Join Me at Equine Affaire 2016 — Natalie Keller Reinert

I’ll be at Equine Affaire 2016 in Springfield, Massachusetts for three days of talking horses, book-signings, and a panel on equestrian fiction alongside several great authors! Click over for the details, or just add the schedule below to your itinerary. I can’t wait to meet you!

Join Natalie Keller Reinert at Equine Affaire 2016:

At the Seminar Stage

Friday, November 11, 2016: 10 AM

At Taborton Equine Books

Thursday, November 10, 2016: 3 PM – 5 PM

Friday, Nov. 11: 1 PM – 4 PM

Saturday, Nov. 12: 10 AM – 12 PM

via Join Me at Equine Affaire 2016 — Natalie Keller Reinert

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Australia’s Melbourne Cup: Seeing Thoroughbred Legends in Action and Retired

You have to love a country which stops everything for a horse event, and in this case Australia’s Melbourne Cup Day definitely qualifies as a candidate for My Perfect Nation. The Melbourne Cup, held in Australia’s spring (North America’s autumn) is popularly known as “The Race That Stops a Nation.” A public holiday in Victoria, the rest of Australia tends to take a 3 PM break to party, bet on the horses, and simply enjoy fast horses doing what they do best.

Yes, I was definitely born on the wrong continent.

Past Melbourne Cup winner Brew (now at Living Legends) and Doriemus on parade. Photo: Chris Phutully/Flickr

Past Melbourne Cup winner Brew (now at Living Legends) and Doriemus on parade. Photo: Chris Phutully/Flickr

One thing that’s certainly on my list if when I visit Australia is Living Legends: The International Home of Rest for Champion Racehorses. This retirement farm is literally right next to the Melbourne Airport, located on more than 1,500 acres of bush-land (that’s Australian-speak for semi-urban wilderness) is where some of Australia’s greatest champion racehorses have been retired to live in comfort.

Here you can meet Melbourne Cup winners like Efficient, Brew, Rogan Josh and Zipping. You’ll  also find a dozen other legends of the turf, such as the flashy chestnut sprint champion Apache Cat, or two-time Horse of the Year Silent Witness, who broke Cigar’s famous record of 16 consecutive wins in the 2005 Queen’s Jubilee Silver Cup.

Living Legends maintains a fun special events calendar, but you can join them just about any time of year for a tour to meet the horses, plus a walk through the bushlands (they have a mob of wild kangaroos!) and the opportunity to take tea at Woodlands Historic Park.

This year the race, which is just shy of two miles and for 3-year-olds and up, is on Tuesday, November 1st. With a purse of over $6 million Australian dollars, it’s one of the richest races in the world, edged out only by the Dubai World Cup and the Japan Cup. It’s certainly a popular betting race, and if you want to try your luck, you can get the latest on Melbourne cup betting at William Hill.


Of course, a race like this is celebrated with a over-the-top pageantry and excitement. The Melbourne Cup Carnival showcases the best horses in racing with multiple stake races, plus events celebrating everything from high fashion to family. There’s even a parade right through downtown Melbourne featuring jockeys, trainers, celebrity guests, and past winners of the Melbourne Cup. It’s truly a festival of the Thoroughbred horse!

The more I see and hear about Melbourne Cup, the more I want to add it to my dream Australia itinerary. If seeing the best racehorses in the world, both in action and after retirement, is on your bucket list, it’s hard to see how you could do much better.



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So You Want to Write a Horse Book, Part 1

Have you been putting off writing your horse book? Are you in the middle of a manuscript? Or do you have a finished draft and you’re not sure what to do with it next?

Join me at, my author site, where I’m beginning a multi-part series on writing equestrian fiction. Even if you’re writing a memoir or non-fiction work, we’ll probably discuss something of interest to you! Come join the conversation, at So You Want To Write a Horse Book.

Natalie Keller Reinert

I’ve been writing horse books for the past six years, and every year I get emails from readers asking for advice on getting started in the genre. Now, to be fair, it’s a pretty new genre. What we’ve started calling Equestrian Fiction didn’t used to exist, and if you ask a big book retailer, it still doesn’t exist. That’s why Equestrian Fiction dominates non-fiction categories like Horse Care, and Equestrian Sportson Amazon. We have the most popular books for equestrians, but no real category.

