Yes, Horses Do Show Up In Most Things I Write

There’s a video of me at the age of six where I proudly announce, in Dutch, that I want to take horseback riding lessons (or, I guess more accurately, “horse lessons”). Lucky for me, there was a small horse farm fifteen minutes from where we lived. When I was seven, I started taking lessons there. And my intense love of horses has never faded. All through school, including Undergrad, I rode at least once a week, usually more. I even started showing in sixth grade through 4-H, though I was never the biggest fan of it. The first show I went to wasn’t one I was in, but one I went to watch. I don’t recall most of it, but I strongly remember getting stepped on three times by various horses while wearing flipflops. Which insane parent let me wear flipflops to a horse show?

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From riding them to reading about them to playing with horse toys to collecting Breyer statues that I still own to this day, I fully immersed myself in being a crazy horse girl. I even wrote about them.

The first story I remember writing was started in an unlined journal while sitting in the airport, probably on the way to or from Holland, and to no one’s surprise, it was about a girl who had horses. Now, I can’t remember what it was about beyond that, but I’m almost certain it was inspired by The Unicorns of Balinor, because I’m pretty sure the characters were named Ari and Finn, both of whom are characters in that series. Either that or I just liked the names.

Horses have never stopped appearing in my stories since that first one, nor have I stopped reading about them. Once again, shocking to not a single person, one of my favorite books is The Scorpio Races, which is all about horses, both real and mythical. All throughout school I read horse books, many of which I still own (including the entire Unicorns of Balinor series), and even as an adult I still seek them out, though they’re surprisingly harder to find unless you want to read non-fiction, which is generally not something I’m searching for. This is even more true if you’re looking for fantasy. Don’t worry fellow horse lovers, I’m coming to your rescue 😉.

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Maybe that’s partially why horses play such a big role in most of my stories. That’s not to say I can’t write something without horses in it – The Children of Oher features exactly zero – but if there’s a place for them, I’ll make sure to fill it. There’s a quote by Toni Morrison that goes, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” and I certainly seem to be doing that when it comes to including horses. So yes, I do fully intend to write Spirits of the Sea solely as an excuse to write about them, because I know some other crazy horse person out there will appreciate it as much as I do.

What’s something you love that you just can’t help putting into the things you create?


What I wrote over the last week

Chapters twenty-one through twenty-four of The Children of Oher

What I’m currently reading

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

The Last Revision by Sandra Scofield

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

My Horseback Riding Instructor is Leaving, and I’m Sad

As you may — or may not — know, I love horses. I might have mentioned it a few times here and there. It might say so in my “About me” page. I’m definitely not shy about my love of horses and have fully accepted my crazy-horse-girl self. It also won’t be surprising to anyone who reads book one. Rowan is 100% also a crazy horse girl, according to my boyfriend. Which, to be fair, he kind of is. He does love horses and talks to them – kind of like me… Whoops? I have a feeling horses will appear in most of my writing in some capacity. As my boyfriend told me recently, “If I were a crazy horse girl, I’d be able to tell you’re a crazy horse girl” based on how I write about them. (Am I about to use this as an excuse to share a bunch of horse pictures? Absolutely)

I started riding when I was seven, but I realized after I left for college that I didn’t really know much beyond how to stay on the horse. Which, to be fair, is an important skill to have. I might be exaggerating a bit, but that’s how I felt. And that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the many years I spent riding where I did, because I do. So much.

I got to ride so many different horses. I got to spend ten years riding Sinbad, the best horse ever, who I still miss and forever wish I could have owned. He might have tossed me an awful lot, but I learned that was because of me. If I was just brave and unafraid of those jumps, he’d sail right over. Unfortunately, I’m still scared of jumping because of all the times I fell off. Thanks, Sinbad. I love you anyway.

But anyway, when I got to college, I realized I knew a lot less than I thought I did. And there, I once again got to ride a wide variety of horses, and I had a great time, and I made wonderful riding friends and explored trails and got to follow a 5k on horseback, which was amazing. I galloped through a field in St. Andrews, Scotland, and rode past cows and through streets where we nearly ran into a little old lady. And I did a three-hour trail ride in Ireland. After I left college, though, I still felt like I didn’t know much.

Because horses and lessons are expensive, I ended up just not riding for five years after I moved in with my boyfriend. But then two years ago I decided if I ever wanted to buy a horse (which I do, desperately) I’d better get back into lessons and actually learn how the heck to really ride. I don’t want to go into horse ownership (eventually, hopefully in the next few years) blind. Both for myself and for any potential horse I own.

And I found the most wonderful and positive and lovely person to give me lessons. We ended up taking a break because she was gone for the winter and then my mom was sick and all of that happened. But last year on my birthday I finally got back into actual regular weekly lessons. Boy was that huge five-year gap a mistake. I didn’t realize how much I needed horses until I started riding again. I didn’t understand how much I missed it until I got back on a horse. And I will never go years without again if I can help it.

I’ve learned so much from my trainer in the last year and a half. I realized what my flaws are, what I need to work on, and while I definitely still struggle not to make the mistakes, at least I know about them now, I feel like I’ve gotten much better than I was when I started riding again two years ago.

What I didn’t expect when I started taking lessons again was to become friends with my trainer. And of course I knew we were friends and I knew I liked her because she’s such a great, fun person, but I didn’t realize how much I’d come to care about her until she told me last month she was leaving.

I’ve left two barns. I’ve taken lessons from multiple lovely people and when I left or they left, it was fine. But somehow this is different. Somehow this time I’m really sad. When she told me she was moving out of state, I was shocked to find myself getting all teary-eyed and emotional. After repeatedly saying “This sucks” because I didn’t really know how else to express myself, we hugged and I actually cried. I didn’t know what would happen when we eventually parted ways – if we ever did – nor did I know how it would happen, but I didn’t ever expect it would involve me basically weeping in my car before driving home.

Have you ever been so sad that you’re just useless? Yeah, that’s how I felt that day after I got home. I know I was supposed to write. I don’t think I did. Or maybe I did and ended up writing some emotional scene about Rowan. That sounds exactly like something I’d do if I was sad haha. Anyway, the point is that making friends as an adult is weird and stupid and hard and then you make one, and when they unexpectedly have to move, it sucks hard.

I think the deep sadness came from more than just a friend leaving, though. I think it came from a combination of knowing a friend was moving away and the unexpectedness of the news when I had, apparently, expected our partnership to go on for much longer. I fully expected to go horse shopping with her helping me and then continuing lessons once I got said horse, and obviously that won’t be a thing. And I think I’m also sad about that. I feel less…certain, I guess, about horse-buying. Not that I have the money for it right now anyway, and it probably won’t happen for a couple more years. But I felt like once I got a horse, I had someone to rely on if I needed help, and now that person is leaving, and I’m not sure where to go next.

Wednesday was my last lesson with her, and I’m so bummed about it. I’m happy I get to keep riding at the barn, but it’ll be weird not getting to see her or hear her chipper voice or listen to her telling the horses, “It’s so hard to be a you.”


What I wrote over the last week

Finished up the untitled story about a girl who one day she gets an unexpected phone call from her dead mom.

“The Apex Predator” — a myth about Nora-Vel’s objects, which are all body parts of her favorite creature.

A scene that will probably take place in some capacity in The Enorians book three, during which Ien tells his friends and family they need Vivian’s help.

“The Journals of Silsia” — a story about one of the enorians who came from Enoralori through the portal written in journal entries.

As always, check out my Instagram for excerpts from said stories.

What I’m reading right now

A Torch in the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill