Roxanne Rustand on Cowboy Research

roxannepurple.jpgResearch…sounds sorta dry, doesn’t it?  Maybe for some.  But give me a cute cowboy, the vast ranch lands of Texas or Montana, or the incredible Rockies, and I’m totally lost in the world of the West! And the research is as much fun as the writing of the actual book. 

Do you ever wonder how an author does  research  for a book?  I think I started my general research when I was six years old.  My dad bought me an elderly mare and bridle for $75.00 (no saddle for a couple years–the old horse trader down the road said that was the only way to learn!)  and turned me loose–and from then on, I was on horseback from dawn to dusk, unless I had to be in school.  It was like giving a six-year-old the car keys!   

I grew up riding bareback throughout half the county, with all of my horse-owning  friends.  We played Civil War and  were cowboys and Indians.  We  were little girls in pigtails, racing across meadows and followed every gravel road we could find.  It was a magical childhood, before the times when parents became afraid to let their kids out of sight.  I rode in rain and heavy snow, and loved  loping across snow drifted fields–and now look back and can only be thankful that my guardian angel was working overtime!  Eventually, I began to do a lot of showing, and starting raising and training my own horses…and then worked as a demonstration rider for a while, for a horseman who traveled the USA giving horse training clinics.   Later, my husband and I  raised quarter horses, then thoroughbreds. It all proved to be great research for writing books set in the West! 

Many of my horses (and other pets, like my son’s pet corn snake, Igor…or my husband’s beloved Schipperke, the Grandma Bitin’ Dog)  have become major elements in my books.   Cherry who appeared in A MONTANA FAMILY.  

rrhorse.jpgCherry was a seventeen-hand Thoroughbred-Clydesdale cross, bred to be a heavy hunter, I suppose, back in the day before the large influx of imported warm bloods.  He had the color pattern of Budweiser horse, with a broad white blaze and white socks, the lankiness of a Thoroughbred, and personality to burn.  Tall as he was, he would lay down and shimmy under  fences to escape, and he did that on a regular basis.  He loved to go sight-seeing at night, and was particularly fascinated by houses and the people inside.  His own brand of Horse TV, I guess.  Scared a few people out of a few years, I’m sure.  One night, a couple looked outside and saw an eerie white form with glowing eyes “floating” outside their window–spying on them.  Terrified that they were seeing an alien, they called the sheriff and several patrol cars arrived with lights and sirens…only to find Cherry standing on the couple’s bushes, watching them through the window. 

rr2horses.jpgAnother horse loved to play hide-and-go-seek out in the pasture.  He would hide his head (all that matters, right?!) behind a bush, and when I would run out to “find” him, he would take off bucking at the last minute.  Then I would hide, and he’d come looking for me!  He would play for an hour.  I went Trick or Treating on him, which he loved, because he got to share the treats.  And when I rode him to the post office, he liked that too–because I often got him a maple nut ice cream cone from the drugstore  next door.  It was the only flavor he liked! 

A lifetime with horses has been such a blessing…and even now, there’s nothing more satisfying than looking outside at the horses out in the pasture, and ahhh….the memories!  Can you imagine what it would be like to feel as if you are dancing on air?  Get on a good cutting horse, point him in the right direction and give him his head–and that magical experience will live on in your heart forever!  Riding in the surf south of San Diego….or through maple forests aflame with color in Northern Minnesota–incredible. 

Something out of my usual realm was the research for RODEO!  Through a chain of fortunate events, I  met a rodeo contractor who let me ride with him and his wife to observe their work first-hand, and also met the wife of a man who was heavily involved in producing PBR rodeos. The notes from those interviews  were a book in themselves, and the chance to spend a lot of time in the back lot, interviewing clowns and bull riders (so cute and shy, and so young!)  were perfect research for picking up on the nuances of speech, and gesture and attitude that I needed.    

wildfire.jpgAnd that brings up a good point.  People are almost always so gracious and, well, delighted to talk about their lives and careers!  And there’s nothing like interviews to really get into the personality of a character.  To those of you who are writers–don’t hesitate to ask people.  It isn’t hard to find people who are willing, either.  Try your local sheriff….firemen…doctors….private investigators.  Others can be tracked down through the Internet, by googling websites. 

