equine

Horse Sluts & Candace Wade

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When you see a book titled, “Horse Sluts”, your ears immediately perk up – especially when you’re from the South! Candace Wade is a tenacious writer, an enthusiastic rider, a fun loving and energetic gal that I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy getting to know.

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Tell us what a typical day in your life is like:

My brain jangles with “What shall I write and where can I sell it?” If I have an assignment, it’s “How can I give them what they want and still sound like me?”  I’m a joyous and dedicated recreational rider – in my 60’s – with a high insurance deductable, so exercise is vital.  Riding-targeted exercise helps keep my body “riding ready.” Exercise focuses my brain. My daily trek to the gym is as “no excuses” as brushing my teeth.

 

I start writing by 9:30 a.m. This is my job. Discipline and organization is vital for me – much like the equestrian arts, right?  3:00 is quittin’ time. Brain fried — bum numb — the dog needs to walk, etc., etc., etc.

 

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Ex-Odysseo horse – my lesson horse, Quiebro – Spanish

How did you get started with horses?

The intro to my book Horse Sluts reveals that answer.  Okra is not a fair trade for abandoning orgasmic fresh croissants and authentic Chinese and Mexican food of San Francisco. I felt learning to ride would be a more regionally enriching pastime than swilling sweet tea given the massive life change of moving to Middle Tennessee.

Tell us about your horses and why you chose each of them:

I don’t own – I rent/take lessons.  I help other people pay their feed bills.  I’ll ride any horse that is sane and willing to put up with me. 

 

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Beginning polo lesson — Franklin Polo Academy

 

What impact have horses made on you as a writer?

Got an hour?  Discipline, health, sanity, of course.  But, the “are you kidding me” saga of learning to ride as an adult led to the book, Horse SlutsHorse Sluts was an entrée to magazine articles and the Equus Film Festival NYC.  A woman at the festival championed me as a candidate to write what turned out to be a series on the rescue and rehab of an ex-big lick Tennessee Walking Horse show horse. Theo, of “Saving Theo,” has been my inspiration, my teacher, my sacred duty, my beautiful boy. His story won me a WINNIE Award for writing at the EFF NYC. And, so it goes.

What made you want to be a writer?

(Shrug.)  Seemed like something I could do. I’m not an, “I always wanted to be a writer” or “It’s my passion.”  I do crave the constant honing of craft, the editing for quality, the limitless education.  To me, quality writing is vital for effective communication.  It is a duty.  Bad writing is an affront.

 

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Candace and Theo — picture courtesy of Ilona Gerou Lovely boy — TWH

 

What would you consider your biggest milestones so far as a rider and as a writer?

I did not give up last year when barn after barn, my riding resources closed down. After a series of sorrowful not-the-right-fit tries, I found riding nirvana. My instructor is taking me past the “adult rider” fears.  I am eager to learn to jump, to canter bare back, whatever she offers to me. I know I have improved and am thrilled to keep going.  As a writer, besides being entrusted with Theo?  Hmmm, I would say being willing to walk away from a $1000 article fee when too many of the “suggested” edits were stripping my voice from the piece – and I knew that the suggestions were pedestrian.  I was satisfied with the compromise in the end – and – cashed my check.

What is your latest writing project and what is the inspiration behind it?

Kudzu, a “fortified” non-fiction account of our new life in TN after 45 years of being forged (like steel) by liberal, diverse, environmentally dedicated, animal rights conscious California.

If you had to give one piece of advice to a beginning rider what would that be?

After finding a trainer who instructs in the way you process information?  Relax. Feel that you are the two extra legs in a six legged animal. Don’t watch cowboy movies – that’s not equitation.

What are some of your goals for the next year?

A story in the New York Times magazine.  A first draft of Kudzu that doesn’t make me cringe and scout for a job at Home Depot.  Jump a two foot oxer. Canter bare back without it being a monumental feat. Help get the PAST Act enacted.

For the writers out there who want to take their writing to the next level, what advice would you give them?

Read quality writing. Write, write, write.  Cut, cut, cut. Walk around inside your story. Get out of the way — too much voice is distracting.  If you have heard a phase used, don’t use it.

Any additional parting words of wisdom?

Rejoice the small successes. Rejoice at the journey.  The destination is just another destination.

Keep up with Candace…

Candace Wade

Los Angeles to San Francisco to Franklin, TN (since 1999)

www.candacewade.com

Horse Sluts – Facebook

Horse Sluts – The Saga of Two Women on the Trail of Their Yeehaw.  Amazon

 

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THE GRULLA Film Script…

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THE GRULLA film script is an adaptation of my book, Lost Betrayal…..

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LOGLINE FOR THE GRULLA –

A determined cowgirl enlists the help of a former bull fighter and drug addict in the search for her horse that is still mysteriously missing after a tornado destroys her ranch.

In 2014, my first book Lost Betrayal was released by Solstice Publishing. The tale of the lost horse, Houston was marketed as western romance – there is a good bit of romance between Sage and Garrett throughout the whole story – the truth is that this is a much bigger tale than a traditional romance. Considering the heart wrenching real life inspiration behind the story,that really doesn’t come as a big surprise.

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I originally got the story idea for Lost Betrayal years ago when I was involved in shipping some vet supplies for large animals that were victims of hurricane Floyd in 1999 on the east coast. There was an aged stallion that had been rescued after a week in flood waters only to become blind from a reaction to a medication. That’s when I found out that large animals are often the last to be rescued, and the last to receive much needed veterinary supplies and food.

For years I worked on the story that at that time had no name. It haunted me and never would leave. Then in the spring of 2013, I was at the Fort Smith Barrel Futurity competing for the week when a large string of tornadoes hit Moore, Oklahoma just a few hours west.

At one point we were under a tornado warning there at the futurity grounds and were ushered into the main conference building while the storm raged just outside where our horses were stalled. Fortunately, we missed the bullet but let me tell you, for an east Tennessee gal that was scary!

We watched the news following the storm and saw the deadly destruction of homes and farms. The tornadoes had hit several large horse farms and there were massive piles of dead horses that had been killed by the storm.

We also heard reports of horses that were severely injured and missing, and horses that still needed rescuing. In fact, there was one horse that was missing that originally came from a family I knew very well in east Tennessee.

For some reason, the devastation felt closer, my heart ached for everyone that was impacted and it gave me the final push I needed to finish the story that had seeped into my bones a decade earlier.

Here’s the film synopsis for THE GRULLA…

 THE GRULLA is the story of Sage Witherspoon who loses her best horse in a devastating tornado and the journeys they both take to eventually bring them back together. In the end Sage finds hope, and true love in the arms of Garrett Wade.

