Medieval Spain is the setting for this powerful story of
young Diego, son of Don Marcelo, who gets caught up in
turbulent times. THE HORSE HEALER is translated from
Spanish so we get a full flavour of the people and places.
Beginning in 1195 with the defeat of the Christian monarch
by Saracen soldiers from across the Mediterranean, we learn
about the lives of the ordinary people.
Don Marcelo owns an inn and a small piece of land, and he
is a hard-working blacksmith. His life has been full of
sweat and penury, with a tithe constantly owing to the
monastery. He wants to pass this land down to his son and
daughters, but he would prefer that Diego had a chance to
make more of himself, in the big city of Toledo. But at
14, war and tragedy sever brave Diego from his family
and home. Toledo wants no more refugees and all he owns is
his swift mare. Meanwhile, his young sisters Blanca and
Estella are in the hands of the Saracens.
Finding an albeitar, a healer of beasts of burden, in
Toledo, Diego decides to work for this learned Muslim
named Galib rather than be parted from his lovely mare
Sabba. In this wealthy city, a centre for sword-making and
knowledge, people of three religions live side by side,
obeying rules such as not sleeping under the roofs of other
religions. Diego won't get wealthy by being a stable boy,
but he can learn the veterinary trade. Everyone from
herdsmen to royal ensigns needs horses and donkeys. Diego
never forgets his lost sisters however. Will he ever find
This gripping tale is not for the tender, with death and
blood to the fore. We can certainly admire the struggles of
our forebears and the mixing of cultures and learning which
produced the Conquistadores a few centuries later. Diego is
brighter than most peasants and more conscientious than
many young men faced with weapons, so he makes a worthy
hero of what at first is not a very heroic story. We also
find a parable making sense of today's events as the
dedicated Galib explains to Diego that some warriors
interpret teachings in their own way and he does not agree
with their attitudes. Both in Toledo and later in a
Christian monastery, Diego continues to learn from historic
scholars and he comes to admire the beautiful Arab horse.
Anyone interested in horses, farriery or veterinary
medicine will find THE HORSE HEALER essential reading;
provided they can cope with the ongoing turmoil of the age.
The very human story of Blanca and Estella is a good
counterpoint to Diego's adventures, showing us another side
of medieval life. Gonzalo Giner is a veterinarian and lover
of horses - also, it seems, a lover of history.
His father dead, his sisters kidnapped, a boy with an
intuition for horses flees his home and is taken in by a
veterinarian during the turbulent years of the Reconquest of
At the border of the Christian kingdom of Castile and the
Muslim caliphate of Al-Andalus, a little inn sits on the front
lines of the battle for Iberia. When word travels that the
most feared fighters of the Muslim world, the Imesebelen, are
advancing on Toledo, the innkeeper tells his son, Diego, to
flee with his sisters. But Diego refuses to abandon his
father. The old man and one of his daughters are slaughtered,
and the other two girls are kidnapped. Now there’s only one
thought on Diego’s mind: revenge.
On his lightning-fast Arabian mare, Diego makes his way to
Toledo. It is the start of a journey that will usher him into
manhood and lead him to the dawn of a field of medicine that
will change Spain—and the world—forever.