I’ve met the loveliest people that way!  Ranch women.  Finger print analysts.  DEA agents (ending up doing a four book series on them!)   Veterinarians, lawyers and funeral home directors (I set one book in that world– OPERATION: SECOND CHANCE–which was fun!)  But of course, my true love is the West…ranching and horses and those  strong, independent  men and women who live there.  What could be more perfect than a cowboy? I’ve written nineteen books, now. Ten of them have been set in Wyoming, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Montana, and each time I start a book involving livestock, heroes wearing a Stetson, and the West, I feel like I’ve come home again. 

hard-evidence.JPGMy last four books were LONE STAR LEGACY, a Superromance set in  Texas ranch country, that came out last September, followed by The Snow Canyon Ranch  trilogy.  In the trilogy, each story involves a daughter of an indomitable, tough widow who fought to hold her ranch together, and raised her family against all odds.  Old wounds drove the family apart years ago, but Claire’s failing health has now brought her daughters together.    

In HARD EVIDENCE (December, 2007),  Janna plans to refurbish an abandoned guest lodge on a distant part of the family’s Snow Canyon Ranch,  with hopes of starting a new life for herself and her young daughter. It’s a great plan, until skeletal remains are discovered at the lodge, and the murderer resurfaces

vendetta.jpgIn VENDETTA (February, 2008), Leigh returns to establish a veterinary clinic. She loves the challenge of dealing with everyone from grizzled old cowhands to the super-elite settling in the area with their pampered horses and pets–but someone wants her to fail, and won’t stop at murder to see it happen.  The hero–you guessed it–is a rancher!

In WILDFIRE (March, 2008), Tessa is living out her dreams, running the family’s horse and cattle ranch, and operating a high country outfitting business on the side. It’s going well, until a vagabond photographer shows up and dangers mount…

Those of you who post questions or comments will be entered in a drawing for three prizes–  autographed copies of LONE STAR LEGACY or HARD EVIDENCE–or books of your choosing from all of the ones listed at my websites at  or

I have copies of most of my past releases but not all, so the winners can email several choices and  I’ll do my best.Happy trails to all of you!Roxanne Rustand    

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44 thoughts on “Roxanne Rustand on Cowboy Research”

  1. I share your love of horses, wonderful animals. If you need any new ideas check out our part on the country. Aiken South Carolina is a pretty nice size town that’s been winter quarteres for the horse people for years. With veternarians who only have horse patients to parts of the town being dirt roads only for rides and horses.

  2. Your books sound very nice… I like the LoveInspired series in general, but have never really read one of your books… thanks for blogging!

  3. What a great blog. I am fascinated with your background and the wonderful description of yyour animals and your life. When you described the West and its beauty I fell under its spell when I moved out West permanently and feel that this is a unique and special place to live.

  4. Hi!
    Thanks, Theresa–I have heard South Carolina is beautiful. I would love to see it some day!

    Karen–good luck in the drawing!

    Nathalie, Thanks so much for you comment. The Snow Canyon Ranch trilogy books are my first books for Love Inspired Suspense, and I just loved writing them. I love the line itself, but this also gave me a chance to spend all of those months of writing, dreaming about living in the Rockies!


  5. Hi Roxanne,

    I know nothing about horses, but I enjoyed reading your article — what fun times and great memories! I also flipped over to your website. It’s beautiful. I’m ready to head west in my imagination right now… think I’ll start with West Texas, assuming it’s a little warmer there than it is here. (-7). Stay warm and keep writing, Sherrie

  6. Hi Roxanne, I’m happy to be the first Filly to welcome you. Wow, loved your very interesting insight into horses and how human they can act!! I giggled when you talked about playing hide and seek and the part Clydesdale that would escape and indulge in his vice of being a peeping tom. Too, too funny. 🙂 That stuff just fascinates me. I envy you for being raised on and around horses. I’ve never been fortunate to own any.

