Thursday, June 28, 2012

In the Busy Summer-Time....

Josie and SummerTime - he's my hero. What does yours look like?

June has been a busy month – I’m coordinating a writing contest for my local RWA chapter, running a summer horse camp, dealing with my horse’s abscessed hoof, finishing up the school year as a substitute teacher and applying for full-time teaching positions in the fall. On the writing side of things, I did finish the edits on one of my young adult novels and am in the midst of the “second one” or should I say, the “first one” since it’s scheduled as an autumn release. My hope is to get back to my mainstream western romance sometime soon.
With that in mind, I definitely needed to do some research – my hero is a veterinarian and my heroine is the woman in charge of a pony farm. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly and he’s used to telling people what to do. Helping to advise the local 4-H Horse Club, breeding, training, showing and looking after twenty equines who own her body, heart and soul keeps my heroine busy.  She knows her life will be complete when she wins and weds the man she adores despite the fact he has other plans. He sees her as a friend, potential sister-in-law, and a woman more capable than most Army generals, a cross between Gunga-Din and Alexander the Great.  Still, she has incredible fantasies about a life with him. No, it’s not the hero – he’s the guy who wrecks her plans and ends up saving her sanity.

Running a riding stable in real life does provide some background for my new book. However, since my heroine also trains horses, I’ve been watching natural horse-training videos, attending clinics and reading articles and books. Then, I go down to the arena and try out some of the weird stuff on our four-legged babies. They’ve been very patient with me, especially since lessons always include carrots. Treats are my style, but not always acceptable in the horsy business - some folks think giving a horse treats teaches them to bite. Of course, I've heard the same thing about taking chocolate to the high school for the kids when they're good! So far, neither the horses or the teens have bitten me.

Horses eat constantly because their stomachs are not that big – when they stop eating, you know they’re sick. Normally, this means colic – a bad stomach-ache that constipates the animal. Left untreated, the horse will die. And if you want to know what makes a real hero, it’s the guy who stays with the heroine and her horse for the three days it takes to save the critter. The cure for colic is to keep the horse on its feet and moving until it passes the blockage.

Yes, this means pooping and passing gas. We actually keep Gas-X on hand for the horses at our barn and I mix it with applesauce and force-feed it during these times. The drug can be used with the muscle relaxants prescribed by the vet. Fun times are the enemas, mineral oil drenches and don’t ask what I do with plastic bread sacks and shortning – you don’t want to know!  However, I did use this in my newest book, but my veterinarian gets to use the “real” medical stuff that vets do, not the homemade things horse people keep on hand to save equine lives while waiting for the doctor to arrive.

In my second book, The Daddy Spell which is a prequel to my new work in progress, my heroine thought one of her old pony mares had colic. Actually, she is in labor when the hero arrives and he stays to help deliver the foal. This allowed for some great tension between him and the heroine, especially when he told her that she needed to do a hands-on inspection when she bought a new horse. He was talking about the stud colt who’d been running amuck in the herd – she needed to get up close and personal and she hadn’t. In real life, we do this all the time. We look at teeth to determine the age of the horse, the hooves to see if the animal is sound, the eyes – can he see and the horse’s body. As the saying goes, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” You’ll quickly learn how old the horse truly is and the older they are, the more care they’ll need.

Well, morning comes early in the summer – I actually have to be in the barn by 6 AM so I’ll stop for now and catch up with you around the old homestead.
Happy riding, reading and writing – wherever you are and have a great summer,
Shannon Kennedy aka Josie Malone

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