How Horses Changed Me, Defined Me

My first horse, Whiskey Rose.

Horses defined me long before I was even born. As a child, my mother was a horse owner and my father…sometimes was forced to clean his sister’s horse’s stall. (One of my favorite family stories is of him getting frustrated at having to clean the stall and slamming the metal pitchfork into the ground – and into his foot.)

After I was born, it was pony rides, horse figurines, horse books and everything My Little Pony.

Nothing has changed in 25 years, really.

My first horse, Whiskey Rose.
When I was twelve, I found my first horse waiting in the driveway after I returned from a two-week vacation with a good friend. What a spectacular homecoming. This horse would be my obsession, my teacher, my inspiration, and eventually…my nemesis.

Yes, as any horse owner will tell you, each horse has a unique personality and some are more difficult than others. Some personalities simply clash. And some horses are certainly spawn from the depths of hell. I digress…

My middle school years were fraught with girl drama and all sorts of growing pains. I retreated into myself and my horse. I found sanctuary in working at barns and absorbing all the horse knowledge I possibly could. I met good people, joined some fun groups and overcame many fears. I’m not sure I’d be the person I am today if I hadn’t had my horse to turn to in the days where my best friends rejected me. Depression never seemed to hold on for long when my horse was always waiting with a welcoming nicker.

I had purpose. I had a passion.

That passion spilled into my other passions: reading and writing.

I began concocting novels about brave and beautiful horse trainers and the handsome men they wooed. From there, my writing career progressed.

Into high school and college, the horse-centered life continued. I spent two years as a rodeo queen. Looking back, I never would have entered a beauty pageant. Never. The rodeo queen pageants were different. Your talent was riding. And I was a fair enough rider to earn two titles. Those years taught me about public relations and self-presentation. And hairspray.

My writing career waned in my college years as I pursued my journalism degree. This was a different kind of writing. I did an internship at a business journal, where I swore to the editor (who called me the Cowgirl) that I’d work horses into the paper in some way. I did. I snooped out a decent story about horse businesses and even a scandal or two. Horses shaped the reporter I’d become.

Horses took my writing to a new level as I joined the American Horse Publications and was awarded their 2007 Student Award. I was flown out to their national conference and networked with hundreds of magazine editors and more. I was playing with the big boys.

After graduating, I’d get married, buy a house and get my first real job. My horse would stay at my parent’s house, since I lived in the city limits.

It was then I began my fiction career. For real, this time. I joined writer’s groups, entered contests and even signed with an agent. The heart of all my writing and novel ideas? I’ll give you two guesses, but you’ll only need one.

Horses gave me refuge. Direction. Purpose.

They also gave me a cache of stories and hard-learned lessons. This, is simply the beginning.

Was there something/someone who defined your life?

More about Nicole

Community Champion at Buffer ~ writer ~ reader ~ urban homesteader ~ former rodeo queen ~ @nmillerbooks

  • Heidi Chiavaroli

    Enjoyed this post, Nicole!

    I took riding lessons in fifth grade and the horse I rode, Satin, was definitely MY nemesis. 😉