rodeo

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.

******

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.

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WILD DEADWOOD TALES Anthology

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Love great western stories and a great cause?

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WILD DEADWOOD TALES Anthology

Rodeos and romance, Old West adventure, and even a few ghostly tales. Deadwood’s wild past and exciting present come alive in seventeen original short stories written by USA Today and Amazon bestselling authors to benefit the Western Sports Foundation. Contributing authors: E.E. Elisabeth BurkeZoe BlakePaty Norman JagerTeresa KeeferMegan KellySylvia McDanielAmanda McIntyrePeggy McKenzieAngi MorganNancy NaigleJacqui NelsonTerri OsburnGinger RingMaggie RyanLizbeth SelvigTina Susedik and A.C. Wilson

Proceeds from this limited edition collection go to benefit the Western Sports Foundation, an organization providing critical assistance to athletes competing in Western lifestyle sports. Whether they need help recuperating from an injury or planning for the future, WSF is there for them.

website: http://bit.ly/DeadwoodTales

Here are the links to the book to prerorder at the various retailers. It is available May 1st.

Amazon http://bit.ly/WDTales
universal Link https://www.books2read.com/WDTales

Apple  http://bit.ly/WDTApple

Nook  http://bit.ly/WDTBN

Kobo  http://bit.ly/WDTKobo
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/…/sh…/39739914-wild-deadwood-tales

 

The book will be available in ebook and print May 1st, and you can purchase autographed print copies at the PBR Rodeo in Deadwood, SD on June 8th and 9th.

CASH’S CLAIM

Zoe Blake

She was his…and it was past time he staked his claim.

Jessamine Cooper was determined to stay independent and run her late uncle’s ranch on her own. When she shows up in Deadwood with an ill-advised plan to win the money she needs playing poker, Cash decides it is past time for him to stake his claim.

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UNEXPECTED CALAMITY

E.E. Burke

A friendship that never died.

Calamity Jane is drawn back to Deadwood by a force more powerful than death, and becomes an unexpected savior in the midst of an epidemic.

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SAVING DALLIE

Paty Jager

Everyone deserves a chance.

When a miner tosses his daughter into the pot at a poker game and the winner is a brothel owner, Beau Gentry is determined to keep the young woman out of the man’s hands.

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THE GAMBLER AND THE PREACHER’S DAUGHTER

Teresa Keefer

Can a preacher’s daughter play poker with a gambler and win?

Leticia Chasteen was always getting dragged into situations she didn’t want to be in. Rusty McGraw the gambler was always coming to her rescue. Who will end up with the winning hand?

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A RISKY PROPOSAL

Megan Kelly

He loves her. She loves him. A proposal should be good news, right?

Callie Jones never wanted to date a bull rider. Now she’s fallen in love with Rome Anderson, who’s intent on winning the PBR Championship buckle. When he asks her to marry him, she has to decide: Does she break his heart with a no or doom her future with a yes?

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LOVE ACROSS TIME

Sylvia McDaniel

Is it possible to love someone in another time? Are dreams real?

Sadie Mae Miller is hanging up her barrel racing crown and beginning a new life. But when her grandmother asks her to sleep under a new wedding ring quilt with promises of visions of the love of her life, she doesn’t quite believe her. Until she falls asleep. Only problem is, he lived in 1880. Does time separate the lovers?

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ONCE UPON A DEADWOOD DREAM

Amanda McIntyre

Sometimes to find your future you must face the past.

Past and present meld together in Deadwood when a woman who discovers true love must fight to escape a deadly twist of fate.

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THE BROTHERHOOD

Peggy McKenzie

Sometimes, love is hiding in the most peculiar places.

Major Lucas Hamilton, widower and father of four boys, insists on the disciplined order of a regimented household. But when a bumbling young woman falls at his feet, will he take a chance on her or send her packing before she burns his house down to the ground.

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MAVERICK SEDUCTION

Angi Morgan

Teenage crush or true love. You decide.

Sean Maverick is on a charity auction block until a beautiful woman from his past buys him for the night. Em Stone believed in love at first sight even if she had to lasso and knock Sean off his feet.

