Bullies on the School Bus and on the Trail: Horse Behavior Teaches Children a Good Lesson in New “Quincy” Book by Camille Matthews

Novice trail horse Quincy finds there’s more to fear on the trail than snakes and coyotes in the new children’s book “Quincy and Buck” by Camille Matthews. Readers learn that bullies can have four legs as well as two. Illustration: Michelle Black.

The animal world is full of bullies. Just look out the window at the dogs playing. Introducing a new cat can be a nightmare. And those hens…

But if you’re looking for bully behavior on the farm, look no further than how a group of horses attack a fresh flake or two of hay dropped over the fence by someone who doesn’t know the herd.

Ears go back. Oh, that squeal. Hooves fly. And one or the other backs off. More often than not, it’s the “other” who is chased away. She circles around and comes in from the other side, only to be met by the shifting hind end of the dominant one.

We accommodate horse behavior quirks by splitting feed, separating horses, distracting them, building elaborate feeders and otherwise just figuring out a way to keep the peace. But we always know that the quirks are there. We haven’t changed the behavior as much as we have avoided it.

Children watch horses do the dance of dominance and shriek: “Meanie! Stop that!” They immediately recognize the behavior of a bully as soon as a favorite pony turns into a hay-hoarding demon.

Perhaps Camille Matthews was gazing out her window when she came upon the idea for the latest in her series of “Quincy” books for children. Quincy and Buck is, on the surface, the story of a young horse’s first day out on the big open trail. He has a long list of things to fear in the desert of the Southwest, but he didn’t expect that his companion horse would be one of them.

The story has a beginning, a middle, a dramatic climax, and an end. It is written to be read along or aloud with a child or group of children.

Talking aloud about the way that each of the horses behaves is a natural lead into how people act in similar human situations. Children’s perceptions of the horse characters might change as they read the book; they might think one or the other of the horses is “beautiful” in the beginning but less so in the end.

In the simplest of terms, this book leaves some room for the children to fill in the rest of the story from their own experience in life. Much of the bully’s meanness is implied rather than written into the text, so children can give examples of what “the mean horse” might have done to “the nice horse”.

Many of us who are lucky to live among animals or raise families on farms sing the praises of many ways that in enriches children’s lives. When it comes to bullying–whether on Facebook or web chat rooms or on school buses or at Pony Club–children and adults are face to face with it, and wondering how to react and how to recognize a way to avoid it in the future.

If we can’t protect children from it, we can arm them in advance by being able to recognize it, and see how every “Quincy and Buck” situation has a bully and a victim. Leaning on a paddock fence at feeding time is one way to start, and to ask “Which horse acts like Quincy?” and leading up to “What can bystanders do?”

Horsepeople will find the details in the book to be accurate and realistic, and make them yearn for a trail ride through the desert. That said, the mishap on the trail has an ideal outcome. Many of us would be stranded on foot as our horse bolted off into the sunset!

Quincy and Buck is the third in this series for children to learn about life through a horse. Previous titles in the Quincy the Horse series are Quincy Finds a New Home and Quincy Moves to the Desert, both winners of the Mom’s Choice Gold Award.

Author Camille Matthews

Children will be intrigued to know that Quincy really does exist. He is an American Quarter Horse who recovered from EPM early in his life. Now 24 years old, he is still owned by author Matthews, who is a clinical social worker and equine-assisted growth and learning specialist.

Quincy and Matthews continue to work together as an equine therapy team at Pathfinder Farm in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Australian-raised illustrator Michelle Black is a former horse trainer who now is devoted to her artwork. She lives in Farmington, New Mexico, where she and Camille Matthews first met. This is their third book together.

If you would like to meet Camille Matthews and have your own autographed copy of Quincy and Buck, look for her at this events this spring:

  • Hoosier Horse Fair, Indianapolis, IN, April 4-6 (“Quincy the Horse” Booth)
  • Equine Affaire, Columbus, OH April 10-13 (“I Make Horse Calls” Booth)
  • Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, Lexington, KY, April 24-27 (“Quincy the Horse” Booth)

The book is sold online in the usual places, or it can be ordered directly from Pathfinder Books.

And Quincy the Horse is on Facebook, of course.




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