Sunday, December 28, 2008

2009--A New Year

First of all, I haven't ridden in 2 weeks. The snow and cold weather have really put a damper on everything. I haven't lost weight but haven't gained either. Now writing, that I've done. In fact, I've written over 16,000 words since Christmas Eve.

By the way, if you'd like to be a guest blogger next year for us, please contact one of us. We'd love to have you. You don't have to be an equestrian fiction writer, you can blog about other equine interests, too. Just send us a short proposal.

I thought this would be a good time to reflect back on 2008 and predict what 2009 might bring. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the new year, too.

2008 Reflections

I accepted an offer for publication on New Year's Day of 2008 then sold my 2nd book a few months later. To date I've sold two more books.

In February of 2008, I contacted several authors of equestrian fiction to see if they'd like to start a blog with me for the purposes of promoting our books and writing about all things to do with horses. Since then, we've all become friends, made a lot of friends on line, and done our part to increase the visibility of equestrian fiction (hopefully).

On a personal note, I've come to terms with the fact that my mare may not be sound enough to show. In some ways, it's a relief to know that I may not be spending money on horse shows anymore. My husband has a new job that he loves, and we are doing well. Compared to the rest of the nation, we're in good shape.

What About 2009?

In 2009, my first true equestrian fiction book will be published, The Gift Horse. I'm really excited about this book, and I hope that you'll take the time to check it out. I'm planning to run a contest on Equestrian Ink for release day.

I'd like to explore other horse activities this year, in addition to dressage. Do some more trail-riding and maybe some clinics. I'd even like to try team penning. (Can't you just see my behemoth 17-1 hand warmblood mare doing cow work? It'd be a hoot.)

As far as EI goes, I'd like to see us offer more guest bloggers (hint, hint). We'd also be interested in picking up one or two more regular contributors, so if you're published in equestrian fiction or non-fiction (or are going to be), please consider joining us. You'll need to commit to one post every two weeks (or every week) if you prefer.

So what about those pesky resolutions?
  • Okay, for me, there's still the weight loss thing. I need to drop a minimum of twenty pounds. If I do end up showing, nothing fits, and I'm not buying new show clothes.
  • I will ride more regularly, back to my 4 days a week pledge.
  • I want to complete a minimum of two more books. This is in addition to the two I've completed rough drafts for.
  • I'd like to increase readership in EI and increase our posts (another hint).

How about all of you? What does 2009 bring for you? What are you hoping for? What are your horse-related hopes and dreams?

What would you like to see from us next year?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!!!

To all my friends at Equestrian Ink:

We wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Very Happy New Year!!!

Jami and Rocky

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Stories for the Season

By Laura Crum

Last time I wrote about Sunny, the horse I bought a year ago to ride the trails with my son. (“The New Horse”, May 08 and “My Little Palomino Plug” December 08). Writing this piece gave me the idea that those of you who have read my blog posts here on Equestrian Ink might like to know how some of the other horses I’ve written about are doing. (For those who want to know, I own, or share responsibility for, twelve horses.) So here are some updates on those of my herd that I’ve written about earlier. If you want to read the earlier posts, you can find them by scrolling through the month in which I posted them.

The first horse I wrote about here was Gunner (“The Real Horses Behind the Books” April 08). This is appropriate because Gunner is a horse I’ve owned for twenty five years. He’ll be twenty-nine this coming spring. I trained him myself and showed him in reining, cutting and team roping events. Gunner has been retired to my 60 acre pasture for the last ten years or so. He still looks great, and is sound, happy and frisky. The photo below shows Gunner (the bay) and Smoky (the blue roan), our four year old colt, sunning themselves in the pasture. The horse in the background is Danny, another of my retired pasture ornaments. (Smoky’s story appears in my June 08 post, “My Next Project”.)

I also wrote about my rescue horse, ET. (Sept 08, “Why I Have One Skinny Horse”). Many people wrote to give advice and I am happy to report that after three months of living by himself in a five acre field and being fed free choice Equine Senior Delight, ET looks great. His hair coat is shiny, no ribs can be seen, and he gallops in to be fed every day, bucking and playing. When he breaks down to the trot, he’s completely sound. ET, too, will be twenty-nine this spring. It makes me smile to see him.

In June I wrote about my one mare (“I Made a Mistake” June 08). I did get this mare settled in her new home in October, where they are happy to have her and her coming baby. I also managed to convince these kind people to take the mare’s long time pasture companion, a sound, ridable, gentle older gelding named “Grey Dog”. Grey Dog is now serving as a riding horse for the teen-aged nephew of his new owners, a boy who has always wanted a horse of his own. This kid is cleaning stalls and doing chores on the ranch to help support his new horse, and everybody seems happy with the arrangement.

Lets see, who else have I written about? Oh, Plumber. (This would be August 08, “The Horse With Two Left Feet”) Plumber is doing well, still sound, still a useful rope horse and riding horse. He will be twenty in the spring. He resides here in one of my large corrals, along with Sunny, my trail horse, Henry, my son’s riding horse, and Twister, my boarder, another team roping horse. Plumber, and all the saddle horses in the corrals, are sound, useful horses and are ridden three times a week on average (when its not pouring non-stop rain that is).

If anybody is counting, I have now accounted for ten horses. What about the other two, you ask. (If anybody is the slightest bit interested.) One of these is Lester, a horse I wrote about on mugwump’s blog, and he is still living happily in a home about ten miles from me, the much loved trail horse of a lady vet. The last horse is Rebby, a horse that technically does not belong to me, but rather to my team roping partner, who also owns Twister. However I trained Reb, and still help care for him now that he’s retired. I’ll post his story here on Equestrian Ink soon.
So, in this season of very hard times for many horses (and people, too), here are the happy stories of twelve horses who remain loved and well-cared for, despite the fact that many of them are old and/or retired due to soundness issues. It cheers me up to see my guys and know that they are all doing well, and I hoped it would cheer you, too.

Happy Holidays!
From Laura and the herd

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Litte Magic and a Lot of Love

by Mary Paine

I tend to get carried away during the holidays. Anyone who’s read my last few posts is at this point saying ‘No kidding’. At least this year I didn’t trip the circuit breaker with the Christmas lights, which my husband considers a big plus.

Despite my excitement over the fun and decorating, I do stop and give thanks for all that I have been blessed with in my life, starting with my family. I’ve also been blessed to have been able to spend most of my adulthood as a horse owner. This was a dream during my childhood that I wasn’t sure would ever come true. In the original dream I wanted to own a horse farm and be a veterinarian. As an adult I’m an epidemiologist and a writer and have been able to board my horses in facilities with wonderful, loving professionals. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.

There’s a young girl named Jennifer in Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch who shares many of the feelings I had at the same age, namely wishing as hard as I could that horses would be part of my life. Magic helps her dreams come true. Faith, luck, and hard work helped mine. Still, I thought I’d share a more serious scene from Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch that focuses on the love horse people have for our equine family members and explores a side of the horse world I haven’t been active in, namely breeding. Of course, there’s a little magic mixed in!