    Your books look fantastic. I’m sorry to say I haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of your work, but I plan to rectify that. The trilogy really intrigues me, but so does Lone Star Legacy. As long as they have horses and cowboys in ’em I’m in hog heaven!

    The nicest thing about coming on board at P&P is that I get the chance to meet new authors that I probably wouldn’t otherwise. I’ve read books that I hadn’t even known about. It’s great.

    Keep your stories coming for people like me with inquiring minds and a thirst for westerns! 🙂

    Sherrie, it’s quite a bit warmer down here in Texas. Last night’s low was 20 and it’s supposed to warm up into the 40’s. Very nice weather.

  7. Oh, what a great post. How lucky you have been to have horses as friends. Alas, I was born in the suburbs…I just read a horrific LA Times article about people in the drought-stricken south who can’t feed their horses anymore and are just letting them loose to starve. Yikes. On a happier note, I hope I WIN a book. Thanks for the wonderful blog.

  8. Roxanne, watching and attending PBR events is addictive. My favorite is the bull riding. Now, that really takes lots of guts. And those cowboys look so small on top of those giant beasts. It’s a dangerous sport and I’m sure it takes a special kind of man to do it. Just think of the hours of practice before they ever make it to a rodeo! What was the most interesting thing you learned at the rodeo doing research for your book?

    And how did you keep your eyes in your head with all those jean-clad lanky forms running around?

  9. Hi, Roxanne. What a wonderful childhood. I share your love of animals and it’s great to know they’ll always appear in your book.


  10. Great post, Rox! Loved your childhood memories. I have two girls who are horse fanatics and are on them every free chance they get. My youngest loves to bareback ride and has actually fallen asleep on her horse while letting her graze in the pasture. Although living in the heartland is wonderful, if I had any place I’d want to move to, it would be in the Colorado Rockies. Maybe I’ll have a condo out there someday! Love all your books! Keep them coming, girl!

  11. Your books look and sound so appealing and wonderful. I am entranced with your post today. Just an ideal childhood and so perfect to have that background. I love the West and we finally moved here from the Great White North not long ago. I love everything about this area. The skies, and the sunshine and most of all the limitless horizon.

  12. Welcome to Petticoats & Pistols, Roxanne! It’s great to have you here with us, sharing your love of the West. Best of luck with all those releases coming up–Yowza! You’ve been a busy lady, and how exciting is that!

  13. I have been living in the West my entire life and cannot picture living anywhere else at all ever. The West has always woven its spell upon me and now I am trapped within the beauty and sheer majesty of the scenes that I see daily. Nothing could compare. I was interested in your unique novels which I would enjoy. The animals sound so wonderful and the lifestyle is the best. We have a Corgi, Shepherd mix who is delightful, Bogie, whom we obtained from a rescue shelter online.

  14. Hi Roxanne. Great post. How wonderful that horses have been such a big part of your life. They are so beautiful. I love your writing. Your series sounds great.

  15. Hi Sherrie, Thanks so much for your note, and your comment on my website! It’s new–and it’s one that I can update myself, which makes it fun. The Shoutlife address is great fun, too. I have a recipe exchange going on there, in case anyone like to share favorites!

    Linda, great to meet one of the Fillies! What a beautiful site you have here. I hadn’t visited before, but now I will have it bookmarked and will definitely be back often to read the blog and see what’s new with all of the fine authors here!

    As for interesting bits of research…I learned that those guys really ARE small, usually. And young. Big guys have a disadvantage on those bulls because they are too top heavy, or so I was told. Something else–those wild broncs and bulls look so wild–yet, in the back lot, at the rodeos I researched, they were all in the same big pen together. And the producer said that actually, the bulls are more afraid of the horses than vice versa! Its actually a very easy life…with good vet care, good feed, and very little work. No wonder–good broncs and bulls are worth a ton of money! One last thing…can you tell I just loved this research?! The best bronc they had at the time had started out a teenager’s riding horse!

