dressage

Horses, Alternative Medicine and My New Book

Portia at 29

Portia at 29

When I got my mare Portia over twenty years ago, alternative care for animals was in its infancy and generally frowned on by traditional veterinarians. While I had tried acupuncture for a chronic bursitis, I wasn’t really that open to alternative techniques. But trying to help my sweet mare cured me of that attitude and introduced me to a new way of looking at life. And inspired the heroine of my newest novel Forewarning.

Portia was a beautiful, grey Anglo-Arab with wonderful gaits, a very willing attitude and a delightful joy in life. While she could be silly, mostly she was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, after I’d had her for about six months, she developed unusual problems that the vets couldn’t figure out. First, she started having trouble going down hills. Then she began tripping over things if we rode at dusk. Finally she came up with a really dramatic symptom. She would stumble and fall to the ground. Now lots of horses stumble, but rarely do they go down. This was weird as well as dangerous. And I had the bruises to prove it.

We went through a variety of diagnoses. Navicular disease—but the x-rays and the lack of response to shoeing changes and medicines seemed to rule that out. Weak stifles—but injections and keeping her on hill didn’t change anything.

This went on for about a year and a half and I was ready to give up on her when a friend suggested trying chiropractic. I hadn’t heard of equine chiro before and resisted the idea for quite a while. Then I heard about a vet who did acupuncture and worked with a chiropractor, and I decided to give it a try. If a vet was supervising, maybe there was some worth to it.

The acupuncture to relax the muscles, followed by chiropractic treatment to correct the misalignments in Portia’s spine and sacrum, produced an amazing and immediate improvement. I was ecstatic! I would have my talented, fun horse back again.

The jubilation only lasted a couple of weeks, then Portia started having problems again. It turned out that the chiro put things right for a while, but didn’t correct whatever was causing her back to go out in the first place. While I continued to use chiropractic on all my horses, I now began a journey through just about every alternative modality that existed, in an effort to find a solution to Portia’s trouble.

Finally, I encountered a woman who was learning a new-to-the-USA technique called Manual Therapy. For the first time we got improvements that lasted. She was actually able get to the cause of some of Portia’s problems and many times fix them.

Jacquie’s main work is with people and she only occasionally works on horses. Both my husband and I have gone to her and benefitted greatly from her work. Through her I’ve met several other manual therapists, most of whom also work both with humans and animals. When I began writing fiction seriously a few years ago, I thought it would be interesting to have a protagonist who was a Manual Therapist. The story possibilities were many, and I might also introduce some readers to alternative techniques.

If you read Forewarning, I’d love to hear your reaction to the heroine, Kasey Martin, and the work she does.

*****.

Here’s a small excerpt from when she is working on a horse.

Then she put both hands on the horse and just stood there. After a minute she shifted position and again stood without moving.

“What is she doing?” TJ asked Billy, who had come into the barn too.

Billy glanced at Kasey and gave a shrug. “She’s listening,” he replied.

“What do you mean, listening?” TJ turned to the younger man with a disbelieving frown.

“That’s what she calls it—listening to the body, to figure out what needs to be done. I’m no expert. I just know she does some pretty amazing things. Watch.”

So TJ did watch while Kasey finished her initial assessment and stepped back to make notes on her chart. Then with a determined expression, she placed one hand on the mare’s spine and another low on her left hip. She kept them there for almost ten minutes while talking softly to the horse and Ben. As far as TJ could see, she was doing nothing more than lightly touching the horse.

All of a sudden, Doll let out a big sigh and visibly relaxed, dropping her head low and almost closing her eyes. Kasey stepped away, and tension seemed to flow out of her as well. A few moments later, with a much calmer expression, she moved back to the horse. She continued to hold her hands in different spots for varying amounts of time, changing their position after Doll sighed or yawned. Obviously, something was happening, but TJ had no idea what.

At one point Doll swung her head around and touched her ribs, just behind her front legs. Kasey nodded. “I know,” she said, and kept on with what she was doing. A few minutes later Doll twisted around again and touched her side a couple more times. Kasey smiled and responded. “I’ll get to it. I know it hurts. I need to take care of this first.”

TJ widened his eyes in disbelief. The horse is telling her where it hurts? At that point, he almost left in disgust to go back to the house, but hesitated when he saw how seriously Ben and Billy were watching. Pushing down his skepticism, he decided to wait and see how her treatment played out.

A while later Kasey finally switched her attention to the area Doll had touched. The mare bobbed her head up and down a couple of times, then let it hang in total relaxation. After spending a good ten minutes working on the area, Kasey stepped back.

******

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Forewarning CoverYou can buy FOREWARNING on Amazon http://amazon.com/ dp/B00DP5VOHK/

Categories: alternative medicine, Books, dressage, energetic healing, healing, horse personalities, Horses, Romantic suspense, Trail riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Interviewing Myself

Forewarning CoverWelcome back.

Today I’m taking part in an Author round-robin blog, where I talk about various aspects of my writing process and my new book coming out next week. I was invited to the party by Marsha West, author of the soon-to-be-published VERMONT ESCAPE. You can visit her and learn about her fabulous new book at: http://www.marsharwest.com/vermont-escape/

Here goes:

What are you working on right now?

I’m getting ready to publish my next book, FOREWARNING. I have my cover, it’s been edited and gone through beta readers, and now I’m in the process of formatting it for the Kindle. I plan on releasing it July 1.

How does it differ from other works in its genre?

It’s a cross-genre romantic suspense about an energetic healer who lives on a horse ranch. FOREWARNING is the first book of my Horses and Healing series. It tells the story of Kasey Edwards, an alternative healer, who rescues an injured man and gets drawn into an unexpected web of danger.