An excerpt from Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch

They turned to look at a white-faced Alicia, who had half risen from her chair.
“Alicia. What’s wrong?” Frances took her friend’s hand.
“It’s Misty. It’s her time. It’s not going well.”
As one, the group clattered to the kitchen door, grabbing raincoats and ponchos from a standing coat rack.
Jen rushed to follow them, heedless of the storm. “Jen, maybe you should wait here,” Susan said
“But, Aunt Susan, I love Misty. Please. I want to see her,” Jen said in a desperate voice.
Susan looked at the earnest appeal in her niece’s teary eyes. Sighing, she reached for two more ponchos. “Put on a pair of those Wellingtons.”
By the time they had staggered through the wind and rain, the barn was glowing with light.
“Don’t tell me they lit candles in here,” Susan murmured, pushing the door open. Surprisingly, the electric lights glowed from overhead. “How in the world?”
“Generator must have kicked in,” Brad said to her in a low voice. “We’ll check the house lights when we go back inside.”
“Brad, come here.” Alicia’s authoritative voice cut across his.
He approached the stall where the mare was down, labored breaths coming fast. Her eyes rolled white with fear. “I don’t know anything about this, Alicia.”
“Dystonia. The colt is turned. Ever deliver a breech baby?” Alicia was on her knees in the stall, hands stroking over the mare’s sweaty neck.
“Just one.” Brad looked dubiously at the scene before him. “But it was a long time ago, and I know next to nothing about horse breeding.”
“She needs help, Bradley, and so do I.”
Susan looked at the stricken mare. She gripped Brad’s hand. “We can do it. We have to.”
“Yes, we can.” Brad’s gaze sought hers and held. “Well, folks,” he continued, giving her hand one last squeeze, “we’ll need some clean towels, soap and water, twine, and a sharp pair of scissors.”
Frances bustled forward with the requested items. “Anything else you need?”
Susan was past worrying about how Frances delivered needed items so quickly. Her only thoughts now were for Misty and the foal.
“Petroleum jelly,” Alicia answered Frances.
Frances retreated to the tack room and emerged a moment later with a large tub, which she handed to Susan.
“Is it going to take her long, Alicia?” Nanette placed an arm around Jen, concern etched in both their faces as they watched Alicia wrap the mare’s tail in a bandage.
“Normally, birth is a fairly quick process for a horse. Often the foal is out in less than twenty minutes from the onset of contractions. I can’t say in this situation, though.” Alicia looked doubtfully at Misty.
“Let’s take a look. Eamonn, you and Alicia will need to hold Misty down as best you can.” Brad knelt in the stall.
“I’ll help, too.” Frances knelt at Misty’s head.
“Brad, see if the muzzle and forefeet are in the birth canal,” Alicia said.
Susan held her breath as Brad proceeded to examine Misty. The mare’s lack of resistance was helpful, but it seemed to Susan it couldn’t be a good sign.
“I don’t see them.” Brad locked gazes with Alicia.
Misty snorted, gripped with another contraction.
“I’ll have to try to turn the foal.” Brad stroked a gentle hand over the sweat-soaked mare.
“Hurry.” Alicia’s hands were on Misty’s belly, a reflection of Misty’s pain seeming to swirl in her mysterious dark eyes. White-faced, Alicia held her body still above the mare’s heaving efforts. Susan noted the three crystals balanced on Misty’s belly and then did a double take. Were the crystals glowing? Her attention was drawn by a low sound of pain from Misty. When she looked again, the crystals were still balanced on the mare’s belly, but there was no light emanating from them. Must have been a reflection, Susan thought.
“Susan, I need some of that jelly.” Brad scooped a handful of jelly from the jar Susan held and slid his arm inside the mare. He struggled to turn the foal. His face reddened with effort as he fought the mare’s desperate contractions. “I. Think. I. Did. It,” his voice ground out.
Withdrawing his arm, he repeated his exam. “I don’t see— Yes I do. There’s the foreleg. Wait a minute. Susan, give me some more of that jelly.” He reached in again, grunting with exertion. Withdrawing his arm, he looked again. “There’s the muzzle. Come on, girl. Push.”
Alicia’s face seemed to contract with pain as the mare made a final moan of agony that tore at Susan’s heart. Then Brad was shouting, “Here it is. Susan, help me.”
She saw the foreleg sticking out and grabbed hold. Together, she and Brad pulled with their combined strength. A moment later, the head emerged then the body, still encased in a white sac that clogged the nose and mouth. Brad reached over and tore open the sack. The foal took a shuddering breath and lay still.
“Oh, no, no.” Susan crouched over the little foal.
“He’s okay, Susan,” Bradley said, examining the foal. “His breathing is fine.” He reached toward the umbilical cord that still pulsed between mother and son.
“No, Bradley.” Alicia’s color was slowly returning and she leaned back against the wall of the stall. “Let it break on its own. Apply some iodine solution around the foal’s nose.”
Brad applied some iodine to the nose while Susan vigorously rubbed the foal. Misty still lay on her side in exhaustion.
“What do we do now?” Susan asked.
“Wait. And watch.” Alicia rose and together they quietly went outside the stall. Brad’s arms came around Susan, and her last qualms faded. This was real. The birth, the struggle, and the joy she and Brad had shared as they worked together were magic, but it was a magic the two of them made. Susan was through being afraid of it.
It seemed they stood there forever, eyes intent on the scene before them, but in reality it was only about twenty minutes before the foal attempted to stand. The group’s indrawn breaths came as one as they watched a miracle unfold. The foal struggled for a moment then rose on wobbly legs to stand, swaying over its mother.
In response, Misty turned her head, then with a great heave, got to her feet, and the cord between them ruptured. Susan made to enter the stall, but Alicia held her back. “It’s okay, Susan. The cord had stopped pulsing. Everything is happening just as it should.”
Misty turned and nuzzled her baby.
“I’ll need to observe them for at least four hours. Why don’t the rest of you go back up to the house?” Alicia pulled her coat tighter around her.
“Can I stay and help you?” Jen’s eyes shone with excitement.
“Well, there is a job you could do for me.” Alicia forestalled Jen from running into Misty’s stall. “Actually, dear, I was thinking we haven’t selected a name for the foal. I have some books up at the house that may give you some ideas. Care to make a list of choices for us?”
“Sure. Where are the books?”
“I’ll show her.” Eamonn chuckled. “Perhaps we can come up with something suitable for a Spring Equinox baby, eh?”
Brad drew Susan away from the departing crowd into a quiet corner of the barn. “Maybe we should both consider obstetrics.” His laughing face gazed down at her.
“Maybe we should.” She looked up at him and saw a kind, handsome, wonderful man. The remote surgeon was gone, replaced by someone she already felt closer to than any man in her life. “You know, I wondered if your interest in me was real or just part of—well, shall we say a temporary magic.”
“The feelings are there, alright, but there’s nothing temporary about them. I’ve wanted to be with you for a very long time.”

Happy Holidays, Everyone!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

I want to wish everyone at Equestrian Ink a very Happy Holidays. We've been inundated with snow in the Northwest. I've been pretty much shut in, so, no, I haven't ridden or lost any weight. In fact, I'm afraid to check, but I suspect I gained two pounds. Anyway, here's some pictures of our snow taken a few days ago. We've had another 6 inches since these photos.

My horse barn in the snow:

Our 17-year-old Rott enjoying the snow:

Our lower driveway:

My horse arena:

There are more pictures on my website at:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Traditions, Equine Style

by Mary Paine

Happy Holidays!

A nice side benefit of being a researcher by training is using that skill doing fun research for my books. I research such diverse topics as mythology, witchcraft, police procedure, exotic locations, and of course, horses. There are some really fun holiday traditions people have with their horses that I’ve come across. The Chronicle of the Horse at has some wonderful ones. Here are some of my favorites:

• Lots of people do a very special warm bran mash with lots of apples and carrots mixed in. I’ve seen reports from people who use apple cider or applesauce mixed into bran mash, too. Here’s an addition I never heard of – adding crushed up candy canes or peppermint candies on top for a garnish. Ho- Ho- Ho!

• My in-laws like to warm up apple juice and mix it in with their water buckets. It’s a nice holiday tradition and they also do it on cold days to melt any ice and encourage the horses to drink. They also like to do homemade oatmeal raisin cookies on Christmas Eve and a special Christmas salad in the morning made of carrots, apples, and raisins. Tasty treats for our equine friends!

• At every barn I’ve been at there’s been a stocking in front of every stall and each horse got an array of treats put in it by all their human friends. There’s always a preponderance of crunchy apples and carrots with some Mrs. Pastures Cookies and sugar tossed in. Lots of people go for special bareback rides as a holiday treat. My darling boys didn’t have the broadest backs, so that wouldn’t have been too comfy for me to try, but it sounds like fun!

• Secret Santas always played a big role at every barn I’ve been at, mostly because we had so many junior riders. It was tough finding places to hide presents where our horses wouldn’t be nibbling on them. At the annual Christmas party we would exchange gifts, but would never forget our partners in their stalls and some cookies or other treats always made their way out of the party to be nibbled delicately from our hands by our best buddies.

