Emulating Jack Harper, swimming with horses

Emulating Jack Harper: Swimming with my Horse

My character Jack Harper goes swimming with his horse, but I had never done it myself until last weekend.

It had been on my bucket list for several years, but whenever my riding group organized their annual ‘Pony Swim’ I always found a way to avoid joining in. I was simply too scared!

This year I verbally committed to taking Cruz Bay into the river with a mere fourteen or so friends and their horses and if I chickened out this time I was going to look like a real loser! I would have to do it now.

My original intent was to ride in an old saddle which I didn’t mind getting wet. But I longed for the courage to ride bareback like the other riders.

I had never ridden my gelding without a saddle, and didn’t want the day of the Pony Swim to be my first time.  Supposing I slid off into the water as soon as he waded in?

So I put a bridle on my horse the evening before, and asked my son to come down with me (a) for moral support and (b) to take photos as proof that I had indeed sat on Cruz Bay bareback regardless of whether I was brave enough to do it the next day.

Of course the wind began to blow hard and the sky to darken as I led my gelding down the hill to the arena. But he was a rock star and didn’t react at all to the unusual feel of my climbing onto his back with no saddle between us.

I nudged him forwards and he behaved impeccably for the whole five minutes I rode him around in walk.

Riding Bareback the Day Before

Here is yours truly, rather nervous and riding Cruz Bay in the shorts and water proof shoes that I planned to wear for the next day’s swim.

That night and the next morning I visualized swimming bareback.  With the old saddle packed into the trailer as my security blanket,  I drove in convoy with three great friends and our horses to the venue, a field by the river.

Once there it was clear that everyone else planned to ride bareback. I was going to look like a total wimp if I didn’t do the same.

We used the tailgate of a friend’s truck as a mounting block and walked our horses the fifty yards or so to the water’s edge.

Cruz’s stable mate, a big Clydesdale named Gabe, marched straight into the water which gave my bay gelding the confidence to join him and paddle about with the others.

The Three Horseketeers
The Three Horseketeers

I was astounded at how well all our horses behaved. There were tons of jellyfish floating in the water but thankfully they didn’t sting us or our gallant mounts.

Kelli, my friend on the left in the photo, took her horse deeper and deeper into the river until her mare was swimming, while I admired them from a safe distance. She then came back and told me I should try it.

“No,” I said, “this is already way out of my comfort zone!”

But she insisted and I’m so glad she did.  We followed her horse out, and suddenly the mare was gliding easily through the water.

Kelli shows how to do it

She is shorter than Cruz, so we had to walk out a little farther. Then I became aware of a change of motion. The transition was so smooth! I’d expected him to panic when he felt the ground fall away, but instead he quietly began to swim.

On my GoPro film you can hear me saying “Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh!” over and over again. It was such a fantastic feeling!

Cruz’s ears were pricked forwards the whole time: he was enjoying this as much as I was. And when we turned back towards the shore, he continued swimming even when the water was shallow enough for him to walk.

There was an iffy moment when he lost his footing and spun round. But luckily I stayed on, so now I am rather proud of that video footage. If I’d fallen off it would have been a different story.

To finish, here is a photo of my reaction to the whole experience.

We did it! cropped
Thank you, Celeste and Timothy Behsmann for this photo

Enough said!

A New Christian Inspirational Trilogy

How the Soft Eyes of a Rescued Horse Ignited a Book

In February my husband’s sweet gelding succumbed to cancer and had to be put down.

We cried for hours: Callow Double Clover aka CD had been with us for 21 years. We’d bought him from a farmer in Ireland when he was 5 years old.

Many people in both the Richmond area and here in Southern Maryland where we currently live remember the gentle soul who helped so many riders gain back their confidence in the saddle.

Too Few

Not only did we miss our beloved Irish horse, but we were now down to two horses at the farm. If I took mine off the property my friend’s huge Clydesdale would go berserk and jump the gate to follow him – he’d done it once before.

If the Clydesdale were to leave, my gelding Cruz Bay would gallop around and break a leg.

We needed a companion horse.

Enter Noah

Lori Harrington, director of Freedom Hill Horse Rescue, had recently taken in four horses from a starvation situation. Their owner had abandoned them in a tiny paddock where there were originally five horses, but one had died the morning the rescue came to take them away.

With not enough to eat, competition for food had been fierce. Gentle Noah was a big loser in this fight: he was picked on by the other horses, kicked and bitten and prevented from eating anything at all.

The Thoroughbred was skin and bone and missing hair everywhere.


This is Noah in his tiny paddock with no grass. His expression tells you that he wasn’t interested in life anymore.

With the great care of the Freedom Hill staff he was already starting to fill out, and within a month of being fostered at my place I was able to take this photo of him:

Noah looking more filled out

He was a perfect gentleman, and great company for the massive Clydesdale whenever I needed to take Cruz anywhere. Thanks to him, I was once again free to go on trail rides, lessons and shows.

Not only that, but I loved stroking his head and losing myself in his dark brown eyes. Even after his bad experiences, he was still trusting and forgiving.

Interest in Noah Develops Fast

He has an enlarged left knee from an old racing injury that was never properly tended to, and although not lame, will probably not be a good candidate for riding.

I contacted a veteran in Special Forces, whose name had been given to me by Lyndi Caruso, a whiz in essential oil therapy. Kevin was immediately interested in coming to see Noah. A former PTSD sufferer himself, he wanted to start an equine therapy program for other veterans with the disorder.

After meeting with the Freedom Hill board to discuss his program, he arrived with his psychologist wife to see Noah at my barn.

The horse liked him immediately. Equally important, Kevin instantly liked Noah.

