Hello readers, I was a finalist in Angelea Walkup’s HorseGirlTV Guest Bloggers competition! Please see the guest post at http://www.horsegirltv.com/making-a-difference-one-horse-or-human-at-a-time/. Thanks, Angelea, and Team HorseGirlTV for inviting me to stop by.
Following is a guest post I provided to the Lollipops and Books Blog recently, that I wanted to share with my readers here.
One of the unexpected joys in writing Believing In Horses came from my brother, Eddy Ormond. A career educator, Eddy developed a keen interest in my book from the start and stayed involved during the writing process. Even as a non-horse person, he accompanied me on my research visits to barns, horse rescues, and even a live horse auction. My brother provided valuable input to me, as a writer, from spending years with fourth and fifth graders, knowing what they would like and maybe not like. It was a wonderful journey for both of us that I thought would end at the book’s publication. But I was wrong.I have read many Middle Grade and Young Adult novels, and frequently wondered, “Do these kids ever go to school?” Besides that fact, I felt compelled to have a teacher in my novel passionate about his profession and making a difference in the lives of children. [Read more...]
I last posted about “Keeping It Real” in writing and mentioned how some people responded to my book, Believing In Horses, turning fiction into reality. Last week, some local children made a significant donation to local rescues in their “Kids Can Do BIG Things, Too!” campaign. Please welcome my guest blogger, Kristy Alvarez, founder of Desire Ministries and the leader of this campaign, who tells the story in her words.
As many of you know, or may not know, through Desire Ministries, we have been running an after-school Horse Club program since 2006. We meet with the students of Cornerstone Christian Academy on a weekly basis so that the students who participate can learn the basics of horseback riding and horsemanship at Loftmar Stables in Bowie, Md.
This year, the Annapolis Book Festival included a panel, “Young Adult Books: Keeping It Real.” The title alone fascinated me, and I was thrilled to be part of it. The Key School in Annapolis created the Annapolis Book Festival 10 years ago when a group of dedicated parents decided to bring a world class event promoting reading and writing to Annapolis, Md. Once involved with the event, I quickly recognized why the Annapolis Book Festival holds the reputation as one of the finest book festivals in the region. With over 40 authors and 25 panels, The Key School saw to every detail and ensured both authors and audiences enjoyed the event.
Today I met the newly-formed and already-fantastic Horse Book Club at Nantucket Elementary School in Crofton, Md. Nantucket’s school librarian, Ms. Miller, brought together this group of enthusiastic horse-crazy students to read and discuss my book, Believing In Horses, over the next several months. Like so many of our educators out there, Ms. Miller, and her assistant Ms. Clark, have gone beyond their required jobs to create a special learning environment for these readers. Ms. Miller asked if I’d come sign and present the books and talk to the Club on its inaugural day, which of course I happily did.
To make this an ongoing interactive experience, the Club will use a relatively new educational social media platform, Edmodo. According to its creators, “Edmodo promotes anytime, anyplace learning. Functionally, it allows teachers to post messages, discuss classroom topics, assign and grade classwork, share content and materials, and network and exchange ideas with their peers – but in reality, it is so much more.” The librarian established a Believing In Horses group in Edmodo allowing us all to discuss and share ideas virtually. Ms.Miller’s first post: ”I hope you will enjoy our book club. Our first task is to find a neat name for our book club. Think about ‘horse’ words and share them with the group.”
But, our Horse Book Club leaders wanted more. Besides meeting weekly and discussing the book on Wednesdays (after all raised their right hands and swore they would not read ahead of the assignments), Ms. Miller thought it would be a good idea to have a mid-book project. So, the Horse Book Club members will be participating in the first annual Voice For The Horse Children’s Writing Competition. The founder of Voice For The Horse, Yvonne Allen, created the writing competition to provide a unique and free learning opportunity and allow children to share their love for horses across North America through their writing. From what I saw in the Horse Book Club’s eyes today, watch out competition!
And finally, the club will conclude its year with a field trip to Loftmar Stables, the backdrop and home to many of the horses in the book. We’ll do some hands on horse work, meet horses, take pictures, and answer final questions. And now it was my turn to make a club assignment: the Horse Book Club will help me put Ms. Miller on a horse for the first time in her life. I believe they can do it!
While assessing why I was so estatic about this Horse Book Club visit today, it hit me that this small group represented so many of the goals I had set when writing this book. Kids are reading and writing; they are sharing their love for horses; and adults are learning more about horses – maybe even becoming horse lovers, too. Thank you, Horse Book Club, for choosing Believing In Horses; it’s a blue ribbon win for me.
A life-long horseman, Steuart Pittman’s credentials include certification to teach eventing through the preliminary level. I featured him in Believing In Horses as “the current President of the MHC, a well-known local equestrian, and a former grassroots lobbyist,” all true. Dodon Farm’s business ranges from breeding, training, and starting horses to improving riders. I also consider Steuart a “horse saver” (my term), for his tremendous efforts in supporting the MHC’s Unwanted Horse Project and in his work retraining off-track Thoroughbreds. He and his wife, Erin, created The Retired Racehorse Training Project, which recently received its official 501(c)3 charitable status.
My husband really enjoys silent auctions — following the bids, the last minute scramble before the pens go down, and the wins. When they announced he won the Free Jump session, he turned to me and said, “I can’t wait to see what Billy can do.” Billy is Jaime’s Quarter Horse, a former racehorse, who masquerades as a Thoroughbred.
“Billy?” I thought to myself. “Well, okay. That’s not exactly what I had in mind, but it will work.”
I guess we’ve known each other long enough for him to read my expression, and he continued, “Or Lucky – maybe we should take Lucky instead.”
And so we ended up bringing both Billy and Lucky, after discussing it with Steuart.
Upon arrival, Steuart brought us into the indoor arena, one horse at a time, and explained the set up. He, and his assistant, Emily, would be free longeing the horse around a circle, having him run through the chute. It would start with a trot, no poles, then progress to a cross rail, then a series of jumps.
Our role was to stay in the middle and watch, and not distract the horse by talking to him, coaxing, clucking, etc. Do you have any idea how hard that is to do? Non-horse people, that’s like asking you to go to your kids’ soccer game and watch from the sidelines and not say a thing! You can grade us from the videos as to whether we got a pass or fail on that one.
I posted a few video clips together, showing the progression. I’ll start with Billy.
We learned so much from this. We anticipated Billy would be a bit uncomfortable in the new setting, but the last thing we thought is that he wouldn’t want to canter. He loves to move – fast – so this surprised us. We also noted an unusual maneuver with his left hind during the flight of the jump and the landing. This is something we’re going to keep an eye on and see if it’s consistent, and also see if he does the same with his right hind when moving in the opposite direction. It’s nice to have an idea of what’s going on beneath you when in flight.
As Pittman said, “There are no two horses that jump alike.” The next clip, of Lucky (AKA Color Me Lucky) demonstrates this. At five-years-old, this was Lucky’s first attempt at anything above two feet; he seemed to like it.
Overall, the Free Jump Session showed us what our horses can do, as Pittman says, “without the rider in the way.” A completely enjoyable experience, run by true professionals, I highly recommend it. For a complete paper on the issue, see Pittman’s Teaching Horses How to Jump. And for more information on Dodon Farm, in Davidsonville, Md., please see www.DodonFarm.com. Of course, comments are always appreciated here, too!