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TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Nancy Naigle

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride? Never say never.

Kendra is fine with being a bridesmaid. She hung up her wedding hopes and dreams eight years ago when her cowboy chose the rodeo over her, but when these two cross paths in Deadwood it looks like the timing just might be right for a reconciliation.

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RESCUING RAVEN

Jacqui Nelson

In a gold rush storm, can an unlikely pair rescue each other?

Raven wants to save one person. Charlie wants to save the world. Their warring nations thrust them together but duty pulled them apart—until their paths crossed again in Deadwood for a fight for love.

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AFTER THE FALL

Terri Osburn

When it comes to love, sometimes falling is the easy part.

Aspyn Fielding blames Tucker Stargill for not talking her brother, Colt, out of riding bulls. When Colt is gravely injured during a ride, Aspyn is hopeful Tucker will finally see things her way, but Aspyn is the one who has a change of heart.

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BEST RESULTS

Ginger Ring

Finding the perfect results from one simple test.

Orphaned at a young age, both Adam and River yearn to find a living relative from either of their families. After finally deciding to put down roots in Deadwood, a simple DNA test brings a result that is more than they ever expected.

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A GIFT OF GOLD

Maggie Ryan

There may be gold in the Black Hills, but Bennett had his eyes on a far more valuable prize.

Not one to be deterred by the dictates of society, Lorelai Samuels had a dream to open a restaurant in the bustling new town of Deadwood and no one was going to stand in her way, especially not the infuriatingly handsome and stubborn Bennett Redding.

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GOTTA HAVE FAITH

Lizbeth Selvig

Win or lose, she’s about to take on the big boys.

Faith “Rabbit” Redmond forms an extreme plan at the Deadwood rodeo to convince a champion bull rider that women can excel at the dangerous sport. If she wins his respect, she might also win his love. .

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THE SCHOOL MARM

Tina Susedik

Can a schoolmarm with dreams of a better life, fall for a disreputable man?

Suzanna Lindstrom travels as a schoolmarm in fledgling Deadwood. Having left her parents’ struggling farm, she dreams of a better life in Deadwood with a man who’s struck it rich in the gold fields. Fresh off the stagecoach, she meets Kingston Winson, whom she disregards as disreputable. Is he who she thinks he is? What lesson will she learn?

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TRICKS

A.C. Wilson

Tricks inspire courage and new love while daring others to dream.

Pushed to choose a direction for her life, Tandi discovers that some crossroads are necessary. Surprisingly, each marker leads her to an arena of spectators with her talented horse and a handsome guy who gives her hope to do the impossible.

 

Talking Rodeo History & Ranch Life With Author Heidi M. Thomas

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After the last blog post with female bronc rider Kaila Mussell, author Heidi M. Thomas contacted me about doing an interview. I won’t spoil the surprise, but Heidi’s background is a perfect follow-up to a bronc riding story, especially since the NFR 2015 has just started! Not only an award-winning prolific writer and editor, she’s an author with a strong western heritage that I think all of us horse lovers can relate to.

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Heidi at Silver spur tableTell us about your childhood growing up on a working ranch in Montana. What were some of your favorite things about growing up ranching?

I loved the sense of freedom of living miles from a town, being able to run and play with no restrictions as a kid. Working with my parents taught me a sense of self-reliance, strong work-ethic and independence. Being around cows, horses, dogs and cats gave me a love for animals. And being without “technical amenities” gave me a love for reading and writing.

 Peregrine signing

You also had a grandmother that rode bucking stock. What was it like growing up with a grandmother that rode roughstock?

I knew she loved riding and being outdoors more than anything in the world and we rode horses together numerous times. But I didn’t know she was a rodeo cowgirl until she passed away when I was 12. My dad and I were going through photo albums and he casually remarked, “Did you know your grandma rode bucking stock in rodeos?” Whoa! How cool was that! I filed that away in my brain until many years later when I was ready to write about her life.

CowgirlDreams Front Cover 1x1.5What do you think made her decide to ride roughstock, and what were some of the challenges that she faced?