Already a reluctant and bitter widow in her mid- thirties, Sage is just getting her life back together when a tornado touches down destroying everything in its path including her family ranch in northern Georgia and the very horse that the ranch’s future hinges on. Refusing to believe her horse was killed in the storm and refusing to give up on the ranch, Sage begins the journey of rebuilding her life once again and searching for the horse that to her holds the past, and her future.

Houston is an odd name for a horse but he is named after Sage’s father who died not quite two years ago. The grulla colored horse garnered the name as Sage’s father said he’d never amount to anything even though the horse was the culmination of years of what he had tried to achieve in his breeding program. In that sense, the young stallion ironically represents her father’s dreams and one last chance to prove him wrong. With an uncanny athletic ability, the three-year-old stallion also represents Sage’s dreams of finally having a top contender barrel horse to put the ranch on the map.

Garrett Wade is a cowboy in his late thirties trying to forget the sordid past of his younger rodeo days. When he’s asked to help with the tornado rescue efforts, he meets Sage. Unfazed by her constant attempts to convince the world that she can do it all on her own, Garrett sees past all that to the real strength and vulnerability that lies beneath. The next thing he knows, he’s pulled along on a wild horse chase.

Eula Witherspoon, Sage’s mother, came to the ranch when she married Sage’s father and has lived on the Witherspoon Ranch her whole adult life. Although she was raised with horses, Eula wants nothing more than to live a glamorous life in the city. As the years passed, the ranch began to represent everything she couldn’t have in life. When the tornado destroys it all, Eula sees the opportunity to start over but only if she can convince Sage Houston has died and the ranch is done. Eula betrays her very own daughter to finally gain the life she dreams of.

The stage is set when Houston spooks and bolts from Sage into the storm. It’s then that Sage realizes that a tornado is coming their way. Sage runs to the house to warn her mother, and then returns to the barn to release the horses from their stalls before the tornado hits. Sage can’t save the last horse and must take cover in a freezer used for feed as the tornado levels the barn.

The tornado is the largest they have ever seen in that part of the country and the local folks immediately start a search and rescue effort with anyone willing to show up. That’s when Garrett gets a call from his friend, Herman Miller who asks him to come and help as they are overwhelmed the devastation.

The next day as the search efforts continue, Garrett finds Sage who is unconscious among the debris. With a little coaching, he wakes her up only to find his damsel in distress is somewhat rude and can’t remember a thing. It’s only after Sage accidently sees the mangled remains of the last horse she tried to save that she remembers what happened, and that’s when Garrett first sees the softer side of her that draws him in.

In the aftermath, Houston is still missing and injured and has wandered onto the property of a no-good horse trader, Arthur Gilliam. He can’t feed the animals he has and the last thing he needs is another mouth to feed, especially a stallion without papers. Arthur leaves the young horse to die in his pasture. Houston doesn’t die, and Arthur recognizes the brand on the horse’s hip as belonging to the Witherspoon ranch and calls Eula Witherspoon hoping for a reward. Instead she pays him to make the horse disappear.

Sage immediately starts the task of getting her ranch back in order, against her mother’s wishes. Eula tries to convince her daughter to give up, telling her, “You know, all your hopes for this place rested on that young horse and he’s gone now. It might be time to finally think about selling out.” Sage responds by reminding her mother of the last time she sold her out, and telling her she’s not going to sell.

While they’re in this heated discussion at what’s left of the ranch, Garrett shows up to check on Sage and help with clean up. It’s then that they get to know each other a little more, and Garrett offers to help with ongoing fence repairs.

Arthur’s greed gets the best of him as he realizes he can take Eula’s money and sell Houston to farrier and fellow trader, John Cobb. John has two sons, Benn and Jess. John finds out first hand Houston is dangerous. But just like Sage, he sees the young horse’s potential. He warns his two little boys, Ben and Jess, to stay away.

While Houston is getting settled in to his new home, Garrett shows up to work on Sage’s fence. Shortly after he arrives, Sage’s high school boyfriend and insurance agent, Nick stops in to bring bad news. There’s not enough money to completely rebuild, and Nick also attempts to get Sage to sell out but Sage stands her ground. Garrett also poses the question that maybe Nick is interested in more than just Sage’s insurance and wants to rekindle an old flame.

Back in Houston’s world, boys will be boys and they want to impress their father. Jess defies his father’s orders and gets too close to Houston who accidently kicks him in the head and kills him. In his grief, John grabs his gun and lines up Houston in his sights only to be stopped at the last minute by his youngest son Ben.

Garrett and Sage continue making progress on the ranch, and in true cowboy style Garrett surprises Sage with a picnic. It’s then that he asks her out on a date to the nearby horse sale where maybe she can find out if anyone has seen Houston.

Houston’s future drastically changes as John chunks him off at a horse sale and sells him to a pen hooker at the gate which happens to be a rodeo stock contractor, Travis Meyers. Travis wants the big horse for his bucking stock in the bid for the National Finals Rodeo.

Garrett and Sage finally go on their date and kiss for the first time. Both are somewhat taken aback by the fireworks between them, but Sage is over thinking the whole relationship and tells Garrett she wants more than just a fling. Garrett tells her to relax and stop overthinking. He’s not out for a one night stand.

While Garrett is trying to not act like a wayward stud, Travis has his ranch hands Sam and Pete geld Houston. Sam and Pete get Houston caught and hogtied, but in the middle of the removing the horse’s testicles, he kicks almost injuring both men.

Travis’ wife, Pam, also takes a liking to the big gray horse as a barrel prospect and she wants the horse just as bad as Travis. The problem is that Pam’s eyes are bigger than her horsemanship skills. She decides to ride the horse the very next day after gelding so he won’t buck as much but he still launches her into the dirt, head first. It’s then that Travis knows Houston is his ticket to the NFR finals.

Back at the Witherspoon Ranch, the house is almost finished. As Sage is checking out the progress of the house, she thinks she’s alone when suddenly Nick shows up. As he’s attempting to rekindle an old flame with Sage in his arms, Garrett shows up unexpectedly.

Garrett is full of rage and feels like a fool for even thinking he had a chance with Sage. He tries to leave but Sage begs him to stay and tells Nick to leave. The next thing you know, the two are passionately entwined in each other’s arms and almost to the point of no return. Against his nature, Garrett pulls back and tells Sage he doesn’t want to make love to her on a kitchen floor, he wants more than that.

Suddenly Garrett realizes part of the reason that he came to see her in the first place. He’s gotten a lead that Houston has wound up in the hands of Travis. Garrett used to work for Travis years ago. As Sage pushes for information, Garrett must reveal his sordid drug past to her and the fact that he had made a pass at Travis’s wife, which seriously jeopardizes their plans to get Houston back.

