Writing and horse riding are two things I came to later I life, both around the same time and both at a point where I was looking for a new challenge.
For anyone who has read my books – or even seen the covers – you’ll know that horses feature strongly in my writing. So today I thought I’d tell you a little about how my love of horses developed and how they came to feature in my stories.
Like many people I spent the odd few hours trail riding when I was a teenager. I never had a fear of horses but didn’t have the undying adoration some other teenage girls have. It was a pleasant way to spend a few hours with friends in a nice setting.
Many years later I was fortunate to buy a holiday property on the south coast with my husband, just down the road from where I’d ridden as a girl. By this time I had two young daughters who wanted to go for a ride every time we visited. It was the perfect set up – plenty of access to horses without the cost of owning one ourselves. But when the riding school closed down that perk ended and we found – too late – that the girls were hooked.
Many hours of lessons and many dollars down the track, my eldest daughter ended up riding a horse for a friend-of-a-friend who was pregnant and couldn’t ride. That was probably the turning point. My daughter fell in love with the horse, Sprite, who we ended up buying and it snowballed from there.
Spending so much time with horses meant I too was soon smitten and bought a horse of my own, Morocco. Learning to ride properly as an adult is a scary thing and I’ve had to confront of lot of fears but it’s been worth it. Having three daughters of course meant we couldn’t stop at two horses and before long we were a four horse family with my husband content (sort of!) to drive the float and be the proverbial pack-horse.
We have spent many hours at Pony Club competitions, western riding comps and mucking out stables. Not living with our horses full-time makes it difficult but we’re lucky to live reasonably close to where they are boarded. And it doesn’t stop us from acquiring more!
Sprite and Morocco are still with us and we’ve acquired a few more over the years including a foal named Rio who is now two and a half and shaping up to be a real star.
When I wrote Blackwattle Lake I decided to follow the advice ‘write what you know’ and after so many years around horses they seemed a pretty obvious choice. There’s a dramatic horse rescue scene in Essie’s Way (based on a true story) and a case of Hendra virus that triggers the events in my upcoming release Close To Home.
The whole process of learning to ride, for me, is so similar to writing – facing your fears, going with the flow, following your instincts and I’ve been lucky to be able to indulge both passions simultaneously. I face my fears every time I get my horse out to saddle up and when I sit down to a blank page but in both cases I tell myself I’ve done it before so I can definitely do it again!
Horses are the most beautiful, intuitive, forgiving creatures and although I sometimes look at our bank balance and curse the day I ever let me daughter ride that first horse, I’m eternally grateful that we’ve all had the chance to be involved with such amazing animals.
Would love to hear your stories of how horses have inspired you in your life or writing.