I wish I could’ve asked her questions about that, but through stories my dad told me and my research, I learned that many girls naturally gravitated toward that sport. They, like my grandmother, grew up on ranches, riding with their dads, brothers and later, husbands out of necessity. Then when the men got together and decided to see who could stay on the back of that bucking bronc the longest, the girls said, “We can do that too!” Many started competing around age 14. Their families sometimes were accepting and sometimes not. It was socially unacceptable to wear men’s pants, travel and compete with men, and it was dangerous. The “old-time” cowboys didn’t think “girls” could ride and they didn’t like it when they were outridden by a woman.

 

What impact has your grandmother, and growing up on a ranch had on your writing?

It’s had a huge impact. From that casual remark by my dad have come four published books! Her life and my growing up on a ranch gave me a love and a first-hand feeling for the setting, which I think is an important part of my writing.

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When did you start writing, and what were some of your challenges you faced when you started?

I like to say I was born with ink in my veins. I’ve been writing since I could form letters. I did get my degree in journalism from the University of Montana and worked for the newspaper in Missoula, then did several years of freelance writing for other publications. When I started writing fiction seriously, I found that although I had a good foundation through journalism, I had to learn to “show, not tell” and not to write so spare in the “Accuracy, Brevity, Clarity” mode. After I’d written and polished my first manuscript to the best of my ability, I started to send it out and collect rejections. In that process I learned that I needed to study and practice my craft more, so I took a two-year certification course through the University of Washington in fiction writing. Then, it was a matter of finding a publisher once I was ready to submit. It took ten years from the time I started the book until it was published. I now have four published books: Cowgirl Dreams (1920s), Follow the Dream (1930s), Dare to Dream (1940s), and the nonfiction book, Cowgirl Up: A History of Rodeo Women.

 What was your first book that was published? What was it like to finally see your work in print?

My first book was Cowgirl Dreams, the first of my “Dreams” trilogy, based on my grandmother. It was such a huge thrill to hold that first book in my hands! I was so excited and felt validated, that my dream was coming to fruition after all the years of hard work.

Are you a full-time writer? (If so, tell us how you got there, if not tell us your writing goals)

Yes, I consider that my vocation (as well as my avocation), along with freelance editing for other authors. I didn’t start writing books until after I had “retired” from a “regular” job, and I had a husband who was extremely supportive in all ways—my number one fan and cheerleader.

When do you do your best writing, and why? 

I’m not a morning person, and I don’t have a set schedule, although I keep telling myself I need to! Mid-day and early afternoon are my best times. Also, I think from my journalism background, I find I write best with a deadline! I belong to a critique group that meets once a week, so that gives me my motivation!

You have written several books that have won awards. Tell us about those & the inspiration behind them. 

They are a part of my “Cowgirl Dreams” trilogy. Cowgirl Dreams won an EPIC (Electronic Publishing) award and was a finalist in the USA Best Books competition. The sequel, Follow the Dream, won the coveted WILLA (named for Willa Cather) award from Women Writing the West. And of course, both are based on my grandmother’s life.

What is your latest book project?

I’m working on “the next generation” trilogy, based on my mother who came from Germany after WWII.

 Any words of wisdom for other writers and those that aspire to write?

From my own experience, I’m glad my first novel did not get published when I first sent it out. Today, it’s become much easier to self-publish and it doesn’t carry the stigma it used to. But don’t be in a big hurry to publish your book. Learn and practice your craft. Take classes, read how-to books, and join or create a critique group. And when you’ve rewritten it for the 50th time and polished it to the best of your ability, hire an editor to go through it. Above all, perseverance is key. Don’t give up!

 

If you want to keep up with Heidi you can find her on social media –

Website: http://www.heidimthomas.com

Facebook: search Heidi M. Thomas, Author

Twitter: @heidiwriter

Publisher buy-link: www.rowman.com

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Heidi-M.-Thomas/e/B004QT2N4M/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1448835070&sr=1-2-ent

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Meet Kaila Mussell

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Earlier this year, I found out about female Saddle Bronc rider, Kaila Mussell.