Sage and Garrett sneak their way into the rodeo to get a look at the horse they think is Houston. Sure enough, it is Houston but they’re caught by Travis who doesn’t want to give the horse up.

Travis knew someone would be looking for such a nice horse so he did his homework and is a little very happy to share what he’s learned. It’s then that Sage discovers Houston wandered on to Arthur’s property and the reason he was missing for so long was because Arthur had made a deal with her own mother to make him disappear so she’d give up the ranch.

Fortunately, Travis’ wife Pam sees dollar signs and a chance to make a buck. Against Travis’ protests she offers to sell the horse back to Sage for a decent sum of money. Sage doesn’t have the kind of money that Pam is asking but Garrett knows who he was dealing with and has brought the money. He pays the price so Sage can get her horse back.

Once Sage has her horse back home on the ranch, she only has one more hurdle to cross, confront her mother about her betrayal. Sage is too devastated and angry to face her mother and decides to stay with Garrett for a few hours to clear her head and get some rest.

When they arrive at Garrett’s quaint little cabin, the passion heats up and they finally consummate their relationship.

The next day it’s time to face reality again and Sage meets with her mother. When Sage finally confronts Eula, she sees her for who she really is and discovers Eula had arranged to sell to Nick from the very beginning. Sage offers to sell a few acres and release her to live her life.

The story ends with a happy little twist. No one knew that Houston had bred one of the mares that survived the storm. The surprise foal has just as much attitude as his sire.

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The script is currently being submitted to film managers and agents. Inquiries can be sent to qheventer (at) yahoo.com . Also visit my page on IM Db Pro.

Talking With Connie Johnson Hambley

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If you love horses and you love a good suspenseful tale, you need to check out Connie Johnson Hambley. Not only did she grow up with horses and is an equine therapy volunteer, Horse Nation has hailed her as one of the most exciting writers of our time. I think you’ll enjoy getting to know this fascinating horse author.

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What was it like growing up on a dairy farm in New York? What were some of the horses you rode and what did you do with them? 

In a word? Idyllic because I had the best of both worlds. My small hometown is located within an easy drive to New York City. My family enjoyed outings to The Big Apple to go to museums and plays, but we all heaved a communal sigh of relief to return home. I confess that I was not chore-bound on the farm, so any story of me waking up at the crack of dawn to milk cows is <ahem> fiction.

But, riding and caring for my horses was a different matter. I don’t recall the first time I was on a horse, but I do remember my first fall off one! I was about four when our Tennessee Walker, a bay mare named Abigail, shied and dumped me, knocking me breathless and scaring the heck out of me! Maybe that’s why the horses I chose as I became a better rider were chestnut geldings. Bojangles, a Quarter Horse with a sadly low IQ, was the sweetest guy ever and the best schooling horse for perfecting my English Hunter Seat equitation. Foxfire, the horse I’m pictured with when I was sixteen, was a 16.2 Anglo-Arab with a mind of his own and wings.

The best part of learning to ride when living on a dairy farm was after the lessons were over. I would gallop across the fields as fast as the horses could carry me and jump over streams, walls, trees – anything where the horse and I could be one for the intoxicating moments when we were suspended in air. Bo and Foxy loved the freedom. The emotions I felt during those rides are something I try to bring to life in my books.

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How do you feel growing up on a farm influenced your writing?

I have vivid memories of how certain days felt. I had all of the other angst kids have growing up – friends, cranky teachers, clueless older brother – but I also had wide-open spaces I could retreat to and figure things out. A hellish day in middle school was made better with a good ride – even in the rain. Any animal owner will tell you that critters don’t know your worries. They just care if you treat them well. Throwing my arms around the neck of my horse, inhaling his sweet scent and letting him soak up my sorrows helped me sort through all of the normal stuff of growing up.

Farm life allowed me the luxury of thinking, and horses were my oasis. I value my memories as I know how unique my experience was. It gave me a strong moral centerpoint where I ground all my characters. My main character, Jessica Wyeth, is a world-class equestrian. Even though the outer world she inhabits is foreign to most of my readers, her inner world is familiar and welcoming. She’s likeable and relatable.

Windrush Volunteering Kathy
Volunteering At Windrush Kathy

You volunteer at an equine therapy facility – tell us about that. What is your favorite thing about volunteering there and why?

Since I’m currently a horse-lover without a horse, I get my equine fix through volunteering. The focus of being a horse handler is on safety. The clients I work with have a variety of physical and/or emotional challenges that may make a quick response to a horse’s sudden movement difficult. I’m there to let the riders expand their skills as much as possible, but I’m watching the horse at all times to protect against the unexpected.

I can’t state enough how transformative working with certain clients has been for me. Relationships develop. I feel like I receive more than I give. One client has written her first short stories ever – and she’s 50 years old! I’ve also worked alongside survivors of human trafficking and have been honored to watch these women regain a sense of personal power and control through their interactions with horses.

The inspiration for my short story, Giving Voice, published in WINDWARD: Best New England Crime Stories, (Level Best Books, 2016) came from working with these remarkable women.

Kathy windrush winner
Kathy windrush winner

How long have you been writing, and how did you first get started writing?

I’ve always gravitated to communicating via writing, but I learned how to write in law school. Crafting a persuasive legal brief requires many of the same skills to write a good thriller. Knowing the structure of your story and knowing who your audience is are essential to delivering a tightly woven story to your readers or a judge!

I used my skills when writing articles for Bloomberg BusinessWeek or other periodicals. Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, the beginning process is very similar. There is inhaling research and processing information to find out exactly what you want to say. The first time I allowed myself to exhale fiction instead of a brief or journalism piece, I became an addict. My life changed.

What is your favorite book that you’ve written? Why is it your favorite?

Not fair! You can’t ask a mom who her favorite child is, can you? Well, you can ask, but the clever (book) mom will answer, “I love each in their own special way.”

Okay, that said, it’s time for a true confession. As I write, I am constantly learning. Sometimes I’m just learning more about my characters or my story, but most times I’m learning something about the craft of writing I feel makes me a better author.

I’ve written each book of The Jessica Trilogy to stand on its own merits without the reader needing to read a prior book to understand the current book. I’ve been known to nudge people to read The Troubles first, especially if they like family sagas with dark secrets, but if your readers want to jump into a book with a strong story about therapeutic horsemanship, then The Wake is the place to start. The Wake is also timely because it takes place during the Olympics! (Well, the summer Olympics, but still!)

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Where did you get the idea behind the books?