    Tanya–how awful! In the Midwest we’re seeing that grain and hay prices are escalating like mad, because farmers are turning to corn instead. So it seems there are troubles everywhere.

    Denise–thanks so much for stopping by, and for the sweet note!

    Jacquie, WOW–thanks for stopping by! Hey, everyone, Jacquie’s first book came out this winter, and it’s wonderful. She had a blog here just a few weeks ago, so be sure to check her’s out!!

    Hi Ruth, thanks so much for your note! Great White North is right–it was -12 last night, with windchills around -25. Yikes! And though our winters aren’t always white anymore, its definitely a snowy and icy winter this year!

    Pam–so great to see you! Pam and I were speakers at a workshop in Omaha, not too long ago.

    Diane, wonderful to hear about your shelter adoption! We adopted a border collie last fall, after our fierce little Schipperke passed away. Elmo is the most attention seeking, loving dog–I think he must constantly be thinking about how grateful he is to be out of jail!

    I almost always have animals that play a part in my stories. Llamas, horses, cockatiels, dogs, cats…guess it comes from living in a menagerie myself!

    Hi, Crystal and Emma! Thanks so much for stopping by!


  16. Hi, Roxanne, I grew up on a farm and my family had a horse and the neighbors had two horses. These were the most stubborn, obnoxious creatures and it was only in the face of insane boredom that we’d (my friend Joani and I) would go catch the horses.
    Catching them was the worse, they would just run and dodge and it was so hard.
    My older sister and Joani’s older sister were the horsewomen and we were just trying to pretend like we liked the beasts.
    Susie, Sparky and Sandy. Our three horses.
    Even from the sentimental perch of years looking back, I really couldn’t stand riding horses.

    Obviously I am abnormal, but then, this isn’t news to any who know me.

  17. What a great post, Rosanne. Such wonderful memories!

    I only wish I could ride. Although I was born and reared in Texas,I’ve been on a horse twice! I know, I know that ain’t Texan, but it’s true! Once was a nag in Palo Duro Canyon who had been ridden so much that he knew where he wanted to go and how he planned to get there whether I wanted to go with him or not … and frankly, I think he really would have preferred I didn’t. The other was a savvy workhorse over at the East Camp of the Brainard Ranch. Blackie. He was a great ol’ man, who would work all day, but when we took the trailer out to the pasture and he’d hear the pickup, he’d stop dead still and not move an iota because he knew his work was done and he had a ride back to the barn. I tried to ride him once, even have a picture to show for it, but I’m only 5’5″ and I think only the last 5 inches are my legs, so when I finally got up on him (with the help of the bed of the pickup and I’m not kidding) my legs couldn’t even span him enough for my feet to get in the stirrups. Did I mention he was big? I’m a bit intimidate writing about horses, but when I do trust me they are always the opposite of Ol’ Blackie. Thanks for allowing me to share one of my memories…and now that I think about it, doubt I’ve ever shared this story with anyone except the “witnesses”! And, yes, I love to research. If I could plot and research and let someone else write the books, I think I’d do that. That’s how much I enjoy researching. To write the anthology called “Give Me a Cowboy” with Linda Broday, which will be out this time next year, I read three books on Annie Oakley. Since it’s about an 1890 Texas rodeo, I also watched the PBR for nearly a year. Still do although the book has been at the publishers for months (LOL), but I no longer justify it as “research”. Talking about the size of bull riders, I believe Ross Coleman is six foot, three, which is extremely tall for a bull rider. He really looks like a giant on almost every bull he rides. I think it’s Coleman, but I’ll stand to be corrected. Thanks again for sharing your expertise on horses. Such fun! Phyliss

  18. I’m one of those surburban kids that grew up wishing for a horse so your childhood sounds wonderful. So do all your books. And I agree about getting people talking – most enjoy talking about something they know!

  19. The Snow Canyon Ranch books sound great! A new trilogy to read! I’m so excited! Thanks for sharing your stories and pictures! Roxanne, your books are some of my favorite to read! Thanks for sharing your talent so that I can enjoy wonderful stories!

  20. What a great post. I love cowboys and I love horses. They are one of the most beautiful animals. I only rode a little as a child. Love to look but am scared of them.

    My best friend has several horses and thinks I am crazy but hey we all have or fears, right.

    Hope to read one of your books soon

  21. I really enjoyed your post. Sounds like your had a great childhood. I enjoy books that are written about Texas. I think I could get into the research of a book.

  22. Roxanne-

    Your books sound interesting. I’ve always loved horses. Read all the Misty of Chincoteague and Black Stallion Books along with one called Black Beauty as soon as they were within my “reading skills”. I also read and loved the Little House on the Praire series though there’s not much to do with horses – got that whole series at age 7 and read it.

    OK so I’ve never owned a horse or even taken formal lessons per se but spent several summers at horsemanship camp when I talked my parents into the extra cost over regular camp, but my family have been city or actually suburb dwellers so horses weren’t an option outside of the camp thing, darn it. At least I got to read about them though the real thing is much more fun.


  23. Hi Roxanne!
    I have enjoyed your books for years and the settings are wonderful for someone who has never been to those parts of the United States. Your horse stories are great since I have had little contact with horses and had no idea that they had so much personality.

  24. Hi, Cheryl, Thanks for your warm welcome! And many thanks also for setting up this lovely blog for me, with the photos and all! You did a beautiful job.

    Mary C, I chuckled over your post, because I’ve known many a horse that was cantankerous and stubborn, and they aren’t much fun. We once bought a nice looking broodmare. The guy insisted that it “would be no trouble to deliver her” so we thought he was just being nice. It did seem a bit strange when they pulled in with three very burly men wedged into the front seat of the pickup, but we didn’t see the rationale until the next spring, when I tried to load her up to take her to be bred. She not only stubbornly fought me for a good half hour, but then she got MEAN about it. Striking, trying to bite. She and I came to an understanding and she was pretty good after that. But she proved to be the most stubborn, tricky mare we ever had. No wonder you never liked horses, with the ones you had!


  25. Oh! I missed out on the discussion yesterday!

    I will post though that your books sound very intriguing and I will definitely have to check them out and I truly enjoyed your stories of growing up with horses.

    I grew up partly in the suburbs, but my mom’s parents lived in the country and my grandfather started buying up mules, ponies, donkeys and burros when I was young. But my favorite? The one horse he got. She was almost solid black, but for a bit of white here and there.

    I was down there the day he brought her in, and I fell in love with her. I named her Midnight Lady, but I asked her first if that name was okay with her. She shook her head up and down and stomped on hoove as if in agreement and so the name stuck.

    I rode her bareback with a bridle because I hated saddles, always fearful of the horse blowing out her belly when it was put on, making for a loose fitting saddle that would slide.

    I couldn’t run Lady, because my grandfather had them in a lot instead of a field, but I still fondly remember many Saturday afternoons atop Midnight Lady, just riding at a slow walk. Or in her stall, currying her and giving her treats of apples or sugar cubes. I can still remember the weight of her head on my shoulder when I would hug her neck.

    She was my baby and I don’t remember when she was sold. I just remember one day she was gone and my heart was broken. I haven’t ridden a horse since, not because I wouldn’t like to, but because my grandfather passed and my uncle sold all the animals off and since then I haven’t known anyone who had a horse.

    I really miss her and I imagine she’s long gone, but she’ll never be forgotten.

    Thanks for the wonderful blog!

  26. Phyliss, I enjoyed your post so much! And I can’t wait to read the anthology you’ve done with Linda Broday. Do you have an exact month, so I can put it on my calendar?

    Hi, Jeanne and Kathleen–thanks so much for stopping by to say hello!

    Hi Sherry–I think its probably good survival instincts that make you wary of horses. (smile) They sure are bigger and stronger than we are, and can be unpredictable!

    Hi, Gail! Thanks for dropping in!

    Melissa, I adored all of those books, too. Must have read every one of Farley’s books a half-dozen times over, and really, really wanted to go to that island and get one of those ponies, when I was young!

    Maureen, thanks so much for your kind words!


  27. Phyliss, I enjoyed your post so much! And I can’t wait to read the anthology you’ve done with Linda Broday. Do you have an exact month, so I can put it on my calendar?


    Thanks, Rosanne, for giving me an opportunity to shamelessly plug our anthology. It’s actually on the shelf of some smaller bookstores now, but our official release date is February 1st. “Give Me a Texan” received a 4 star review from RT and Linda and I, plus the other two authors, are up to our ears in promotion at this time. Over the next month, we’re going to be traveling all over Texas, from the Panhandle to Houston and back, plus New Mexico. The fillies have so gracefully asked me to be guest blogger next weekend, and I really look forward to it. Thanks again for the terrific post on horses. Hugs, Phyliss

  28. Glad to see you here today, I recently read Hard Evidence and enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to the rest of the books in the series!

  29. Your childhood must have been fantastic! Our neighbours had horses but I was not allowed near them, only allowed to look. Wonderful animals! Perhaps that’s why I love to read about them…

  30. Hey Roxanne, I agree about your research. My current wip is an LIH and I know that my riding experience has given me a good foundation for transportation in the Old West. Just to know which way to lean if you’re going up or down a hill makes the book more realistic. I’m looking forward to reading your LIS books.

  31. Great post! Brings back memories of the horses I owned as a child. First there was Stormy, (bought for $25!) then Smokey, both stud horses my parents ended up making me sell for being too rough. Then along came Honey (my nickname too). I bought her for $75 with babysitting money. She’d been beaten and when I first got her, no one could go around her. By the time I sold her a couple of years later because I was getting married, she was broke to the halter and bridle and we could ride her bareback. Although I’ve gone most of my adult life not owning horses and only riding occasionally, I’ll never forget the feel of muscle and flesh beneath me and the magical feel horseback riding presents – nor will I ever forget the horses I owned and loved so much as a child.

    Pamela S Thibodeax
    “Inspirational with an Edge!’

  32. Roxanne, just another PBR fan checking in. I wouldn’t miss one of their telecasts and managed to see one of the Challenger series when it was in our local area. When Adriano is retired after this year it just won’t be the same, sob.

    I’ll be blogging here on Feb. 23 so I won’t go on and on about my upcoming western historical for Love Inspired. It’s called FRONTIER COURTSHIP and will be out in March 2008. I will add, however, that I love mules (horses too) and used a very special mule in my pioneer story.

    Great blog!
    Valerie Hansen

  33. Would you like to know the ONE thing you can do to improve your riding and Horsemanship skills?
    Bob Logan Master Of Bridleless Riding

    Bob has spent his life Studying horses. He has paid attention to how they move, how they learn, how they react to different riders, and what techniques make them perform better. He has been training horses for over 40 years. He has searched and studied the best techniques that have promised positive results and a disciplined horse…He has also studied the worst techniques and found out what doesn’t work in horse and rider training. He analyzed a barrel turn in minute detail. The common thread in all there is to learn is that consistency builds confidence and discipline creates performance. Through the combination of discipline and consistency comes success. Bob taught thousands of students to understand horsemanship as an art as well as a science. The science lies in skills he learned from reining, cutting, working cow horses and barrel racing horses. The art is found in the partnership that can develop between the horse and rider. As this partnership becomes more perfect, it becomes the mark of excellence in both horsemanship and showmanship. Each of us wants to become the best at what we love to do.

    So, let’s begin…..Take a deep breath, relax and loosen the trainer in you as you prepare to read. Let’s see if my ideas can help you and your horse become partners in all that you are capable of becoming. Let us help you find the best way to train your horse.

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