Photo by Filene Mussell
Photo by Filene Mussell

The fact that she rides Saddle Bronc is pretty impressive in itself, but the fact that she’s come back from a broken neck is a clear witness to the strength that she has on the inside. She’s a phenomenal athlete and I think she’s someone who exhibits the strength and toughness we all aspire to.

Photo by Bernie Hudyma
Photo by Bernie Hudyma

What was it that made you decide you wanted to try riding broncs?

I started off in rodeo, barrel racing at 11, and steer riding at 12.  I did well at both events, however I got more of a rush out of riding steers and wanted to stay in the roughstock events.  When I became too old to ride steers, my initial inclination was to ride bulls, however my dad convinced me otherwise. I’m glad he did, as at that point I knew of some women who have ridden bareback broncs and bulls, but didn’t know any women who rode saddle bronc in the modern style of saddle bronc riding.  It turned into a more prestegious goal for me then, becoming the first woman to do so.  At that time,  my brother also wanted to ride broncs, so we both went to some bronc riding schools together to learn.

Photo by Christopher Morris
Photo by Christopher Morris

How did you feel the first time you rode an actual bronc out of the chute?

That was so long ago, and I’m pretty sure that I blacked out.  When I was first learning that happened a lot, and even when I rode I couldn’t remember what happened.   Eight seconds happens pretty quick, however over time and practice that short time (8 seconds) slows down, and when everything is happening right, it feels like all your movements are in slow motion.

Photo by Patti Ouimette
Photo by Patti Ouimette

When you decided to actually compete the first time, how did you feel?   What were some of your thoughts & fears and how did you overcome those?

I was pretty nervous the first time I completed. I did, however grow up breaking colts since I was 10, so I already had alot of exposure to riding horses that bucked, and I already had rodeo experience, although not in saddle bronc.  Most of my thoughts would have been related  to not wanting to being a “failure” and get bucked off, not wanting to look like a “girl” out there, or scared that I wouldn’t be accepted because I was a girl.  I really wanted to be accepted and to show others that I was just as capable as other bronc riders.  Nowadays my attitude on all of these feelings has been completely turned around, however at that point in time that is definitely what I thought.

You broke your neck last year. Tell us a little about that.

I broke my neck on April 5, 2014 at a BCRA rodeo in  Barriere, BC.  I got bucked off and landed on my head and kind of rolled onto the right side of my neck and shoulder.  I felt a shooting pain down the my right arm, and what felt like a crunch, but I chalked it up to a concussion, because other than being pretty sore, that’s what it felt like.  I drove home that night, which was a couple of hours away and didn’t go to the hospital.  The next day I was talking to my brother who is a doctor (GP), and he convinced me that I should go get it checked out because I was supposed to be flying to Hawaii the next day for a family vacation.  I went to the hospital more so to eliminate anything being wrong with me, because I didn’t want to chance having high medical bills in another country.  I happened to be picking up a friend at the airport that day and decided to stop in at VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) which is the only spinal unit in BC.  I’m happy that I did.  They took the injury very seriously and put me on a backboard and in a neck brace.  Multiple x-rays, CT and MRI later I was told that I broke my neck in 2 places on the right side of C6, and that I wouldn’t be going anywhere.  I wore a brace for a couple of weeks until they realized my neck wasn’t healing properly.  Immediately thereafter I went in for surgery and ended up getting a fusion between C5-C7, and two of my disks replaced by part of my right hip bone.

Photo by Filene Mussell
Photo by Filene Mussell

When did you decide to start riding again after that and why? Was riding the first time after your injury different from what it was like before?

While I was healing from a broken neck I was faced with all sorts of thoughts and decisions about what my future would be.  After weighing all the facts, talking to my surgeon and hearing everyone elses often unwanted “opinions” on what I should do with my life, I dug deep down and realized that my passion for bronc riding was still there.  At minimum I wanted to come back to riding if only to end on my own terms.  I waited a full year after my injury to completely heal to ride again.  My first ride back was on a “practice” bronc, a day prior to Williams Lake, BC Indoor Rodeo where I was to be competing for the first time after breaking my neck.  The bronc “Starbucks”, was a horse I was familiar with and I had ridden a few times in the past.  I managed to get her rode, but it wasn’t pretty and got off on the pickup man.  It definitely was a huge relief to get that one out of the way, as I came away without injury!  From there, the major fear was gone, and I was back to the swing of things.