The Charity started as a love story, but the worlds surrounding my characters complicated their relationship . . . and that’s an understatement. I live in Boston, where generations of wealth impact politics and society in seen and unseen ways. Money and power drive good people to do bad things and I wanted to create a story where you questioned what characters are good guys?

I didn’t start out thinking I was going to write a trilogy, but each book had one little fuse that, when lit, exploded into another story. The Jessica Trilogy unfolds the story of a woman who uncovers the money behind a Boston-based cell of the Irish Republican Army. Each book encapsulates one distinct stage of her discovery. The Charity shows what happened, The Troubles explores why it happened, and The Wake answers how the characters move forward in a world turned upside down.

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Why do you feel horse people enjoy your books so much?

In a nutshell, I write smart, gripping thrillers with an equine touch that both mainstream readers and horse lovers enjoy. The “horse book” genre can be a mixed bag of young adult, romance, coming of age, or mystery with predictable story lines and simplistic writing. That’s great for many readers, but leaves readers who want a meaty read empty handed. A reviewer in Horse Nation magazine said my trilogy reawakened her to the joy reading a great novel can evoke. (horsenation.com/2017/11/30/book-review-the-wake-final-book-in-the-jessica-trilogy/) I respect my readers’ intelligence and weave layered stories populated with complex characters that culminate in dizzying climaxes. Think of a wild steeplechase on paper and that’s how I write my books.

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What is your current work in progress?

I’m busy writing short stories, some of which appear in Best New England Crime Stories anthologies published by Level Best Books. I’m digging into a novel with a whole new cast of characters. Find Cally is set in the decaying factory towns of New Hampshire. Dak Turner, a hardscrabble dad, searches for his teen daughter in the labyrinth of human trafficking aided by Sienna, a trafficking survivor who uses the knowledge gained through working with rescued girls at her therapeutic riding center to dismantle trafficking networks. You know, a little light reading.

What words of wisdom to you have for the writers out there?

Just sit down and write. Do it. Don’t give up. Finish one paragraph, then add more. Finish the story. Edit. You have a wonderful and unique story in you. You can do it! Also, find your tribe. Get support. Writing can be isolating.

What are your goals for 2018?

Finish Find Cally and continue reaching readers through a combination of social media outreach and speaking engagements. I am the Vice President of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime, a national organization of mystery and crime writers. SinC provides wonderful support for aspiring and published authors and I’m thrilled to be a part of them. I have opportunities to speak at literary festivals, writers workshops, libraries, book stores and more because of the reach and reputation of SinC.

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Any parting words?

I love connecting with readers, so find me and connect! I do video-chat book groups and love to connect with readers! Time zones aren’t a problem.

WAYS TO STAY CONNECTED….

SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE: www.conniejohnsonhambley.com

FACEBOOK: http://bit.ly/facebookcjhambley

BLOG: http://bit.ly/outofthefog

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/ConnieHambley

PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.com/cjhambley/

LINKEDIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/conniejhambley/

 

BUY LINKS:

THE CHARITY: http://www.amazon.com/Charity-Connie-Johnson-Hambley-ebook/dp/B009E7TUYM/
THE TROUBLES: http://www.amazon.com/The-Troubles-Jessica-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00VYV8X08/

THE WAKE: https://www.amazon.com/Wake-Jessica-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B073NQ1HK5/

 

Story Projects For 2018….

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I finally finished writing the film script for Lost Betrayal

So now begins the process of getting it in the hands of an agent that truly believes in the power of this story as much as I do. With a lost horse, a redeemed cowboy and a horse gal that just won’t give up, this really is a big story needs to be seen on the big screen. So stay tuned! Just like Sage, I’m not giving up on getting it there!

On the book front, my goal for 2018 is to do a good bit of book signings at various businesses and events in east Tennessee. I love connecting with readers and horse folks and I’m hopeful that this coming year will bring more opportunities to do just that.

At the end of December, B&B Auctions in Sweetwater, Tennessee hosted a book signing for my books. B&B Auction, located off of I-75 south at exit 62, holds auctions every Tuesday and Thursday night featuring sellers from all over the southeast. Not only did I get to hang out and see some neat stuff sell at fabulous prices, but talk with some pretty cool folks too!

Earlier this month, the Dinner Bell Restaurant, also located at exit 62 in Sweetwater, hosted a book signing as well. I met one reader in particular who I thoroughly enjoyed talking with that owns an Egyptian Stallion. It’s always fun to chat horses and books!

In addition to the book signings, I have a couple of new projects in the works.

One project is a picture book that Tab and I are working on together – Beauford The Patriotic Donkey. It’s in the very early rough stages of development and we still have to figure out what we’re going to do on the artwork, but suffice it to say Beauford is a very cantankerous donkey!

Roo the rooster sets him straight about the fact that when you live on the farm, everybody has to have a job. In the process, Beauford also learns the farm value of being patriotic and loving your country. I love what this story teaches kids, and I’m looking forward to seeing it develop.

Another project is a story about demonic possession. This is a paranormal story that I started several years ago and it is so compelling, I knew I had to pick it back up! It brings up some unusual faith questions no one ever seems to mention so I knew the story had to be told. It’s about half finished at this time.

Horse N Ranch Magazine recently published a couple of my articles on training tips for when you can’t afford a horse trainer. I’m hoping to write more horse articles this year as well.

Here’s to 2018 being an epic year on the writing front!

Talking With Author Carly Kade 

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This week I talk with horse writer Carly Kade about her new book coming out, and winning the Best Western Fiction Winnie Award at the EQUUS Film Festival.

Tell us a little bit about what your day to day life is like. 

 

I’m a busy cowgirl, and it can be difficult to fit in time for my creative writing, so I designed a plan for my writing life. I get up every morning at 5:30 am and start my day by writing before I go to my corporate job. At the end of the week, my husband reads back to me the chapters I’ve written. The routine works. I finished two books this way, and I’m already writing the third. Having scheduled time for my creativity really helps move my books forward. I am not a morning person, but the commitment to my morning routine keeps my creativity alive. 

 

Also, I made the rule to “touch” my story every day.  As long as I stay engaged with what I’m writing, the world I’m creating is never far from reach. It’s when I’ve been away from my words for extended periods of time that I find it hardest to get back to writing it so I try not to let that happen.

 

In addition, I have a patient husband, two dogs, and a horse waiting to spend time with me. Being at the barn fuels my creativity and helps me refresh from my life as a corporate cowgirl. I do what it takes to fit in my much needed barn time (although it feels as if it is never for as long as I’d like). Somehow though, I always make everything work and feel so fortunate to be able to have the life that I do. 

