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Book Review: Ivory Pal, Born to Fly Higher by Cindy McCauley


By Leigh Ballard

In light of the recent spotlight on the inhumane treatment and training practices used in the Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH) show industry, a book couldn’t have come to our attention in a more timely manner! The story of Ivory Pal, Born to Fly Higher by Cindy McCauley is the true account of a glorious Palomino TWH stallion in Florida and his owner Rafael Valle.  Ivory Pal is possessed of a most amazing temperament and conformation, and a beautiful free flowing gait. Rafael is not a Walking Horse man, but once he becomes the owner of the beautiful horse he decides to show him off. He is extremely dismayed by what he sees at his first show: extreme exaggeration of the horses’ natural movement, unconditioned and unhappy horses, and harsh mistreatment of the animals. And he experiences a little bit of mistreatment himself as he does not understand the “politics” of the show world.

After this first poor experience, Rafael decides to use his horse as an ambassador for better treatment of the Tennessee Walking Horse. He begins showing him in Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) sanctioned shows, unshod and with his natural gait, and wins consistently. His winnings draw a great deal of attention to what can be achieved without harsh training methods.  He begins “pushing the envelope” and trying new show classes beyond those which showcase Pal’s gait. Ivory Pal ultimately wins the North American Gaited Horse High Point and Versatility Grand Championship and FOSH Horse of the Year in two back-to-back seasons, an unheard of accomplishment, and retires from the show ring as a competitor.

 Then he goes on to continue spreading the word of the talent and temperament of the Tennessee Walking Horse with his freestyle exhibitions and appearances at such events as Equifest and other horse conferences. Valle has trained Ivory Pal not only in classical dressage and in bitless riding, but also in jumping, tricks and more. He accomplished this level of training with patience, conditioning and Natural Horsemanship methods, rather than the “traditional” mechanical gadgets, intimidation, or force used to induce results in many gaited horse circles. Ivory Pal’s story is a real testament for the public about what can be achieved with gaited horses and how unnecessary the commonly practiced methods really are.

The relationship between Ivory Pal and Rafael Valle exemplifies a profound human-equine partnership. It’s a good book for both youth and adults for many lessons about integrity, respect, trust, and the compassionate treatment of animals. I recommend it for everyone, and if the reading level is too high for some budding young horse lovers, I recommend reading it to them!

Note: Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) is a non-profit organization formed because of the practice of soring.  FOSH promotes natural and sound methods of training for all breeds of gaited horses. FOSH is also an “umbrella” horse show association for 16 gaited horse breeds.

Comments about the book:

“Within the borders of our great country - sometimes on neighboring horse farms - one can see horse training at its most elegant and most sadistic. Author Cindy McCauley contrasts the two approaches effectively in Ivory Pal: Born to Fly Higher.  It's a true tale full of surprises: That atrocities are still perpetrated against Tennessee Walking Horses in spite of legislation and public backlash against them, that a stallion plucked from that world would harbor no ill will toward humans, and that a novice horseman committed to noble principles could acquire the wisdom and skill needed to make the team champions. It's a compelling story well told and beautifully photographed.”

                                                ~ Rick Lamb - Author, Educator, Host of the Horse Show
                                                  The Horse

“Ivory Pal is a wonderful book for all who consider themselves ‘Horse Lovers.’ It is particularly attractive for younger readers who are developing a love and appreciation for these beautiful four legged historical companions of mankind on our planet.

“Ivory Pal makes a very strong statement in supporting those of us who are now battling in the horse protection arena trying to stop the vicious cruel soring practices which are still widely inflicted on the beautiful Tennessee Walking Horses in show arenas.”

~ Joseph Tydings - Former US Senator from Maryland, Father of the Horse Protection Act and member of the Last Horse Cavalry in WWII. 
For more information about the book, visit the website:

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