How was it different?

The main difference with coming back riding after such a major injury, was that I appreciated the opportunity of being able to ride again.  I’ve noticed this year that I’ve had a lot more fun, not taken things as seriously as I have in the past, and enjoyed the whole journey of riding broncs in all aspects of the experience both outside and inside the arena.   I also managed to win the year-end season leader saddle for the BCRA (BC Rodeo Association) in the saddle bronc.  So overall, my comeback has been amazing!

How do you stay mentally tough?

I think pretty positive on a regular basis.  When I don’t, I remind myself why I’m doing this, focus and look at the bigger picture.  I read inspirational/self-help books, say positive affirmations to myself and post them around me.  As well, journaling has been a huge help in focusing on my goals, seeing where my mindset is, noticing things that may have helped in the past that can help me now, and/or seeing how far I have come and being able to acknowledge this.

What is that motivates you to keep going?

This is a really hard thing to describe what motivates me, as only a small amount of this can be put into words.  Motivation is more of a feeling, a passion that can’t be described.  I’m driven to do it, in part because I love the sport, the lifestyle, the challenge, the adrenaline and excitement of the sport.  To a large part these days I am motivated by seeing how much I inspire others to pursue their dreams by doing what I do.

Photo by Thomas Camus
Photo by Thomas Camus

What is your fitness routine to stay in shape to ride?

My fitness routine varies throughout the year depending on my work and rodeo schedule.  On a regular basis I strength train (primarily core training) 3 days a week  (30-40 mins), do cardio (primarily jogging) 3 days a week (4 miles), and yoga (1 hour) 1-2 days a week as well.  This may be alternated with other physical activities such as hiking, biking, MMA training or otherwise.

As for eating, I have had a lot of structured strict diets over the years.  I now find that its easier to eat well on a regular basis and stay active than to go to extremes.  I really don’t deny myself any foods, however less healthy alternatives I eat in moderation.  On a daily basis I do eat a high amount of protein, stick to whole, unprocessed foods,  and eat small amounts throughout the day rather than eating large meals.  Mind you, when you are on the road, it is sometimes hard to eat well or regularly.  I try to always pack lots of water and healthy snacks in case this happens.

Photo by Kat Nair
Photo by Kat Nair

Any words of wisdom for anyone that wants to ride broncs, or anyone that wants to rodeo in general?

Set clear goals of what you want.  Be willing to learn and put in the time and effort into what you do.  The skills for your chosen event in rodeo will not come overnight, but with hard work and dedication it will all come together.  Strive to constantly learn and improve.

What’s mandatory to be able to rodeo?

Mental and physical toughness, love of traveling, getting dirty,and performing under pressure, aside from investing a lot of money.  Nothing in life is easy,  but when things come together, it is all worth the effort.  Rodeoing is a lot like gambling, the only thing you are in complete control of is your effort in your ride or run.

If you’d like to keep up with Kaila, you can keep up on her social media accounts –

https://www.facebook.com/saddlebroncgirl/

https://instagram.com/kailamussell/

https://twitter.com/kaila_mussell

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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Talking With Shanna Hatfield & Learning about Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund

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This week we are chatting with Pendleton Petticoats romance series author Shanna Hatfield. She’s quite an entertaining author to interview and one that I think many rural folks can relate to.

From Nov. 7-Dec. 24, Shanna will be donating 10% of the net proceeds from all her book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund which is a fund to help injured cowboys. Shanna is also hosting a Facebook Party with prizes this week. I’ve listed the details at the end of the interview along with ways to in

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What is it like to live in your boots for a day?

