Where I am
I live in the Goshen area in northern Indiana close to Notre Dame on a 75 acre horse farm.
Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I was raised on a farm in north central Pennsylvania next to the vast, beautiful Tioga State Forest, and went to a one room country school from grade 3 to 8.
My sister and I got our horses when I was 15 and she was 10. We wandered around those forest lands and thought we were in Heaven.
I married my husband Hal when I was 19. We moved to Indiana and I worked with him in his chiropractic office. We lived on a quaint little farm in Middlebury, Indiana, during our early years, but a tornado in 1965 destroyed it. Years later we moved to our present farm where I pursued my childhood dream of raising horses. We raised four children: a son and 3 daughters, but lost our oldest daughter, Sharon, to breast cancer in 2004. Now we have two young granddaughters who love the horses and all our animals. I am 70 years young and enjoy writing about all my many animal friends.
When did you first start writing about horses?
In 1993 I wrote an article for Voice Magazine, the official Tennessee Walking Horse publication, about Tennessee Walking Horse conformation and how it is different from trotting horses. Since then I have written several articles for several Walking Horse publications, and then the big book project.
Tell us about your newest book The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot.
It tells of my 30 year long journey to become a horsewoman: the joys, disappointments, disillusionments, and accomplishments of owning and loving horses. It is a memoir type, but many lessons can be learned as I relate my experiences.
I also trace some of the history of the Tennessee Walking Horse, and expose an ugly secret used by some trainers of show horses to get their horses to gait in an extreme style, called “soring.”
My hope is that as more horse and animal lovers hear about this abuse, they will complain to their congressmen for more USDA horse show inspections. A portion of all my sales is donated to NWHA and FOSH two active organizations that fight soring.
Why Tennessee Walkers?
Well, I certainly didn’t start out wanting this fabulous breed. I had loved the Arabian horses since I was a child, but when I got my first Arabians I discovered to my great dismay, I couldn’t ride them! Their spirited trots killed my back.
It was my husband who told me about “the horse that didn’t trot,” the Tennessee Walking Horse, and suggested strongly that I had better investigate.
You’ve also written articles for various publications. Do you enjoy the lengthy process of a novel or the quicker nature of articles more?
Honestly, I like both. I enjoy sharing my expertise quickly via articles, but the book has been a marvelous and even spiritual experience. I became much more immersed in the book. It became a healing process, helping me deal with the loss of my daughter and some of my beloved horses.
Who are your main literary influences?
I never aspired to become a writer, it just sort of happened. The books I enjoy most are animal non-fiction of all kinds. However, Mark Rashid is a horse trainer/clinician and author of many horse books, and his early ones were written in a conversational storytelling manner, but shared all types of horse related incidents and lessons. I learned a lot from his books, especially, “Horses Never Lie.” He argues that horses love passive leadership more than alpha leadership. When I began writing my stories, I discovered I was telling my experiences much as Mark had: in storytelling fashion. As a child, I loved Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books. I read them all and that is why my first horse was an Arabian.
Do you (or did you) have an animal that is the muse behind your work?
Yes, strangely, it is a Jersey cow we had on my childhood farm.
Her name was Buttercup and of all the animals in my life, including amazing dogs and splendid horses, when I cross over to the great green pasture in the sky, I will run to greet her.
She fulfilled a great need as a confidante to a young child, teenager and young wife. I will always love Buttercup.
Is there a particular place that brings you inspiration?
Three years ago, we remodeled the master bedroom. It expanded across the whole end of the house and is encompassed on three sides by big trees. Sitting there is like being in a tree house. I can leave the noise and stress of life by closing the door and entering my retreat.
What effect do you think the Internet has had on writing in general?
I think it is a great way to share books with other authors and animal lovers via networking. It has made research so much easier. I think it encourages people to try their hand at authoring a book.
Has it had an effect on yours?
Without the internet I would never have contemplated writing, publishing and marketing a book myself. I have met many helpful people on the internet, including the Equinest!
What else are you passionate about?
It is a quiet type of abiding passion, but all my life I have been passionate about finding the direction God wants me to travel. I try to see the openings He presents and walk through the doors. This book is a good example and our family may be moving to Arizona, a land with much more sun than dreary northern Indiana. If He continues to make that path, we will move our human and animal family west. After living through a deadly tornado, Hal and I are convinced there is a Divine plan for our lives.
Can you give us a sneak peek into your next book?
After 30 years of breeding, training and showing my horses, I retired and bought gaited riding mules!
My next book: Broomtails and Longears: The Adventures and Misadventures of a New Mule Owner is pretty self-explanatory, but I ended up falling head over heels in love with mules.
The Horse That Wouldn’t Trot will be here in time for holiday buyers, when do you expect it to be available for purchase?
December 1. Information on purchasing will be on my website.
Last question – If you only had one sentence to convince someone who is afraid of horses to get on one, what would you say?
I don’t think I would. I watched my young 2 year-old granddaughter refuse to get in the saddle with her mom. I was keenly disappointed, but by giving her time, a year later she wanted to do it after seeing a cousin ride. I think it might be an inner connection and drive. Not everyone should become a rider. If they love horses, there are many other things they can do with or for them other than ride.
More to Come
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.