• My husband’s family first started having horses on their property about 15 years ago. When they first had the horses, they used to sneak out at midnight on Christmas Eve to see if they could hear them talk, but they never caught them!

• The most wonderful tradition I’ve heard people speak of is the extra time they spend with their horses during the holidays. An extra grooming, a long scratch to an itchy spot, a hug and a kiss on the nose is the best present our beloved horses could have.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions you'd like to share? Hope you all have a happy, safe Holiday Season and a wonderful New Year.

If you have time, I’d love it if you stopped by this evening to chat with me at The Romance Studio at I’ll be chatting at 9 PM EST about my new release Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch, romance, comedy, fantasy and, of course, the horse world.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Winter Safety and Fire Prevention

Last Thursday there was a boarding barn fire in Tacoma that killed 15 horses. The owners tried to get into the barn to rescue the horses. They could hear them inside, but the smoke was too thick and the heat too intense. The barn had a heat detector but not a smoke detector, as the dust in the barn had set it off too often. The cause of the barn fire was determined to be a space heater in the tack room. It had fallen over and ignited some items next to it. The pole barn, with wooden beams and stalls, was filled with 5 tons of hay.

You can read the details here:

Now's the time to check out your own barn for safety from barn fires. I can't think of a worse thing to happen to our horses than to die in a barn fire.

Please make sure if you have a space heater in your tack room that it is the type that turns off when it's tipped over. I'm not an expert on this, but at my barn, we use the old-filled, radiator style space heaters, which seem to be me to be the safest kind.

Check your wiring for any sign that a rodents may have chewed through it. Keep your tack room free of dust and keep items away from the heater. Even a heater that turns off when it falls over could ignite something near it before it cools down.

Of course, the biggest and most obvious: No smoking around the barn.

I found several good articles on barn fire prevention, which certainly tell it better than I would:

Penn State Fire Safety in Horse Stables
WSP Fire Safety for Barns
Rutgers Fire Prevention and Safety Measures around the Farm
Equisearch Preventing Barn Fires

As far as my weight challenge, no change this week, but that's not bad for this time of year. Also, I rode my horse three times this week, and I wrote about 5000 words.

Also check out my Holiday contest. You could win a book by one of the Equestrian Ink authors.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Brighten Up Your Winter Days Contest

Brighten Up Your Winter Days Contest

I'm running a Contest from December 13th through December 20th for members of my newsgroup. I'll announce the winners on December 21st, by a random drawing of entrants that correctly answer four questions and are newsletter subscribers.

  • It's very simple to enter:

    • Subscribe to my newsgroup if you haven't already at
    • By looking on my blog, Equestrian Ink Blog, and website, answer the following questions:

      1. What does Carson get for his birthday?

      2. What is the location for my first two books?

      3. I write an equestrian fiction blog with several other writers. Name one of them.

      4. Name one blog I like as shown on my personal blog.

    • Send the answers to me at
    • Make sure you use the same email address that you used to join my

The Prizes:

  • One print copy of Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?

  • One print copy of The Dance

  • One print copy of your choice from one of the authors on equestrian Ink

  • An electronic version of Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? (2 winners)
  • An electronic version of The Dance (2 winners)
If you already have both of my books, you can substitute for a copy of The Gift Horse, which I will send when it is available.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Santa meets the penguins

By Mary Paine

Hi Everybody!

Well, I pulled out the decorations for Christmas and found Spencer and Topper’s stockings with the rest. This will be my first holiday without a horse in my life in more years than I can remember. I just had to put their stockings up, so they’re in a place of honor in a light display on our screened porch. I won’t be shopping at Beval’s this year, but I’m picturing them up in heaven with an endless supply of Mrs. Pastures Cookies, warm oatmeal cookies and a nice holiday platter of apples and carrots.

My family, animal loves all, still found a way to incorporate them into our holiday celebrations. We took the kids to Breakfast with Santa at the zoo. They had a blast with costumed characters dressed up as zoo animals and, of course, they sat on Santa’s lap. My daughter was there for quite a while having an intimate chat with the gentleman. She had a long list for him.

We were there the first day they started a new program. They allowed the penguins to walk on the sidewalk among the zoo visitors. How Chrstmasy, right? My daughter, son and I were right up close for this and they waddled right by us. Unfortunately my son turned around just as a curious penguin was right in front of us. Apparently, the sight of his backside was an appealing target for the penguin, who walked right over, grabbed hold of the seat of my son’s pants with his beak and held on!

My daughter, mindful of the zoo keepers earlier warning that penguin’s poop tends to be projectile, lifted the sneaker nearest the penguin as high as possible. Now she will walk through a stall that hasn’t been mucked yet without a second thought, but apparently penguins is where she draws the line.

Perhaps it was her resemblance to a stork and the penguin just wanted to say hello to another bird species, but the penguin disengaged from my son’s derriere and started nibbling on the bottom of her sneaker while she held it aloft. She was doing some interesting balletic movements that entertained both the penguin and the crowd quite a bit. My verbal coaxing was of absolutely no interest to our penguin friend whatsoever. Fortunately, a keeper reached us and retrieved said penguin, saving me from having to pluck the little fellow off my daughter.

My husband, who stayed with our other son and the stroller at the edge of the crowd said he knew when her heard the uproar of laughter from the crowd it had to have something to do with us. Hmmm. He mentioned later that he and our safely strollered son did observe the penguins without the up close and personal experience the rest of us had. They did join the crowd in being entertained by the three of us. As a matter of fact, here’s a picture of my son (the one who escaped the personal penguin interaction) with one of his usual Christmas laughs.

Happy Holidays from the Paine family. Best wishes for a safe and joyous New Year!



Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Little Palomino Plug

By Laura Crum

Some of you may remember that I wrote awhile back about my new horse, a little (14.3) grade palomino gelding I bought about a year ago now to ride the trails with my son. (See my post “The New Horse”, May 08) Now this horse is not the least bit fancy. He looks a little out of place in my corrals, which (other than Sunny) are occupied by some pretty nicely bred Quarter Horses. Sunny looks like a cross between a pony and a QH. Or maybe a miniature draft horse. He’s coarse, and a bit clunky to ride. I have no idea how he’s bred; he was bought by a horse trader in a sale in El Paso, and was said to have come from old Mexico. I was told he was about eight to ten years old. The vet said he was somewhere between twelve and fifteen. It figures. I was neither surprised nor bothered by this info. Par for the course in the horse trading world.

Sunny is not a particularly well broke horse. He’ll walk, trot, lope around an arena in his clunky way, and do a passable stop. He carries his head low and rock steady—its just his natural head carriage. He does not have much rein on him; I frequently resort to direct reining him when I mean business about the fact that he is to go where I point him. You can rope on him, but he’s too slow and clumsy to be much good at it. His gaits are nothing to brag about, though he is sure-footed outside. He makes an effort (almost every ride) to see if he can be the boss. He isn’t dangerous; he just tries his rider in small ways. The vague gesture at a nip or kick, the small crowhop, the half-hearted attempt at balking. He spooks once in a great while, though overall he’s not a spooky horse. Fortunately he’s too clunky to spook as effectively as my old cutting horse, Gunner, and since I spent ten years riding one that can really move, I’m not threatened by Sunny’s boogers. I may have to grab the horn, but I stay on (cursing the little shit). Sunny never gets away with dominating me. I win every round. But he doesn’t give up. He’s a persistant critter.

At this point, you may be wondering what I see in the horse. Believe me, at times I wonder this, too. However, Sunny does have some virtues. In fact, he has exactly the attributes I need right now in a mount. Sunny is a reliable trail horse. Okay, I just got back from a two hour ride and he made two sudden, 90 degree, swinging gate spooks, one at a green tarp and one at a hostile stump. But overall, he’s very steady on the trail. The spooks are the exception, not the rule. And once he’s had his little jump, he goes right on, quiet and calm. He’s been on a lot of trail rides in his life; he’ll go anywhere. Nothing bothers him. Not crossing busy roads, not wading in the surf, not going solo through the wild woods, not deer leaping out of the trees under his nose. He does not jig. He’s surefooted and a trooper climbing hills. He’s slow but steady on any steep descent. He will stand like a park bench under any circumstances, if I decide to stop for awhile. And he gives my son’s bomb proof trail horse, Henry, a quiet, reliable lead.

