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For the Love of Horse!

As a western writer, there’s no doubt that horses have an important role in my stories about the old west.

Super smart and new to our family; meet Dually!

Horses are hyper-sensitive to everything and everyone around them. They are super-smart, skittish, unpredictable, mystical, and magical. If they have a job to do, they want to do it. If they respect you as the rider, they’ll do anything you ask of them. They are not fond of messing around on something that doesn’t make sense to them. Although I wished to have a horse more than anything when I was young, I’ve never really had a special connection with these majestic creatures.

Eating Dirt

Every summer as a kid, I’d visit my grandparents and cousins. The first thing my dad would say before he left me for several weeks was, “Do not get on a horse.” Of course we did on occasion. Just so you know, if you’re riding along and you laugh really loud at something your cousin said, you’re eating dirt quicker than you can spit. It happens that fast. So I learned early on that I’m loud and hyper and spastic and horses do not roll with that kind of people.

Moon and Me

Moon and our oldest

This past Saturday I rode a highly trained, very smart cow horse named Moon. Well, Moon had me figured out the minute I sat in the saddle. He’d been working already that morning and he wanted to eat grass. So, as I waited for the others, I thought I’d be nice and let him graze a little. Big mistake. Moon decided he was the boss and I was not. He didn’t respect me. We had a battle of wills. He’d eat, I’d make him stop. He’d stop, I wanted him to go. Suddenly, he’d take off at a break neck run. I’d make him stop. He’d eat. Repeat.
Then an amazing thing happened.
The purpose of the ride was to check on a new heifer who stood in the back pasture by herself. The other heifers were bunched together around the water tank, but not this one. She stood a half-a-mile away still as a statue, all by herself, partially hidden by the yucca. As Moon and I approached, he completely forgot about the grass and me. His whole demeanor changed as he focused on the cow. He knew what needed to be done. The cow was driven to the pen for doctoring.
I was told that these trained horses know what to do, and an experienced rider has confidence enough to let the horse do it. Your confidence gives him confidence and he respects you for it.  Moon has had enough training. I’m the one with issues.

Personality Plus

Many years ago, a friend gave me a tour of his stable and introduced me to all of his horses. At that point I realized that horses have personalities. There are all kinds with special abilities, intelligence, mental issues and bad habits.
Today, through my cousin who gives abused horses a second chance, I’ve come to know some with broken spirits. Their stories are heart breaking and it’s amazing that they’ve survived.
I’ve always loved these beautiful animals, never imagining that I’d write children’s novels where horses can play an important role in the plot. As a ranch owner,  we rely on our horses to do their job.  Driving a limping bull into a trailer and then out of the trailer into the corral for treatment just can’t be done with a four-wheeler.

Sally and our youngest

Writing the West

The challenge for me as a writer is in giving animals personality in my stories.
I want horses to be more than just livestock or  a part of the setting. I want them to be larger than life with humorous traits to allow interaction with other characters.  Since I’ve never had a horse of my very own when I was growing up, I rely on the horse people I know to tell me about their special connections with these amazing animals. And the good thing about my friends is that they’re always willing to talk ‘horse’.
Cheers to horses, and hats off to all of you out there who love them as much as I do. I appreciate your willingness to share your expertise and experiences.