Were you one of those girls who went through a horse-crazy stage? Somehow I missed out on that, but my younger sister and my niece both had nearly-terminal cases of it. Horse posters, horse videos, books about horses, a bunch of those toys called “My Little Pony” were a big part of their girlhoods. My niece got her wish for a real horse and rode regularly for several years. My own experience consists of a couple of vacation trail rides, one of them a Christmas morning ride through the Arizona desert aboard Helen, a bad- tempered mare who did her best to throw me into the cactus patch. I’m very proud that she did not succeed, but I went home saddle sore, dusty, and permanently cured of my romantic notions about horseback riding. So much for my being the outdoorsy type.
This week I’m working on line edits for the second Hickory Ridge novel, BEAUTY FOR ASHES which features a hero from Charleston, South Carolina, a gentleman horseman named Griff Rutledge. Griff comes to Hickory Ridge to collect on an old debt but winds up staying to train a beautiful black Thoroughbred colt for an upcoming horse race.
Since my knowledge of all things equine is less than zero, before beginning this book, off I went to learn about this wonderful breed. Thoroughbreds originated in England beginning in the 1690’s from three Arabian stallions: Byerly Turk, Flying Childers, and Godolphin. Descendants of these three horses were bred and crossbred to produce the fastest horses. Thoroughbred stock came to America in 1745 when Maryland governor Samuel Ogle established a horse race in Annapolis. Colonel Sanders Bruce began a studbook in the late 1800s, a job later taken over by the Jockey Club. Today, more Thoroughbred foals–more than 50,000 a year– are registered in the US, more than anywhere else in the world.
Thoroughbreds average sixteen hands high and may be black, brown, bay, chestnut or gray. A thoroughbred’s official birthday is January 1, no matter when he or she is born. They are trained to ride as yearlings and start racing at age two. Though they are friendly toward people, they are flighty and high strung.
In the 1970s, three Thoroughbreds, the famous Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed won the races at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness in Baltimore, and the Belmont Stakes in New York to take racing’s Triple Crown. Affirmed’s win in 1978 was the last Triple Crown win. Since the first winner in 1919, only eleven horses have taken the Triple Crown.
Griff’s horse, Majestic, is a black stallion who winds up winning more for his trainer than the Hickory Ridge race. I hope you’ll enjoy BEAUTY FOR ASHES , due out early next year.