Day to day, I treat my writing like a career, even though I work from home. I get up early, respond to emails, post to my blog and social media outlets then try to get in some exercise before I get ready for the day. After that, I generally spend the rest of the day in my office writing or editing. Some days I put in as many as twelve hours if I’m in the writing “mode.” My husband, Captain Cavedweller, refers to the mode as the times when I’m so involved in a story I forget about everything else like fixing dinner and making sure he has clean socks. On days when I’m editing or working on promotions, I like to cook and often experiment with recipes (you can find my latest and greatest culinary adventures at savvyentertaining.com) I’ve also gotten into western photography recently. My niece kindly provides much of my subject matter with her horses and cattle.

 Are you a full time writer?

A little more than a year ago, I quit my job in the corporate world to pursue writing full time. My comfortable boots replaced the high heels I wore every day and I love every minute of my new life. I know I am very blessed and fortunate to be able to get up every morning excited to work at something I love so much. I don’t regret a minute spent pursuing my dreams.

 What role do horses play in your life and your books? Any good horse stories? 

I grew up on a farm with cattle, horses, and an older brother who worked on remote ranches next door to nowhere. Between the stories he’d bring home when he’d come to visit and the fact I always had a horse to ride, horses and cowboys play a big role in both my historical and contemporary sweet western romances.

I’ve got many horse stories, but one my family feels compelled to tell everyone happened when I was four with a red pony named Dynamite. I wanted to spend every waking moment with the pony. One afternoon, while I was supposed to be taking a nap, I snuck outside and around to the room where we kept the tack. I couldn’t carry my little saddle, but I managed to get the bareback pad and drag it out to Dynamite’s pasture. I slid it on his back and tightened the cinch then led him by the halter over to a stump so I could climb on. Things went along fine for the first few minutes as he walked around then he let out a big breath and the pad started to slide. By the time my mother realized I was missing and made a beeline out to the pasture, I was clinging upside down to the pad with my head dangling beneath Dynamite’s belly. After that, Mom put quite a damper on my horse-riding adventures.

What made you decide to donate a portion of your proceeds to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund? 

When I was researching details for the first book in the Rodeo Romance series, The Christmas Cowboy, I learned about the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund through Rick Foster, program director of the Justin Sports Medicine Team. In the book, my hero, Tate Morgan, is a saddle bronc rider who gets hurt at the national finals rodeo. Trying to get all the details right is what led me to JCCF. It’s such a great organization. JCCF is a non-profit organization that assists rodeo athletes who sustain catastrophic injuries and are unable to compete for an extended period.  I’m on a blog tour all this week with the Cowboys and Christmas tour to kick off a promotion I’m doing with the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. Now through Dec. 24, I’ll donate ten percent of the net proceeds from all my book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.

 What inspires you to write the stories that you write? What is your muse? 

I find inspiration everywhere – even standing in line at the grocery store. My over-active imagination rarely shuts down. Captain Cavedweller is a great sounding board and I most always come up with story ideas when we go for a drive. There’s something about forcing him to be a captive audience, trapped in a vehicle with no escape, that gets the ol’ creative juices flowing.

 Do you have any particular writing rituals? 

As a visual person, before I start writing a new story, I gather photos of people who are my ideal of the characters. If the characters have pets (dogs, horses, cats), I try to find photos of those along with landscapes, house plans, anything that helps me visualize the story and my characters.

Any parting words of wisdom for those looking to be published writers? 

Never give up on your dreams! You can do it!

 If you’d like to find out more about Shanna’s books see below — you’ll notice she has a Facebook Party coming up soon with prizes! 

You’re Invited to a PARTY!

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 You’re invited to join in the online Cowboys & Christmas Facebook Party Thursday, Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (PST). Drop in anytime during those four hours to enter to win great prizes, chat with guest authors, and more! Here’s the link to the party:  http://tinyurl.com/cowboychristmasparty

Enter to Win Prizes!

