• C J R Isely

Living The Adventure : My Horses

Often when I read a book, I find myself imaging how I would escape the scene they are in, how I might have avoided it or even how I might have made it worse. This is something I feel many people do when they read a book. It's instinct. It's that frustrating moment when you want to scream at the character for turning round and sneaking to follow the bad guy. But, it's what makes the story. It keeps us tangled in the tale.


As an author, this is often the same but with a twist...I often try to live out a form of that same scenario. Now, no, I don't mean I anger people who want to kill me with swords and no, it doesn't mean I live in a castle. But my life has been an adventure, which is something I'm quite thankful for, especially as an author.


My books bring pieces of my life together in their pages. In Ranger of Kings, a large portion of that is the life with horses. When I first wrote those books at the age of twelve, I even named all the horses after horses I knew - which meant several had name changes later in the rewrite. The training scenes were adapted to fit my reality as I worked with difficult horses. When I rewrote the scenes with Visra later before publication, this became very evident in fact.


I wrote about Will's foul tempered bay when I was 12 years old on a farm that had horses, but we didn't have a bay. We had never owned a bay and that was what I had always wanted. It's strange, as a horse person, that we didn't have bays. Bays are a common color, one of the most common in fact, but we had all sorts of horses who weren't bay. The first time I ever remember writing, well before we had horses, at the age of seven or so, I even remember my horse in that story was a bay.


So Visra was that dream horse...and his later enhanced attitude has come from my first bay, a horse I've bought for myself now that I am an adult.


Now, if you read Ranger of Kings, you know Visra is a large and striking bay horse. You might remember he's a stallion, a massive creature, that strikes, bites, and pins his ears just because of a change in the weather. Meanwhile my bay is tiny, standing at just over pony size. This bay is young, feisty, and very much a mare. But she matches in other areas.





When I first got my mare, named Gin Fizz for a horse from the Rita Mae Brown murder mysteries (which are fantastic and you should read if you like cozy mysteries) she was two years old and short. I mean very short. I bought her sight unseen and when she stepped off the hauler's trailer I was struck by how cute, tiny, and innocent she looked.


After I watched her single handedly beat up the three meanest geldings we own, all of which were a solid two hands taller than her, I realized that I vastly had misjudged the character of this creature. The only other horse who dared to challenge Gin was my show mare, Harley, a dun quarter horse who decided then and there that she hated this new horse. We had to keep them separated as Harley, built like a military tank, was viable to crush my new child.


Needless to say, it was a slow introduction to the herd after that and, when I would saddle her, I found that she was mean to people but just sneaky about it. She would try to nip my backside and I would swat her gently on the nose, to which she would dramatically take offense.


This continued for the better part of a year, me working my small mare while my sister worked her large gelding she too had just purchased. Her gelding, Beanie, was not as openly hostile as my mare and was cowed by her, even though she was 14hh and he was 16hh. This, though, was again something we should have not taken for granted.


While my mare and I bonded, Beanie began to act more sneakily hostile - cornering and attacking older horses, trying to sneak kicks at people when being untied from his halter. It wasn't anything huge, just small things but we started to keep an eye on him.


It wasn't a big issue though until I was alone in the pen, a large corral, opening gates to get horses out to pasture. Beans joined me, which wasn't unusual, asking to be pet. I patted him on the neck then devoted my full attention to the stuck lock on the gate. That's when I saw the movement out of the corner of my eye.


Spinning, I threw up both arms in time to cover my face before the hoof struck and I crashed to the ground, winded and bewildered. I turned my head, surroundings spinning, my arm throbbing and pulled close to my chest to see that Beans was cantering away, tail up. Panting, I tried to sit up but my lungs were screaming, my muscles shaking. Half crawling, I inched for the fence, thinking I would climb under and wait.


The sound of thunder made me look up and my heart stopped a moment. Beans was galloping back, head down, ears pinned, straight toward me. I braced myself to scream even as I tried to scramble up, hoping I might scare him off. Then something small and brown flashed past, grabbing him with the force of a small shark and causing him to turn in alarm. Gin had struck. She was attacking beans with a fury that made me gawk. When Beans had nearly managed to pass her there was more thunder and the tank form of my trust dun, Harley, crashed into him.


Those to chased him to the far end of the pen and stood between him and I until I had climbed under a fence and got my hands to stop shaking long enough to unlock the phone in my pocket. To this day, I don't care to think of what would have happened without them. Beans is no longer part of our herd as his violence toward our older horses wasn't accepted. He found a home with a man who felt sure they would learn to understand one another given time.


But Gin and Harley? They're mine to the days of greener pasture. Gin now lets me do about anything to her, as she's somewhat of a teddy bear, though likes to pretend she is still wild and violent when on her lunge line. Harley teaches riders how to ride a show horse who has a thousand buttons that she likes to ignore completely if there's the option of grazing.


So, that is a part of the story, a piece of the horses in my life versus the horses in my book. As Gin and Harley proved they would battle a horse for me, Visra has proven he would fight for Will. The bond between man and horse has an unspoken quality that I feel will never be truly put into words. At least, never into words that will quite do them justice.



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