The horse-i-ness of the novel is pretty realistic, though there are sections I chose to overlook. The instructor lessons, for example, are unlike any lessons I have ever had.
But I got something far more important from getting inside Velvet's head. Velvet had a real feel for horses, and a connection, and it translated into her riding. Thinking about Velvet I can look at where my own riding is lacking.
In my high school years, my riding instructors seemed to focus on "making the horse do" something. Maybe that is all I chose to hear, I don't know.
Velvet seemed to naturally know the proper way -- to make the horse WANT to do something. She writes about jumping a mare Tina:
I put my leg on Tina, made her feel me, counting my strides, rushed seven, then slow seven. I sat back and controlled my release, and she took them easy, three in a row; I could feel her happiness like I can smell perfume...What a gift.