As part of the blog tour, I’m giving away some exciting prizes. To enter the drawing for an Amazon gift card, autographed books, chocolates, original western artwork, and more fun goodies, fill out this form. http://tinyurl.com/cowboychristmasprizes

Find Shanna’s books at:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Apple

Follow Shanna online:

ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | You Tube | Twitter

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shanna-Hatfield/e/B0056HPPM0

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shanna-Hatfield/e/B0056HPPM0/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1391485546&sr=8-1

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/shanna-hatfield

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/shannahatfield

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/shanna-hatfield/id450458896?mt=11

Website: http://shannahatfield.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorShannaHatfield

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/shannahatfield/boards/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4981400.Shanna_Hatfield

You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ShannaHatfield?feature=watch

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShannaHatfield

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Life & The New Author…

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In a couple of weeks we’ll be chatting with Pendleton Petticoats series Shanna Hatfield. From Nov. 7-Dec. 24, she’ll be donating 10% of the net proceeds from all my book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund which is a fund to help injured cowboys. It’s a great cause and you’ll definitely enjoy learning about Shanna.

In the meantime, I thought I would update what’s been going on in my life as a horse show judge, competitor, and writer after the 40 hour work week in the office. As always, there never seems to be enough hours in the day and always a horse I want to ride or a story I want to write. I have to say though, my first year as a published author has been fun and a terrific learning experience for what works, what doesn’t and a lesson on how to fit it all in. Let’s just say most mornings I’m up at 3am, 4am if I’m sleeping late!

One new update that is really cool is that Everybody Needs A Little Romance invited me to be part of their blog. If you love romance, you really need to check it out because the site has several terrific romance writers that post blogs and write book reviews. It’s a mecca for anything romance!

Valley Farmers Co-op has been very gracious in inviting me to do a book signing at their stores in east Tennessee at Athens and Harriman. This year I attended three of their events and had a blast! Not only did I get to see old horse friends, I also got to chat with fans and meet new readers as well. One thing for sure, I’m more at home at a feed store than I am anywhere else besides the barn or the arena!

Book signing at Valley Farmers Co-op in Athens

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Book signing at the Valley Farmers Co-op in Harriman

HARRIMAN BOOK SIGNING

Pam Brown also invited me out this summer to sign books at the NBHA Tennessee State finals in Harriman, Tennessee. Fireman has had feet issues this year and I haven’t gotten to run a set of cans since the spring but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go to a barrel race! So I got the best of both worlds and got to sign books, see the barrel race and get some time in talking about horses. Needless to say, I was a little tired at the end of the day!

NBHA BOOK SIGNING

My next book signing event is at Foxleaf Bookstore in Cookeville, Tennessee on Halloween night! If you’re down that way, stop by because we’ll have plenty of hot cider and candy!

I’m also an OHSA Carded horse show judge and have the wonderful opportunity to judge some of the shows in the region. Smoky Mountain Horse Show Series is one my favorite places to show and to judge. Last weekend they held their first show series at Tri-State in Cleveland, Tennessee. I managed to capture a quick shot of their beautiful jump course before we got started.

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I love to do everything from show hunter to run barrels and sort cows on a horse. I think different disciplines have a lot to offer and just make for a well-rounded horse. Read my horse blog, Musings From The Leadrope, and you’ll pick up on that pretty quick! A couple of weeks ago I managed to get one of our green horses out to her first show at the Smoky Mountain Horse Show. She went in the In Hand Trail Class and the walk/jog classes as well as a walk/jog Horsemanship class. Granted she wasn’t as finished as the others, but she did a fabulous job and I couldn’t be prouder.

Keith Mooney managed to get several shots of us at the show. Here’s the link to our Horsemanship class  – http://www.keithmooneyphoto.com/HorseShows/SMHSS-October-5-2014/68-W-J-Horsemanship/i-tRn8smF

Then here’s a pic of her In Hand Trail Class.

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So what’s new for the rest of the year? With winter coming, I’ll have a little more down time and I’m hoping to get back to work on The Searching Place, an untitled horse focused paranormal, and a thriller short story. My goal is to have a new book out after the first of the year. Sometimes life gets in the way so we’ll see but that’s the plan at the moment for this new author!  Oh yeah, one more thing…

Lucky kitty sez don’t forget to buy a copy of Lost Betrayal!   #catspeddlebooks

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