I love horses, so sooner or later, they had to show up in my writing. Enter my novel Dynamo—my magnum opus in the horse world!
I clearly remember my first riding lesson around age seven. First time on the back of an old mare named Belle, I marveled at how long and skinny her neck was.
Unfortunately, Belle died after a few lessons, leaving me and my friend Nancy plotting how we might earn enough money to buy a horse of our own. Our best idea: pick wild strawberries and make jam to sell. LOL if you know how tiny those berries are!
When I was 12, my horse people bought a Welsh pony for their granddaughter Lois. His name was King, and he acted like one. If you can learn to control a pony, they say, you’re a match for almost any horse. I learned the hard way, but those teen years changed my life in significant ways. I dedicated my Dynamo novel to Lois’s grandmother Lydie, my horse mentor and instructor in important things such as enjoying the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, and spending time with kids instead of housework.
Our small town in New Jersey was the locus of one of the most important horse shows in the area. Fine horses of every category did their stuff practically in my back yard. I drank it in and spent hours all summer long, practicing for the amateur classes Lois and I would enter.
King, the pony, came with a collection of equipment—saddle, bridle, pony cart and harness. He didn’t mind being ridden but would not be driven. He reared and refused to cooperate. Finally, Lydie got her back up and got him moving in harness—quite happily, actually, and I was given the privilege of showing him in a driving class, winning a red ribbon. A proud moment!
My big disappointment came after I had graduated from King to Flash, a comfortable, old sorrel horse. I worked hard preparing for a horsemanship class, but when I entered the ring and he realized that King was not with him, he bugled loudly and refused to go around. I came out in tears. During a break, though, Lydie got on him with King still outside, and made him go around. Too late for me, but there was a degree of poetic justice.
I drank in the horseflesh on display in those shows, especially the spectacular five-gaited classes. The Dynamo of my novel is a magnificent, five-gaited stallion, the epitome of those fine horses I had watched year after year. I also had to include in my book an extraordinary jumping feat having to do with a horse named Jo Jo. You’ll find it on p. 144.
When I went to Wheaton College, I enrolled in Horsemanship for Phys. Ed. and later taught horsemanship over a span of four years. I met my husband doing that and was actually pregnant at the end of my teaching “career.” That, however, is a story all its own.
I no longer ride. My last time on a horse required a derrick to get on AND off. So now I write. And enjoy all the fine memories.
Dynamo … a riveting tale, set in a world of high-stakes horse shows and stable intrigue, and an unflinching look at some of the best and worst in human relationships. ~Sally Wilkins, Sports and Games of Medieval Cultures
For Eleanor Gustafson, a major writing goal has been to make scriptural principles understandable and relevant through the power of story. Her current title with Whitaker House is Dynamo. Continue the conversation about it with me at her website!