By Vanessa V. Friedman
Updated July 30, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Forget girls and horses. The real bond is between a man and his horse — or more specifically, a cattle rancher and his cutting horse. These days, cutting horses (the animals that separate a cow from the herd) are used less and less, but now Thomas McGuane, spare-writing bard of the West, has commemorated them in this collection of nine essays. Actually, they might well be termed odes, because that’s what they are: paeans to specific horses such as Sugar, a bay filly McGuane trained himself, and Roanie, the ugly roan bronc who was the love of his horse-riding lifetime. Poetic in their plainness, the pieces are celebrations of a fast-disappearing breed. A-