Since the one thing I was looking for when I bought Sunny is a solid, reliable trail horse to ride with my son, I’m quite satisfied with my purchase. Sunny didn’t cost much and he’s sound. I run him and Henry barefoot and they do fine (saves me a bundle). Sunny’s an easy keeper, too—always a good trait in a horse. And I actually enjoy his ornery little personality. He’s a smart horse, and I like smart horses. His attempts to dominate me amuse me. And when I decide I’m gonna teach him something (like how to take his wormer like a gentleman) he learns fast. Though I have to get the point across with a certain degree of firmness. Yep, little old Sunshine and I are on the same page.

But here’s the real truth. I have a hard time admitting this, but I like this horse partly because he’s so darn cute. I don’t mean fancy, well-bred cute. I mean little girl’s dream pony cute. Sort of giant stuffed animal cute. Everybody reacts to the horse this way,. Experienced horse people, tough old team ropers, one and all get a grin when they look at Sunny, and want to pet him. Little girls mob him. I rode by the local boarding stable on my way to the trails and a teenage girl came running out of the barn screaming, “That’s the cutest horse I ever saw!”. A middle-aged lady stopped me and begged to give the darling palomino a carrot. And I smile every single morning when I walk down the hill to feed the horses and see his bright gold shape in the corrral. Sunny is just that cute.

I never had a palomino before and I am constantly surprised by how much I enjoy his color. What is it with that bright gold shiny coat. He even sparkles in the sunshine in the winter, despite the fact that I don’t blanket and he’s hairy. I just enjoy looking at the side of his neck while I ride.

So here’s the deal. Its all very well for me to go on and on about how cute the horse is, but it just so happens that I took Sunny for a ride through the hills this afternoon (it was 70 degrees and sunny—weatherwise—here by California’s Monterey Bay) and for once someone was there to take photos as I got ready to go. The local newspaper occasionally decides I am worth a story (local mystery author with horses), and they sent a reporter and photographer out today. And now you can see for yourself. Below are a couple of photos of me and my little palomino plug. Is he not every little girl’s dream come true? And can you see why he makes me smile, little recalcitrant mule that he is?

The photos are courtesy of Shmuel Thayler, photographer for the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Thanks, Shmuel.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Recommended Equestrian Books for Christmas

I promised a post listing recommended reads for horse-related books for Christmas. This list does not include all the fabulous books by the authors on this blog.

Some of you alread added your favorites in a previous post. I hope you don't mind adding them again here. (I borrowed the covers from Amazon so the "Click to look inside" doesn't really work.)

Here are a few of mine:

That Winning Feeling by Jane Savoie
Non-fiction--Even if you don't show, this is a great book for improving your attitude and changing your life.

Horse Play by Judy Reene Singer
Fiction--This is a great read by someone who has obviously been there.

Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss

I found this book in a bookstore in the San Juans. It's a wonderful story of a determined young woman with a gift for gentling horses, set in 1917 Eastern Oregon.

Believe by Buck Brannaman
Non-Fiction--This book chronicles Buck's life with horses. Very good read.

Taking Up the Reins
By Priscilla Endicott
Non-Fiction--The author's year in Germany with a dressage master.

What are your favorites?

I'm putting it on the line

Okay, I'm not losing weight. In fact, when I started this, I weighed two pounds less. So I added a gadget at the top of of this blog where I'll mark my progress. I would never tell anyone what I weigh now, but I'm telling you guys. I'm embarrassed that nothing fits any more.

I also only rode two days this week. I am just so darn busy. Maybe after the holidays, I'll get back to something resembling normalcy.

I did have a lesson this week. My mare feels off. It's nothing obvious. You can't really see it from the ground, but I know her really well. She feels funny behind especially to the right. We're going to monitor it to see if it gets worse or better. I did have a great lesson, though. I'm really working hard on not pulling. I have no clue what my riding goals are for 2009. I don't see showing in my future. I've had too many demoralizing years of attempting to show and finishing in the lower end of the pack. You can only do that so long before you're not having much fun at all.

Now's a good time to be thinking of New Year's resolutions. Let's all take the next few weeks and think of what we'd like to change for the New Year. We can do a New Year's post and add our resolutons here as comments.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

And the beat goes on. . .

Hi Everyone!

Well, I made it. Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch was released yesterday and I'm still standing (I think). Now it's the nail biting wait for reviews and sales figures! Unfortunately, I've been biting into much more than my nails, as my bathroom scale attests. I've been telling myself (ahem) I needed the sugar to keep going since I don't drink caffeine. As excuses go, I thought that was a pretty good one!

I've gotten good feedback on the book so far. The idea of a paranormal romantic comedy appeals to people in these uncertain times, as does the $2.99 price tag for the ebook. Of course, in my mind, the equestrian setting is perfect for a lighthearted romance since so many of my happiest memories involve horses.

As part of the promotion for Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch I'm participating in a Holiday Tour of Author Websites that Writerspace ( is hosting. When it came to decorating my site, there was only one picture that leapt to mind.

Among the many wonderful aspects of my years with Topper and Spencer was enjoying taking photos of them. I want to share this one with you in the spirit of the holiday season and in remembrance of two of my very best friends:
I also want to share a brief excerpt from Never Trust A Matchmaking Witch. Hope you enjoy it!

Susan stopped in front of Misty’s stall and arched slowly with a hand to the small of her back, feeling her sore muscles stretch. Just this one last stall to clean and she’d be done.

“How’s it going?” Brad’s huge bay hunter enthusiastically crunched a carrot Brad was poking through the bars of its stall. The powerful, athletic horse made a fitting pair with the tall, rugged-looking man in boots and britches, a thick quilted vest zipped over his expensive sweater.

His hazel eyes glinted at the view of her stretching her body in a gentle arch. She snapped to attention, tugging her sweatshirt down. She could have jumped in the shower, but, oh, no, she had to be practical. She felt grubbier than ever next to the handsome surgeon waiting for her to reply.

“Fine, thanks.” She stuck her chin in the air and tugged on the stall door, which of course was stuck.

“Here. Let me help you with that.” In a moment Brad was beside her, sliding open the door with ease then pulling her pitchfork and bucket in.

“Thank you.”

“No problem.” He grinned over his shoulder at her. “I’m used to it.”

“You clean stalls?” Susan blurted incredulous and then bit her lip.

“Well, not lately, but as a kid I did plenty of them. Want some help?”

“Oh, no. I can handle it. Uh, how’s Jen doing in her lesson?”

“Alicia’s working her and Ritchie over a gymnastic. She loves it.”

“A gymnastic? Isn’t that the wrong sport?”

“Not in this case.” He laughed, and she noticed deep creases by the sides of his mouth. He was too manly by far to have dimples. “Come look,” he added.

He placed a hand at the small of her back to urge her forward and a warm tingle flowed through her core and down her arms. Just a common courtesy, Susan told herself. She preceded him through the wide doorway to the indoor riding arena.

Together, they climbed the bleachers that lined one side and were separated from the riding area by a low wall.

Susan cast about for something to say and her eyes lit on the ceramic owls set in the rafters in the four corners of the barn. “Interesting decoration.”

“What is?” Brad asked.

“Those.” Susan pointed at the nearest owl.

Looking where she indicated, Brad said, “Ah, those aren’t decoration.”

“They’re not?” Susan frowned at them.

“Nope. The plan is to scare other birds out of here.”

“Why would we want to do that?”

“Well, cleaning up after them isn’t a fun job.”

“Oh.” Knowing the odds of her being the one doing the cleaning, Susan looked back with gratitude at the owls, then blinked. They had moved. Hadn’t they? They were in the center of each wall instead of the corners.

“Is anything wrong?” Brad was looking at her closely.

“No. Nothing.” Susan looked again. The owls were in the corners of the barn. I really have been working too hard, Susan thought. She glanced at the owls again, and one winked at her.

Susan jumped sideways against Brad’s shoulder.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” His arm came around her.

