If the last Benji movie, Benji Off the Leash, had been a big success, we would’ve never owned horses and The Soul of a Horse would’ve never been written. The movie was not a big success. It was unable to compete as an independent film against the huge promotional dollars being spent by the Hollywood studios these days. That experience left a huge, gaping hole in my life. I was convinced that Benji Off the Leash was going to raise the bar for family films. Be an example that would show Hollywood the error of its ways. It had a strong story that set a good example, without the use of four-letter words, sexual innuendos, or violence. I was certain that God was using Benji Off the Leash to prove once and for all that good stories do not need to lower the bar to entertain. It was clear, at least to me, that God had been involved in the movie from the beginning, that He wanted it to be made. The money was raised in record time. We were forced to accept Utah as a production location, against our wishes, but once we were there, many of the usual production problems miraculously vanished. And we found Tony DiLorenzo, a young composer searching for his first movie. He wrote an amazing score that we could never have afforded with a seasoned composer, and I believe Tony will become one of the finest film composers in the business.
Yet with all of that, the film did not do well.
And there was this huge hole to fill.
When depression tries to claw its ugly self into your being, there are but two choices. Give in to it, or grab it by its scrawny neck, sling it to the ground, and pull yourself out of that hole.
Growth always seems to arise out of adversity. God’s way 🙂
I, of course, didn’t know it when it was happening, but God was telling me it was time to move on. Another need. Another place to make a difference.
If the movie had been even marginally successful, He knew I’d be off working on another one.
But I wasn’t to go there.
Instead, I tried to forget by turning to horses. And learning about them. I wanted to fill the emptiness of that dark hole. Then, slowly, Kathleen and I began to realize that something was amiss with the traditional methods of caring for these beasts. And, quite unexpectedly, an amazing journey of discovery lay before us.
A new passion was born.
I, therefore, must thank God for never failing to do whatever it takes to make me listen, no matter how hard I try not to. For the tough love I so often need. For caring that much. And for using me as a humbled instrument of His will.
The investors in Benji Off the Leash, dear friends all, at best, will be a long time recouping their investment, yet I have never lost their support, or their friendship. In addition to funding a terrific movie with a wonderful message, they have inadvertently made a difference for horses everywhere in the world.
During the promotion of the film, one of the publicists set up a radio interview by telephone with Dr. Marty Becker, well-known author, syndicated columnist, radio host, and Good Morning America’s vet in residence. A week or so after the interview Marty called and asked if it would be possible for me to bring Benji to a fund-raiser in his hometown of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. We were in the middle of a coast-to-coast, major market promotional tour for the film and he was asking that we pause for two days and come to a town of 2,700 people for a benefit screening. “We could also do one in the neighboring town of Sandpoint,” he added. A much bigger town, almost 8,000 people.
It was clearly another God thing, because I took one look at photos of Marty and Teresa’s beautiful ranch – and their horses – and convinced everyone involved that it would be a nice breather between Seattle and Chicago. Kathleen met me in Spokane and we drove up to Bonners Ferry for a perfectly wonderful two days nurturing a pair of new lifelong friendships.
Why does any of that matter? Because if it hadn’t been for the movie, the investors, and God, this most unusual meeting with Marty Becker would have never happened. And if the meeting had never happened, Marty Becker would never have become such a giving and loving friend, and he would’ve never introduced me to his literary agent, David Vigliano, easily one of the best in all the world. If I had never met David, it stands to reason that he never would have become my agent and I would certainly be, by this time in the process, completely insane. And, without David, I’m sure the book would’ve never made it to Shaye Areheart at Random House, the most loving publisher on the planet.
So from the bottom of my heart, I must thank Dr. Marty Becker. And David Vigliano for loving the book right from the get go. For believing. And for saying exactly the right thing every time I needed it. And Shaye Areheart for having the faith to put the power of America’s largest publishing house behind my meager words. I’m still aghast.
And Monty Roberts was there at the very moment I needed him, with Join-Up as we began this process. If we hadn’t given our horses that choice to be with us, right in the beginning, our entire experience would have been sadly different, for it was that moment of Join-Up with Cash that caused me to change from owner to brother. From like to love. From the boss to a member of the herd, and a true leader. Monty has blessed me with the soul of a horse.
Thank you, Cash. Thank you to all of our horses. Each of you has such a wonderfully unique personality, and you have brought so much into our lives. But especially, Cash, I wonder if you understood how very much you meant to me. When you would cock your head and peer straight into my soul, I believed, somehow, that you did. And I believe you still do.
The Soul of a Horse – Life Lessons from the Herd, a book that would become a best seller and change the lives of thousands of horses and people all across the planet. A book written less than two years after we acquired our very first horses.
My head is still spinning.
I look back in awe, wondering how I had the gall to even think about writing such a book, never mind actually doing it. Most books like this are written by folks with decades of experience on the subject. But when I stumbled into the heart and soul of my very special Cash I discovered that something was very wrong with the traditional way most of us think about and care for horses.
When I add up the myriad things that had to happen for me to be at this point I just shake my head. And say a serious prayer. For, as usual, God was leaving none of it up to chance. He gave me the love of my life and my second soul mate, Kathleen. How does one become so fortunate as to have two such intelligent, caring, compassionate soul mates in one lifetime? Whenever I’m buried in a project, Kathleen is always there. If I’m editing a film, she consults every evening on what we’ve edited that day. And she’s so brutally honest that afterward we might not speak for hours. It’s difficult, emotional work that deserves combat pay. The same is true with every book. She reads every word, every chapter, over and over again.
“I don’t see any changes,” she might say.
“What do you mean? The third word in the eighteenth paragraph is changed.”
Combat pay indeed.
Thank you so much, Sweetie, not only for your help and support, your love, your glorious ideas, your photography, and, yes, for the title of that first book, but also for allowing me to tell your side of this journey as it actually was: fearful, frustrating, and embarrassing. I’m sure there were times when you simply wanted to quit and walk away. The Soul of a Horse is your book as much as mine. I love you so much.
God never fails to do whatever it takes to make me listen, no matter how hard I try not to. I finally realized that the relationship with Him must come first. Only then can there be trust. This new experience with horses, with relationship, seeing Cash’s absolute trust in me, I know now, is God’s metaphor for my relationship with Him, and, at long, long last, my unequivocal trust.
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.
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“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
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