by Mary Paine
Hope everyone is going to have a wonderful holiday weekend with some great time with their favorite horses!
Overall, I've been very fortunate to have received wonderful feedback on my first novel, A Dangerous Dream. However, I had an interesting comment from one reader that I would love to get some more opinions on. In A Dangerous Dream the setting is a hunter jumper facility whose trainers show at the Grand Prix Level. The junior riders are primarily training for Medal/Maclay. The barn manager is a talented woman with a gift for horse care, veterinary needs, barn and staff management who doesn't have the same level of interest in being in the saddle. My lead character, Melissa, is hired as her assistant. Melissa has a great love for horses and experience working with a veterinarian and teaching beginner level riders. What she does not have is a great deal of formal training in the saddle, either.
I wrote a scene where Melissa is taking a lesson and working on seeing her distance. Now personally, I was riding for many years before I really nailed this skill and to be honest, I was always hard pressed to be really confident about my approach when I was more than three or four strides out.
The comment from the reader was that no barn would hire a barn staff member to be an assistant who was not skilled in counting strides. I've been at a couple of very high quality barns where there was a barn manager or assistant I felt very happy trusting my horses' care to who weren't really great riders. Their focus, and their love, was for caring for the horses from the ground. This was perfectly okay with me as we had trainers to school the horses.
What has your experience been? Do you feel the staff at a hunter jumper barn need to be comfortable with jumping in order to meet the job requirements of caring for the horses?
I'm going to have many more books (I hope) with equestrian settings, so I definitely want to make sure my settings are realistic to my readers.
Happy Holiday, Everyone!