 

It isn’t always easy! There’s a lot of heavy lifting involved in getting a dream underway, but I am really proud of the creative life I’m inventing for myself!  

 

Do you have horses? Tell us about them and what you do with them. 

 

When I’m not writing or reading, I’m riding my horse. I am a member of the American Paint Horse Association and love competitively showing my Paint Horse, Sissy. I recently moved to Arizona so I’ve just started to explore all the amazing horse show options that my new home has to offer. I feel fortunate because it seems like there’s a horse event (almost) every weekend here, and I board my horse at a picture perfect ranch nestled between mountain ranges. It’s the kind of place I dreamed about as a girl! 

 

The classes I usually show in are showmanship, Western horsemanship and Western pleasure. Recently, I’ve been back in my English saddle and am thinking about showing in some hunt seat classes again!

 

Just like a make an effort to “touch” my novel every day to keep close to my characters, I make an effort to see my horse every day. Take a tour of my social media channels, carlykadecreative.com or my YouTube channel and you’ll notice my horse, Sissy, is pictured a lot and appears in my promotional videos for In The Reins as the lead horse character, Faith.

 

Here is the book trailer starring Sissy as Faith: https://youtu.be/Glv2Bz-WB-E?list=PLzxx3R-kABSVHJFnmwgn_6vZ3W98S3akk

 

How did get you started writing? 

I’ve always enjoyed creative writing and was recognized as a young author.  My education involved Advanced English and Creative Writing courses, but I didn’t set out to publish a novel until McKennon Kelly, the leading man from In The Reins, came to me like lightning one day in the form of a poem. I vividly remember the day I furiously scrawled him in my journal. That poem ended up being the intro to the book. 

 

From there, I just wrote the novel that I wanted to read. Beverly Cleary once said, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.”  I think I’ve read everything in existence about horses, cowboys and romance.  However, I couldn’t many horse book series written about my particular discipline. 

 

I wanted to read a love story themed around the type of horse shows that I liked to compete in. There are a lot of equestrian novels out there focused on dressage or jumping or rodeo but I hadn’t found many that focused on Western pleasure competitive horse showing at breed shows like Quarter Horse, Paint, Pinto or the Palomino Horse Circuits.

 

When did you get more serious about writing, and what was that process like? 

 

The story seemed to beg me to tell it, but I still pondered whether I should write a book or if I even could. Writing a book is scary! You put your creative self on the line for people to hopefully enjoy, but also to judge.

 

One day, I asked my husband if he would read my manuscript to see if what I had written had any merit. One thing to know about my husband is that the only book series he’s ever read was the Hunger Games on our honeymoon. As he read my story back to me, two things happened. I sat there and thought to myself “who wrote this” and “where was I while I was writing it” because it sounded pretty good, and then I noticed that my husband was laughing, smiling and engaging with my words. He put the manuscript down in his lap and said, “This is really good. You have to keep going.” So, I did.

 

When I started really writing In The Reins, I knew I wanted readers to feel like they were falling for the leading man as they turned the pages of my story. Generating that kind of feeling was my goal – what I wanted to create for readers – so In The Reins naturally became a romance novel. 

 

I’ve always loved reading and have been riding horses since I was seven. I know that I sure wouldn’t be able to resist reading about a handsome cowboy who knows his way around horses so I wrote about what I knew … horses and cowgirl culture.

 

You did very well at the Equus Film Festival. Tell us what the festival is about, and your experience being a part of that. 

 

It was so exciting when In The Reins was named an official EQUUS Film Festival literary selection, and then went on to win the Best Western Fiction Winnie Award.

 

I met so many amazing fellow authors, filmmakers and readers in New York City. The EQUUS Film Festival is an excellent platform for bringing the storytellers of the horse world together through films, documentaries, videos, art, music and literature. 

 

The EQUUS Film Festival expanded its reach into the literary world because of the books that inspired the films screened at the festival over the years.  The decision to add awards for literary works was to introduce new and existing authors to filmmakers looking for their next equestrian story. The festival organizers work to place authors with filmmakers to help develop partnerships through the EQUUS Film Festival.

 

I made a little tribute video to my spur-jingling journey in NYC so my readers could go behind the scenes of the EQUUS Film Festival with me. My cowboy helped me shoot footage as I attended the four-day equestrian extravaganza! We filmed it all – beginning with the VIP Gala & culminating at the equine equivalent of the Oscars called the Winnie Awards.

 

You can watch it here: https://www.carlykadecreative.com/blog/video-go-behind-the-scenes-of-the-equus-film-festival-with-equestrian-author-carly-kade

 

Tell us about your books.

In The Reins is the story of a city-girl-gone-country, a handsome cowboy and a horse that meet by fate on a southern farm. She’s looking for a fresh start and unexpectedly falls for the mysterious cowboy. But the leading lady finds herself wondering if the man with a deeply guarded secret can open himself up to the wannabe cowgirl in the saddle next to him.  

​I like to think that In The Reins captures the struggle between letting life move forward and shying away from taking the reins. Reader reviews suggest that I’ve written a love story sure to touch the inner cowgirl. I hope so!

Cowboy Away, the second book in the In the Reins series, picks up right where we left Devon, McKennon, their horses as well as the Green Briar bunch. It chronicles the history of how things became the way they were in In the Reins. Readers will meet new characters as the book journeys through McKennon’s past. In Cowboy Away, McKennon becomes a cowboy on a quest for revenge and hits the road with nothing but his memories, a pistol and hope to put his demon to rest.

 

Cowboy Away, the sequel to In the Reins, will release in 2017. Early reader, Laurie Berglie, author of Where the Bluegrass Grows says, “Sequels can be difficult to write, but not for Carly Kade. Cowboy Away is fantastic and without a doubt one of the best sequels I have ever read. This follow-up to In The Reins brings McKennon’s and Devon’s story full circle, yet leaves you hungry for more! I very highly recommend this equestrian romance!”

 

The books are available in Paperback and eBook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  Audiobooks are in the works for both books, too!

 

Buy a signed copy from my website: https://www.carlykadecreative.com/buy-the-book.html

Or from one of these fine retailers

Amazon: http://a.co/fvgIrOO

 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/in-the-reins-carly-kade/1123120771?ean=9780996887908

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/in-the-reins

How does your love for horses impact you as a writer? 

I wanted to include a romantic relationship in my story that built on life lessons experienced in the horse world. Horses build character and require dedication. They are a big responsibility and teach us compassion, as we often have to put their needs before our own. I am a better human because I’ve owned horses.

