When Katlyn rides a new horse, he bolts, crashing through the arena fence. Now she is terrified she can’t stop a horse. Will she ever be able to ride again?
Young Adult teenage girls, horses, riding, overcoming fear after accident
||4 publishers interested
Katlyn, a freshman in high school, has discovered the wonderful, exciting, challenging world of horses. She is learning that she has an affinity for horses and the skills needed around them. However, while riding a horse new to her, the horse bolts and crashes through the arena fence. Katlyn avoids physical injury but discovers that she is now terrified that she will be unable to stop any horse she is riding. She loses all confidence in her ability to stop a horse. She, who had never been afraid of horses or riding one, is now afraid— sure that she will be run away with again. To compound the problem, when her mother learns of the incident, she determines that riding is too dangerous and forbids further riding. Despite her fear, Katlyn knows she can’t lose horses from her life. They are too much a part of who she is. Katlyn loves her mother and knows that she is in turn loved. But she is beginning to recognize that while she is loved, she is not understood by her mother. Somehow, she must change her mother’s mind about not riding. She must also find the courage to overcome her fears. With the help of her best friend Cilla and her instructor, she embarks on the journey to re-learn the skills she has lost, find the joy of riding again, and become the equestrian she knows she was meant to be.
Bolted was written because it speaks to a truth virtually all riders have faced at one time or another—fear. Horses are powerful animals with a mind of their own. Riding them and becoming one with them is a constant dialogue to convince them that you the rider will take care of them and tell them when their instinct to flee is justified. Riders know that at some point in their riding journey, the horse didn’t take their word for it and made his own decision- whether it was to bolt, or shy, refuse a jump or buck. And the rider went flying off! Whether that moment ends the rider’s association with horses or not is up to the rider, her commitment, and her courage. Her decision plays a part in the journey that determines the adult she will become.
1. The start of Katlyn’s weekend. She has the opportunity to go to the stables. She is unaware that she will be faced with major change and challenges before the day is over. She is anticipating a fun day. On the drive to the country club stables, she tells her father of her delight in riding and queries him if he feels the same about his golf. Katlyn recalls how she first started riding with her best friend and her father and discovered the wonderful world of horses.
2. Katlyn starts her day at the barn. She earns free riding by taking groups out to show them the trails. She is asked if she wants to ride a new horse to acclimate him to the barn and grounds. The horse dodges out of the ring several times and goes to the barn. The gate of the ring is then barred. The horse bolts, intending to jump the gate. Katlyn turns him but not enough and they crash through the fence. Katlyn avoids injury but is badly shaken. Katlyn tries to prevent Mrs. Smith from saying anything about the incident to her father when she sees him but she has already left the barn.
3. Katlyn doesn’t realize until her lesson the following day that she is scared on a horse—that she fears she will not be able to stop him. She tries to take her usual lesson but is unable to do it. She and her friend Cilla try to figure out what to do about the problem. Cilla takes Katlyn out on an old school horse on the trail on a lead line, which helps somewhat. While on the trail, they meet Pete, who Katlyn finds interesting and Pete appears to want to talk with her. Katlyn and Cilla disguise from Pete that she has been on a lead line. When Katlyn gets home, she says nothing about Pete.
4. Katlyn’s mother finds out about the incident at the barn and confronts Katlyn about it. Katlyn says there was nothing to say about it, after all, she wasn’t hurt. She says nothing to her mother about her now present fear of not being able to stop a horse. Her mother decides that riding is too dangerous an activity for Katlyn and forbids her to ride any more. Katlyn argues at the unfairness of the decision. Her brothers are allowed to play sports in which they have been actually injured. And she wasn’t even hurt! Although Katlyn wants to continue riding, for now, her mother’s restrictions provide a ready excuse for giving in to her fears. Kathlyn tells Cilla of her mother's edict. Cilla is sympathetic. The girls agree to discuss the matter further to see if they can find a way that will work to change her mother’s mind.