“Fine. Thanks. those owls have any moving parts?”

“I don’t think so.” Brad frowned at the owls.

“I just thought, you know, to scare the birds, they might have them move or something.”

“I’ve never heard of it, but good idea, though.” Brad grinned at her. “You should send the idea in to a horse magazine. Barn owners everywhere would be thanking you.”

“I’ll think about it.” Susan smiled back at him, forgetting the owls as she got lost in his warm hazel eyes. She must have just imagined the wink.

“See those?” His thigh brushed hers as he leaned forward to point toward the center of the ring.

Susan nodded, noting Jen astride the trotting Ritchie before looking to the area he indicated. Three jumps, in relatively close succession, were set up down the far side of the ring. The first was a cross-rail fence Jen was used to jumping, followed by a straight rail that looked a little larger than what she was used to. It was the height of the last fence which had Susan sitting forward in alarm. “Jen’s not going to jump those three, is she?”

“Sure. That’s the gymnastic.”

Susan stared at Brad, all inhibitions lost. “How high is that last fence?”

“Well”—Brad considered a moment—“I’d say about two nine to three feet.”

“What!” Susan jumped off the bench. “Jen’s never jumped that height before.”

“Relax, Susan. She’ll be fine.” Brad tugged her back down on the bench beside him. “Alicia knows what she’s doing. That’s the whole purpose of a gymnastic. The horse is set up correctly to jump so the rider can focus on her balance and strength over fences.”

“What if she loses her balance?” Susan’s small fingers gripped her knee.

“She’ll be fine. Alicia has the jumps spaced to be easy for Ritchie. This way, Jen can focus on her position. Watch.” Gently, Brad pried Susan’s fingers off her leg and held them loosely in his hand. Even through her agitation, Susan’s body reacted to his touch, and she glanced down at their joined hands before Alicia’s voice jerked her attention back to the drama at hand.

“Okay, Jen. One more time. Remember, don’t jump up his neck. Weight in your heels as you close. Let him come up to you over the top of the fence. Ritchie, slow and gentle for her now.”

“Does she always give instructions to the horse as well as the rider?” Susan wondered aloud.

“Not generally, but Alicia and Ritchie have been together so many years, I swear sometimes he understands her every word. Watch.”

Happy Holidays, Everybody and Happy Reading!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My Last Horse . . .

by Kit Ehrman

I grimaced a little when I typed my title for today’s post because I still hope I will own a horse again. But right now, that’s not possible or practical for me. Anyway . . . the last horse that I had the privilege of owning was an Appendix Quarter Horse mare whose registered name was Suntan Suzie. I called her Flare. Think “solar flare. “ “Flair” would have worked as a barn name, too, because this girl was flashy—a brilliant chestnut mare with a glorious blaze down her face.

She dispelled the “temperamental mare” theory because she adored people, loved attention, and was a sweetie-pie through and through. So, as many of you alluded to in your replies to my November 17th post, there is that thing about mares being temperamental, but a lot of it comes down to personality.

I could tell when she was in heat, especially a strong heat in late spring because, if I let her, she’d stop in the barn aisle and pee in front of my gelding’s stall. Geez. But even with the hormonal flux, she was well-mannered, and she was always a willing mount. But most of all, she was a “people” horse.

Did I mention personality? She sure had plenty of that. She also had a thing for shoelaces. Don’t ask me why, but my kids would stand on the fence, and she’d be right there, nuzzling them and smelling them; then she’d tuck her velvety nose between the fence boards and play with their shoelaces, turning them a pasty green.

During the years that I owned her, I didn’t ride nearly as much as I would have liked, being busy with two small boys who were not into horses, preferring go-carts they could hotrod and put back in the barn minus the grooming and mucking out. When it was time for me to get out of horses, for various reasons, I knew I was making the right decision for Flare.

Unlike my kids, I loved the barn work part of horse ownership, so she got great care, but she wasn’t being ridden like she should have been. She wasn’t getting a whole bunch of attention either, since I wasn’t riding much. She needed . . . no, she deserved more attention. I was delighted when I found the perfect owner, a nine-year old young lady who was into 4-H and had two nine-year-old girlfriends.

Flare went to a trainer’s barn for a month before the girl’s mother bought her, and this is a story Flare’s trainer recounted.

She told me . . . the girls had come out to ride one afternoon, and they had Flare cross-tied in the barn aisle while they groomed her. Unbeknownst to the trainer, her non-horsey boyfriend had decided to work on the cement barn aisle. He pulled out a machine (don’t know what kind it was or the job it did, but it resembled the huge wax machines they use on the floors at Wal-Mart). He powered it up and was sweeping it back and forth across the aisle. When Flare’s trainer walked into the barn, there were the girls, fooling around with Flare, and there was her boyfriend, sweeping this huge machine across the floor right under Flare’s nose.

The mare didn’t move an inch. In fact, the machine seemed not to bother her at all. If they hadn’t known it before, I think that one incident was what sold everyone that Flare was the perfect mare for these girls.

So, let’s hear if for mares who are sweethearts!

Happy riding and reading everyone!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Which Comes First the Puller or the Pullee? and Weekly Update

First of all, the publishing industry like everything else is in dire straits. Please consider giving books for Christmas. There are tons of great horse books out there for your horsey friends or yourself. In fact, I'm going to start a post next weekend which lists great horse books to give as gifts. I'd like all of you to post a comment with at least one suggestion. So be thinking about it.

Oh, man, I am not doing well in the weight loss department. I know I've put on a few pounds this week. Maybe I should be grateful it's only a few. I'm going to continue in the New Year because I'm determined to get this fat off.

In the riding department, I also sucked this week. I only rode once and that was in a lesson, though I had the return of an epiphany. It was the best ride I've had on that horse in a long time. The shying is pretty much gone, and I can now concentrate on my riding again rather than getting her in the corner.

In the writing department, I finished a first draft of Fourth and Goal by writing 16,000 words this week!!! Yahoo!!! The writing is why I haven't reached my other two goals. I've been sitting on my butt trying the finish the darn book.

Now about my revelation. I am a puller. My horse is a puller. My trainer says the mare was inherently predispositioned to be a puller so it isn't entirely on me. Unfortunately, I, too, am instinctually a puller. Since I've been concentrating on the shying for the past two months, all my bad riding habits have returned full-force. I'm guessing because I've been in reactionary mode. For one, I'm hauling on the left rein when going to the right so hard that my poor horse can't turn a circle. Worst of all, I'm pulling and Gailey's pulling.

I've been so frustrated with all of it, that I truly considered retiring the horse and myself from dressage, but I'm not a quitter. So I kept at it, often dreading getting on her back. In my last lesson, we worked on my pulling. I wasn't allowed to pull. At first, that was Gailey's cue to fall on her forehand and go faster, her favorite evasion (even more than shying). So we did leg yeilds, haunches-in, shoulder-in, transitions, and half-passes everywhere in the arena. When I'm doing that stuff, I ride better. I acutally ride both sides of the horse and use my legs, seat, and hands; instead of just hands. After about 20 minutes of this, the first ten being very frustrating, I felt a connection. Tenuous, it came and went, but it was there.



And when it was there, it was the greatest feeling on earth. To have a horse light and listening and totally connected to its rider is the reason I do dressage. I'm so glad that I had a little reminder that all is not lost, and I can do this despite the setbacks.

So happy winter riding everyone! And next week, I'm back in the saddle.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Current Goals

By Laura Crum

Lately some of my fellow authors on this site have been posting about their goals. Losing weight, getting fit, getting their horses ridden regularly, getting their next book written. All great goals. People write in the comments here about their goals; I read mugwump’s blog and hear about all the goals people have with their horses. I am impressed. I wonder, what are my goals?

Uhmm…I’d like to lose weight, sure. Am I willing to diet? No. I’m way too much of a hedonist to diet. I love good food and drink. (Margaritas, anyone?) I do try to exercise regularly by hiking the trails as often as I ride them, but this is a goal I don’t often achieve. Last week I rode five times and hiked once. Hmmm.. My horse is getting fit, anyway. No, I can’t exactly call getting fit a goal. At least not a goal that I’m doing much to achieve.

