RIDING OUT THE RACE
Writing this third novel of the Laura Harper Trilogy has been a bitter-sweet experience, as it is also the final book of the Riding Out series. These three trilogies began in 2016 with Jack Harper’s journey back to the Catholic faith in “Riding Out the Devil,” and a lot has happened to him since then!
The Reason Behind the Series
A lot has also happened to my son, who was the inspiration behind Jack Harper.
He was fighting a superhuman battle against ulcerative colitis, and creating a hero with the same issues was a means of honoring his determination not to give up the daily struggle to become healthier and live a more normal life.
And now, six years after the publication of “Riding Out the Devil,” he has just returned to the States from three weeks of driving around Britain with his dog. While over there, he continued working remotely, scaled Mount Snowdon in Wales, camping overnight in the rain halfway up; he climbed Helvellyn in the Lake District and walked with his dog along Hadrian’s Wall, which was built across the north of England in AD 122 to ‘separate the Romans from the barbarians.’ That is a small selection of his activities!
All this was possible because he met a wonderful lady, who practices holistic medicine and suggested he take specific enzymes to break down his food. As a result, his diet is much more varied. Previously, he could only eat turkey. Period. But now, he no longer has to run to the bathroom multiple times a day, or worry about being caught short. He is much healthier and, for all intents and purposes, lives a normal life.
He has come a long way since those awful days when he was first diagnosed. It makes me smile to see him so happy and I never cease to thank God for helping my son beat his disease.
And because of him, I’ve now written nine books in the Riding Out series!
Cruz Bay Provides Useful Horse Incidents
While I was working on the first draft of “Riding Out the Race,” a great deal was going on in my horse’s life and there was no shortage of material for my fictitious equines.
The first major disaster was one night in November of 2021, when the temperatures dropped twenty degrees – from the 70s to the 50s. Cruz already had his thick winter coat, but he is twenty-two years old, and I didn’t know that an older horse can contract infectious colitis when the thermometer plummets that far, that fast.
He had non-stop diarrhea, was listless and in terrible pain, uninterested in eating, and going downhill fast. He nearly died, and I’m eternally grateful to my vet, Dr. Dessie Carter, for saving his life. It was a full week before we could be sure he would pull through, but thanks be to God, he did.
When one of the horses contracts it in the novel, you’ll discover all the details pertaining to the symptoms and treatment. But I sincerely hope no horse owners among you ever have to deal with this life-threatening condition.
The horse Loco, who comes to Jack’s farm with a check ligament injury, is modeled on Cruz, who tore a hole in his check ligament (twice) two years ago, thus already supplying plenty of real-life details to include in the book.
But I couldn’t foresee that Cruz would injure his deep digital flexor tendon when I was half-way through the novel. Not only that, but while on stall rest, he managed to re-re-injure his check ligament! Those of you who subscribe to my newsletter (at https://HilaryWalkerBooks.com) will be familiar with my bay’s long journey to – hopefully – a complete recovery and return to full work.
He has gone to a wonderful mother and daughter team, Lauren and Danielle Gruber at Primarily Hooves. They live in the Smoky Mountains, up in Tennessee, six hours from my South Carolina home.
The heels of his front hooves were crushed, pulling on, and straining his tendons and ligaments and making them prone to injury. No one had ever before explained to me that shoeing could result in this for a horse, nor what it would mean for Cruz down the road. I guess I’m lucky he lasted nineteen years in shoes before disaster struck.
Lauren and Danielle have taken off his shoes. With correct trimming, they are retraining him to go barefoot, encouraging his heels to grow back properly and develop a natural cushion for his weight. The process will take the best part of twelve months. But by this time next year, who knows: maybe we’ll be out competing again? It’s in God’s hands.
Lauren and Danielle are also turning a friend’s horse from a totally lame navicular case into a sound and rideable horse again. He is the same age as Cruz and they know each other from their years in South Carolina. They were thrilled to be reunited and are turned out in the same paddock. The two of them make a cute picture when they lie down next to each other, especially with the mountains in the background!
More Horse Happenings
Jack’s incident with Loco in “Riding Out the Race” is based on a previous horse of mine, who did exactly the same thing to me, with the same outcome. I am not making it up! But you’ll need to read the book to find out what he did. 😊
Despite suffering a dislocated shoulder, my friend Dana was determined to keep riding. She figured out a way to mount and dismount one-handed, a technique which one of my characters uses.
The accident in the barn happened to a friend of mine when I lived in Germany. It has served as a warning to me ever since to be careful always to shut the stable door – whether I’m inside or outside the stall!
Another horse in the novel, Nimble, has issues identical to those of a friend’s new horse, and the way he was cured in the book exactly follows my friend’s protocol.
I also include an animal communicator. Some readers may be skeptical about their value, but I have used them with great success on Cruz Bay. They give me valuable insights that I couldn’t otherwise discover, and I often think I should try to become one: it would save much aggravation on the part of my horse, and a great deal of mystification on mine!
I have grown very fond of the Riding Out characters, and it will be hard to say goodbye to them.
Father Michael is a special favorite of mine: he is a truly humble man whose only concern is to get the souls in his care to Heaven. His gentleness and wonderful sense of humor have endeared him to me over the series and he is my idea of the perfect Catholic priest. I shall miss his repartee with Jack: those scenes were such fun to write!
But by the close of this book, all the characters are in a good place. Father Michael is learning to take things a little easier, although he’ll never stop working to save souls. Jack’s priorities are shifting more towards his human family, while Laura now ‘gets’ the horse thing. Joe will soon be off to college and have a break from baby duties. Newly born Catherine has a loving family to take care of her, and I envy her growing up with all those horses!
As Agneta says, “Alles soll recht kommen.” If you want to know what that means, you’ll need to grab yourself a copy of “Riding Out the Race”!