That’s a gripe for another time.

Equestrian Fiction is growing by the month, with 2016 seeing a true explosion in titles. Established writers are continuing their series, and new writers are showing up with fantastic reads. Do you want to join in the fun?

Gray horse Thowra_uk Let’s talk about horse books.

I’m going to write a blog series on Writing Horse Books — the good, the…

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Preakness Week Book Signing Event at Pimlico

Friday is Black-Eyed Susan Day, and I’ll be heading to my home state of Maryland to celebrate Thoroughbred horses at Pimlico Racecourse, signing copies of my racing and retirement novel, “Turning For Home,” to benefit in part the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Here’s the details:

Natalie Keller Reinert

Are you ready for the Preakness Stakes?

If you’re in Maryland this weekend, add Pimlico Racecourse to your plans on Friday. That’s because it’s Black-Eyed Susan Day, a celebration of all things Maryland horse-racing. There’ll be barn tours, giveaways, live racing (the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, plus more!) and book signing events with some equestrian authors… like me!

Turning For Home coverI’ll be signing copies of my horse racing and Thoroughbred retirement novel Turning For Home, the recent finalist for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award. I’ll also have a few copies of my eventing novel, Ambition, on hand for anyone who wants them. You can also feel free to bring along any other titles by me you’d like signed!

I’d love to meet readers and talk horses and books with you, so please come out!

There will be several other authors there as well: Eliza McGraw will be signing Here Comes Exterminator!…

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Left to left

Another take on another eventing tragedy… this one from the always eloquent blog A Yankee in Paris. I read this one and just thought “Holy shit, yes.”

Well done, an outstanding read!

A Yankee in Paris

I knew the news was bad about Philippa hours before it was ever released.  I was doing what I always do on the weekends of the “big ones.”  Scrolling through Eventing Nation, constantly refreshing, trying to see the latest update or the most recent scores.  My trainer Allie was four or five riders away in the 3*, and I just wanted to know if she had gone clean; if she was safe.  But then I saw that there was a fall, and a hold.  Philippa Humphrey’s had come off, which made my stomach sank.

I didn’t know Philippa well.  My only knowledge of her was from sharing a warm up arena a few times at the Kentucky Horse Park.  When the bigger riders come to compete against you at novice or training, you know.  There is an aura around them.  A confidence.  And yet as I passed her left to…

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Eventing: Still Living in the Balance, 8 Years Later


Skinny fence, determined duo. Photo: Pixabay.

In 2008, veteran eventer and Olympian Jim Wofford wrote the tremendously outspoken article Eventing Lives in The Balance for Practical Horseman. Every year or so this article crops up on Facebook again, reading as fresh and relevant as it did the day it was released–or perhaps more so, because every time it rises up, it’s a rash of eventing catastrophes that awoke it from its slumber.

In the past weeks we’ve lost several horses and riders on the cross-country course. We have to be careful out there, that goes without saying. Eventing was never a cautious person’s sport, which means as riders, the temptation to go to the extreme edges of safety is always there.

Here’s the thing: the contemporary version of eventing isn’t a level playing field for horses or riders. There are hidden dangers to the way short format eventing is designed, and since not everyone is going to read every word of Wofford’s warning, here’s the TL;DR on Eventing Lives in The Balance:

Jumping at speed: Horses can do it when they’re in charge. Look at horses who jump steeplechase courses without their rider (unimpeded by their rider, in this usage):

“I have heard of only one horse in the Grand National who fell while jumping unimpeded: That horse soon had to be retired because no jockey in England or Ireland would take the ride on a horse who would fall on its own. If you offer Irish jockeys (who are mad) money to ride and they turn it down because they are afraid to ride a horse who will fall on its own, you know something is up.”

The fences haven’t changed: technical questions and skinnies are old school military:

“As young officers, most of them had jumped ladder-back kitchen chairs for fun, and the more enterprising of the military types had jumped a saber stuck in the ground. Narrow fences and agility tests were nothing new to them.”

