As a child, I was a horse-crazy girl.
My Aunt Nancy was an artist who earned points in my young mind when she changed the spelling of her name to the very artsy “Nan-c.” One summer, she sat me down and taught me how to draw a horse’s face and body so it actually resembled my favorite animal. I went on to draw horses ceaselessly on my notebooks and school papers for years.
In the town library, my mom would see the back of my head while she strolled to wherever her section was for her week’s stash of books. I’d dart straight from the front door to the Youth Horse book section. I, of course, had read them all. My favorites were The Black Stallion, My Friend, Flicka and of course Black Beauty. But in just a few seconds’ scanning I’d discover when they’d added some I hadn’t read. With an excited gasp, I’d pull them out and take them home.
In the summer, the library’s bookmobile made its rounds of the neighborhoods. After riding our bikes to where it was parked, my best friend Lynn and I would climb the steep stairs and hoist open the heavy, squeaky door. The dusty scent of books and pages hit our noses. There was only one row of horse books, positioned low so that it required me to lie on my stomach to scan them all. I didn’t mind.
I didn’t just doodle horse heads and read horse books. My mom had been a horse-crazy girl as well, so she encouraged my equestrian obsession. She took me to riding lessons starting when I was eight. She and Dad bought me my first horse at the age of ten, and then allowed me to “trade up” to a more athletic hunter-jumper a few years later when I was competing. My mom never missed a single horse show. In the basement of our ranch-style house, she installed corkboard adhesive squares on the family room paneling, creating a bulletin board for all my horse show ribbons. Row after hard-fought row of blue for first place, red for second, yellow for third, white for fourth and pink for fifth. I loved the ones that weren’t just a vertical rectangle, but had the dazzling circular rosette at the top and shiny streamers hanging down.
I was never what you’d consider athletic as a kid, but boy, could I ride horses. I was fearless. Galloping, flying over fences, in the arena, out in the fields and woods. I loved it. Here’s a picture of me competing in the county fair with my Connemara pony, Carrick. I was probably twelve-ish.
My horsie activities provide me with tons of great memories, but eventually I grew up and left my love for the equestrian world behind. However, one of the great things about being a writer is that I can include those things that I love from my real life, in my novels. I have incorporated horses into two of my inspirational romances. The first one is Tide to Atonement. Heroine Emma Jean is the horse-crazy girl in the story, and because her parents couldn’t afford to send her to lessons or buy her a horse, she earned it. She got to be friendly with the owner of a boarding stable and offered her services around the farm. She’d do anything — muck out stables, wash the horses, groom them, feed them. In return, instead of being paid with money, she’d get to ride the horses. I included this aspect of her life in the story because it tells us something about hard-working Emma. It gave her and her love interest Jeremy something meaningful and fun to do together and it also provided Jeremy the opportunity to demonstrate his heroism when Emma and the horse, Apple needed his help.
In my book Sanctuary I gave a horse a starring role in the story. After inheriting a rundown, abandoned horse ranch from her aunt, Nora the city girl is out of her element. She has no idea what she’s doing. One day she spots a beautiful black stallion on her property. What was he doing there? Who owned him? She calls the local veterinarian and who shows up, but tall, dark and handsome Shaw. Shaw has a history with the horse and helps her solve the mystery. Knowing she needs assistance reclaiming her inheritance to its former glory, she leans on Shaw, and guess what, they eventually fall in love. The horse, Thunder, also takes a role in a future book when Nora and Shaw decide to start a not-for-profit agency offering equestrian therapy to disabled children.
Do you like horses? Were you horse-crazy as a child? If not, what childhood passion would you include in your own novel if you decided to write one?