Lisa Pruitt: engineering professor by day and horse loving author by night

Lisa Pruitt/Courtesy

Have you ever wondered what your professors do outside of the classroom?

We know we have. As we sit and watch these brilliant people talk about subjects that we can hardly wrap our brains around, sometimes it’s hard to imagine that they even have lives outside of lecture. It seems like they just live in those halls and wait for us to return so they can pile even more information and work on us.

But this is definitely not the case for many of our professors. Lisa Pruitt, professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering, has an alter ego. Not only is she insanely successful in her field but she is also an avid horse lover. She studies the use of horses in equine-guided education and works with her own two horses to study natural horsemanship (basically this is when you cater to horse’s instincts when you train them).

However, simply owning and studying horses wasn’t enough for this woman; she is officially the author of a book called “Horse of Fire.” It’s a love story about the bond between a horse and its owner, but this time the horse does the talking. That’s right people, the horse is the narrator in this book — we’re not horsing around. We were super excited to talk to the author about this and hear what she had to say about her book. Here is a little Q&A session we had with her:

KM: Tell us a little about your horses. Are they what inspired you most to write this book?

LP: I have two horses, JJ Luck and Juan. JJ luck is a thoroughbred horse (off the track) and I have owned him since he was four (he is now 18). Juan is an Andalusian and he is 16 years old, I have owned him since he was eight. I originally purchased JJ as a three-day eventing horse and although he was a talented jumper, he was also a talented bucking horse — and I found myself on the ground more than I would have liked! Numerous trainers that I worked with ultimately quit because he was so difficult to work with, and I ultimately found a path into natural horsemanship and equine-guided education. It was this challenging path with JJ, and my personal growth with him in this journey that inspired me to write the book, “Horse of Fire” (as told by JJ Luck).

KM: Why did you decide to make it from a horse’s perspective?

LP: I struggled with the decision of narrative form but ultimately decided that it would be more interesting to tell the story through JJ’s eyes.

KM: How did you put yourself in the mind of a horse?

LP: I have always had a close relationship with JJ and have felt that he could see through my eyes straight into my soul. I decided to “invite him” with my mind to help me write the story. Then I waited until the ideas hit my mind and then I would sit and write as the ideas came. This was especially helpful for the introductory chapter in which JJ starts the story as a colt and then a young racehorse.

KM: What reaction were you hoping to receive from the book?

LP: I wanted to share how bright horses could be — they are highly intuitive and intelligent beings. When I wrote the book I was utilizing JJ to do life-coaching and career development with my doctoral students. I was astonished by the insight JJ (and Juan) could offer my students and the response from students was astounding — many wanted to return again to work with the horses. I eventually offered a summer leadership course at Berkeley with three equine-guided workshops as part of this offering — the students universally agreed that it was the working with the horses that had the greatest impact on their lives. I believe this is because the horse serves as our “mirror” and their intuition provides unique insight into our lives. My work with horses and students inspired me to think about ways to share this work in a more universal format – a book seemed like a good way to do this.

KM: How long did it take you to write it?

LP: It took me a year to write this book.

KM: Do you plan on writing any other books? If so, what would they be about?

LP: I have now written three books — “Horse of Fire,” “Savanna and the Magic Boots” (A children’s story that features JJ and Juan), and my text book, “Mechanical Behavior of Biomaterials.” I don’t have any near-term plans to write more books!

If midterms are clouding your brains and you need a break from textbooks, you might want to check Pruitt’s book out! After all, it’s written by one of our very own! Show some Cal love and support our professor.

One thing is for sure: Pruitt loves and supports her own book. She even reviewed it herself on Amazon and said, “It is a great read for young and old alike. Like all horse stories — it is a love story — it will melt your heart and make you smile.”

We hope that this makes you smile as much as it made us smile. An engineering professor that writes about horses … only at Berkeley!

Contact Kristen McFadden at [email protected] or follow her on twitter at @kmcfadden7