Half Broke

by Ginger Gaffney
February 2020 – WW Norton (US)

An alternative prison ranch in New Mexico conducts a daring experiment: setting the troubled residents out to retrain an aggressive herd of horses. The horses and prisoners both arrive at the ranch broken in one way or many―the horses often abandoned and suspicious, the residents, some battling drug and alcohol addiction, emotionally, physically, and financially shattered. Ginger Gaffney’s job is to retrain the untrainable. With time, the horses and residents form a profound bond, and teach each other patience, control, and trust.

As Gaffney peels away the layers of her own story―a solitary childhood, painful introversion, and a transformative connection with her first horse, a filly named Belle―she, too, learns to trust people as much as she trusts horses.

HALF BROKE is a resonant memoir with a spirited, memorable cast that describes the fascinating ways both horses and humans seek relationships to survive.

Ginger Gaffney is a top-ranked horse trainer. She received an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and her work has been published in Tin House and Utne Reader. She lives in Velarde, New Mexico.


“Ginger Gaffney writes the intricacies of the equine-human relationship as well as I have ever seen it written, probably because—a celebrated trainer herself—she knows a horses mind as well as she knows her own. You will remember the troubled, tenacious and utterly winning people that populate this book for a long long time, and you will never forget the horses. As Ginger’s writing mentor, I had the opportunity to read many of these chapters two or three times, and I swear to God they made me cry over and over again. In addition to all of that, this is a book that can give us hope in these troubled times, remind us that there are plenty of good beings in the world (human, equine) and they don’t always appear in the places we expect them. HALF BROKE is a book that will get under your skin and stay there. I can’t wait until it is in the world so I can buy it for everybody I know.”—Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness