I’m an urban cowgirl with imaginary horses. There are 32 acres of Arizona ranchland in the southeastern corner of Arizona I call my own, but I don’t own a horse or ride one on a regular basis. Not long ago I wrote a blog titled What if You Must Write What You Don’t Know? In spite of not being able to claim the elite title of Arizona Cowgirl, I’ve created characters who fit that mold very well. Kat owns a ranch she inherited from her grandmother and at one time trained to be an Olympic equestrian. Star, on the other hand, has always wanted to be a cowgirl, but like me grew up in the city. Now that she’s moved to Arizona, she’s going after that dream by taking riding lessons from her friend Kat. Both Ricki and Jim Kane grew up in ranch country and have been riding since they were kids.
There is a mystique about horses and riders that sends our thoughts roaming into the western landscape. I believe characters who choose animals as companions express depths of compassion and caring readers appreciate. These horse-country dwellers have a certain toughness and confidence about them. After all, they not only ride their horses, but know how to rub them down after a long ride, brush out their tails, saddle and bridle them and make sure to feed and water them properly. Not to mention having the knowledge to tend to their ills and have the good sense to call the vet only when it’s warranted. My granddaughter who rides the “range” up north in the state of Washington tells me that a truly accomplished rider not only masters all the equestrian skills, but cares for her horse as well, including feeding, watering and mucking out the stall.
I’ve schooled myself in various ways in order to write about horses and cowgirls. Many years ago I earned the horsewoman badge in Girl Scouts by attending camp where I learned to ride using either a Western or an English saddle. Before the badge became my trophy there were plenty of chances to master quite a few of the above-mentioned skills. Unfortunately, when camp ended, so did my association with the horses. Of course, I’ve participated in trail rides over the many years I’ve lived in Arizona, but I would never answer the question, “Do you ride?” with a resounding, “Yes.”
I have a good friend who has owned, ridden and cared for horses her whole life. She kindly took me out to West World in Scottsdale to watch a competition in the huge covered performance arena there. Walking the dusty path between the stalls while kicking up dust that settled on our boots and jeans, we talked about the joys and also some of the hard realities of horse ownership. That day gave me a feel for the cost, the time and the effort that goes into this popular, but somewhat daunting pastime.
Having heard in the news about horses used by drug runners in Mexico and Arizona that often are abandoned in the desert, I researched this growing problem. Considering the cost of keeping a horse healthy and well fed, it’s a credit to the groups taking them in that they’re able to operate at all, barely surviving on donations and volunteer help. In Charade the second book of the Arrowstar series, having Star find Syrup the horse she desperately wants to adopt among a group of those rescued horses, seemed like a good way to highlight this little- known effort to rehabilitate and adopt these horses out to caring owners. Ricki’s horse Marmalade and Jim’s horse Toast turned out to be part of the glue that brought Ricki and Jim together in Arrowstar the first book in the series. After all, if you’ve got toast, you definitely need marmalade!
The Storm Women, the new Arrowstar release in October 2014, introduces a little gal called Dusky to Buttermilk the burro. In the aftermath of a very difficult time, Dusky’s aunt claims, “In a way, I think that colt saved little Dusky,” Sarah told Margaretta as they worked side by side in the garden, keeping an eye on Dusky as she mucked out Buttermilk’s stall in the small barn behind the kitchen house. And perhaps Sarah is right about that, but I’ll let you decide as you turn the pages of this new addition to the Arrowstar series.
The nitty-gritty details of ranching, horse training and care come, as usual, from sites dedicated to horses on the Internet. Here are some links you might want to investigate if your interests run to horses and the hardy souls who love them:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/31/us/31horses.html?_r=0 – Horse Rescue
http://www.westworldaz.com/#about – West World
http://www.twisterheller.com/index.htm - Horse Ranching in Arizona
http://gingingray.wantlesspower.com/HorseColors.html - Kinds of horses
http://www.equisearch.com/article/show-skills-for-every-horse - Horse riding and training
Read on! Ride on! Write on!
To receive announcements about new releases, sneak peeks, and insider tidbits, won't you please share your email address using the form provided (at top right). Your address will never be sold or shared. That’s a promise!