Category Archives: writing

New Horse Stories for the Holidays! — Natalie Keller Reinert

It’s time for some holiday spirit! I’m excited to announce that Deck the Stalls, a holiday anthology written especially for horse lovers, is now available for pre-order on Amazon! And not just because it includes an all-new story about Jules of The Eventing Series fame, but for all the other writers as well. Plus, it’s for a great cause: […]

With all proceeds going to benefit Old Friends, a retirement farm with more than 160 retired Thoroughbreds, this might be the best $2.99 you spend all season. Pre-order “Deck the Stalls” now!…/…/

via New Horse Stories for the Holidays! — Natalie Keller Reinert

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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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Ambition: The New Novel Explores Eventing

Ambition - available May 20, 2014

Ambition – available May 20, 2014

It’s been more than a year since my last equestrian novel — too long! But I’m happy to announce that on Tuesday, May 20th, I’ll be releasing my newest novel, Ambition, to readers everywhere.

Still set in the rolling hills of Florida’s horse country, Ocala, Ambition leaps over to the sport-horse world and the sport of eventing.

Jules Thornton didn’t come to Ocala to make friends. She came to make a name for herself. Twenty-two and tough as nails, she’s been swapping stable-work for saddle-time since she was a little kid — and it hasn’t always been a fun ride. Forever the struggling rider in a sport for the wealthy, all Jules has on her side is talent and ambition. She’s certain all she needs to succeed are good horses, but will the eventing world agree?

Getting back into the eventing scene was a real pleasure for me as a writer. I spent my teenage years eventing in Florida and Maryland. I haven’t been over a cross-country course in more than ten years, but I still day-dream about it. Someday, someday…

As for the characters: I love Jules, but she’d never believe me if I told her that. Jules isn’t used to having friends. She’s used to being the low man on the totem pole, after what seems like forever as a working student in a show barn full of her own wealthy classmates. It’s just Jules and her horses, against the world — or so she thinks. But there are still some people on Jules’ team.

And since I like to think that the horses and the setting are just as important as the humans, you’ll find that several horses, including Thoroughbreds, and the heart of Florida horse country are well-represented. Just as Other People’s Horses and The Head and Not The Heart explored Ocala, Saratoga, and New York City in depth, I couldn’t help but celebrate Ocala once again, drawing upon years and years of memory and deep, deep affection for that chunk of the state called “North-Central Florida.”

So watch out for Ambition, available in ebook and paperback beginning Tuesday, May 20th. I think you’ll find it to be a very, very interesting ride… and check your stirrup length and girth. There may be a few bucks thrown in when you least expect them


Filed under eventing, writing

Taking Chances: Equestrian Writers Who Collaborate Instead of Competing

The first Timber Ridge Riders novel had me hooked.

The first Timber Ridge Riders novel had me hooked.

I’m a huge proponent of indie publishing, not least because it has allowed horse books to enter a whole new level. Gone are the days when I could choose between a $5.99 paperback from the Thoroughbred series or a $35.95 hardcover tome on dressage principles if I wanted to have a little horsey reading time.

(And on a side-note, whoever decided that horse training books should be published on expensive glossy paperstock and with beautiful slipcovers was probably some accountant reading a report about the 35-55 married female with disposable income demo that represents the majority of Dressage Today’s subscribers, not a horse-person who knows a training book is best perused in the rather dirty and disheveled confines of the tack room immediately before or after a training session.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… Indie publishing lets horse-people publish horse-books that I actually want to read.

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve reviewed Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana books quite often at Retired Racehorse. That’s because they’re not just excellent writers, they’re horsewomen, and they write horse books that make sense. No one is going straight to the Olympics after they went to a summer riding camp, taught an unbroken Mustang to jump logs in the woods by moonlight, and subsequently won the Grand Prix at the National Horse Show. (Any old Grand Prix will do.)

Instead, Maggie writes about tweens who are going about the very difficult business of growing up and working really, really hard to improve their riding because they know nothing else really matters in life.

Bittersweet Farm's 1st novel, Mounted

As did the first Bittersweet Farm novel, Mounted.

Meanwhile, Barbara writes about teens who are going about the very difficult business of growing up (in a much more edgy manner, because teens) and working really, really hard to improve their riding even though they’re not entirely convinced that it’s the best way to spend their time (because teens).

The books lend to one another beautifully: As Barbara said, “Maggie’s books are a gateway to mine.”

And, I’d like to think, Barbara’s books lead to mine, which are written about adults in the horse business.

