Monday, September 10, 2012

Helmet Perspectives

When I was young, my friends and I  rode our horses through fields and trails just about every day. We'd take our horses swimming, jump fences, play cowboys and Indians, and make a valiant effort to play polo. Not once, not at any time, did any of us ever wear a helmet. Not when we sat backwards on our horses, bareback, to read our homework assignments when our horses were grazing freely in the pasture. Not when we tried (without success) to slide off our horse's back and under their bellies, then scramble onto their back from the other side––all without touching the ground. And certainly not when we raced up the red gravel hill of County Line Road, three or four abreast across both lanes. I remember one day when a friend and I not only practiced standing on the bare backs of our horses while they were moving, we decided to go tandem, two horses with two helmet-less people, our left feet on one horse and right on the other. It didn't seem to matter that one horse was 14.1 and the other 16 hands.

Today, I am horrified and can't imagine even doing most of those things. I certainly do not recommend them now, even though we had a lot of fun and I can't recall that anyone, horse or human got hurt. The potential for disaster, though, was extremely high. All I can say is that we must have worked our guardian angels way past overtime.

The other day I was in my barn getting ready to ride my mare. Tessie is an unflappable Belgian/Quarter Horse cross and I'd feel completely comfortable with a six-year-old riding her. When I ride her, we typically walk/trot around the arena in school horse fashion and work on leg yields and bending. As a former driving horse, these are major gaps in Tessie's education.

 Just as I was putting my sunglasses on I realized I couldn't find my helmet. Oh, well, I thought, I'll ride just this once without it. Tessie is perfectly safe. But Tessie and I got half-way to the arena when I stopped. I couldn't do it. I knew I couldn't get on this, arguably one of the safest horses in the world, without a helmet. So, we trudged back to the barn and I pulled out a helmet that was several years old. It was heavier than my new helmet, not as comfortable, not as attractive, but I could not get on my horse, any horse, without it.

I've been riding for forty-nine years and have trained horses professionally for most of my adult life. The difference between now, and the child rider that I was, is perspective. Over the years, I have seen many falls when the helmet saved the rider. I have seen so many unforeseen, freak accidents that I know that anything can happen at any time. As safe as Tessie is, as experienced as I am, I know the next accident could be a simple stumble away. That's why you will never see me ride without the protection of a helmet, because I value life, my life, too much.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fan Mail and Email

I am starting to get a lot of fan mail and I have discovered that it might not be what you think. Here are a few samples from the last few months. Enjoy!

Dear Lisa,
Just because you have 746 “friends” on Facebook and I don’t does not mean you are a good writer. Thought you should know that.

Dear Reader: Gee, thanks for the heads-up.

Dear Lisa,

You are such a great writer but, can you write sadder books? Just go with anything from your sad place. My husband left me and I don’t want to read any books that are fun or funny. Well, he wasn’t really my husband. He was a Louie, but he still left me.

Dear Reader: Um . . . have you tried counseling?

Dear Cat,

The exact same thing happened to me that happened to you! OMG! How did you no that? How did you know enough about ME to live MY life? Only it wasn’t my neighbor that got kilt and my friends didn’t help me. And I don’t live in Tennessee. I also don't I drive a truck. So you got a lot of it VERY wrong!!!  I didn’t even know the person who was murdered. I just red about it in the paper.

Dear Reader: You do understand that Cat is a fictional character? You should also know that fictional characters often don’t respond when you write to them.

Dear Laura,

I love your books. I love that you are such a fabulous writer. I love that you trail ride to the beach, and I love the photo of you riding a palomino on your back cover. And I especially love your book that had the barn fire in it.

Dear Reader: I love the fact that you meant to write to Laura Crum but sent it to me instead. Thanks!

Dear Lisa,

Please send me a signed copy of your book. But don’t sign it to me. Sign it to my wife. Her birthday is next week. If you send me the book then I don’t have to shell out any dough for a gift.

Dear Reader: Here’s a hint:

Dear Lisa,

I can’t remember why I wanted to write to you so forget I even sent this email to you. Yeah, just forget it.

Dear Reader: Oh yeah. Forgotten. Totally forgotten.

Monday, April 16, 2012


The Opium Equation, my equestrian mystery has been recognized by two wonderful organizations. It recently was awarded the silver medal for fiction from The Mom's Choice Awards®, and is a finalist in the American Horse Publications awards in their book category.

This is especially exciting to me because I tried for seventeen years to get the book published, one rewrite and agent after the other. I had pretty much given up on the book when a publisher stepped up and took a chance. I am eternally grateful to them, but I am also grateful for all of the rejection slips, all the literary agents who passed, and also those who tried, but could not interest a publisher.

Each of those "failures" caused me to take another look at the book and either add or delete something important. Over the years characters were refined and plot lines expanded and the book would not be nearly what it is today if it were not for the early passes.

I have found two lessons in this. The first is if you really believe in something, never give up. Even if you never achieve your goal, there is significant value in the journey. The second is to consider the opinions of others. You do not have to act of their opinions, but all opinions regarding your goal are good to think about.

That said, I am tremendously excited about the awards! It is nice to know others value your efforts and being recognized in this way is fabulous.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mixed Signals

I recently had an MRI on my knee, the right, knee, the knee that has already seen seven surgeries. As I lay on the table, I was told to relax and hold as still as possible. Then I was given a set of heavy headphones. And what was playing through those headphones? Disco music! Now how could I possibly relax with Donna Summer encouraging me to get up and dance? I tried to tune out all audio (Donna was competing with the clunks and clanks of the MRI machine) and for the next twenty-five minutes I  concentrated on my deep breathing exercises. Breathe in, count to six, breathe out, count to six.

I also began to think of the many times we give people (and our four-legged friends) mixed signals. Telling someone they did a good job without smiling, asking our horse to stop while leaning forward and squeezing with our legs, giving a firm directive, such as "No," said with the upward inflection of a question mark at the end of the word.

Our entire lives are made up of mixed signals and I, for one, have begun to really think through what I do and how I do it. It is a mentally tiresome process for me, or at least it was at first. With practice, it has begun to be easier. And, with my clarity of signals, I have found a clarity of thought that was missing before. My relationships with my horses are tighter, as are those with the people around me. And now, before I have that eighth surgery, I am going to crank me up some Donna and dance!