It didn’t matter to him that the horse may be unrideable. He needed a horse that veterans could bond with on the ground. That was the most important function Noah would have if he went into Kevin’s program.

Look Into My Eyes…



Kevin gave me some great insights into what it’s like to have PTSD and how horses help veterans heal from it – horses helped him get over it.

Jokingly I asked him to explain to me how these animals have such amazing healing powers ‘in three words or less.’

He said: “I can tell you in one word: connection.”

It’s hard to understand how that works unless you’ve looked into the luminous eyes of a loving soul like Noah and felt his soft acceptance of who you are.

Fueled by Noah’s gentleness and with Kevin’s assistance, I’ve attempted to convey the seemingly magical power of a horse to heal PTSD in Riding Out the Wager.

I’ll be sharing more about the book closer to its release date in August 2017.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in finding out more about equine therapy for veterans, here’s an excellent article: Reining In PTSD with Equestrian Therapy

P.S.  Kevin did adopt Noah. Here he is enjoying the company of his new BFF Bijoux.

The story doesn’t end there, but that’s for another day!

Noah with his new friend







A New Christian Inspirational Trilogy

Riding Out the Wager

 wager new book cover five

Riding Out the Wager will be available as an eBook in August 2017.

The first  in The Father Michael Trilogy, it features the Catholic priest who figured prominently in The Jack Harper Trilogy.

Father Michael has to help a man who is struggling with PTSD and, as usual, he will involve Jack!

The plot was prompted by the arrival of a sweet grey rescue horse on my farm and at the same time an introduction to a young veteran.

Want to be a beta reader for this book?

That would be awesome! 

How does it work?

I send you the as yet unpublished version of the book in your choice of format and you give me feedback on:

  • How you like it – the plot, the characters, the pacing of the story and anything else you want to tell me about
  • Any typos you find.

If you give me permission, your name will be included in the Acknowledgements. Once it’s published, I will send you the link to the free version of the ebook on Amazon – and hope you’ll give it a review. 🙂

Sound interesting?

Great! Fill out the Contact Form and I’ll be in touch.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you!






Catholic, Church scandal, Uncategorized

Brittle Diamonds: A Book Born Out of Scandal

When I first moved to the States from England in 2001,  I was also in the process of returning to the Church after many years of anti-Catholicism.

The transition from Europe to the United States was a tough one, but that isn’t why I came back to my faith. It was actually from reading a book my mother-in-law gave me by Charles Stanley, about whether one could be certain of eternal salvation.

I like to joke about how a book given to me by a Baptist lady brought me back to Catholicism! But that’s a topic for another day.

The point is, here I was, finally reconciling with the faith of my youth. I was only taking baby steps, but at least making the effort to go to Mass every Sunday.

The Awesome Priest

We had a wonderful, huge church called St. Michael. I could be anonymous among the thousand or so parishioners, and no one talked to me or made any demands on me. I could come and go unnoticed. It was perfect.

Father John, the parish priest, was phenomenal with a wonderful sense of humor. His sermons were interesting and thought provoking, and I looked forward to hearing what he had to say every week.

I’d been listening to him for about three years when he suddenly said something that neither I nor any of the other parishioners wanted to hear.

Allegations of sexual abuse had been made against him and he was being suspended from his position. 

Many victims were now coming forward after years of allowing themselves to be paid off in return for their silence. What a terrible time to return to the Church! I’d just got back into the routine of being Catholic again, and now this!

Of course none of us wanted to believe that our beloved pastor had done any of the awful things he was being accused of.

I wanted Father John to be innocent, regardless of what people might say.

Painswick Church near my old Gloucestershire home in England

The Truth

I carefully listened to his repeated defense, that he had been a blameless priest for the past thirty years.

But, I noted, the allegations against him dated prior to thirty years ago. Could it be that he was guilty yet trying to make it sound as if he weren’t?

Shaken to the core, I needed an outlet for my frustration.

The Book

I began outlining the rough draft for a novel which tackled the sore topic of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and Brittle Diamonds was born.

While I was writing the book, Father John was found guilty of the charges against him and defrocked. It was a horrible shock but it made me even more determined to finish my book.

I set the novel in a fictional Cotswold village near where I used to live, in the west of the England. Doing so took me back home and away from the sad realities around me.

For we had got a new priest, whom we liked very much. But just as we were getting used to him, he made the unexpected announcement: “I am an alcoholic and am going into rehab.”

Boom! That was it. He was gone.

Were there no good priests left? It is an issue that I also bring up in the book.

If you haven’t read it yet, Brittle Diamonds is permanently free. Here are the links: Amazon US  Amazon UK  Nook iTunes Kobo

Some reviews of Brittle Diamonds

Brittle Diamonds Dog

“This is a well-written story. The characters are well-defined and believable. The details about the church and the priesthood were also well-written.”

“Great read. I was ‘hooked’ by page 3. Very interesting and complex character portrayals. Suspenseful until the very end. I could not have predicted the outcome. I was torn between wanting to finish the book so I could find out the ending, yet I didn’t want the literary experience to end. Days after completing the novel, I was still thinking about the characters and actually hoping for a sequel.”

“Told very well.”

P.S. And if you haven’t subscribed to my readers’ list yet, here’s your opportunity!

A Look Behind the Books, Uncategorized

A Look Behind the Books


Hi there! Here is where I’ll be sharing what prompts me to create the individuals in my books and the stories that unfold in their lives.

There will also be interviews with the characters. If you want to know more about anyone in particular or have questions you’d like me to ask them, please get in touch by filling out the short form on the About//Contact page.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy these posts!