Feet to Fancy

Once there was a 9 year old girl who loved soccer (but she loved horses more). For two years she played on a great team, went to a championship, and learned that sometimes a single kick can change the entire game. 

One day her parents told her she could go to soccer camp, and she looked forward to the week right up until she got a bad cold. Instead of a week of sports she faced a week of misery, and the only thing she felt like playing was her Nintendo

She assumed she’d lost her chance to attend camp that summer, but one day her parents came to her with news.

“We’re sorry you missed soccer camp,” they said. “Would you like to go to pony camp instead?”

“Oh, yes!” the little girl exclaimed. She didn’t know there were pony camps with live ponies, and the thought made her giddy.

A few days later, her mother took her to the pony school for an introductory lesson.

Bonnie the instructor was nice, but she was very outgoing. Her frank personality scared the young girl a little, but she didn’t dare say anything because this nice lady had all the ponies. Bonnie told the girl which camp to attend, and she the went home feeling like Sprenkil’s wings were under her.

Pony week came, and the little girl met her mount: Fancy. She was white and tall with a push-button personality, and she loved her because for one week the pony was hers. Fancy taught the girl to balance, she taught her to post and canter, and she taught her to jump over poles.

The little girl could scarcely believe her biggest dream was coming true–she was riding!

After pony week ended, the young rider admitted she’d never been happier to be sick than that cold before soccer camp. It was a point of major change, one that she didn’t hesitate to make. 

She traded a soccer ball for a saddle, and there was no looking back.

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L.J. and Fancy

Fancy’s story didn’t stop with pony camp. When the young rider broke her arm falling off a different pony a year later (that’s a tale for another blog post), Fancy was the one who eased her back into riding and restored her confidence.

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Captain, the Horse Who Wouldn’t Walk

wp-1473284576708.jpgMy first memories of horses comes in the form of a buckskin pinto named Captain. He was my mother’s horse, and he held all my dreams behind his blue eyes. I loved him from the moment I realized I could love, and I wanted to be on his back long before I knew how to ride.

Sometimes after riding my mom would set me in her Western saddle and lead Captain around, or sometimes she would swing up behind me and we’d ride double around the pasture. I was pretty sure I was as close to heaven on earth as I could possibly be.

I grew a little older, and my budding confidence around horses took on an edge of boldness. I was sure I could ride by myself, and I remember clearly the first time my mom unhooked the lead rope.

Captain promptly stopped walking.

I clicked. I kicked. I kicked harder. I commanded him to move. I even smacked his back end with the reins.

He sighed hugely and didn’t lift a hoof, and that’s when I learned my first important lesson:

The horse knows you better than you do.

He knew I didn’t have the confidence, the will, or the know-how. I understood the motions, but he knew I didn’t understand the language.

I tried a few more times over the next year or so, but every time I got on, he refused to move. The times my mom held onto his bridle to get him going, he came to a halt the moment she let go.

I considered myself a failure and doomed to love an animal who would never love me back. I remember crying over it at least once. Having a dream die is hard on an 8-year-old.tmp_5926-img_20160907_140543-1286490898

I was 9 when I attended Pony Camp at a nearby stables, and after a week of “training,” I returned to Captain with something new: determination. Combined with greater confidence and increased knowledge, it meant I felt ready to ride anything.

Thus came the day when I sat on his back by myself, and I kicked. He stood still, but I noticed a flick of his ear, and I knew for the first time he was listening. I kicked again, told him to move, and I think I called him a Big Lug.

And Captain walked.

It was the beginning of a complicated relationship, but that day was all victory. He walked!

In that moment, my dreams returned to life.

Sprenkil Doodles

I’m at the end of the query list for The Sprenkil Adventures, and while part of me is disappointed that I haven’t more to show for my efforts than a few dozen rejection letters, I blink and realize I actually HAVE a few dozen rejection letters. Which means I’ve been doing something, and there is definitely something to be said for trying.

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I’m not giving up, not yet. I’m taking a hard look at the manuscript and revising it further. I’m determined to get it under 1000 words, because I feel this needs to be a true picture book.

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I’m also going to pursue the smallish list of agents who only want author/ illustrators. I’ve dismissed it from the beginning because my drawing chops haven’t been used since 2002, but the other day I started doodling for inspiration and the thought hit me I’d be a fool to explore all other options but this one.

So I’m going for it!

