Betsy Kelleher – Horse Author Interview

Betsy Kelleher

Image from Linda Snyder

Betsy Kelleher

Website and Places you can find me online
My website is and I recently started a new blog, MARES and more, exploring the world of the female equine.

I’m also on Facebook and Linkedin and I recently joined the online Rocking G Riding Club.

Where I am
My husband and I live in a mobile home park on a lake at Granite City, Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis.

Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I was born in Iowa and grew up on a small farm where my grandfather used a team of horses. My parents divorced when I was very young, and Dad and I lived with his folks. My first riding horse was a 1600 pound Percheron mare. I spent a lot of time walking or riding through our wooded pasture and I have always loved the woods. I graduated from Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa) in journalism. I was married to my first husband for 42 years, had three sons, then we divorced and I remarried almost seven years ago.

I just celebrated my 70th birthday, but I don’t feel that old! I see myself as a horse lover who writes from a Christian perspective.

Sometimes a Woman Needs a HorseWhen did you first start writing about horses?
I had written for radio and newspaper as well as writing scripts for training programs. One day, I asked myself why not combine my love of writing with my true love of horses? Planning to write free lance magazine articles for the horse market, I did have one article published in Horse Illustrated in 1989 on getting started in distance riding. I had acquired my first horse in 1977, and I began to see special meaning in my experiences with Fanny. I started writing things down, and it gradually evolved into my first book. Sometimes a Woman Needs a Horse finally came out in 2004, taking about 27 years from start to finish.

Why mares?
I didn’t plan to write about mares; I started writing about my experiences with my first horse, which happened to be a mare. I realized one day that most of my favorite horses had been mares! My first ride was on a pony mare that belonged to my uncle in Montana. Then I rode Bell, one of the team of Percherons. Then I had Fanny, the subject of my first book. I owned several geldings for awhile, then my husband bought Lady before realizing how headstrong she was and I ended up keeping her for myself.

Because of my experiences with Lady, I started my second book, MARES! (ya gotta love em), Fifty Stories to Aid & Inspire Mare Owners. My husband actually encouraged me to do the second book because I was always looking for ideas on how to work with mares and I couldn’t find any books to help.

FannyHave a favorite breed?
No. I’ve owned Appaloosas, Arabs, a Saddlebred, and one quarter-mix gelding who was the best trail horse I’ve ever had. Right now, I have two Tennessee Walkers that I ride, mostly because my husband bought gaited horses and I ended up riding them. Riding a gaited horse is really different. Much easier on an old back, I must admit, but I miss a good trot and canter! I’ve always wanted to ride dressage, so now I am playing with dressage techniques on my gaited horses.

Who are your main literary influences?
I can’t say for sure. Most of the books I read are on writing and about horse training. But I once loved “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant and chose to read it for a high school interpretive reading contest (and won a first rating).

What is your favorite book ever?
It used to be Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I read that book several times and even wrote a paper on it in college! More recently, I favor Kim Meeder’s books, Hope Rising and Bridge of Hope. Her true stories are well written and amazingly inspiring. I’ve also enjoyed Cheryl Dudley’s new book, Horses that Save Lives, and Connie Funk’s Beauty from Brokenness and Susan Richards’ Chosen by a Horse.

Betsy & Lady

Image from Linda Snyder

Do you (or did you) have an animal that is the muse behind your work?
As I’ve mentioned, each of my two books began because of a mare. First it was Fanny. All my experiences training and riding her seemed so extra special and I felt God was orchestrating it all for a purpose.

Then it was Lady, because of her demanding alpha ways combined with her strong affectionate nature. I write a monthly column for the Illinois Horse Network (newspaper) and I often write about Lady. She is very intelligent and our bonding is unusually strong.

Do you have any secret rituals you do to help you get in the zone to write?
Most of my actual writing is done mornings. I try to get up an hour before my husband and write an hour or two while my mind is fresh and the house is quiet. My inspirational writings stem from my readings of devotional books and sometimes from sermons. I also find a lot of inspiration from reading a monthly devotional book, In Touch, by Charles Stanley. My horse-related writing usually comes after a riding lesson or some event. I often feel inspired to write something down, so I try to carry a small notebook with me.

MARES! (ya gotta love em)Is there a particular place that brings you inspiration?
I enjoy sitting by the lake behind our mobile home, feeling the serenity of nature and listening to the many birds in the area. I also love being in the woods. Nature is where I feel at peace and at the same time inspired to seek God.

I have a great desire to “capture” the changing seasons by words or by camera, and I love to just look at the clouds, at sunsets, and watch various birds. I think being close to nature frees my creative mind to work better.

Is there one book you’ve written that will always be your favorite?
Definitely. When I wrote Sometimes a Woman Needs a Horse, I felt it was my life’s task—to write the message God had given me that I was to share with the world. I kept rewriting it and looking for a publisher, and rewriting it again and again–and I really believe that somewhere in there, God helped me find the words. When I feel uncertain, I often read certain chapters to find assurance and encouragement.

What effect do you think the Internet has had on writing in general?
It’s like an explosion! With all the websites, the blogs and the opportunities for getting published, almost anyone can get involved. The possibilities seem endless and limited only by one’s level of imagination.

Betsy & Lady

Image from Donna Thompson

Has it had an effect on yours?
I find it very useful when searching for information, for ideas, for places to advertise and promote my writing, and for getting in touch with so many wonderful people who share similar interests! I belong to an online writing group, Story Circle Network, which helps to encourage my writing. But most of all, the Internet offers many ways to promote what I’ve written!

What else are you passionate about?
I was once very passionate about competitive trail riding and training Fanny, but I’m not sure I feel that deeply about anything now. I’m busy promoting my second book on mares and I’m sort of passionate about de-cluttering my house from all the stuff generated from past plans and dreams that no longer apply to my life. I thought I would be more passionate about training my young Walking Horse gelding with dressage principles, but there are many other things grabbing my attention as well.

Working on anything new?
I recently started a blog I call MARES and more…exploring the world of the female equine.

Betsy & Lady

Image from Linda Snyder

I’m hoping to get other mare owners (or lovers) to join in with their problems, questions, solutions and experiences. I haven’t found any other blogs just about mares, so I’m hoping this will grow into a useful forum.

More to Come

Thanks to Betsy for answering the interview and sharing her work. Be sure to check out her website to learn more about her and purchase her books.

Also stay tuned for more interviews with horse artists and photographers.
Are you a horse artist or do you know an equine artist you’d like to see featured? Add your name and website in the comments below or drop me a note to get involved.

3 Comments on “Betsy Kelleher – Horse Author Interview

  1. Rose Miller

    Interesting interview. I know Betsy as a fellow author (I am expecting my first book out in 3 weeks), and horse lover.We have never met, but the internet is a wonderful way to meet great folks. Betsy has been a great mentor to me in writing my book about my life with Tennessee Walking Horses. I also love mares and a lot of my stories are about my mares.

  2. Alison

    To me this dear author is Grandma Betsey. Lovely interview! I want you to know, Grandma, that all your writing and sensitivity with horses and nature is beautiful and inspiring to me. I also am writing a book about something passionate to me: my childhood. It was the best time of my life and I am compiling short stories so I never forget it. The hours I shared with God, my sisters, the trees, and other friends growing up were wonderful and precious. I think my book will be written over as long a span as yours because I started it several years ago and will continue until I get married, I suppose! Love you.

Comments are closed.