It’s not often an author is recognized for her work. It’s even rarer for an author to be only the second American writer awarded Japan’s Equine Culture Award.
Durango author, scientist and horse trainer Janet Jones is that writer. She won the award for her 2020 book, “Horse Brain, Human Brain: The Neuroscience of Horsemanship.” The only other American writer to win the award was Laura Hillenbrand for her 1999 book “Seabiscuit.”
According to a news release, the Equine Culture Award is awarded annually by the Japan Racing Association “with the aim of commending and honoring individuals or organizations deemed to have made particularly meritorious contributions to the growth and promotion of equine culture. Fields eligible for these awards range from literature and art to research, comment, film, photography, manga and critique.” The award, which was established in 1987, is open to people and organizations around the world.
“Horse Brain, Human Brain” explores the differences of horse and human brains: “Without this knowledge, we often assume that horses learn, think, perceive and attend to tasks the way we do. That assumption invites us to work against our horses’ brains, expecting them to function in unnatural and counterproductive ways. This book offers the information needed to ride with our horses’ brains,” her website says.
Jones earned her Ph.D. in cognitive science from UCLA and has lived in Durango for more than 30 years, having initially moved here to teach at Fort Lewis College.
She said she was surprised by the book’s success with a larger audience. The book has proved such a success there are seven translations coming out, with four having already been released.
“It was intended for horsepeople, it was written with the vocabulary for horsepeople, but it is definitely striking a chord among the general readership, and it’s striking a chord all around the world,” Jones said. “The book is getting attention all over the world, so I’ve been to Korea to give presentations on this book, and I will be going to Germany, Switzerland and Poland this year for the book. There are online things for it in Africa and Asia, and all over Europe and the United Kingdom, and South America – Uruguay, Brazil and Chile have contacted me about it. It’s really been a big surprise, a very happy surprise.”
And while this year’s awards ceremony in Tokyo was canceled because of the pandemic – her award was sent to her – it’s a big deal because it’s an award that is seen all over the world – it is, she said the equivalent of the American Eclipse Award (the American Thoroughbred horse racing award).
Next up for Jones is a series of books that have to do with the neuroscience of horsemanship, she said. And there is interest in films and documentaries for the general public about the work she has done with horses and humans and how their brains cooperate. In fact, she’s also looking at how horses and humans literally share neurons with each other when they work together, she said.