Today, please welcome Meghan Namaste, who recently published a novel called Training Harry, which she describes as a "new equestrian saga for adults."
Training Harry is available right now as an eBook on Amazon, with a print version in the works.
Erica Rimwork is an everygirl, fighting her way up the ranks as a hunter/jumper trainer. She isn’t gorgeous, or highly successful. Perpetually single, she’s focused on her goal - an Olympic show-jumping medal. Or moving out of her parents’ house would be good too.
When she agrees to help out her brother’s friend with a troubled horse, Erica is totally unprepared for what she finds. The friend is Lawrence Cavanaugh, a rogue polo player with intense eyes and tight-fitting jeans. Mind blown, Erica finds herself agreeing to help train his renegade polo pony, Harry. For free. She knows what she’s in for - Harry is a mess, rank, thorny, and maddening. But unlocking the mystery of Harry’s resistance is one thing. Getting the guy is a lot more complicated.
Meghan has provided us with an excerpt from Training Harry, so enjoy:
Lawrence’s place was pretty close by, but off the beaten track. The route veered gradually, taking me away from the prestige and uniformity of my neighborhood. The scenery shifted from white-fenced Thoroughbred palaces to hay fields and small family farms. Lexington’s natural beauty was more evident out here, and I gazed out the window as my truck wound its way through narrow two-lane roads and eventually made the turn onto an unmarked dirt road.
I knew the place where he was living, vaguely. It belonged to a family friend. She’d inherited it when her husband died and it had stood empty for a long while. I guessed Lou had helped hook him up with it.
I pulled in the drive and shut down my vehicle. Looking around, I could see the old stable was still in good shape, wearing the patina of age and slight neglect. There were several paddocks nearby, but no horses were turned out in them. The footing in the outdoor arena had been harrowed recently. But the farmhouse drew me in the most. It was small, just the right size for a person or two, with windows all around. That is a house I could live in.
I climbed out of my truck and slammed the door, piercing the quiet. I heard a horse call out and then the door of the house opened. Before I knew it, Lawrence Cavanaugh was standing in front of me, shaking my hand. "Hi there," he said warmly. "You must be Erica." I nodded like one of those absurd-looking bobbleheads. I couldn't speak. Hell, even breathing was difficult.
He stood no taller than I did, just under six feet. He was lean but not skinny, and he carried himself like a Thoroughbred in the post parade, all taut, controlled, dangerous energy. His hair was jet black and it fell haphazardly around his face, the longest of it ending below his jaw. His eyes were unbelievably dark and so intense that it both thrilled and terrified me to be so close. I tried to comprehend how I had missed him before, when he used to hang out with Lou. Was I blind?
Slowly, I became aware that I was staring at him. I knew I needed to stop, but it seemed an impossibility. Feeling embarrassed, I pulled at a stray thread on my shirt. Don't panic, I told myself. He's probably used to this. All the same, I hated my lack of self control. I could almost hear the seconds go by.
Fortunately, Lawrence threw me a lifeline. "Harry's in his stall. I left him in this morning so as not to waste any of your time. He doesn’t like to be caught."
I smiled gratefully. "That was good thinking. Well, I'll get started with him then."
Almost surprised by my newfound ability to form words, I followed Lawrence to the barn, noting that the back view was as righteous as the front had been. Well, that's not going to help you concentrate, is it?
We stepped through the barn door. My stomach was floating unnaturally with anticipation.
I saw Harry immediately. He was black with a bold white blaze on his face. That was all I could tell at first. He was straining against his stall door, weaving slightly. At the sound of our feet he turned his head and focused on me. The weight in his stare was shocking. There was more behind his eye than there should have been.
I stayed back, watching, as Lawrence clipped a lead to his halter and brought him out. “Meet Harry,” he said.
I could see the potential my brother had spoken of immediately. Harry was athletic and muscled, yet streamlined. His legs and feet were well built and clearly up to the rigors of polo. He stood up as if on tiptoe, poised. The whites of his eyes were prominent, like an Appaloosa. My heart was suddenly very loud in my ears.