Without the steeplechase phase, big fences are being jumped too fast, although optimum time remains 570 meters per minute:

“Expert onlookers at this year’s Galway CIC***/**/* clocked riders with a radar gun. Some CCI* riders recorded speeds of more than 800 meters per minute, the same average speed as used in the Grand National and Maryland Hunt Cup.”

The emphasis on serious collection in dressage means horses aren’t taking initiative over fences. They’re waiting to be told what to do:

“Other dressage experts, including Reiner Klimke, have mentioned to me that when we truly and correctly collect our horses, we also subdue their initiative… More collection, less initiative–less initiative, more falls.”

Here’s where it all comes together. “Show-jumping at speed” is a misnomer when trappy combinations require careful pacing, leaving the speed for the big stand-alone fences, where our collected horses wait for instructions at 30 miles per hour:

“Now the remaining 50 percent of the cross-country obstacles must be ridden at extreme speeds in order for the rider to remain at all competitive. At these extreme speeds we must still regulate our horse’s strides. Since we have caused our horses to surrender their initiative to us, we must now take responsibility for the placement of their stride at the correct take-off distance from the jump.”

Which…. isn’t always going to happen.

Eventing Lives in the Balance has been haunting me since it was published, when I had a farm and an eventing prospect and was trying to understand what had happened to the sport I’d grown up in. I didn’t know then if there was a future for me in eventing, when I’d always before seen myself growing into an upper-level rider.

Writing Pride over the past two years and thinking very hard about the push and pull of dressage on our horses has made this article come alive for me in new ways. In Pride, I take an average cross-country loving event girl and make her face up to her dressage ghosts. A potential sponsor explains to her that however much she loves her galloping, long format is over. The Military is for the history books. This is the new face of eventing. Comply or die, to borrow a name from a steeplechase champion.

If the sport isn’t exactly balanced in the favor of the horse, we must take care, such care, with them. It’s up to riders to make good decisions for their horses, and themselves. Wofford sums up his article with a few suggestions to keep safe out there: remember that a good round is better than a ribbon, teach your horse to jump from self-carriage, and keep on searching for that horse with “The Look of Eagles,” the one he recommends in Training The Three-Day Event Horse and Rider:

“We need horses who are supremely courageous, fiercely independent and phenomenally agile. Find such a horse and treasure him. Teach him that you will trust him with your life.”

Maybe 800 words isn’t a great TL;DR, but what can I say: eventing makes me wordy. It’s why I decided to write novels about it. Anyway, find the horse you’ll trust with your life, and give him a carrot for me. May the eventing gods smile on your ride time.

>>>>Read the entire article by Jim Wofford at Practical Horseman.



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Sunday Book Review: Two Novels by Mary Pagones

Here’s a rare experience for me: reading a book so intensely personal, I was literally nodding my head “yes, yes,” along with the narrator’s internal dialogue. Here’s a rare experience for me: finishing a book, reading the teaser of the follow-up book on the next page, and immediately downloading that book so I could continue the journey I was on. Here’s a rare experience for me: the next book was completely different in every way, from voice to characters to motivation, and it still affected me as much as the first one.

Pagones THINWI’m talking about the work of Mary Pagones here, an equestrian writer who Gets It. She’s one of those rare breed of writers who can get inside the head of a horse-person and lay bare our hopes and dreams, our ambitions and fears.

And she does it in a clever way, too.

Pagones starts her two-book (so far?) equestrian series with The Horse is Never Wrong, a totally non-conformist Young Adult horse story. (When I think about this book and how far we’ve come from The Saddle Club and Thoroughbred, I am just amazed and grateful for the gifts of independent publishing.) Narrator Heather isn’t impressed with her Asberger’s diagnosis — a crutch her teachers seem to love pinning her social anxieties and occasional academic blunders upon, but which might not actually exist, since Asberger’s has been folded into the Autism spectrum. All Heather knows is, everyone else is weird, and she is just doing her own thing. What’s wrong with that?

