baggage. No preconceptions. No musts. Just a desire to learn what’s best for the horses, and our relationship with them. And a determination to use logic and knowledge wherever found, even if it means exposing a few myths about what does, in fact, produce the best results.
Cash was pawing the ground now, wondering, I suspect, why I was just standing there in the round pen doing nothing. The truth is I was reluctant to start the process. Nervous. Rejection is not one of my favorite concepts. Once started, I would soon be asking him to make his choice. What if he said no? Is that it? Is it over? Does he go back to his previous owner?
I have often felt vulnerable during my sixty-eight years, but rarely this vulnerable. I really wanted this horse to choose me.
What if I screw it up? Maybe I won’t do it right. It’s my first time. What if he runs over me? Actually, that was the lowest on my list of concerns because Monty’s Join-Up process is built on the language of the horse, and the fact that the raw horse inherently perceives humans as predators. Their response is flight, not fight. It’s as automatic as breathing.
Bite the bullet, Joe, I kept telling myself. Give him the choice.
I had vowed that this would be our path. We would begin our relationship with every horse in this manner. Our way to true horsemanship, which, as I would come to understand, was not about how well you ride, or how many trophies you win, or how fast your horse runs, or how high he or she jumps.
I squared my shoulders, stood tall, looked this almost sixteen hands of horse straight in the eye, appearing as much like a predator as I could muster, and tossed one end of a soft long-line into the air behind him, and off he went at full gallop around the round pen. Just like Monty said he would.
I kept my eyes on his eyes, just as a predator would. Cash would run for roughly a quarter of a mile, just as horses do in the wild, before he would offer his first signal. Did he actually think I was a predator, or did he know he was being tested? I believe it’s somewhere in between, a sort of leveling of the playing field. A starting from scratch with something he knows ever so well. Predators and flight. A simulation, if you will. Certainly he was into it. His eyes were wide, his nostrils flared. At the very least he wasn’t sure about me, and those fifty-five million years of genetics were telling him to flee.
It was those same genetics that caused him to offer the first signal. His inside ear turned and locked on me, again as Monty had predicted. He had run the quarter of a mile that usually preserves him from most predators; and I was still there, but not really seeming very predatory. So now, instead of pure reactive flight, he was getting curious. Beginning to think about it. Maybe he was even a bit confused. Horses have two nearly separate brains. Some say one is the reactive brain and the other is the thinking brain. Whether or not that’s true physiologically, emotionally it’s a good analogy. When they’re operating from the reactive side, the rule of thumb is to stand clear until you can get them thinking. Cash was now shifting. He was beginning to think. Hmm, maybe this human is not a predator after all. I’ll just keep an ear out for a bit. See what happens.
Meanwhile, my eyes were still on his eyes, my shoulders square, and I was still tossing the line behind him.
Before long, he began to lick and chew. Signal number two. I think maybe it’s safe to relax. I think, just maybe, this guy’s okay. I mean, if he really wanted to hurt me, he’s had plenty of time, right?
And, of course, he was right. But, still, I kept up the pressure. Kept him running. Waiting for the next signal.
It came quickly. He lowered his head, almost to the ground, and began to narrow the circle. Signal number three. I’ll look submissive, try to get closer, see what happens. I think this guy might be a good leader. We should discuss it.
He was still loping, but slower now. Definitely wanting to negotiate. That’s when I was supposed to take my eyes off him, turn away, and lower my head and shoulders. No longer predatorial, but assuming a submissive stance of my own, saying Okay, if it’s your desire, come on in. I’m not going to hurt you. But the choice is yours.
The moment of truth. Would he in fact do that? Would he make the decision, totally on his own, to come to me? I took a deep breath, and turned away.
He came to a halt and stood somewhere behind me.
The seconds seemed like hours.
“Don’t look back,” Monty had warned. “Just stare at the ground.”
A tiny spider was crawling across my new Boot Barn boot. The collar of my jacket was tickling the hairs on the back of my neck. And my heart was pounding. Then a puff of warm, moist air brushed my ear. My heart skipped a beat. He was really close. Then I felt his nose on my shoulder… the moment of Join-Up. I couldn’t believe it. Tears came out of nowhere and streamed down my cheeks. I had spoken to him in his own language, and he had listened… and he had chosen to be with me. He had said I trust you.
I turned and rubbed him on the face, then walked off across the pen. Cash followed, right off my shoulder, wherever I went.
