Photo by Guy Noffsinger

The actor relates his own love of horses to larger equine culture in his new book out May 23.

Did you know that the iconic actor who played Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek is an avid lover of horses? That he rides as naturally as any seasoned western star?

Well, you know now, and you can read all about William Shatner’s lifelong passion for equine culture in his new book, Spirit of the Horse: A Celebration in Fact and Fable.

The book (written with Jeff Roven and coming May 23 via St. Martin’s Press) does just what its title suggests — it weaves Shatner’s own personal equine stories with quips and favorite literary passages about horses’ spirit and symbolism. Among Shatner’s personally penned sections of the book is a nice story about how he first came to develop his interest in our four-legged friends. Keep reading for a passage from a chapter titled “My First Time.”

So there I was, having fallen . . . again. I was broken but unbowed, a man in the midst of a long, long love affair with horses. As with any love, you willingly take the pain that comes with it.

I know exactly where, when, and why the first blossom of that love appeared.

For many, naturally enough, their first exposure to horses was in the movies. Where else could most people even see moving, thundering horses except in a darkened theater? Whether it was Tom Mix or John Wayne, the horse enhanced an already great screen presence. And drama! Who could not be thrilled when, in 1938, Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood leapt from the scaffold where he was about to be hanged, landed on the back of his horse, and made a getaway.

Yet, as much as those images fanned the flames for me, none of them was the seed. I actually had one contact with a real horse in my youth and it clearly got into my soul.

I was about twelve and we lived in the suburbs of Montreal, far enough out that there was empty land around, and on one of those pieces of land there was a stable. One day—and I forget how I actually got the money, though I think I told my parents I swabbed out the stables to ride the horse, which wasn’t true but it made a nice story—anyway, one day I was able to wangle myself a ride on a rental horse. And I rode as though I’d been born in the saddle. I was neither afraid nor awkward, and people were commenting, “Oh, you ride well.”

I remember thinking at the time: first, how much bigger I felt and how much smaller everything else seemed; second, how much power was beneath me, tolerating me (because I did have the sense that it could toss me any time I became a burden); and third, of course, how much I wanted to do it again.

I didn’t get to do that for a long while, since it was a luxury and we didn’t have the money for many of those . . . and if we did, it wasn’t so I could ride a horse. But—I did say it was a seed, and the seed was planted.

When I told my mother, she wasn’t angry but astonished. She asked, “Where did you learn to do that?” And I honestly didn’t know, don’t know. It was just a gift.

Or maybe it was some kind of time-spanning moment, where young me on horseback somehow connected with or had a glimpse of older me on horseback and realized: I’m destined to be back. I’ve lived long enough to believe that such things can and do happen!

Pre-order William Shatner’s Spirit of the Horse here.