I’m always excited for new horsey books, so I was happy for the opportunity to chat with Tudor Robins for her blog tour for her latest release Appaloosa Summer.
What are the 5 most important things you learned from working with horses?
As anyone who’s worked with horses knows, there’s always something new to learn about them, so on any given day, I could probably give you five completely different answers to this question. So, let’s start with what I just mentioned:
1) There’s always more to learn. Whether it’s learning about the actual horses, learning any of the sports associated with them, or keeping up with the latest changes and trends in the horse world, there’s something new to know every day. To me, this is a great parallel for life in general – especially my life as an author – where; again, there are always things to learn about the craft and business of writing.
2) Patience. This is a huge one! Lately I’ve worked with quite a few off-the-track thoroughbreds. These horses are sensitive by nature. They’re also young, and they’ve come to a completely new environment where we ask them to leg yield in a dressage ring, and jump over fences. Considering all this, I can’t believe how patient they are. If I ask them something they’re not sure of, they try, then wait for me to ask again, and try again. It’s an amazing experience, and one that reminds me to ask for what I want clearly, and calmly, and to be patient in return.
3) The value of reward / positive reinforcement. As humans we love positive reinforcement. As writers we crave it – we really want you to love our books! Horses have shown me just how important this is. My latest tactic, when riding a horse that has a reputation as a runaway, is to reach down and pat her neck every now and then. Every single time I pat her neck, she slows down, and her whole body relaxes. This has really brought home to me how powerful a kind word, or gesture can be.
4) The importance of having an outlet. It can be hard to find the time to ride. It can be hard to justify the expense. But it’s important. Being a rider is part of who I am. It adds dimension to my personality. It keeps me fit – mentally and physically. It’s the part of the week that’s mine alone. Your outlet may be riding, or it may be something different, but whatever it is, try to hold onto it.
5) The generosity of the horse world. The horse community is an amazing one. If you love horses, you’re in. My books have been supported by competitive hunter-jumpers, eventers, and dressage riders. They’ve been embraced by barrel racers and reiners. People who’ve never been on a horse, but just love looking at them, have read my books. No matter where you are in the world “horse” is a universal passkey.
Appaloosa Summer by Tudor Robins
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary / Coming-Of Age / Romance / Horse-Themed
Format: Paperback and eBook
Sixteen-year-old Meg Traherne has never known loss. Until the beautiful, talented horse she trained herself, drops dead underneath her in the show ring. Jared Strickland has been living with loss ever since his father died in a tragic farming accident. Meg escapes from her grief by changing everything about her life; moving away from home to spend her summer living on an island in the St. Lawrence River, scrubbing toilets and waiting on guests at a B&B. Once there, she meets Jared; doing his best to keep anything else in his life from changing. When Jared offers Meg a scruffy appaloosa mare out of a friend’s back field, it’s the beginning of a journey that will change both of them by summer’s end.
Appaloosa Summer can be compared to Heartland TV show – http://www.cbc.ca/heartland/
I’m staring down a line of jumps that should scare my brand-new show breeches right off me.
But it doesn’t. Major and I know our jobs here. His is to read the combination, determine the perfect take-off spot, and adjust his stride accordingly. Mine is to stay out of his way, and let him jump.
We hit the first jump just right. He clears it with an effortless arc, and all I have to do is go through my mental checklist. Heels down. Back straight. Follow his mouth.
“Good boy, Major.” One ear flicks halfway back to acknowledge my comment, but not enough to make him lose focus. A strong, easy stride to jump two, and he’s up, working for both of us, holding me perfectly balanced as we fly through the air.
He lands with extra momentum; normal at the end of a long, straight line. He self-corrects, shifting his weight back over his hocks. Next will come the surge from his muscled hind end; powering us both up, and over, the final tall vertical.
It doesn’t come, though. How can it not? “Come on!” I cluck, scuff my heels along his side. No response from my rock solid jumper.
The rails are right in front of us, but I have no horsepower – nothing – under me. By the time I think of going for my stick, it’s too late. We slam into several closely spaced rails topping a solid gate. Oh God. Oh no. Be ready, be ready, be ready. But how? There’s no good way. There are poles everywhere, and leather tangling, and dirt. In my eyes, in my nose, in my mouth.
There’s no sound from my horse. Is he as winded as me? I can’t speak, or yell, or scream. Major? Is that him on my leg? Is that why it’s numb? People come, kneel around me. I can’t see past them. I can’t sit up. My ears rush and my head spins. I’m going to throw up. “I’m going to …”
I flush the toilet. Swish out my mouth. Avoid looking in the mirror. Light hurts, my reflection hurts, everything hurts at this point in the afternoon, when the headache builds to its peak.
I’ve never lost anybody close to me. My grandpa died before I was born, and my widowed grandma’s still going strong at ninety-four. She has an eighty-nine-year-old boyfriend. They go to the racetrack; play the slots.
If I had to predict who would die first in my life, I would never, in a million years, have guessed it would be my fit, strong, seven-year-old thoroughbred.
But he did.
Thinking about it just sharpens the headache, so I press a towel against my face, blink into the soft fluffiness.
“Are you OK?” Slate’s voice comes through the door. With my mom and dad at work, Slate’s been the one to spend the last three days distracting me when I’m awake, and waking me up whenever I get into a sound sleep. Or that’s what it feels like.
“Fine.” I push the bathroom door open.
I nod. Stupid move. It hurts. Whisper instead. “Yes.”
“Well, that’s a big improvement. Just the once today.”
She follows me back to my room. She’s not a pillow-plumper or quilt-smoother – I have to struggle into my rumpled bed – but it’s nice to have her around. “I’m glad you’re here, Slatey.” I sniffle, and taste salt in the back of my throat.
I’m close to tears all the time these days. “Normal,” the doctor said. Apparently tears aren’t unreasonable after suffering a knock to the head hard enough to split my helmet in two, with my horse dropping stone cold dead underneath me in the show ring. I’m still sick of crying, though. And puking, too.
“Don’t be stupid, Meg; being here is heaven. My mom and Agate are going completely over the top organizing Aggie’s sweet sixteen. There are party planning boards everywhere, and her dance friends are always over giggling about it too.”
“Just as long as it’s not about me. I don’t want to owe you.”
“’Course not; you’re not that great of a best friend.”
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About the Author
Tudor Robins is an Ottawa-based young adult author whose first novel, Objects in Mirror, was named a Best Book for Kids and Teens by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.
She gathered publishing-related experience in her roles as a magazine editor and publishing sales representative, as well as working in offset and digital printing. Tudor currently teaches writing workshops for adults and children, as well as developing writing contests and programming to motivate young writers.
Tudor loves reading, writing, and horseback riding, and spending time with her husband and two sons.
Receiving messages from readers is one of Tudor’s favourite things, so please feel free to visit her website and connect with her on Facebook.
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Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE
Appaloosa Summer Event Page