No more skipping from Thoroughbred to Mary Wanless in one not-so-easy step. Horse books have a progression now.

And indie publishing isn’t just wonderful because it allows us to read books we might never get to enjoy otherwise. Indie publishing also provides for a spirit of collaboration and friendship between authors who realize that by working together, they can provide the best possible reading experience for fans. Recently, they sent me this wonderful article:

How Two Rivals Came Together to Make a Team

How Two Rivals Came Together to Make a Team: YA & Tween horse book authors Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana

The 3rd Bittersweet Farm book from Barbara Morgenroth, Wingspread

The 3rd Bittersweet Farm book from Barbara Morgenroth, Wingspread

In the world of traditional book publishing, Barbara Morgenroth and Maggie Dana would be rival authors, both vying for the same limited space on bookstore shelves devoted to children’s and YA fiction. Very likely they’d be monitoring one another’s sales ranks and rejoicing if the other author dropped a few points.

“Hooray! Let’s break out the whips and spurs!”

But when it comes to indie publishing, all that has gone out the window. Independent authors are totally open about sharing resources and information and helping one another. Some have edited and/or proofed another’s books for free; other indies have provided their fellow authors with professionally designed covers, formatting, and typesetting (again, for free) because they believed in someone else’s book and wanted to help.

Six months ago, Barbara and Maggie only knew each other from their Amazon listings, but thanks to a chance encounter on a well-respected indie publishing industry blog, they connected in real time.

And they are loving it.

After getting to know one another via phone and email, they swapped information: Maggie has taught Barbara how to format her books for ePub and Kindle, and Barbara (whose multiple talents include writing for daytime television) has helped Maggie broaden her writing horizons. They’ve also swapped characters.

The latest Timber Ridge Riders release, Taking Chances, by Maggie Dana

The latest Timber Ridge Riders release, Taking Chances, by Maggie Dana

Lockie Malone, Barbara’s enigmatic horse trainer who stars in her Bittersweet Farm series, makes a guest appearance in Taking Chances, the seventh book in Maggie’s Timber Ridge Riders series for mid-grade/tween readers.

At some point, one of Maggie’s Timber Ridge characters will show up in Barbara’s Bittersweet Farm YA books.

And who knows where this will lead? All bets are off as these two writers set aside any hint of competition and work together to make their genres the best they can be… and they’re having a boatload of fun while doing it.

About these two horse-crazy authors …

Maggie Dana, tween horse book author, shows us how it's done.

Maggie and Smoky show us how it’s done. Photo: Maggie Dana

Maggie Dana

Maggie Dana’s first riding lesson, at the age of five, was less than wonderful. In fact, she hated it so much, she didn’t try again for another three years. But all it took was the right instructor and the right horse and she was hooked for life.

Her new riding stable was slap bang in the middle of Pinewood Studios, home of England’s movie industry. So while learning to groom horses, clean tack, and muck stalls, Maggie also got to see the stars in action. Some even spoke to her.

Born and raised near London, Maggie now makes her home on the Connecticut shoreline where she divides her time between hanging out with the family’s horses and writing her next book in the Timber Ridge Riders series. She also writes women’s fiction and her latest novel, Painting Naked, was published in 2012 by Macmillan/Momentum.


Barbara Morgenroth, every bit as intense as her characters in the saddle. Morgenroth writes edgy YA fiction for horse-lovers.

Barbara Morgenroth, every bit as intense as her characters in the saddle

Barbara Morgenroth

Barbara was born in New York City and but now lives somewhere else. She got her first horse when she was eleven and rode nearly every day for many years, eventually teaching equitation, then getting involved in eventing.

Starting her career by writing tween and YA books, she wound up in daytime television for some years. Barbara then wrote a couple of cookbooks and a nonfiction book on knitting. She returned to fiction and wrote romantic comedies.

When digital publishing became a possibility, Barbara leaped at the opportunity and has never looked back. In addition to the fifteen traditionally published books she wrote, in digital format Barbara has something to appeal to almost every reader—from mature YAs like the Bad Apple series and the Flash series, to contemporary romances like Love in the Air published by Amazon/Montlake, along with Unspeakably Desirable, Nothing Serious, and Almost Breathing.

