Horses are Characters, too…


JoAnn_hands_chinWingsEdit-v2_300Today my guest JoAnn Smith Ainsworth talks about a very special animal that helped her through a difficult time in her life.

When JoAnn Smith Ainsworth carried wood as a pre-teen so her Great Aunt Martha could stoke up the iron stove to prepare dinner, she wasn’t thinking, “I could use this in a novel someday.” Yet, the skills she learned from her horse-and-buggy ancestors translate into backdrops for her historical romance and paranormal suspense novels.

Her most recent release is Polite Enemies, published by Whiskey Creek Press and available as an ebook too. Here’s JoAnn.


POLITE ENEMIES features a farm horse, Old Molly, who appears in many high-profile scenes. In 1895 Wyoming, Old Molly thwarts outlaws, hauls equipment to fight a fire and, notwithstanding exhaustion, comes out of the barn one more time for the heroine to defend her hero. Old Molly has a personality that makes her one of the story characters.

Old Molly has been with the family for over a decade. Whether called upon to pull a plow or haul a load of farm produce to town, Old Molly placidly does her duty. The hero is a rancher so there are other, more powerful horses in the novel, but none of those horses have the personality and importance of this tried-and-true farm horse.

Incorporating a horse with a “personality” into POLITE ENEMIES came from my own experiences as a horse owner. I owned a horse for a few years and he played a central role in my life.

Sensacional was a Peruvian Paso with dark coloring, an almost-to-the-ground, black tail and a flowing, black mane. He had a very smooth, specialized gait, (which looked like this horse riddenSilvano Taipe show horse by my trainer, Silvano Taipe). Sensacional played a major role in helping me survive the transition of my son from a dependent child into an antagonistic teenager and, finally, into an independent young man. I had to learn to step away, to give my son enough space so he could grow. Sensacional was the “crutch” that helped me through the transition. He kept me from a mother’s despair as her child pulls away from her.

Sensacional was a rescue horse. In a way, we rescued each other. He was a beautifully trained gelding with quality features, but his owner died suddenly. Those family members dealing with a human death forgot about the horse. Not being fed and watered, Sensacional went to skin and bones. By the time I got him, he was too weak to carry a person. The trainer spent a few months to fatten him up and rebuild muscle tone. We took long walks together while Sensacional was unable to carry weight.

I would speak to him as we walked and he seemed to understand and accept the bond of mutual need being built. Although he was a show horse at one time, I wanted him for trail rides on a Napa County recreational ranch. Peruvian Pasos can cover miles with ease and provide a smooth ride because of their gait. As Sensacional responded to food and exercise and companionship, we became closer. Eventually, he was fit for trail rides.

My mothering instinct traveled from my son to my horse. Where my son rejected fussing and care, Sensacional loved being coddled and groomed. The horses in POLITE ENEMIES benefitted from my experience.

As is the nature of things, during this time my son and I became more estranged, but Sensacional took the sting out of it. It took my son into his early twenties to return to a belief that parents might have some value in this world. It took Sensacional less than a year to return to his original beauty and most of his strength, but the starvation had taken a toll on his health and shortened his life span. Sensacional neared the end of his days and passed out of my life at a time when my son reached his maturity and eventually came to believe a mother might be worth acknowledging once again.

Have you ever had an animal which helped you over hard emotional times? Describe your experiences for us.


Polite Enemies COVER_300x200IDA LOUISE OSTERBACH survived Indian and range wars and the murder of her husband. She’s kept the farm going through sheer grit and the help of her cousin, a friend and two farm hands. She’s managed a profit, paid the mortgage and re-paid the crop loans. Hard working, focused, fiercely proprietary, the last thing she has time for is romance.

JARED BUELL—widower neighbor and wealthy rancher—was never particularly charitable when it came to farmers, even eye-catching ones like Ida. He’s not looking to start trouble or anything else with her. His comfortable existence needs no complications, thank you very much. Then an old nemesis comes to town and threatens his and Ida’s property. He has no choice but to get involved.