Such a rush I haven’t often felt.
I was no longer a horse owner. I was a companion. A leader. A trusted friend. And I promised him that his life with me would be the very best that I could possibly make it.
I had no clue what the very best might be but I vowed to him I would find out.
And what a difference it has made as this newcomer has stumbled his way through the learning process. Cash has never stopped trying, never stopped listening, never stopped giving.
Nor have I.
The above is an edited excerpt from the book
The Soul of a Horse – Life Lessons from the Herd.
Tributes to Cash
From Dawn Hubbard in California
Cash, more so than any human, lived a life larger than life. He will always be an icon, a hero, a gift from God, and he did what he was sent to do…change your life, as you did his, and ours. The pictures you and Kathleen shared brought him alive for us. We can never say thank you enough. He will find Malachi and nuzzle him and play with him and teach him “the ropes” of being a horse above all horses! He knew you were loving him and with him. He would want you to go on, and he will always be at your side, smiling for a treat. Just feel him! – Dawn Hubbard
From Helen Miller, UK, living in Italy
“There is a wave of shared grief and shock around the world. We loved Cash so much from afar. It was Cash and you I thought about in my round-pen, trying to learn with my horses, getting it wrong, them being bemused and kind, the moments when together we learned something small, the wonderful first moments of harmony when we got things right. It was Cash and you thought of when I scooped the DE into their bowls, Cash and you when I walked around the meadow examining my first-ever low-sugar meadow hay. It is like our leader, our spiritual guide vanished before I had time to realise I loved him and to thank him. Although of course I know he is still there. Cash lives on. Together both of you have touched and changed so many lives. You are touching them now and we are all changed by your extra special relationship. He will always be with you, and we are so lucky that you shared him with us. Candles have been lit in Italy for you and Cash today.” – Helen Miller
From Pam Rangel in Texas
I’m SO sorry, Joe. Cash touched countless hearts and made us better horse people. Thank you for sharing him with the world. There will never be another Cash. I’m comforted in knowing he is now pain-free and watching over you and his herd from heaven. Rest easy, Big Boy. You did your job well. Prayers to Kathleen and you Joe. Cash will always be in your soul. I have never seen a relationship quite like yours. You two were meant to conquer the world, and you did. He was an exceptional teacher and you as his interpreter. What a pair you two were! I know words can’t ease the pain in your heart, but you are not alone. Millions mourn with you. – Pam Rangel
From Nina Black Reid in Washington DC
My heart aches and hurts for you and Kathleen…and your beautiful, extraordinary Cash… I am so happy that I was able to meet him. He changed all of our lives, and the lives of so many horses. Cash was a gift from God. I will dream of him tonight. He is forever in our hearts…. Nina
From Beatrice Mete in Maryland
Please know that there are thousands of us out there that loved Cash right along with you. If it were not for Cash, you would never have touched me in the way you did. You would have not affected so many people’s lives and many horse’s lives as well! I hope that you are able to carry on the wonderful work you have done bettering the world for horses! – Beatrice Mete
From Bedlam Farm
To Cash – Well Done Lad. Your job was so very important. And you just did it so well.
From Susan Boyd in Florida
Cash is a beautiful soul and you brought him to life for me and so many others. My life and the way I care for my horses has changed because of Cash and what he brought into your life. Know that you are loved by many and Cash will live in my memory forever. Love from me and my herd who have all benefited because you and Cash met. – Susan Boyd
From Jane Ames in NY
There will never be another Cash, but there will be another horse – and another – and another. All who will need you just as much – maybe more. Until then, know that you and Kathleen are cared for and prayed for by so many people across the world – and rest in that – and allow us to “row the boat” for awhile.
From Anita Large
Cash touched the lives of many, mine included. Your book opened my life to a whole new world about horses… I loved reading about Cash. And was hoping to get to meet him one day, along with the rest of the herd. You’re in my prayers, Joe and Kathleen, at this difficult time.
From Michelle Elford in South Africa
The Soul of a Horse changed my life forever as did you and Cash.
From Susan Isherwood in Queensland, Australia
So sorry Joe Camp. This is the worst news. Your experiences with Cash have helped millions. He was indeed that one special horse for us all.
From Sandra Perkins
I am so sorry to hear about Cash, but I just want to remind you that he is now among the few documented horses that will live on forever in the experiences of others, because of you. Many horses and humans are happy now because of the experiences with Cash you have shared through your books and articles.