What experiences have influenced you?

I’ve had horses most of my life—started riding when I was three. Caring for, raising and training them has molded my approach to life. Animals ground you in a way that’s often lost in city living. They also led me into alternative approaches to medical care. When traditional veterinary methods couldn’t help one of my horses, complementary techniques did. So I’m a firm believer in both.

Why do you write what you do?

I like happy endings and I like mysteries that engage my mind, so romantic suspense is the perfect blend. My books tend more to suspense with romantic elements than traditional romance. In my Horses and Healing mysteries, of which FOREWARNING is the first, I also get to talk about complementary therapies.

How does your writing process work?

I’m a “puzzler.” I can’t just sit down and write, like a pantser, nor can I write to an outline, like a plotter. Usually, I come up with an initial idea, figure out where I’d like to story to go—the ending—then start fleshing out the characters, using character sheets and personality profiles. My characters may change while I’m writing, but I do need to know who they are to make them real. I’m always surprised and delighted by the serendipitous things that pop out as I go along. Maybe a comment by a character ends up setting up a later scene. Or I encounter someone or something that inspires an idea for my story.

What is the hardest part about writing?

Two things: turning off my internal editor and figuring out the turning points in the story. After I know my characters, I then have to figure out how to get them from point A to point B. By determining three or four turning points, I have an idea of where to go. But getting those points can really be a bear.

What would you like to try as a writer that you haven’t yet?

Historical fiction—suspense, of course. There already are several excellent writers, such as Suzanne Adair, doing early American mysteries, but I’d still like to try my hand at it.

Who are the authors you most admire?

There are so many, it’s hard to single them out. Some who come to mind are Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, Kay Hooper, Elizabeth Lowell, Cait London, Robin Carr, Suzanne Brockman, Linda Lael Miller and Allison Brennan.

Who are new authors to watch out for?

Marsha West—can’t wait for her VERMONT ESCAPE. Susan Schreyer, Polly Iyer, Jerrie Alexander, Donnell Bell, and Susan Boyer to name just a few. All romantic suspense writers.

What scares you?

What if no one likes my book? Not what if it doesn’t sell, but what if they don’t like it? I want it to be a success, of course. (And make lots of money. J) Even more important, I want readers to enjoy my stories and to come back for more.

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And now I’m going to introduce you to the next link in this Author’s Chain—Susan Scheyer, author of the Thea Campbell Mystery series. Her next book, SHOOTING TO KILL, is due out soon. If you like humorous mysteries featuring horses, be sure to visit her blog “Writing Horses” http://writinghorses.blogspot.com.

Categories: blog hops, Books, dressage, healing, Horses, Mystery, romance, Romantic suspense, suspense, Trail riding, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Horses and Victims

Glory #2Lacy cowered in the closet, her arms wrapped tight around her legs and listened to the footsteps coming closer and closer. The door swung open and she tried to scream but she couldn’t make a sound as the knife descended.

We’ve all read and seen variations on this scene, a victim, usually a woman or child, too frightened to do anything to help themselves. You’ve probably felt that way a time or two in less dire situations. I know I have. Interestingly, people aren’t the only beings that react this way. Horses and other animals often do too.

Today I’m going to finish my series on horse personalities and how they connect with writing novels. Since it’s been a while, I’ll do a short recap. Horses can be generally classified as four personality types. The extrovert-thinker compares to the typical alpha hero—confident, outgoing and brave. The extrovert-reactor is similar to the smart-ass heroines—emotional, reacting before thinking and taking chances. The introvert-thinker is more like a stalker villain—quiet, careful and determined.

The fourth type is the introvert-reactor—horses who are easily overwhelmed by their emotions. My horse Glory is a typical example. An extremely sensitive Thoroughbred, intended for racing, she was apparently handled inappropriately for her personality and was too timid to fight back. Instead, she shut down and stopped reacting to anything at all. She was very well-trained and my instructor had recommended I get her as a school master for learning dressage. (For learning an intricate skill such as dressage it’s best to have a horse that already knows what to do and can teach you to do it right.)

She seemed very sweet and obviously knew her stuff, so I decided to take a chance on her. And she ended up teaching me much more than I ever expected. It soon became apparent that she was very different from any horse I had handled before. Not only was she so sensitive that she hated being brushed, she was unexpectedly uptight, but expressed it in an unusual way. While most horses act out in some way if they’re upset, she shut down and turned it inside. During one of our first rides, we weren’t communicating well and suddenly she got a nose-bleed. When this happened again in different situations, I realized this was a stress reaction.

The thing that I found oddest was how afraid she was of making a mistake. I was used to horses trying to do what I asked and if it wasn’t quite right, we’d just do it again. Not Glory. If she thought she’d made a mistake, she’d either get a nose-bleed or stop and start shaking, obviously expecting to be punished. This fear carried over to the trail. Another horse could spook big time at something unexpected and she wouldn’t move a muscle. It was eerie.

I almost gave up on her the first year, she wasn’t much fun. But gradually she started being less uptight and we began to communicate better. It took a lot of years for her to really trust that she’d found a safe place and it was okay to express opinions on things. Now she will boss around the other two horses and she doesn’t worry about miscues. Now she really is MY horse and I am her person.

I’m so glad that girls and young women are being taught to stand up for themselves nowadays. We’ll always need helpless victims for our stories, but hopefully they’ll be less common in real life.

Have you encountered a situation where you froze and were unable to react? Do you use helpless victims in your stories?

Categories: Books, dressage, horse personalities, Horses, suspense, Trail riding, training horses, writing, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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