5. Cilla confers with Warren. He suggests limited riding only in the ring under supervision as a compromise Katlyn’s mother might go along with. Katlyn enlists her father to help persuade her mother to the compromise. Katlyn is not happy with the restrictions of the compromise but willing to go along with them for now. Especially since she is still scared that she won’t be able to stop a horse. Her father convinces her mother that the compromise rules address Marge’s safety issues but still lets Katlyn ride.
6. Now that she can ride again, Katlyn knows she must talk to Warren about her fears. She hesitates to tell him, believing that he will be very disappointed in her. Warren reassures her that she is not the only rider to have ever encountered suddenly becoming fearful. He assures her it is something that happens to most riders at some time in their riding career but it is a surmountable problem. Given her incident with Socks, he understands her reaction and thinks more of her for trying to address her fear. Katlyn tells him of her mother’s restrictions and he suggests an initial riding plan for her. That will fall within her mother’s rules, yet start to work on her regaining her hands and skills.
7. Katlyn starts her rehab program on a longue line riding one of the beginner’s lesson horses. She doesn’t even hold the reins, just does some exercises. She relaxes enough with someone else in control of the horse to absorb the review of the aids to stop a horse with her seat not her hands.
8. The first time Katlyn rides off the longue, she thinks that it is OK until she tries to trot. Then she tenses, feels the horse tense in response and grabs the reins in panic. Nearly in tears, she is discouraged and disgusted with herself.
9. Warren works with her patiently, taking her step by step, until she is finally trotting in the arena on her own. But it is a hard-fought struggle. There are some mishaps when the aids aren’t properly given and the transitions to a slower gait take laps around the arena before it happens. Some weeks Katlyn is not sure that she will be able to do it.
10. A Sunday afternoon, just as the lesson is winding up, Katlyn notices a rider coming in from the trail behind the barn. Cilla recognizes Pete and calls out to him. He joins them in the ring. He tells her he was wondering why they haven’t met on the trails so decided to come see if she was at the barn. Katlyn realizes that she is glad to see him. Not sure what to do, if anything, about feeling so glad to see him, they walk their horses in the ring and talk. She tells him about being grounded but not about being scared. Since she is just riding in the ring, he asks if she wants to try his horse as a change from a school horse. Katlyn panics. She knows she doesn’t dare get on a strange horse, but doesn’t want Pete to know how afraid she is. She makes the excuse that her mother’s new rules wouldn’t allow it right now. She assures him she appreciates the offer and as soon as she can get “ungrounded”, she will take him up on it. Pete says that since she can’t go out on the trails yet, maybe he’ll stop in at the barn again. Katlyn hopes that will be soon. Katlyn now has another incentive to get over her fear—to be able to go on trail-rides with Pete.
11. Warren reinforces Katlyn’s knowledge of bridging her reins and strengthens her two-point position with some exercises requiring all her concentration to maintain the position. Within the safety of the arena and with confidence in the school horse who has taught many beginning riders to canter, Katlyn attempts a canter. It is short-lived. As the horse approaches the corner she broke through, she sees herself again going through the fence, hears again that awful crack and pulls her horse to a stop. She sits on her horse, tears threatening to fall any second. Warren waits patiently while she regains her composure and suggests a canter circle at the other end of the ring, away from the fateful corner. She manages part of one circle.
12. Now that school is out, Katlyn can go to the barn an additional day during the week. She takes care of two boys whose family has come to the beach for the summer as her summer job. But she has Wednesdays off as well as Saturday and Sunday. Mr. Sheffield comes up from New York every weekend, so they don’t need someone to watch the boys, except sometimes on a Saturday night. If Katlyn is going to show Moonbeam in the Labor Day horse show, it is time for her to start getting him ready. Mrs. Pierson had offered to let Katlyn ride her horse, Moonbeam, while they are away in Maine for the summer and to show him in the Fall show. Mrs Pierson is a lovely lady, but an average rider that just likes to trail-ride. Moonbeam is perfect for her. He is a handsome dark bay tobiano of medium size who is kind and doesn’t have a shy or spook or bolt in him. Katlyn knows he is lazy enough that he is going to stop cantering the minute the rider stops urging him to continue. There is virtually no risk that he won’t stop, which is exactly what Katlyn needs. Since her mother’s restriction did not prohibit riding any particular horse, while she continues riding in the ring, under supervision, she can be mounted on Moonbeam.
13. Katlyn makes progress in the ring, riding off the longue. Now Warren tells her it is time to ride outside the ring. She starts with just walking around the barn area and along the hunt course with Warren beside her. But for real further progress to be made, her mother’s restrictions must be modified. She will have to have another discussion with her mother.
14. Katlyn and Cilla are about to have lunch in the student’s rec room and brainstorm an approach to Mrs. Lange when Pete arrives. He’s had lunch but joins them with a coke while they have their sandwiches. Although nothing specific has been said to Pete about Katlyn’s fears, he has figured out that something has been going on. Katlyn finally feels that she has made enough progress that she can admit to him what happened. He is very supportive of her efforts and tells her so. Katlyn is very relieved that he finally knows what has been going on and particularly that he isn’t disgusted with her for being afraid. Cilla tells him that things have reached a point where they must get Mrs. Lange to modify her rules and let Katlyn have more freedom. They admit they aren’t sure just how to do that.
15. Pete asks questions about the circumstances that Katlyn is just riding Moonbeam. Katlyn explains about having him to ride for the summer and then show in the Fall show. Pete thinks about it and suggests that isn’t riding just Moonbeam almost like having your own horse? Couldn’t Mrs. Lange be persuaded that there is an added safety feature on Moonbeam that would make it safe to occasionally go out on the trail, if there were supervision and she were riding him?
16. Katlyn laughed and said “Of course!” She almost jumped up to give Pete a hug but was suddenly overcome with shyness. All she could do was tell him how much she appreciated his solution and support and hope he understood how she felt.
17. Katlyn is aware that for her to have any realistic chance of being able to compete in the Fall show, she has to have won this struggle with her fear—a struggle her mother knows nothing off. She knows the Fall show classes present an additional challenge to her; she might have to ride the horse of another competitor! And while she could laugh at the thought of Lucy, who had her own barn and full -time instructor, having to ride a grade horse like Moonbeam instead of her push-button champion Morgan mare, she in turn would have to ride Lucy’s very high-energy show Morgan! Waiting until the day of the show to find out if she could do that wasn’t an option.
18. Pete also suggest that if she can get permission, it might be helpful for her to ride his horse. They agree that they will talk to Warren about it, if and when Katlyn gets her mother to relax the rules.
19. Katlyn picks Sunday night after dinner, while she and her mother are cleaning up the kitchen and doing the dishes to broach the subject of new rules with her mother. She hopes her main argument, that riding Moonbeam is very close to having her own horse, will help with the safety issues. Also, her mother knows Mrs. Pierson and knows that she wouldn’t own a horse that was dangerous in any way. And she would still agree not to ride alone or without supervision. But, she needs to continue his schooling for the show with occasional rides out of the ring. And while not saying it, Katlyn privately knows she must have the chance to see if she is brave enough to ride on the trail again.
20. After hearing Katlyn’s arguments, her mother stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that riding to the degree of involvement that Katlyn envisions, is suitable for a well brought up young lady. She is not going to allow it. Katlyn loves her mother and knows that while her mother really does love her, she just doesn’t know or understand her. Katlyn knows that tears and tantrums will not sway her mother, but she must win this argument.
21. She logically spells out all the things in the past she could think of that her mother has wanted her to do and be that she had no interest in, but none-the-less complied with. She admits she is sorry that she isn’t the daughter that her mother envisions—one who plays with dolls, likes dressing up, can’t wait to wear make-up—but she just isn’t. If her mother can’t accept who she really is then there isn’t a lot more to say. She guesses her mother’s rules will stand then for four more long years. But the minute she is eighteen, she will be out of the house.
22. Marge’s lack of understanding of Katlyn had not prepared her for Katlyn’s determined stand. She is stunned by Katlyn’s determined attitude. She suddenly realizes that if she continues to require adherence to her rules, she may lose her daughter, not only in four years, but starting now.
23. Katlyn is glad that the following day she is scheduled to take the boys to the beach and will be gone most of the day. She is devastated that her mother is unwilling to compromise even a little bit more. She is so angry at and disappointed in her mother that she’s not sure how she is going to be able to get through the next few days, never mind four years! But something must give! She can’t go on without knowing whether she can ride a horse without the safety net of an arena fence to control him.
24. The following evening, after a very silent dinner on Katlyn’s part, Mrs. Lange tells Katlyn that she has spoken to her father about Katlyn’s request. Mrs. Lange asks Katlyn to tell her just what she needs to do, particularly regarding schooling for the Fall show and how she would go about doing it. While still insisting on no riding alone, no riding other horses unless Warren is there and says it is safe, Mrs. Lange relents and allows Katlyn to go out on the trail with Moonbeam, but only him. She realizes that while she may not really understand the person that Katlyn is growing up to be, she is her daughter and she loves her. She cannot lose her.
25. Katlyn is ecstatic. She can’t wait to phone Cilla to tell her. The following morning, Katlyn flies down the ninth fairway, bursting with the good news to tell Warren. She can’t wait for Cilla to arrive. Today they can go on a trail ride. And while the very thought of it stills scares her, she can’t wait to try. Can she do this?
26. Cilla and Katlyn ride the horses in the ring for a bit to get them warmed up. Moonbeam has had two days off but is ready to go to work and is being perfect. The girls head out to their favorite trail.
27. Walking and trotting with Cilla in the lead, are fine with Katlyn. She is a little tense but not enough to upset Moonbeam. They reach the big double field where the path goes along the edge next to the stone wall. This is usually the perfect place to canter. Before Katlyn can tell Cilla to just trot it, Cilla urges her horse into a canter. Moonbeam follows suit without any urging. Katlyn gasps, starts to panic and then works to get control of herself. She tells herself while she bridges her reins, and settles into her strong two-point position, I can let him canter. I can, I can. We will stop at the end of the field. He’s being perfect. It’s just an ordinary canter. He’s not running away. Before she knows it, she has caught up with Cilla, waiting for her at the end of the field, laughing, almost crying. “You did it! You didn’t panic! You cantered without freezing up! Hurray! Want to do it again?”
28. Yes! exclaimed a beaming Katlyn. And with that they turned the horses around and cantered back along the two fields. This time Katlyn was the one laughing and having fun again. On the remainder of the ride back to the barn, Katlyn continued to test her newly recovered self-confidence by cantering at every opportunity, even though it was riskier since they were headed home. She couldn’t wait to tell Warren. Pete was also high on the list of people to tell.
29. Katlyn wished she had Pete’s phone number to tell him about her ride. But she knew even if she had it, she wouldn’t call him- what if someone else answered the phone-—what would she say? How would she explain why a girl was calling him? What if her mother overheard her and asked about it? She knew her mother well enough to know that Pete would not be considered a suitable boy to be interested in. She was firmly of the opinion that you couldn’t get attached to someone you never met.
30. Finally, Saturday afternoon, Pete came riding up to the barn. Katlyn’s first reaction was to go racing up to him to tell him her news but managed to tone it down to a big smile as she stroked his horse while he dismounted.
He asked why the happy face. She told him of her mother’s new rules and her ride with Cilla.
31. Now Katlyn can really concentrate on those requirements of the classes in the Fall show that she had been avoiding. Confident that Moonbeam will listen to her half-halt for the simple lead change in a figure eight, the figure was no longer a problem. She now could ride on a no-contact rein canter, sure that she could communicate with him and he would listen to her and make the downward transition to trot without argument.
32. Katlyn talks to Warren about the possibility that if she rides well in the show, she might have to change horses. It is likely that first and second place in the class will be won by Alice and Lucy but that leaves the remaining four ribbons to be won. The only horses that might be a challenge to ride would be Alice’s and Lucy’s Morgans. She was more familiar with Alice’s horse since she and Cilla were friends with Alice at the shows. Lucy’s mare was more of an unknown. Cilla mentions Pete’s offer to “test-ride” on his horse. Warren wants to ride him first but if he is safe, then he agrees it might be a good idea.
33. The next time Pete shows up at the barn, Warren rides Pete’s horse and determines that Katlyn can ride him in the ring. Katlyn knows that unless she can successfully ride Pete’s horse, she can’t take the chance of competing and being asked to switch horses in the class. Katlyn controls her butterflies, applies her strengthened skills and concentrates on riding this horse--the one she is now on, not a horse in the past that went through the fence with her. She rides Pete’s horse with competence, to everyone’s approval. In celebration, she and Cilla tack up horses and the three go on an easy, fun, trail ride.
34. Katlyn competes in the Fall show and does very well. She does get asked to ride Lucy’s mare, but the preparation for just such a possibility pays off. She manages a competent ride and places third. Lucy, on Moonbeam, has her problems, but being the accomplished rider that she is, rides him well.
35. Marge, seeing how well Katlyn fits in and shines in the equestrian setting, recognizes the importance to Katlyn of her riding. While she will never completely understand it, she accepts she must allow Katlyn her dreams and goals if she is to have a loving relationship with her daughter.
The primary audience with whom this story will appeal is that army of teen-age girls who have fallen in love with horses and everything surrounding them. They have enthusiastically answered the call of the challenge of mastering equestrian skills, whether it be barrel racing, jumping dressage or trail riding. Their pony or horse is their best friend, confidant and partner. And anyone who rides horses, sooner or later experiences a traumatic event that has left them scared of the power and potential of a horse. For the reality is that horses are powerful and can be dangerous. For some, experiencing such an event may well be the end of their riding career. For most, it is a hurdle to overcome. But when such a trauma occurs during the teenage years, it is a particularly vulnerable time for the rider. Their degree of self-confidence rises and fall from day to day. Do they have the courage and commitment to overcome their fear? Is it necessary to resolve this problem? I believe that Katlyn’s journey will resonate with all riders but particularly young adults.
For as long as she can remember, Susan Maire has been in love with and involved with horses. She was finally able to convince her parents to let her take riding lessons when she was twelve years old. She has spent most of her life since then, spending every free moment either with her horses or her dogs. She has also taught owners the basics of riding and dog obedience, and has coached many in the finer arts of showing both horses and dogs. She has first-hand experience with the sometimes difficult, sometimes scary, but always challenging and exciting journey to becoming one with a horse, and has partnered with riders to experience this same connection with their own horses. Mrs. Maire has shown horses over the years winning regional awards and earning her Century Club award, where the combined age of the rider and horse in competition must equal one hundred or more. With children of her own who are riders, and years of teaching, Mrs. Maire is well versed in the teen angst of indecision, doubts, fears, and triumphs involved in becoming a skilled equestrian.
She is a published authority on English Setters, having written How to Raise and Train an English Setter, the definitive guide to the breed, in 1964. She has recently published a historical novel of William the Conqueror and King Harold II entitled The Oath, utilizing her training as an attorney to explore William’s alleged right to the English throne.
I have a web site established which will be utilized to include news and information about Bolted. www.susansmaire.com
I have a network of riding instructors, who have young adult students, to whom a flyer can be addressed, informing them of the book and asking them for their support. There are several YA blogs which I would reach out to advise of the book’s availability.
I am retired and available for personal appearances, book signings, and the like.
The subject of horses and girls is a popular subject for young adults. There are many stories about girls essentially taming rescue horses or wild horses. Also, there are many stories with horses as the heroine’s best or maybe only friend.
There are a multitude of YA books involving runaways but they generally are about a young person running away from or escaping from a variety of situations, not being run-a-way with while on a horse.
The available books dealing with fear of riding or a horse are generally non-fiction, how-to type books —not the journey of a fictional protagonist as she tries to overcome her fears and re-gain her self-confidence.
One book most similar is Clear the Hurdles, Sara! by Anna Sellberg, published in 2005 by Stabenfeldt, Inc. Pony Club. However, Sara, the main character, is not dealing with her own fears and lack of self-confidence, merely helping another character in the story deal with her problems. Katlyn, the protagonist in Bolted, is the one now afraid to ride, conflicted and almost relieved (but not really) that her mother has forbidden her to ride any more.
I don’t believe there is a rider out there, young or old, who has not also had an experience similar to that of Katlyn. I think her struggles to overcome her fears and continue as a rider, even in the face of parental opposition, will resonate with most horsemen/women.
Sunday dawned bright and clear. Another perfect spring day. The thought crept in that tomorrow was a school day, but I shoved it aside for now. There was still a day at the barn to be had. Although our lesson with Warren was usually in the late afternoon, this Sunday it was going to be in the morning, as soon as Warren had the day’s schedule organized and was free.
Cilla arrived at the barn by eight-thirty. She got out “Peso”, the more advanced school horse that she had been riding in lessons and I brought out “Franc”,also one of the more advanced school horses and we put them on the cross-ties to get them tacked up. If you were a boarder and called to say that you would be that the barn at say, two o’clock to ride, when you arrived, your horse would be all brushed and clean, tacked up and ready for you to mount and be on your way. For us kids, the discounted price we paid for lessons also meant that we groomed and tacked up our own horses before a lesson. I curried and brushed “Franc” and talked to him about the up-coming lesson.
Everything was pretty much OK walking down to the ring and letting the horses loosen up their muscles at the walk. Then “Franc” started to get a bit ainsy. And I was starting to get tense. Cilla came alongside. “Quit holding him so tightly! He can’t move and you’re as tense as a board! Relax.” I looked down and saw how short a rein I had him on. No wonder he was objecting to it. We were only walking for heaven sakes!
Even though we were in the ring, Cilla who was just in front of me, observed the etiquette of the trail and called out “going to trot”. Ordinarily, that would not have been a problem at all. But, as she started to trot and Franc started to follow suit, I panicked. “Cilla, NO!” I yelled.
“What do you mean, “No” she asked as she circled back to me. ”What’s the problem?” I was tongue-tied. I didn’t know what was the problem. I just was suddenly terrified to trot. “I don’t know,” I finally managed to mutter. “I don’t think I can stop him if we trot.” Could I stop him? It had never been a problem before, but now, suddenly it was a major issue!
“You’re kidding, right?” asked Cilla, totally amazed at my answer. “No, I don’t think so. My stomach is in knots and I’m scared!”, I replied almost in tears.
“But you’ve never been scared on a horse before. What’s different today? “She asked, mystified but concerned.
“I don’t know. I just know how I feel and it feels really scary. I’ve never been scared on a horse before but I am now. It’s not too bad if we only walk. But even then, Franc is getting upset with me. What do I do?”
“I don’t know.” She thought about it for a minute or so and added, ” I guess the best thing to do would be to talk to Warren about what’s happening. He seems to be able to fix most problems.”
I certainly didn’t want to admit to Warren how scared I was, but I couldn’t see any way to avoid it. He had taught me from the very beginning. I could still hear him say “I see daylight” as he rode behind me on the trail when my knees came off the saddle. I thought he was wonderful and really wanted to have him proud of me. I certainly couldn’t lie to him. But I couldn’t just take my usual lesson as if everything was the same when it wasn’t, could I?
Cilla and I talked some more about how I felt while we continued to walk the horses, waiting for Warren to come down to the ring. We finally decided that I wouldn’t lie to him, just, sort of, not tell the entire story. Cilla would take her lesson and I would stay in the ring but not participate in the lesson because I still a bit “shook up” and sore from yesterday’s wild ride. I’m sure Warren knew me well enough to suspect something was going on, but was too wise an instructor to make an issue of the situation.