 

I’ve heard that my characters are flawed but likeable. There are a few Bridget Jones style mishaps for my wannabe cowgirl, and she often has to dust off her boots then try again. My heroine heals her broken heart through her love for her horse. Devon invests in her relationship with her horse as much as she does with the humans in her life. I think I built a strong female character willing to face her fears head-on. Devon is committed to becoming a better horsewoman by listening to her heart, her mentors and her brain (most of the time). Her relationship with her horse is a primary part of the story. Perhaps, she is better in her relationship with her horse than with humans.

 

My history with (and rich knowledge of) horses is definitely a reason why I think other horse lovers have been drawn to the book.  I know what it feels like to enter a show pen and be nervous.  I know what it feels like to feel stuck with my horse’s training.  I know what it feels like to swoon over a cute cowboy.  Giggle!

 

I hope that sort of authenticity comes through in my writing. I’m a horse owner. I’ve shown competitively most of my life. I write about my lifestyle, not something I’ve researched, but what I do.

 

Some of the best feedback I’ve gotten though has been that non-horsey readers say that one doesn’t have to love horses or have knowledge about them to enjoy my story or fall in love with the characters. Many readers are actually enjoying the fact that they are learning so much about the human-horse connection because of my book. That makes my spurs jingle!

 

What are your biggest challenges as a horse person and a writer? 

 

The biggest challenge is finding the time. 

 

When it comes to writing, my favorite Stephen King quote is, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” I always worry I won’t have anything to write, but then I sit and make the time and the story magically starts writing itself through me. That is why the morning routine is so important.  It forces me to make the time to sit and write … no excuses. 

 

What are your goals for the next year?

 

As far as my writing plans, this is just the beginning! McKennon and Devon’s story definitely continues. This is a horse book series of at least four. The sequel to In The Reins will be out this year, and my goal is to have the third installment out in 2018. 

 

The crazy thing is that the fourth book featuring the characters is bucking up a storm in my mind and already taking shape on paper! I am writing the third and fourth book simultaneously. I am super excited about the journey this series is taking me on!

 

A fun fact is that I’m learning that there are a lot of JD McCall fans out there so I’m playing with the concept of a novella that tells the tale of my bull riding heartthrob with swagger!

 

If you had to give a piece of advice to a new horse owner, what would it be? 

Take the time to get to know your horse. 

In In the Reins, my Cowboy McKennon Kelly tells wannabe Cowgirl Devon Brooke this about her horse, Faith:

“Any real, beautiful thing in this world shouldn’t be tamed or claimed or broken. It should be allowed to be, worked with, not against, appreciated.”

That’s how I feel. Take the time to build a relationship with your horse.  When I feel Sissy’s stride beneath me, everything else fades away and I revel in being in the NOW. 

 

When I was younger, I was very competitive and went to a lot of horse shows.  A friend once said something to me that really stuck.  She said, “What about just being a horse owner and enjoying that?” That question really resonated with me. 

 

Now it’s the simple pleasures of horse ownership that I have come to enjoy most … long grooming sessions, the meditative rhythm of barn chores, a lazy Sunday ride. 

 

Take the time to bond with your horse. It is the most rewarding part of horse ownership.

If you had to give a piece of advice to a new writer, what would it be? 

 

My advice to an aspiring author is make the time to write! I recommend setting a goal like writing for 60 minutes uninterrupted or not stopping until you’ve reached a thousand words. Just start … that’s all you have to do. 

I highly recommend reading “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King. I loved the book as a reader and a writer. This is a book for anyone who writes, anyone who aspires to write, anyone interested in knowing a little more about the life of an author, or someone interested in knowing more about Stephen King as he gives a brief history of what led him to where he is now. It’s a fascinating read!

 

Also, I think it is very important to support fellow authors. Recently, I saw a graphic on Twitter that said, “Other authors are not my competition. I stand with them, not against them.” I strongly agree with this statement.

 

It makes my spurs jingle when authors unite. I’ve learned so much from other authors and appreciate how unique each of our writing journeys is. I think it is so important to support each other and share knowledge among us.

 

When dreamers band together and support each other anything is possible. You can’t do it on your own. In order to give back to the community, I host an Equestrian Author Spotlight on my blog where I interview other equine authors. I LOVE horse books!

 

Ways to keep up with Carly Kade –

 

www.carlykadecreative.com

amazon.com/author/carlykade
goodreads.com/carlykadecreative
facebook.com/carlykadecreative
twitter.com/CarlyKadeAuthor
Instagram.com/carlykadecreative
pinterest.com/carlykadeauthor

Watch Carly Kade Creative Videos on YouTube

 

 

Talking With Author Liz Hughey

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I met Liz on Twitter and immediately fell in love with her story, Barney The Lopsided Mule. As a fellow author and lover of the outdoors, she’s someone I can relate to and I think you will too!

Liz Hughey is a single mom to one, and an outdoor, equine, canine, feline, and bovine loving, life enthusiast.  Also, a self-published writer and poet to a series of children’s books, highlighting mules and mule packing, the first being Barney the Lopsided Mule.  Her twenties were spent working as a trail guide, packer, and sometimes cook, for outfitters in Northwest Colorado.  Now, 38 years old, she is a mom to a four-year-old son.  Also, the grazing manager of her family’s grass fed/finished Red Angus beef ranch in Southeastern Indiana, Blue Creek Cattle Company, LLC.  Hughey & Son ride their mules and horses as much as their schedules permit and are love living life in the rural Midwest.  But still, Liz’s body and mind dream of the horseback riding, mule packing, and mountain exploration of her twenties. 

You work on your family’s cattle ranch that raises Red Angus. Tell us a little about what your daily life is like. 

Well, it really depends on the day and the season.  I’m a full-time mom to a four-year-old boy and plan my ranch life accordingly.  I am very lucky and blessed to have a family that makes this possible.  Most of our days are planned around an animal activity, or rather, many animal activities; feeding horses and mules, taking care of laying hens, dogs, cats, moving cattle onto new pasture, riding horses and mules, etc.  There are also many dog hikes and creek adventures, lots of fort building.  I’m a believer and a follower of a holistic lifestyle and the slow food movement, so most of our meals are prepared at home.  The typical day for me starts around 7:30AM, 30 minutes of yoga/Pilates, multi-tasking of cooking breakfast (my son loves sunny side up eggs and homemade sauerkraut for breakfast) and morning animal feeding of cats, dogs, chickens, and horses/mules….my son has taken over the feeding of cats and chickens for an allowance of TSC toys.  On days that we are feeding/moving cattle we try to be with them by 11AM, weather permitting.  Obviously, in the winter things need to happen earlier, and they do.  But in the SE Indiana summer while grazing cattle, moving them to new pastures is best after the morning dew is off the clover, this is my rule anyway.  I’ve been mentored that dew on clover can cause bloat. 

