Author Sharon Miner grew up in Connecticut, the middle child of eleven. An avid horse lover at an early age, she purchased her first horse when she was fifteen. Sharon and her husband operated Unicorn Stables for twenty-five years. It was the life and sudden death of her beloved mare, Fawn, that inspired Sharon to share Fawn’s story through writing.
Sharon studied writing at the Institute of Children’s Literature, West Redding, CT and graduated in 1991. Sharon’s young adult adventure story, The Delmarva Conspiracy, was published by Greene Bark Press, Bridgeport, CT in 1993. Her other books include four books in the Beloved Horse series and middle-grade and young adult novels including Octavia’s Quest, Brigitte’s Challenge, and Woogie’s Travels.
In this post, Sharon answers questions about Beloved School Horses, a touching and educational book inspired by school horses and students.
Q: What I love so much about Beloved School Horses is that your stories celebrate the bond of friendship between horses and people – especially children. Bareback riding, costume classes, a horse eating out of a child’s hands – all images of carefree days spent at the barn. Do you find that people are eager to share stories of their special horses with you?
Actually, that’s how the series started. I wrote this first book so I could share stories about my amazing horses with young horse lovers. As I marketed the book at equine events, people said to me, “I have a great horse story!” So the series idea was born.
Q: I really liked the story of the wounded veteran, Luke, who had always wanted to learn to ride, and Knipper, the gentle patient buckskin who would have waited all day for Luke make it into the saddle. I also really enjoyed the story of Haley, the little girl learning to canter with airplane arms. In that story were you illustrating the importance using your balance and your seat aids?
I often had students ride without reins or stirrups to help them with their confidence and avoid overuse of their hands and legs (grabbing either or both to hang on). I always made sure they had balance and a secure seat before they attempted no reins-no stirrups. In the story about Haley, she was in a Western saddle with her stirrups. She had taken lessons at another stable before arriving at mine, but had some bad experiences and needed to gain her confidence back. Sandy was a VERY comfortable pony who knew the routine and listened to my voice commands. By having Haley play “airplane” at a canter (she did it at a walk & trot first) she stopped hunching over due to anxiety when she began to canter. Therefore, her position improved as well as her confidence!
Q: Almost every teenage girl I know who rides has told me something along the lines of, “Horse girls are different. Our school friends don’t understand us.” Do you see that?
I started at thirteen years and was achieving my goal so didn’t care what my classmates thought. I have taught girls that began very young – some rode with me from five years until sixteen when they found a job and a boyfriend! Those girls loved horses but peer pressure often curtailed that passion until maybe a year or so later when they’d realized that they really missed horses and came back, often to assist me in teaching younger kids. I think being a “Barn Brat” as I called them was just another clique at school, and a much healthier outlet – just ask any mother!
Q: You have a knack for integrating educational information about riding and horse care with entertaining stories. Do you look for opportunities to teach your readers by reinforcing lessons about the four main aids or equine body language or safety rules, for example?
Many of the stories in Beloved School Horses were actually lessons so therefore I included what I was teaching to the rider(s) that day. I wanted to share not only the emotional experience from the lesson, but also the educational program taught that day. In the other Beloved Horses book I also try to educate readers about a discipline or breed as I write the story about another horse lover and their special horse.
Q: Talk about your two loves writing and riding. How do they complement each other?
Horses came first. Since I was eleven years old I wanted to own a stable and I even wrote on a piece of paper specific goals that I wanted to reach by the time I was twenty-one (in ten years). I learned the steps by being a working student (Barn Brat) from thirteen until eighteen years. At twenty-one, I began Unicorn Stables. I still have that piece of paper with my dream! It was when my beloved Fawn died at fifteen, that I decided I wanted to learn how to write so I could share her story. She was the foundation horse for my stable and was very near and dear to my heart, unlike any other in my lifetime. I took writing courses and learned more about the craft of writing from college classes, writing workshops/conferences and working as a field correspondent at local newspapers. I still haven’t published Fawn’s story because I can take rejection for anything else, but not for her story! So I’m waiting until I have a large fan base and an understanding editor!
Q: And next up you have Beloved Horses From Around the World – the fifth in the series. Do you have plans for books six and seven?
Because I’m working on some middle grade/teen novels at the same time, I may hold off on continuing the series unless the demand is there – which is what happened with the last Beloved Horses book!
Do you have a special equine that you would like featured in Sharon’s fifth book of the Beloved Horses series? This one will focus on horses (ponies, donkeys, mules, zebras etc) from around the world. All accepted submitters receive a complimentary copy of the book upon its release and discounts on extra books. To be considered, send a short description and background about your equine friend to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit Sharon Miner’s website or her blog.