We moved Harry to the cross ties so Lawrence could tack him up. Harry stood well for the process, but I could see his mind working overtime.
"So. What kind of problems have you been having with Harry?" I asked, like this was just a normal training gig with a normal owner and a normal horse.
Lawrence stopped what he was doing, a stirrup leather frozen in his hand. His eyes went even darker for a second. “He…” Lawrence seemed to be doing a lot of editing. “He has no work ethic,” he finally said.
“What do you mean?” I needed more information than that.
“Harry could easily go along with what I want. I’m not asking for much, at this stage. But he won’t. He works himself into a lather fighting against me. He’d rather fight himself ragged than walk in a straight line when I ask him to.” Lawrence stared dimly at Harry. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
I walked around to Harry’s near side. “I assume he’s been vetted?”
Lawrence snorted. “Flexed, poked, prodded, x-rayed, scoped by the finest vets in Wellington. He’s had a bone scan, an MRI even. There’s nothing wrong with him.”
I didn’t bother asking about saddle fit. I could see the saddle was a match, and even if it wasn’t, horses are adept at tolerating a little pain. This issue went way deeper. Whatever it was.
Lawrence went to Harry’s head, fastening the noseband and throatlatch. I realized I would have to ride soon. Harry seemed to realize it too. His head came up, and his calm demeanor vanished. Staring at his twitching muscles, I felt my confidence retreating. Lou said he’s not a rogue, I reminded myself. Lou said he’s not a rogue.
Oh, hell, what does Lou know? My brain rebounded. Lou hasn’t even seen the horse!
Lawrence handed Harry's reins to me.
I looked into Harry’s quivering eyeball, then back at Lawrence. He was waiting, ready to take Harry’s reins back. He thought I was going to bail. I turned back to Harry with resolve. He wasn’t any different than the young, fractious ex-racehorses I started all the time. He was smaller, too. I hesitated for a brief moment, then fastened my helmet. "Come on, Harry," I said in my best fake self-assured horse calming voice, "Let's have some fun."
I led Harry to the arena, pulled down the stirrups and mounted up. He stood obediently. Encouraged, I gave him a long rein and brushed him with my leg.
When I got on a new horse, unless they were totally jazzed up and ready to buck, I always gave them a minute to just walk out, and I followed them with my seat and hands, asking nothing. It gave me a chance to get used to their rhythm, and I found it made them more agreeable in the end. Horses didn’t subscribe to the same social standards as people did, true, but it seemed to me that it was rude to jump on a new horse and immediately start demanding things.
Harry did hesitate. I let him have that moment of uncertainty, and then he picked himself up and walked on. His neck was upside-down, and his head floated above the contact I offered. But he walked dead straight.
I patted him, turned him in the other direction, and gave his sides a light squeeze. He burst into the trot, skittering around in a quick tempo. I controlled my posting, lingering in the air each time I rose, and Harry slowed his gait to match the rhythm I’d set for him. Encouraged, I picked up the contact, wrapping my inside leg against him and fluttering the reins, reaching down to touch his neck whenever he softened.
I changed direction a couple times, bending him different ways. Harry was melting, answering me, giving me the power to shape him. That was a big deal for a horse like Harry. But I could see, from the glimpses I caught of his eye as I rode him, that his mind was far from quiet.
Gently, I brought Harry to a halt. I patted his neck, which wasn't even sweaty. And I looked up from the black curve of Harry’s neck, right into the equally dark and deeply-set eyes of his owner. He was smiling.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Meghan, and best of luck with your new novel. Once again, the Kindle edition of this book is right here: http://www.amazon.com/Training-Harry-Meghan-Namaste-ebook/dp/B00H3QAZK4/
Happy Reading, everyone, and hope you and your horses are staying snug in the bitter weather many of you are experiencing!