Visit: Widgets


Filed under Book Reviews, horsepeople, writing

Racehorses that pop: Holly Tonini’s Photography

cover of Other People's Horses

The cover of Other People’s Horses, featuring Holly Tonini’s image

This past week, I released my second novel, Other People’s HorsesThe book revolves around racetrack life, both at the farm and on the backside — in this case, at Saratoga Racecourse in New York — and when I saw Holly Tonini’s photograph on Twitter, I knew it was the perfect image for the cover of my novel. It evokes all the power, strength, and raw beauty of the Thoroughbred racehorse, captured mid-stride on a morning gallop.

I talked to Tonini about her photography and her horse life for the blog:

Looking at your website, you have a lot of shots of horses in multiple disciplines. What’s your favorite horse sport to photograph?

Oh man, this is a tough question! I love them all. I do have to say my favorites are those with a lot of action. I love the challenge of speed so horse racing is tops followed closely by barrel racing. I love to see the mud flying. There are so many I haven’t gotten a chance to photograph yet. I would love a chance to try them all.

What are the ingredients for a great racehorse shot? Which ones do people like best? The naughty horses, the nose-at-the-wire photos, the candid shots?

Timing and luck are the two main ingredients for a great racehorse shot. These ingredients are important to a lot of the work I do outside of horse racing too. Timing is knowing your subject. You need to be able to predict what that subject is going to do and at what moment they are going to do it in. Timing is also a part of luck sometimes. The unpredictable always happens and being lucky to be there and capture it is what luck is to me.

I think the photos that people like best in horse racing vary. I think the ones that stand out the best are the ones that show dramatic action and ones that show emotion. Those are the ones that get that “wow” response or cause a smile or tears. I think they also enjoy the ones that show how beautiful a horse can be. The portraits.

horse racing photo

The start of the West Virginia Governor’s Cup, Mountaineer Park, 2012. Photo: Holly Tonini


Do you do a lot of riding yourself?

I used to do a lot of riding. I have been riding since I was placed on the back of a pony when I was two years old. I now own a 17 year old mini pony named Stormy T that I won on a $5 raffle ticket at the local county fair when he was 3 months old. I also own an 11 year old Quarter Horse mare named Rumors that I’ve worked with since the day she was born. I don’t get to ride as much as I’d like but the three of us still find time to have fun doing ground work.

Keeneland at Sunrise

Keeneland at sunrise. Photo: Holly Tonini

What are some goals for your future photography?

Right now I’m not sure what my future will be in photography. I am currently back in school earning my Masters degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. I love the work that I do now. I freelance for a local newspaper covering a lot of high school sports and community events. I would love to move more into professional sports and maybe teach a class or two once I obtain my degree. I take everything one day at a time so only time will tell what my next adventure will be.

Where else might we see your work?

You can see a lot of my photography on It is the website of the paper I freelance for, the Uniontown Herald-Standard. My portfolio website and my Flickr page







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A Fine Romance — Nancy Shulins

Guest Post by Nancy Shulins*

My horse has taken up with a chicken. And I am not okay with that.

It’s not just the inane jokes from boarders at the barn where I keep Eli, my OTTB. “Hey, who’s the hot chick?” “Don’t look now, but your horse is getting henpecked!”

I laughed too, at first. But my outlook turned fowl one morning a few weeks ago, when I opened the door to Eli’s stall to deliver his breakfast and out came the poultry.

She was all legs and breast. And she’d obviously spent the night.

Eli hung his head and looked at me sheepishly from the far corner of his stall, clearly exhausted after a long night of … what, exactly? I had no idea.

Then it dawned on me she had been stalking him, hoping to catch him on the rebound from his passionate if doomed love affair with the new chestnut mare in the adjacent paddock.

The mare had been young and attractive, an off-the-track Thoroughbred like him. Eli had fallen head over hooves for her instantly, whinnying shrilly and deafeningly whenever she was out of his sight.

Chicken and horse

flickr: arnoooo

In the sixteen years that I’ve owned him, I’d seen this sort of thing before, at other barns with other horses. But Eli’s previous loves had been ancient blind ponies and fat, elderly mares, with the occasional gelding thrown in. This was different. For once, he had chosen an appropriate mate. I was kvelling.

The chestnut mare was sleek and pretty, and best of all, she’d returned his affection in kind, making it doubly painful – to say nothing of loud – when her owner abruptly decided to take her mare home to her own backyard barn.

I braced myself for the worst – a hunger strike and major depression weren’t unprecedented – but Eli accepted his soul mate’s departure with infinitely more grace than I. For the first time, I understood why my women friends went into mourning when their sons broke up with potential daughters-in-law whom they, too, had come to adore.

Exit the beautiful Thoroughbred.