How about writing my next book? Yep, I am writing my next book. I really am. Sometimes. And then I hear my fellow authors talking about how many pages they wrote last week. Oh dear. Some weeks I get a chapter done. Lots of weeks I get nothing written at all. I’m not a very disciplined writer. As the deadline approaches, I crank it out. That’s my pattern. I hope it works this time.

But yes, it is a goal of mine to finish book #11 in my mystery series and turn it in at the specified deadline. I’m just not motivated to do it in a methodical fashion. I guess this counts as a goal.
As for the horses, when I say I rode five times last week, you might think I was pretty goal oriented there. The unfortunate truth is that I ride when I feel like it, and the weather was beautiful last week so I felt like riding. And what sort of riding are we talking about? Nothing too demanding. My current riding is limited to cruising my little plug of a trail horse through the hills or along the beach in the company of my eight year old son. When you consider that I used to show cutting horses and compete at team roping, it sounds pretty tame.

Yep, that’s me in the above photos. Winning the cutting at the county fair on Gunner, a horse I trained myself, and turning a steer for my good friend Sue Crocker on Flanigan, one of the best rope horses I ever had the privilege to ride. (Sue is on Pistol, another great horse.) Those of you who have read my mystery series may recognize these horses; they’ve all become characters in my books.

This next photo was taken last week. We had an 80 degree November day and took the horses down for a ride on the beach. Big fun for me and my son, but not exactly in the same league as what I used to do with my horses. My goals with my horses these days? Use what’s left of my (much diminished) riding skills to have fun with my kid. Cruise through the landscape on a steady horse and enjoy it. That’s it. Not too ambitious.

The truth is that I really am fine with my relatively unambitious lifestyle, but every now and then, listening to others, I wonder that I seem so unmotivated these days. Am I content and tranquil? A zen horsewoman/ enlightened mama/ relaxed author? Or am I just lazy? I really don’t know.

I can remember the effort and energy I used to put into my riding and writing; I was pushing and striving, trying hard all the time. I’m much happier now. At this point all my pursuits flow relatively easily and naturally….but I’m sure not getting as much done. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I think my current goal is just to be grateful for what I have. My family, my animals, including my reliable little trail horse, my home, my pasture, my career as a mystery author, which still engages me, even my relatively healthy, if slightly too ample body….all these are things I am thankful for every day. Maybe I don’t need to worry about what I don’t have, seeing as I have so much.

You tell me….
Happy Thanksgiving!

Laura Crum

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Mystery Mare

I've written before about my mare Krissy. She's a 16 hand TB/Warmblood cross and has been jumped a ton. She's twelve and my goal with her is to become a better rider and just enjoy her. I wouldn't mind doing some hunter shows next year, but we'll see, because Krissy is a mystery.

She goes great for a few weeks and then winds up lame on the left hind usually at about a 3. The vet has blocked her all the way up to the stifle and we still have not figured this thing out. Nothing shows up. We've also considered that she had a pelvic break but her muscling would be different than it is. I can't seem to get a hold of any old vet records, because she was a rescue horse. We're considering possible arthritis in the fetlock. She has been injected in her hocks, but when we blocked the fetlock she doesn't show much difference--there is a little bit though. I'm thinking of going ahead and starting her on a protocol of monthly IV Legend. Right now, the expense is hurting me, but I think you can all relate that our horses are much like our children. We'd go to pretty much any lengths to make them comfortable and happy. Krissy has such a sweet disposition and is a hard and honest worker that I hate not to find the answer here. I wish she could talk! How may of you have ever said that?!? It seriously would make a horse owner's life much easier.

I think one of the most difficult things about having a horse with some chronic issue (like a lameness) is the emotional toll it takes on the owner. This has been such an up and down ride. As I mentioned she goes great for weeks and then pulls up stiff and off. When she's great, she is really great and happy, but when she isn't it's hard. It happened again on Saturday. For the past two weeks we were moving ahead and only doing flat work, got her into the arena this past weekend, and once I pushed her up into the trot, it was very obvious something was brewing again. My heart sank, but I am determined to figure this out with her and the vet.

Have any of you had any chronic issues with your horse(s) that was a mystery or remained a mystery? If so, I'd love to hear how you handled it. And, if you have any inkling as to what my horse has going on, please--I'm open to all suggestions.


P.S. New releases out in February are: Corked by Cabernet and under my psuedonym M.K. Scott (for children's books,;ages 7-12) Zamora's Ultimate Challenge. Check out excerpts on my site.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Shying Mare

First, my update. I did ride 3 times this week, and my trainer rode twice. I also lost a pound. Not great but an improvement. How's everyone else doing?

Another thing, the publishing industry is in dire straits right now (as is most of the country). Consider giving books for Christmas. They're great gifts, travel well, last a long time, and there's something for everyone.

I mentioned in a previous post that my mare is driving me NUTS with her shying. This happens every year in the winter. The rest of the year, she's fine. She picks a corner and absolutely freaks over it. It's not always the same corner either. This year my barn added muck buckets and manure forks to each corner so we could clean up our poop when we finish riding. I knew I was in deep do-do when I saw those in the corners. I was right. For the past month, I have spent a good portion of each ride working on getting my mare in the corners, or even the end of the arena. I was losing patience. My trainer was losing patience. We haven't been able to work on anything other than that. So much for flying changes or half passes. I can't even ge the %^$$^ mare in the corners.

Believe me, we tried everything. I even tried a suggestion from my friend who does natural horsemanship. Back up every time she balks in the corner and keep backing. Well, it made sense because backing is harder than going forward. Not with this mare. She'll back around the entire arena all day long.

Finally, Kari, my trainer, suggested a possible solution she's used before. I hung a bucket in the "shying" corner and put grain in it. Every few times we went by that corner, I'd half pass her to the bucket and let her have a taste of grain. My mare is a PIG. Loves her grain. Needless to say, she's no longer shying in the corner. She wants to go in the corner and is now actually going too deep in the corners.

Today she gets clipped for the winter, which actually makes her unsually hot and forward thinking. I guess I'd better remember to hang on.

What odd solutions have any of you used for an on-going problem?

Friday, November 21, 2008

If you don't go to the party... Guest Blogger--Francesca Prescott

It gives me great pleasure to introduce a dear friend of mine, who is a fellow horsewoman and and debut writer, Francesa Prescott.

If you don’t go to the party, you don’t get a balloon!

My niece Flaminia once said, “If you don’t go to the party, you don’t get a balloon.” She was only about seven or eight at the time (she’s twelve now), and I doubt she realized how profound her words actually were. But her spontaneous words of wisdom reflect her personality. Flaminia is a clever, determined little girl who doesn’t just rise to challenges, she creates them. And when she goes to parties, she comes home with fistfuls of balloons.

I like balloons too. The trouble is: I’m a chicken crossed with a scaredy cat. Put me in a challenging, unfamiliar situation and I feel the fear. My half-Italian origins erupt in my armpits, my pulse risks a speed ticket, my bladder becomes super demanding. My instincts urge me to never say boo to a sparrow, let alone a goose. My list of favorite things read like that annoying song in The Sound of Music (which is now going to be stuck in my head all day… grrrr).

But life isn’t all whiskers on kittens and when the tough gets going, retail therapy doesn’t provide any answers. As my dressage teacher says (when Kwintus, my horse, has personal opinions that clash with mine), “Push him through it.” Five hundred kilos of equines opinions can be daunting, but when the argument ceases and harmony prevails, there’s no feeling like it.

“You should enter Kwintus in the competition this weekend,” said Pam, my dressage teacher’s daughter, shortly after having seen me enjoying a particularly harmonious equestrian moment. “He’s going really well. It would be a pity not to.”

My heart skipped the country and raced off along a German motorway (German motorways have no speed limits). My bladder threatened to pull the plug. What? Me? Compete? No! I suck! I don’t know the dressage program. And even if by some miracle I manage to learn it, I’ll get inside the arena and forget it. I’ll fall off. I’ll throw up in front of the judges. Besides, I’ve gained weight and my white jodhpurs won’t fit me. I need new ones (retail therapy!), but the shop closes in an hour and they probably won’t have my size anyway.