Heather discovers riding and riding is good for her… but it isn’t a Cinderella Goes To The Olympics story. Heather as a character is beautifully written — she narrates without self-pity, without (intentional) humor — she’s a just-the-facts-ma’am reporter. Her voice is unerringly true to herself. Not particularly flowery, even stilted at times, and always pretty sure something is going to go wrong. Here, Heather sums up her biggest challenge in life: dealing with herself.

“I’m just going to have suck and up and deal with the me I have been given, just like I have learned not to complain about a horse’s behavior. Change your behavior; it’s not the horse’s fault, I’m told.”

I got Heather. I totally understood Heather. I felt an almost alarming connection to Heather — she took me back to ninth grade (which was not a place I particularly wanted to go, but… I did some good riding that year, and I met some cool people at the barn to make up for the people I didn’t even remotely understand at my high school).

And that’s what makes Fortune’s Fool so interesting.

Pagones FFSimon, who makes his first appearance in The Horse is Never Wrong, couldn’t be more different from Heather. It’s several years in the future and Simon has gone from the local barn’s resident bronc-buster, that teenager who will get on anything, to a high school senior about to embark on his life’s dream. He’s going to be a working student at an eventing barn (clearly inspired by Tamarack Hill) and take life by the horns. He’s going to make a living as an eventer. He’s going to ride horses forever and ever and no one can stop him.

Simon is brash, arrogant, proud, hot-tempered, know-it-all… and yet he’s totally lovable. He listens to 80s punk and New Wave, worships The Killers, and is dying for a pair of Doc Martens if only they didn’t cost as much as a new pair of paddock boots. No one can tell Simon a damn thing… Simon knows best, thank you very much, especially about his riding, especially especially about his hell-for-leather cross-country style and his possibly-psychotic horse, Fortune.

Oh boy, did I get Simon.

If Heather took me back to my awkward “only my horse understands me” freshman year, Simon took me back to my post-high-school “I’ll sleep/earn money when I’m dead” years. (I’m still kind of in those years, except I give in to sleep way more often. I still don’t really earn any money, though. I write horse books.) But seriously… listened to 80s punk and New Wave. wanted a pair of Doc Martens but couldn’t justify the cost. knew that my parents and my teachers and life and everyone were wrong — there was no need to waste time on so-called intellectual pursuits, not when I could ride a horse, take care of a horse, clean up after a barn full of horses…

As truthful to writing from Simon’s perspective as she was from Heather’s, Pagones does a total 180 shift in her writing. Simon’s sentences are jagged, his observations are hyperbolic, his language is very, very salty. Simon cusses like a sailor, but what 18-year-old working student doesn’t? I used to boast that I only spoke English but thanks to fellow working students and foreign grooms, I could swear in five languages. (I don’t remember them anymore.) Simon thinks in bursts of emotion and long moments of introspection; what some people see as editing misses are more likely the workings of his mind. No one thinks in perfect sentences.

The aching truth behind Simon’s rough swagger is that he doesn’t know what’s going to happen and that’s scary as hell. He doesn’t have money, just talent. And he’s just as plagued by thirty under thirty lists as I’ve always been — of course, now my pet peeve are forty under forty lists. Could people stop being so accomplished, please? Here’s Simon, telling it like it is:

The sense of motionlessness is particularly strong when I read about about someone my age winning an international event. This seems to confirm everyone’s opinion that I’m making some sort of horrible mistake with my life.

He’s eighteen, he’s in a state somewhere between elation and panic about the future, and he’s in very deep waters, not just professionally, but romantically.

Been there.

What it all comes down to: The Horse is Never Wrong and Fortune’s Fool are not your average horse books. I’ve never read two books by the same author that were written so differently, and yet so genuinely. I’ve never identified with two characters so completely opposite in every way. These books are challenging in structure and story, completely honest to the equestrian life, and by turns both soft and gritty. Non-traditional and utterly readable, these are wonderful new entries into the growing equestrian fiction niche.

Click to find The Horse is Never Wrong and Fortune’s Fool at Amazon in Kindle ebook and paperback.

(originally published at

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