Experience this action-packed romp through 1895 Wyoming where an outlaw schemes to take over the town and Ida and Jared find love when they least expect it.

Read an excerpt at


Contact Joann at:

Visit @JoAnnAinsworth on Twitter and Facebook.

Categories: Horses, nature, Romantic suspense, Uncategorized, Western romance, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “Horses are Characters, too…

  1. Thank you for this opportunity, Kate, to share my experiences with your readers.

    • Thanks so much for joining us JoAnn. I’ve always said my horses are my therapists and best friends (outside my hubby). It’s amazing how the unconditional love of an animal can ease the stresses of life. So glad you had Sensacional to help you.

  2. Thank you SO much JoAnn for this post. I swear I don’t know what’s wrong with me (?) because I can’t seem to feel “good” about the fact my son has been pulling away from me since he was about 15 and is now 19 and still his friends are number one and I’m maybe a two! I’ve never been able to truly feel fine about it and yet I have Maximus – my beautiful almost-17 hand Friesian gelding who is the love of my life. He’s always there for me and is such a great trail horse. My dream was always to go out on trail alone with him and after 7 years of having him, we are finally able to do that. His lifespan will hopefully be way longer than it takes for my son to come “to believe a mother might be worth acknowledging once again.” In fact a few months ago he made a comment that it took him until he was around 18 to realize that your mom is someone who is “really cool”. That made my heart sway. Now if only he can some day realize that “family” is important.

    • I sympathize Patti. It is hard to live through the teenage years and the accompanying loss of status. They usually do get a better appreciation of their parents as they get older.

    • Keep the good thought, Patti, and try not to fret. Children work through these times on their own schedules, it seems. It’s up to us parents to be patient. You’re following your dream in the meantime.
      Enjoy the ride.

  3. marsharwest

    Having daughters, I’m surprised to read this about you moms of son’s. I thought that bond was always rock solid. It was mothers and their daughters who got so at cross purposes. Thanks for sharing and based on my experience with my girls, kids usually come around. All you can do is the best you can do, anyway.
    JoAnn, I love the cover of your book. Looks like a really good read.
    I lost two pups this summer at 14 and 15. Tonight when I put the fire on for the first time, I just bawled. Simon, my red Chihauhua loved to lie on the hearth and warm his paws. Those of us who’ve had animals touch our lives are certainly blessed.
    I’ve got a horse woman on my blog tomorrow. Hope you ladies will stop by. It’s so funny I know so many of you and I’m not a horsy person at all. Love the writing world. 🙂

    • Oh yeah, sons can be just as difficult as daughters – I’ve got both. They both have to go through the separation phase and hopefully join up again.

      I agree the cover is lovely.

      Thanks for stopping by Marsha.

  4. Can’t help you with daughters, Marsha. I only had my son. Energy was always bouncing off the walls. Sleep overs were exhausting.
    Thanks for the comment re the cover. I like Book 2 cover a lot, too. That novel will release in December. I was lucky to get an artist who read my write up on the characters.

  5. I apologize for being so late replying to your comments. It’s not what I intended when I got up this morning. My day got tossed upside down though, because a friend died of old age. His daughter called me. He was 101 and his passing was expected. It was peaceful, with family at his bedside. His burial is tomorrow. He died of old age and outlived his wife by almost a decade. They were both dear friends.
    His passing reaffirmed how we must cherish each moment we have with family and friends – and with our animal friends, too.

    • My friend’s father died just the other day, JoAnn. He was 103. Longer lives for these two gentlemen than most of us can expect. Nice when the family can be there for both parties.

      • I’m amazed with today’s longevity. Abben kept his brainpower until the end and was mobile until the last weeks, when he could only sit up for a few hours. When I was young, people who lived into their early 60’s were considered long lived.

    • So sorry to hear about your friend. He truly did have a long and hopefully happy life. It’s amazing how long people are living nowadays.

      So glad you could visit today.

      • Abben did have a happy life, Kate. One of the last things he said to his family when they asked what he dreamed about when sleeping was that he dreamed about dancing with Ethel. He and his wife loved to dance. That memory made him happiest.

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