Pam raised an eyebrow and gave me one of her sly smiles. She’s not a chicken crossed with a scaredy cat. She’s one hundred percent lioness.

“Sure you can! Come on! Just learn the program and leave the rest up to Kwintus. He’s a pro. He’ll take care of you,” she said, striding off in her shiny boots.

My heartbeat stayed on the German autobahn. I was torn. Half of me wanted to rise to the challenge, to show the world what a fabulous horse I have. The other half wanted to hide in a soft cozy place until the horsey weekend was over and it was safe to practice my flying changes incognito again.

But Kwintus nuzzled me. I looked into his kind, brown eyes, stroked his soft, cozy nose and decided he deserved to show off the smooth moves he’d been so generously sharing with me. With my heartbeat still powering towards Hamburg and my body as floppy as a soft toy, I staggered off to find Pam and stammered something about being up for it. Then I hopped into my car and rushed off to the horse equipment shop to buy new jodhpurs.

They didn’t have my size.

Oh well! Never mind. That’s that, then! I cruised home, certain that I’d never get into my old ones. I’d just have to phone Pam and tell her I couldn’t ride the competition. Saved by excess blubber!

The old ones fit perfectly.

Panic set in again. I printed out a copy of the dressage program and started prancing around an imaginary arena in the garden while my husband looked on, shaking his head and laughing his pert little bottom off. I ignored him and continued to prance, stopping only when I was I’d been brainwashed to enter at A, halt at X, etc… I didn’t sleep well and was a basket case throughout Saturday. Heck, I couldn’t even breathe properly. All I could think about was how terrified I was about riding Kwint in front of the judges first thing Sunday morning.

But when I woke up Sunday morning, something inside me felt different. My heart had given up speeding and was gradually cruising home. I was ready to go to the party. And I really fancied a balloon…

“I can do this,” I repeated over and over to myself, driving towards the stables at the crack of dawn.

And I did. I held it together. I didn’t suck. I didn’t vomit. I didn’t fall off. And people actually cheered and clapped when I made my final salute. I dropped my reins and gave my horse a hug. I even gave him a kiss. He deserved it. And what do you know? We finished in third place, coming away with more than just a balloon.

I’m not going to wax lyrical on the moral of this story; it’s not exactly a psychological breakthrough. Nike said it all in their famous slogan: “Just do it!”

All I’m saying is that some challenges are worth getting hot and flustered for. Winning my husband’s heart and raising a family together are obvious examples. Getting my first book, Mucho Caliente!, published is another example that springs to mind. I may be a chicken crossed with a scaredy cat but, increasingly, I realize I have a quiet resilience that can get me through tough moments and frustrating situations. Not only do I dare to dream, I also dare to do. It’s exhilarating, though no less terrifying. My half Italian origins will always erupt in my armpits. So what? I’ll just buy extra strength deodorant! My bladder will continue to make unreasonable demands. Pff! I’ll engage my pelvic floor! Dealing with my speed buff heart will be more of a challenge, but I’m pretty sure that, sooner or later, the German government will impose speed restrictions on its motorways. And when it does, my pulse won’t have any more reason to skip the border, and will instead cruise calmly ever after along our radar infested Swiss motorways. I hope so, because it would certainly take the edge off bringing balloons home from parties.

Francesca Prescott

I live in Switzerland, in a small village just outside Geneva, with my husband, two teenage children, a giant Yorkshire Terrier, and a gluttonous Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Kwintus, my horse, lives about fifteen minutes away. I started writing about ten years ago when a friend of mine launched a magazine aimed at Geneva’s ex-pat community and asked me whether I’d like to contribute. I’d always enjoyed writing, so I wrote a couple of articles and sent them in. Not only were they accepted, but when they were published I began to receive fan mail. I must be the only author on the planet whose first paycheck for a published piece was a voucher for a pedicure from a fan!

"MUCHO CALIENTE! - Wish upon a Latino Superstar"
Available from BookStrand

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Crunch Time

Hi Everyone,

I'm delighted to say I've been sticking to my diet and exercise plan and (drum roll, please) have lost 2 pounds. I do miss my old starve yourself for two weeks and it's all over diet, but I'm sticking to the 'have patience and keep it off' plan.

Right now the urge to a) not diet and b) chuck work and go for a nice autumn hack are knocking at the back of my mind, mostly because it's crunch time with my next book coming out December 3. Before I became a published author I thought you wrote the book, sold it to a publisher and voila, people bought it.

Oh, I was so wrong. Writing the book was the easy part. Of course, when I'm writing a book about horses my imagination takes over and it's a joyous adventure unfolding on the pages. This book, NEVER TRUST A MATCHMAKING WITCH, was especially fun to write because I including magic and comedy in the mix. My witch is an accomplished horsewoman whose hobby is matchmaking for her mortal friends and she's very good at it. She's also extremely wealthy and I had a lot of fun creating the barn of my dreams. The horses in NEVER TRUST A MATCHMAKING WITCH live in an equine version of The Ritz.

Now for the hard part. After polishing a book to a gleam and selling it, the next steps is editing. The book you love comes back covered in requests for changes and improvements. When I received this part I had to put it aside for a day until my heart stopped racing at the amount of work I needed to do in a short time span. I got through this phase with much hair pulling and exhaustion and sent it off with the kind of relief I used to feel in college after finals were over.

Ah, peace. Nope, here come the galleys. Now is the time to go through the book, page by page, looking for any little typo, misspelled word, anything at all that is less than perfect. No pressure here, though. This is also where the author prays no larger errors are found, because changing them at this point is a risky move. It has to go into production very soon.

While all this is going on, there's also promotion. In my fantasy world as an unpublished author I thought one went to some book signings and that was about it. In my real world there is a long list of interviews, online chats, and a plethora of other time-consuming activities an author must do to advertise each release.

Still, even with all this, I absolutely love writing fiction, especially fiction about the horse world. I have a genuine affection for the characters, both magical and mortal, in NEVER TRUST A MATCHMAKING WITCH. I hope you enjoy them as well.

Ah, well, the autumn hack will have to wait. I may indulge in a long, hot bubble bath when today is done with a book by one of my Equestrian Ink buddies!


Monday, November 17, 2008

The Girls . . .

by Kit Ehrman

As I reflect on the last two horses that I had the privilege of owning, my post touches on an earlier subject: geldings versus mares.

My first horses were geldings, the last two mares. When I went looking for my third horse, I was well aware of the “rumor” that mares were annoyingly temperamental, but I decided that I’d give them a try. If my future mare was injured and could no longer be ridden, at least I’d have the option of breeding her.

I must admit, now that I’m better educated on the issues of horse slaughter and equine overproduction, I would not have that mindset today if I were looking for a horse. Breeding a horse is a huge responsibility. You need to be certain that there’s a high demand for the resultant offspring, and you need to be willing and able to socialize and train the colt so that he grows up to be a desirable mount or the horse runs the risk of being unwanted and unsalable.

Okay, I can see I’m all over the place topic-wise tonight, but after researching for my next book, the whole, ugly slaughter issue is on my mind. As I look out my window, at my neighbor’s pasture, I’m reminded of the importance of breeding wisely. They have seven “miniature” horses—a concept I have a hard time understanding--and an unknown (to me) number of horses, and they are rarely handled. I never see a vet’s truck and can’t remember the last time I saw a farrier visit the farm. But they had a miniature stud, and for that very reason, they felt compelled to breed their stock. But where will those unschooled and poorly cared for animals end up if they’re sold? They’d have to be extremely lucky not to find themselves in an auctioneer’s lot.

So, if you’re going to breed your mare, please make sure that she’s a quality, highly-sought after animal, and be prepared to put a lot of time and effort into the foal.

Okay, off my soapbox and on to my lovely mares. My first one was a delicate, dark bay thoroughbred who’d raced but was none too fast. She was a little grumpy and didn’t much care for being groomed, but I had some wonderful rides on her. When she was in the mood, she was like driving a Ferrari. Soft mouth, round back, nice easy gait. I swear, I just had to “think” the move, and she’d do it. When she was relaxed like that, she was a dream to ride. Other days, she’d swish her tail and grind her teeth and generally be a pain in the ass to ride.