Moving cattle consist of running lines of electric fence with fence reel, stepping in post, moving water and mineral into the new section, portable shades if we’re in the heat of summer, and picking up the section from the previous day.  I usually try to set up a few days at a time.  We do all of this with the help of a Polaris Ranger.  My son either helps me by hooking up the water skid to the Ranger or carrying posts.  Or he has an assignment of looking for and catching tadpoles, frogs, toads, box turtles, grass hoppers, etc. depending on the season.  He is also the Official Mineral Mixer, mixing kelp and diatomaceous Earth in the portable mineral feeder with his toy excavator.  Its so cute to see his little legs in there.  Add the garden in the spring and summer and firewood in the fall and winter, along with lunch and dinner, snuggle and story time, and you have yourself a full day.         

Previously the family ranch was a conventional cattle operation. What changes has the ranch made and what are the plans for the future? 

My family and I, Blue Creek Cattle Company, LLC., manage our pastures with a herd of Red Angus cattle.  In 2010 we started moving the cattle to a new smaller section of pasture every day.  We section off our larger pastures and hayfields, after the first cutting, into smaller sections, giving the cattle new high quality and desirable forage every day.  To prepare for this we added infrastructure of water lines to fence rows, making water accessible to the cattle though out the pasture.  We also added water trough skids, portable mineral feeder, and portable shades to the equation.  Having these tools allows us to manage where the cattle hang out during the day, spreading their valuable nutrients and giving back to the pasture.  We keep the manure out in the middle of the pasture instead of under the oak tree on the perimeter.  We also invested in a bale unroller so that we can unroll bales of hay on our hayfields in the fall and winter instead of feeding in a lot, adding organic matter to the soil.  Doing all of this has increased our grazing season by over a month and added much diversity to our ailing pastures and hayfields.  Our cattle now work for us doing a job that they love, grazing.                

You also work with horses and mules. Tell us a little bit about getting to do that and how that influences that stories that you write.  

I love working with horses and mule, it is a passion and hobby that I have had for many years.  Nothing better than taking a ride, and someday, riding will again be my main daily activity.  However, Horses and Mules are not part of my primary job of moving cattle, so they unfortunately take a back seat to bovine.  At some point in time I would love to teach myself and one or two of our hoofed friends to reel and unreel fence and pick up posts with me in the saddle.  That mental photo paints a great image in my mind and brings a smile to my face.  But now, with a four-year-old in tow, it’s just too much for me to bite off.  Currently, my work with the mules and horses is centered around caregiving, weekly riding, and giving my son a foundation in horsemanship.  My son will have memories of digging in his sandbox while equine graze the surrounding yard.  I ride as much as possible and one of my son’s chores is to ride his mule Ben once a week.  We do driveway rides.  I sometimes have my own steed, but am on foot most of the time while he digs through his pommel bags for snacks and juice boxes and enjoying the ride.  I am happy to report that my son took his first mule ride last week without me touching the lead rope.  I can now ask him to independently lead the two old men, one at a time, to the rail for their daily senior feed.  He ties a good knot too; must run in his blood.  In the winter months we visit the barn twice a day for feeding, my son tossing flecks into stalls and manning the nylon fork, building piles of loose hay to catch himself as he jumps off the stack.  I don’t want to force this life on my son, he doesn’t need to love farm/equine/ranch life.  But he does need to know this type of life and be comfortable in the saddle.  I feel that these skills will be used, consciously or subconsciously, no matter what path he chooses in life.  Giving him this foundation is a major influence and inspiration in my writing.       

Do you write full time or part time?

I write part time.  I cannot choose the exact times though, I must be flexible.  Writing tells me when it needs to be done.  It’s funny, I can have endless months of writing….then it just runs dry.  Sometimes it comes at 2am, I have to get up and write down the thoughts or they may be lost in sleepy dreams and gone by sunrise.  I do not feel like I’m alone in this.  If inspiration were constantly firing, it would lose its magic.  I love to write mule, horse, and cattle poetry; lights me up, makes me laugh.  My current publications are children’s book’s, inspired by wanting to share equine experiences and memories with my son. 

Spring 2017, we self-published Barney the Lopsided Mule, introducing children to a pack mule with a relatable problem and the lesson of healthy eating habits.  Barney has earned an Amazon Best Seller and an “Honorable Mention” from the New York Book Festival.  Barney the Lopsided Mule will also be up for a Will Rodgers Medallion Award, created to recognize quality works of cowboy poetry that honor Western Heritage, in the children’s book category.      

The second in the series, Pack String Hang-up….A Mule Trail Tale, introduces children to an entire string of mules and the different personality strengths and weaknesses that accompany them, with a lesson in forgiveness and teamwork.  Pack String Hang-up….A Mule Trail Tale will be available for purchase by Thanksgiving 2017.  Both books are available on Amazon, author signed copies available on my website, http://thecowgirlpoet.com/shop.html

One can occasionally read a bit of my equine philosophy in Western Mule Magazine, a fantastic monthly mule publication, filled with stories of the trail and training recommendations.  http://www.westernmulemagazine.com/

I also have work featured on my website, http://thecowgirlpoet.com.  And have had a poem, “The Salty Ones” chosen for the Oct 2017 issue of Cowboy Poetry Press, https://cowboypoetrypress.com/

Tell us about your books. Are the characters based on people and animals in real life? 

My current work is inspired by people and animals in my life.  If my close friends and family read my writing they may see themselves or relive experiences that we have had together, but I rarely mention names.  They wouldn’t mind though, I don’t write painful memoirs.  The mule books are all about the pack mules that I worked with in my twenties.  With them, I do name names.  My memories of packing and outfitting are so fond that I feel it’s important to immortalize the mules and freeze the time with their names.      

How do you think your stories make an impact in today’s world? 

I want to take kids back to nature, let them know it’s OK to get dirty, and enjoy a life without constant screens.  I say this as I type and look at my laptop.  The world of mule packing and outfitting is slowly fading away.  That is not my assessment, but the assessment of many packing and outfitting friends.  Finding people that want to work hard and do a tireless job is hard.  Packing/outfitting is not for everybody.  Owning an outfitting business is for a select few.  For this life to survive, kids need to know that it exists.  With so many young adults taking “Gap years” and time to reflect on life after they have earned an education, it seems to me that the perfect way to spend this time, summer breaks too, is on horse or muleback exploring our nations beautiful National Forests.  I have a dream that one day two dude wranglers will be sitting in a barn between rides, talking about what influenced them to spend their summer or fall riding and packing, and Barny the Lopsided Mule is part of the conversation.

