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Monday, March 22, 2010

GUEST BLOG: CLAIRE ASHGROVE

The Romance of Horses

While I was considering what to write for this blog, I veered far away from the subject of horses. To those who know me well, I’m always rambling about horses. I’m quite sure many are tired of the subject. But as it usually happens when I try to steer away from a subject, I come full circle back to it. It occurred to me, why avoid it? When it all boils down, horses brought me to where I am today. And not just as themes to write about. My two earliest trainers taught me that to accomplish my goals, I had to work for them. They inspired me in life, not just in riding. They taught me not to give up. To believe in a dream. Things I have applied across the board.

So here we are…

Have you ever stopped to consider some of the most memorable classics come from horse tales – Black Beauty, The Black Stallion? Have you been moved by real life horse struggles – Barbaro, Eight Bells, Ruffian? Can you recall the name of The Lone Ranger’s horse by heart? Have you crowded around the television to watch the Belmont and cheer on the favored contender, only to be disappointed the horse didn’t win?

I have a theory on why these four legged-creatures affect us so powerfully. Two or three actually. First, most little girls are infatuated with horses. As little girls grow up, they become women who enjoy romance novels. The girlhood infatuation with the ‘pretty horsey’ is still present, and thus the combination works well. That’s really probably a stretch, but I like to believe it.

Second, and more practical, horses possess majesty. There’s a mythical presence to the solitary grey horse in a lush green field. A breathlessness that accompanies seeing a horse run with the wind. A sense of awe and strength when the movies portray a battle-seasoned warhorse. Overwhelming sorrow when a horse who’s aided the hero surrenders its life.

All these emotions are powerful places to pull reader sentiment. But it goes beyond just pulling emotion when horses are utilized in a story. Horses create a secondary character, beyond the human characters we put into our stories. The reader sees the horse react. They witness the sheer strength and elegance the horse has retained through the centuries.

The audience roots for the horse. Take Seabiscuit for instance. While he was a phenomenal racer in his own right, what made the movie so compelling was the horse’s rise from a terrible beginning. Barbaro would be just another significant racehorse who might have possibly won the Triple Crown. His injury affected the world. His battle to overcome won the hearts of thousands. Remove the horse’s struggle in The Horse Whisperer, and we have a movie about a teenage girl learning how to cope with a life-altering injury. Compelling on its own, but it doesn’t pack the same punch.

In each memorable story about a horse, the horse has a purpose and usually a goal all unto itself. The owner(s) might have a need to see success, but there’s a reason the horse must succeed beyond the impact to the hero, heroine, or sometimes villain. Usually, it’s an underdog story. I believe this is because, at the root of human nature, we can identify with the underdog.

For those who are active in the equine community, they know all too well the significance of a horse’s success. These people can bond with a horse novel because they’ve walked in those shoes. Almost every horse owner holds a dream. Maybe they know there’s no chance of ever seeing it come true. In the novel, however, they achieve that coveted win, their foundered companion walks sound, the foal born with devastatingly crooked legs grows straight.

There’s romance in the horse’s life, just as there’s romance with the hero and heroine. Combine the both, and you get more than a satisfying love story. You get a satisfying life story.

In my forthcoming release, Waiting For Yes, Bahadur Mamoon has a life struggle. He’s beautiful. He’s majestic. He’s the epitome of an Egyptian Arabian stallion…

He’s also deadly.

Any conscientious breeder would never reproduce a neurological defect, but Gabrielle refuses to give up on Mamoon, if only to prove her father wrong. Yet, the story goes beyond Gabrielle’s goals and the destruction of her dreams if she fails. The one man she loves, the only person capable of helping Mamoon, would sacrifice everything to have the stallion destroyed.

Mamoon’s future isn’t just about show-ring success. It’s a fight to stay alive.


Bio: Claire has been writing since her early teens and maintained the hobby for twenty years before deciding to leap into the professional world. Her first contemporary novel, Seduction's Stakes, sold to the Wild Rose Press in 2008, and she continues to write steamy, sexy stories for the Champagne line.

Writing, however, isn't her only passion. When she's not sitting at the computer ticking out plotlines, she raises and trains Oldenburg, Thoroughbred, and Arabian horses. Time allowing, she competes in the sports of Show Jumping, 3-Day Eventing, and Dressage. Many of her favorite barn friends make cameo appearances in her horse-themed novels.

Claire lives on a small farm in Missouri with her two toddler sons, fifteen horses, one goat, and five dogs. She credits her success to her family's constant support and endless patience.

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