So, Missy supported the temperamental myth, all right, but I didn’t care. She was special to me. I know some friends couldn’t see what I “saw” in her, but that was okay. Next time, I’ll tell you about my Appendix Quarter horse mare.

Happy reading and riding,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Two-Week Update

I am so sorry. I've been really, really bad. First of all two weeks ago I came down with a nasty cold. Then a week ago last Friday, my hubby and I took a 4-day weekend to the San Juan Islands (See the picture above). As a result of being sick, eating out four days straight, and still not feeling great, I've not achieved any goals, except writing. Plus, I forgot to post my update last Sunday. I've only ridden twice in two weeks, and I couldn't muster up the energy to reply to any of your comments.

I promise you, this is so out of character for me. Usually when I decide to do something, I go
after it with single-minded dedication. So starting tomorrow, I'm going to rededicate myself to this weight loss thing and to my riding.

I did write 32 pages last week, not bad considering that I felt too lousy to write for a few days.

BTW, I'm want to say hi to the two people from my area who posted that they were at the Buck clinic a few weeks ago. It's really fun to find out that we have readers nearby. Maybe next time one of you would like to volunteer to do a guest blog on the clinic? Hint, hint!

I did have a lesson on Thursday. My mare is testing my patience, let me tell you. For as long as I've owned her (10 years), she has had this thing in the winter where she shies consistently in one corner of the arena. Not always the same corner either. This year she's picked two corners that are too scary to go into. Over and over we work on this until at the end of the ride she's not shying. Then, the next day, I get to start al over again. This has been going on for about 2 months this time around. I am truly fed up, but I know losing my temper won't get me anywhere. I'm going to chalk it up to that stubburn German breeding. My trainer has a new idea to perhaps cure her. I'm going to give it a shot this week. I'll let you know if it works.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Guest Blogger--Mary Caelsto--Frosted Poines

Hi, everyone, I'd like to welcome guest blogger and fellow author, Mary Caelsto, talking about why she loves winter and horses.

Mary Caelsto indulges her love of intriguing new worlds and spirituality by writing science fiction, fantasy, and metaphyiscal non-fiction. She currently runs Jupiter Gardens, LLC and its publishing division Jupiter Gardens Press, where she hopes to share her love of the spiritual and the fantastic through books and products designed to nurture people’s inner worlds. In addition, she’s created Equus Manifest for people to get together and discuss all aspects of horses and equestrian activity.

Being a lifelong Iowan, I’m not ashamed to admit that winter is my favorite season. Sure, it could be because that’s three months out of the year that my allergies don’t bother me. Or it could be the stark beauty of the season. I may fuss over my pasture boarded mare, concerned that she’s not warm enough. And yet, I long to see her, and her pasture-mates in the morning with frost on their backs and whiskers. Really, is there anything truly more heartwarming than throwing your arms around a fuzzy winter-coated horse and just holding on tight?

Because my mare is a companion animal, and she’s pasture boarded, she’s kept as natural as possible. I trim her feet, but she goes barefoot. I curry her thick, winter coat, and brush out her tail (and the inevitable burrs from August to October). She doesn’t require a lycra horse hood or two layers of blankets. Pressed in with her buddies, tucked into the corner of her shelter, she’s nice and warm. It is truly amazing, after all, how well horses are built for the winter weather. Their hooves insulate them from the ground and their thick coat protects from most anything
mother nature throws at them.

With a whicker and a plume of frosty hay-scented breath, my mare greets me when I go out to the stable. I hang onto her when the ground is slippery; she has four feet and I skate around on two. She looks at me like “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be leading.” I always reply that it’s her job to hold me up. Considering that she’s an “easy keeper”, she’s a lot sturdier than I am when it comes to making our way into the barn.

Wearing full-length coveralls. Banging the ice out of buckets or sloshing chilly well water on your boots. Frozen thighs and the inevitable mud, mud, mud that comes with spring. For just one glimpse of frosted ponies, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

When you’re a horse owner, every season is beautiful, but I think winter is the most beautiful season of all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Creating a Novel

Or, What I Ought To Be Doing

By Laura Crum

Creating a novel is what I ought to be doing—not writing this post. I’ve decided that “books not blogs” needs to become my mantra. I have enjoyed this whole blog thing so much that I am procrastinating way too much on getting my 11th mystery written. Instead I put a few comments on someone’s blog, or go check out what mugwump has written lately. Blogging is fun. I like it that it’s a form of dialogue. Its addictive.

So, what about my next mystery? Aren’t mysteries fun to write, too, you ask. Or I am imagining that you ask. The answer is that I thought mysteries were wonderfully fun to write for many years. I delighted in painting word pictures, in telling stories, in giving my view of the world through my books. Being an author is in some ways very narcissistic (whether we’re talking blogs or books). This is how I see it, this is my take on it, this is my voice singing my song. It can be pretty; in a great writer (not me), it can be thrilling. But it is a certainly a form of ego.

Nothing wrong with that, really. We all have egos; we all like to sing our songs. But after writing ten books, I am finding it harder to get engaged by this form of self expression. I tend to like the blogging because people answer back, people argue, you bounce your thoughts off the wide cyberworld. Its interesting. So now I have to start reminding myself of all the things I’ve loved so much about creating novels over the years; I need to talk myself into telling one more story, singing another little song.

For me, the most interesting part of creating a novel is writing about things I truly love. Writing about the horses, the landscape, the seasons and weather, the plants and animals, Gail’s life changes, her family…this stuff engages me. The only problem? These are supposed to be mysteries. Somebody has to die.

Yep, I confess, I am bored with killing people. I begin each novel (including #11) knowing who gets killed and why and by whom, and then I let the plot evolve as I write. Frequently I find I need to kill someone else midway through the book or everything starts to drag (to paraphrase Dashiell Hammit, when the plot bogs down, I “bring in a man with a gun”). I find myself reluctant to describe all these murders; this is nothing that I feel drawn to, for heaven’s sake. I begin wondering how I ever got into the mystery business. It doesn’t help that I realize that many/most successful mystery authors do a very good job of keeping the reader gripped with their scary/horrible descriptions of the murder scene. Obviously, I am falling down at my job. I keep wanting to write about horses…and not about anything bad happening to them, either. Needles to say, this is a drawback in a mystery writer.

Then, as the book comes to a close, I have to invent a suitably exciting climactic scene, which in my case usually involves a “thrilling” horseback chase, something I’ve become known for. Hopefully these are thrilling to read. They used to be pretty fun to write. But at this point I almost feel like quoting large sections from previous books…how many ways can I describe galloping along being chased or chasing someone? I try every time to find freshness, to use some new approach. I bring to mind my most exciting horseback moments. Every wreck I ever had or saw is fodder for my poor protagonist’s adventures. By basing the horse scenes on things that have really happened, I try to keep them believable.

In each of my books I endeavor to use a different plot line than any I’ve used before. I try to bring some new changes into my protagonist’s life. I try to write about some aspect of the horse biz that I haven’t addressed. I try to create a different central crime. I really strive to stay engaged with what I’m writing. Sometimes this doesn’t work in my favor. Some readers would rather I wrote a “new version” of some of my past books that were favorites, rather than moving in a truly new direction (Slickrock is often mentioned in this context; “couldn’t I just do another one like that?”). But I keep changing what I’m doing (at least slightly) from book to book, so that I don’t become so bored with the character that I can’t write about her any more. The perennial struggle of a series author.

Anyway, I’m putting this out there in the hopes that you all, authors, readers, and bloggers, will give feedback on your own writing/reading issues. What do you like to read? What don’t you like? What are your writing/creating struggles? Maybe I can draw some inspiration from your thoughts and get motivated to finish this book. I hope so. The deadline will be here in a few months. I’ve never missed a deadline yet. If this becomes the first time, I’m gonna blame it on the blogs. (Do you think my editor will buy this excuse?)

Happy reading and writing!
Laura Crum