 

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to creating stories? 

Finding the time to do create them.  I have a note pad with a list of stories and poems to be written, many started and not finished.  I just need the time and a rested mind to get there.        

What are you biggest joys in writing?

Creating a story and rhyme that is simple enough for a child to understand and funny enough to make an adult laugh.  I love the feeling of all cylinders firing while writing a poem.  When its flowing, it flows out of me like water.  I have no idea where it comes from, my brain, my heart.  Wherever, it makes me, an adult, laugh. 

If you had to give advice to an aspiring writer, what advice would you give?  

Write it down.  If you think of an idea or a line at 2:30 in the morning, get up and write it down, because it may not be there in morning.  Ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to cold call or send a note to your favorite writers and heroes, the worst thing they can tell you is “NO”.  You will never know until you try.  Use social media, I know its scary to put yourself out there, but you can reach the world with your writing in one key stroke.     

 

Living On The Edge

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This time, instead of doing the usual interview questions, I thought I would do something a little different as this young rodeo competitor, Zakk Tompkins of On The Edge rodeo apparel, has quite a story to tell. You can find Zakk and his brand on Twitter at @OnTheEdgeRodeo . Check out his  unique brand on his website at On The Edge apparel.

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I’m a 23-year-old cowboy, entrepreneur and freelance writer born and raised in central,IL.

Running both a full service equine facility, and an apparel company, keeps me fairly busy! Average days consist of feeding and caring for the 18 horses we have on site providing full board, training and lessons. Whether it be cleaning stalls, fixing fence or working colts my days are filled with these chores for the most part.

We currently do about 20 lessons a week with folks of all ages. Lessons are western riding ranging anywhere from complete beginner to those wishing to compete in rodeo. The latter is perhaps the most important part to me and the motivating factor in continuing even during tough times.

As a young kid, like many others I wanted to be a cowboy. Although I didn’t fully understand all that the lifestyle and job entailed, I knew wanted to be a part of this amazing subculture. Unfortunately, I was already committed to competing in wrestling and martial arts.

I began training Muay Thai with my dad at age two, as he had competed professionally prior to my birth. I vividly remember religiously watching episodes of Walker Texas ranger and then having to “Walker fight” my dad after each show. This consisted of him being the bad guy and me of course playing the part of Chuck Norris. By about 4 years old, my cut kicks were leaving sizeable welts on my dad’s legs which apparently was a green light to further my training.

As the years went on my training continued. I began to compete across the country at national events. Although I loved the sport and travel, I always wanted something a little different. I just wasn’t sure what.

School work and sports came easy. I had many friends and a seemingly happy home life. Yet, even though I was only twelve, I was slowly loosing myself, slowly dying. As fear, doubt, and anger consumed me, I fell into a deep depression.

I don’t tell you this to make you feel sorry for me, I tell you this because I want everyone to see and realize that depression is a biological disease. One that does not discriminate between race, gender or socio-economic status.

The ridicule at school became nearly unbearable. I was withdrawn and depressed and couldn’t explain why. Being someone who relied on logic, the feelings of sadness and anger being inexplicable were totally unacceptable to me. No matter what I got or how good life was, I was depressed. Coming home only to lay under a blanket in total isolation. Weight gain and self loathing followed. I allowed the symptoms of the disease to consume me.

This was a mistake that at the time I wasn’t aware I was making, and had no idea how to combat it. As the symptoms worsened, I finally spoke with a professional. In the midst of getting the help I needed, things continued to worsen.

At age 13, I left a suicide note and ran away from school. I will never forget every detail of the steps I took that day. I was found very shortly by my father who had been contacted by authorities. As he eased my mind and convinced me to come home I felt some relief. I was admitted to a local mental health facility where I spent three agonizing days. Help was not immediate and it took years and personal dedication to make any headway.

Although I still suffer often from depression, I have found one of the greatest God-given coping mechanisms – purpose via horses.

One thing that drove me to get help from day one was that I knew others, who were less fortunate than me, were suffering the same as I was. As I slowly dropped out of traditional sports and grew older, I found various ways of becoming involved with horses.

I began dating a girl from school my freshman year who had a few Haflingers and was involved in Pony Club. Although English wasn’t my first choice for riding, it was my only option. My girlfriend at the time began teaching me to care for and ride the horses they had. Before long, I was volunteering full time at a local barn. I worked seven days a week doing the worst jobs you can find on a farm. I did this as a way to afford lessons.

I spent every free moment watching people ride and train, learning what I could. I watched and read everything I could get my hands on. Eventually, I got a paying job as a glorified stall boy at another local barn and took the horse I had purchased there. After about a year and working with several other trainers in both cutting and pleasure, I began leasing the property and running Westbrook Stable. This is the full service facility I now run.

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When I took over, it was a small operation providing boarding only with about 8 clients a month. Over the past three years, it has grown to 18 horses, a lesson program and training.

Having struggled through the grind to get where I am, I wanted to find a way to give back. We began a rodeo team for youth and adults that provides all the necessary equipment, knowledge and connections at the most affordable rate possible. It is amazing how many young lives we have been able to touch, and honestly is better than any medicine I’ve ever been prescribed. It took a combination of correcting the chemical imbalance, professional therapy and a LOT of self-help.

My girlfriend and I now compete in rodeos across the Midwest in barrel racing and tie down roping respectively. And yes, we are seeking sponsors!

This eclectic background is what drove me to start my apparel company called On The Edge. I wanted a brand that represented a lifestyle. I began designing apparel with a message. The message was simple – Lose the fear and doubt, live on the edge and chase your dreams! The brand is still small, but is gaining steady business we sport my brand and travel the rodeo circuit.

As last year was my rookie year in IPRA, I had a lot of tough times and lessons to learn. I’m now practicing harder than ever. In tempo with my usual MO, my goals for this year are sky-high, yet attainable. I am currently working to gain sponsors as well as preparing myself to chance to compete in RFD Tv’s The American. I will also be part of a six shooter series put on by a popular stock contractor on the IPRA circuit and am looking forward to a chance at winning the series and buckle.

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If any one person can take an ounce of motivation from my story of struggle and perseverance, then it has all been worth it. My personal strategy every time I back in the box is to improve on ONE predetermined area of my roping during that run. Perfection is great but only comes after the building blocks are set in place. With that in mind, I don’t expect to be perfect.

My pastor, Jason Schifo was a major factor in my mindset. After hours and hours of talking with him, I finally realized that perfection wasn’t ever going to happen. It was beyond my control. What was in grasp of my control was the proper mindset, and remembering to get better with each and every run to the best of my ability. Leaving it all in the arena, one run at a time.

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