From Karen McCalpin in Carolla, NC
Your loss is felt and shared by the thousands who know Cash through you.
From Jane Antcliff in Sheffield UK
You made Cash immortal and his life and memory will continue forever more.
From Trish M
Our heartfelt prayers are with you, Kathleen, Caash, and your herd. You have all touched our lives in ways that are beyond expression…unless you look into the eyes of our horses…and then you know. Cash will live on forever in the lives and hearts of many. He is immortal, and, will continue to be an inspiration in the lives of so many humans and horses that there just aren’t words to express how far reaching. What you shared together, and, shared with all of us… even though we never met personally, I feel as though we have in spirit. Cash will walk with you always. His heart will go on and on.
From Geert Oostvogel in the UK
What a loss this must be for you. I have followed Cash, you and the others ever since I read The Soul of a Horse. It has contributed hugely to the lives of our two horses. And beyond. To how I experience my life. I cried. My deepest sympathy and my empathy in this terrible heart wrenching loss, during these difficult times.
From Diana M. Moorehead
Please know that your work has touched the lives of many and your relationship with Cash stands as a testament to what can be achieved when open hearts meet open hearts. Bless you, may God’s peace envelope your heart.
From Yvonne Bishton
You did dance, you and Cash. Oh my did you both dance. A huge thank you to you and Cash – the soul of the horse – as my horses have a much better life. No shoes, no rugs, and living naturally, and I have a wonderful relationship with Lara and Arkle something that was the dream of a little girl over 50 years ago. Thanks to you, and Cash coming into your life, I have achieved my dream.
From Dorothe Doyle in NY
You immortalized Cash with your book and he will be missed around the world.
From Nicole Thompson
Much love and so much thought to you both, and to Cash who has brought so much to people around the world. What a gift of a horse.
From Laura Gifford
My heart is breaking for you. Please know that Cash helped you improve the lives of countless horses, including my own. God bless you and keep you and hold you in the palm of his hand.
From Rebecca Mortimer
Thank you Cash for everything you brought to owner and horse alike through your relationship with Joe and Kathleen. Thank you for inspiring your guardian to write about it all and to help thousands through that process. RIP fine fellow.
The story of our journey with horses (to date) is told in the two books that follow: the national best seller The Soul of a Horse – Life Lessons from the Herd and its sequel Born Wild – The Soul of a Horse.
And what a story it is as two novices without a clue stumble and bumble their way through the learning process so that hopefully you won’t have to. If you haven’t read both of these books already please do because with that reading, I believe, will come not just the knowledge of discovery but the passion and the excitement to cause you to commit to your journey with horses, to do for the horse without waiver so that your relationship and experience will be with loving, happy and healthy horses who are willing partners and who never stop trying for you. Horses like ours.
The highly acclaimed best selling sequel to the National Best Seller
The Soul of a Horse – Life Lessons from the Herd
#1 Amazon Best Seller
#1 Amazon “Hot New Releases”
Please list the names for each inscription in the “instructions to Seller” field as you check out!
But first read the National Best Seller that started it all:
Please list the names for each inscription in the “instructions to Seller” field as you check out!
“Joe Camp is a master storyteller.” – The New York Times
“One cannot help but be touched by Camp’s love and sympathy for animals and by his eloquence on the subject.” – Michael Korda, The Washington Post
“Joe Camp is a natural when it comes to understanding how animals tick and a genius at telling us their story. His books are must-reads for those who love animals of any species.” – Monty Roberts – Author of New York Timers Best-seller The Man Who Listens to Horses
“Camp’s tightly-written, simply-designed and powerfully drawn chapters often read like short stories that flow from the heart.” Jack L. Kennedy – The Joplin Independent
“Joe Camp is a gifted storyteller and the results are magical. Joe entertains, educates and empowers, baring his own soul while articulating keystone principles of a modern revolution in horsemanship.” – Rick Lamb – TV/Radio host – The Horse Show
Also see: joecamp.info
Follow our latest journey with two amazing new arrivals from the wild
Kathleen’s terrific photos are worth the click
In chronological order:
Follow Our Entire Journey
From no horses and no clue to stumbling through mistakes, fear, fascination and frustration on a collision course with the ultimate discovery that something was very wrong in the world of horses.
Read the National Best Seller