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A while ago I posted a recounting of saving a hummingbird. You can look in the near future for other true animal accounts to appear on the blog! There are many tales from my childhood on the Blue Star Ranch involving llamas, cats, iguanas, chickens, and maybe the occasional snake, just to name a few.

We’re not only about horses here (although we do love them an awful lot)!

When Girl Meets Horse

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My 6 year old daughter is much like me in many ways, including being born with a love for horses. Hand her a stick, *poof!* now she has a pony to ride. Give her a carrot *poof!* the rocking horse is now carrot-starved and Must Be Fed. Pretend someone or something is in danger, *poof!* she hops on her ever faithful rescuing horse.

For years she has watched horses from afar with that wistful longing I well remember feeling. A couple years ago, we once passed a rider on a walk, and she was gracious enough to let my kids pet her beautiful palomino. Palominos are still one of my daughter’s favorites.

On Sunday she met her first horse up close and personal courtesy of a kind neighbor. It was a step towards a dream come true for her (the ultimate dream, of course, is a horse of her own). I’ve never seen her grin so big for so long!

A little bit of instruction later, she had balance and perfect posture as our neighbor walked the horse around, and I really had just one thought. “Land sakes, she’s a natural.”

Then I remembered, that’s what people said about me when I first got started. And I sighed happily, because while I foresee a lot of work, a lot of patience, and a lot of waiting on her part, I secretly have already started hearing it in my heart:

“Here we go again.”

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Nothing new to report on The Sprenkil Adventures. Still plugging ahead with queries, still hopeful for some replies! Still have a little of the list left to go. Starting to think more seriously what to do next should I not land an agent or publisher.

 

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Remembering SkyHawk

Part of me is somewhat saddened that the issue with my eyes has forced me to write less on the computer. Among other things, I had hoped to participate in the A-Z Challenge this year, but (obviously) that isn’t going to happen anymore.

What I am going to share today is a memory, and to this day it remains one of the strongest memories I have of my first horse, SkyHawk. I spent about 2 hours today going through my personal journals looking for the entry, and at length I found it.

I’ve been talking recently about stories where people rescued horses, but there’s also a place for stories where horses rescued people. Physical rescue is heroic, but so is emotional rescue. I know almost as little about therapy horses as I do about rescue horses, with one exception. I’ve been rescued before, and this is my story.

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The last photo of SkyHawk and Me.

July 7, 2004

A couple months after I first got SkyHawk, my brother started showing the first signs of what eventually (i.e. four years later) led to his diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. At the beginning, though, we didn’t know what was going on. We just thought my brother was going through some weird form of rebellion, so when the first real blow came that something was seriously wrong, I fell apart.

You must understand, before my brother started changing he was my best friend hands down. We did everything together, shared all our secrets, and valued the other’s opinion more than anyone else’s. The day I realized I’d lost that, I almost broke.

I ran to the only other place I had (I was 16, but not driving at the time and thus couldn’t escape that way)–I ran to my horse’s stall. Hawk was still relatively new to me, and I didn’t know him that well. I wasn’t sure if I really trusted him yet, but I was in a bad way and willing to take my chances just to be with something living and outside the house.

I sat down in the corner and started crying hard, silent tears, my face buried in my knees and my arms wrapped around my legs. After a few minutes I heard Hawk moving around, then I felt this light pressure on the back of my neck. I opened my eyes and looked up, and through watery vision I saw he was standing over me with his nose pressed against my shoulder. I cried even harder then, and he stayed with me, nose to shoulder, for what felt like ages.

I’ll never forget that night. It was the moment I knew Hawk and I understood each other. I trusted Hawk completely after that.

Hawk and I went on to do all kinds of things together. I took a fancy to bareback jumping and bridle-less riding (but not bridle-less jumping, because I wasn’t quite that brave). We went for trail rides through acres of apple orchards and vineyards, taught each other the passage and piaffe, and consumed large amounts of root beer (me moreso than him, but he did enjoy the occasional swig).

I miss him.

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My Horse Sprenkil has another rejection! Time to send out more queries…

Pinterest Reveal

L.J. Potters is now on Pinterest!

There you will see photos that inspire the setting and characters within the Sprenkil Adventures. You will find learning resources for kids related to elements within the books (currently this means a board on nature learning and a board on the solar system).

As I write more books, more Pinterest boards will develop. Already there are two new character boards secretly waiting to be revealed!

Curious? I suggest you begin by checking out the character board for Sprenkil!