Enter the drab little chicken.

The mare hadn’t been gone a week when I first heard her successor’s bizarre vocalizations as I groomed Eli in the aisle between stalls. A cross between a moan and a groan, it sounded weirdly sexual, enough so that I put down my curry comb and went searching for the source. I found her right around the corner, scratching for bugs in a pile of spilled hay.

She was a dull, rusty brown, not much to look at as chickens go. The last survivor of the barn owner’s original clutch of egg-layers, she was the only one that hadn’t fallen prey to the coyotes that had turned the coop into their own fast-food joint.

As days passed, I began to see this feathered jezebel in the barn more and more, scratching and pecking at the bedding in stalls whose occupants were out in their paddocks. At some point, she lost interest in the empty stalls and started cooling her scaly heels in Eli’s.

Unprepared though I was for their cohabitation, in retrospect I should have seen it coming. There were signs, little warnings I chose to ignore, like the day I confronted the surreal sight of my 1,254-pound horse watching over a freshly laid egg.

To be fair, mine is hardly the first Thoroughbred to fraternize outside his species. Racehorses began “friending” other animals centuries ago, long before Facebook turned the noun into a gerund.

It turns out pets are good for horses, which are, after all, inherently social beings meant to live together in herds. Like people, they do better when they have companionship. Racehorses in particular benefit from sharing their quarters, since the bulk of their time is spent idly confined to their stalls.

The solitary nature of their lives has given rise to a host of problems ranging from stomach ulcers to bad habits, also known as “stable vices.” Most are repetitive movements, corruptions of normal equine behaviors that have been rendered impossible by life in a stall. For a horse that’s fed highly concentrated grain twice a day, pacing, weaving and wood-chewing help eat up the hours they were meant to spend free-ranging for food.

Pairing racehorses with stall mates – goats, pigs, cats, ponies, and roosters – is a longstanding practice among trainers, since contented horses are less apt to pace at night and more likely to lie down and rest, making them better bets come post time.

At twenty-two, my horse’s racing days are far behind him. But the need for companionship is one he’ll never outgrow. And good friends are hard to find regardless of species. Who am I to say how his ought to look?

So, for however long this lasts, I’m committed to walking on eggshells.

A bird in the hand, after all.

*Nancy Shulins is the author of Falling For Eli: How I Lost Heart, Then Gained Hope Through the Love of a Singular Horse (Da Capo Press)


Filed under Herd Life, horsepeople, racetrack life, Sport Horses, writing

Retired Racehorse Resolutions

It wouldn’t be New Year’s Day without taking at least five minutes to contemplate the past year and the one ahead, and so I’m indulging that with a little nostalgia and lot of excitement.

nostalgia is a big bay horse

2011 was my first non-riding year, and the first one that I devoted entirely to writing. When I left Florida in 2010, it was with the conviction that I could accomplish more in the world as a writer than as a horse trainer, and I still believe that. Although looking at Thoroughbred trainer listings on a regular basis will always put the idea into my head, at least for a few delusional moments, that I ought to be running a not-for-profit Thoroughbred retraining agency somewhere in the backwoods. That’s not for me, although I am very impressed by the people who do it! You’re all amazing!

In 2012 I resolve to get back on a horse at least once, although in what capacity, I can’t say. It might just be to demonstrate a technique to one of the other volunteers at GallopNYC, where I walk horses in therapy lessons every week. It might be for a dressage lesson (or, shall we say, a post-until-your legs-cramp-up lesson). You never know what’s around the corner.

But that’s a personal-gratification resolution. Here’s my big one, my promise to the world.

I resolve to make a difference to retired racehorses.

I know, that’s vague. But it’s January first. Who can say what is going to happen this afternoon, let alone next week, next month, next winter? But whatever opportunities arise, I will take them. Whatever actions I can share with you, I will share. Whatever is going to happen, I am going to embrace it and make something big out of it.

Why? Because I love them. I can’t help myself. When I see them at the racetrack, or in a field, or poking their noses out of a semi-trailer on the interstate, or leaping a cross-country fence, or in a photo doing anything, anywhere, I melt a little. When I read a story about a horse who should have been retired properly, and wasn’t, I hurt. They are all my darling children, like the babies I once had on my farm, and I adore them all.

I can’t help it. I’m well and truly horse-mad, and the objects of my affection are blood horses. And so that’s my Retired Racehorse Resolution: to make a difference, in whatever way I can.

Will you join me?


Filed under Retirement Options, writing