One reader will receive a set of Julie’s books Big City Cowboy, Bet On a Cowboy, The Rancher and the Vet, and Roping the Rancher. Another reader will win Roping the Rancher. That’s two giveaways for the price of one!
Years ago I read a study that said petting a cat or dog lowers a person’s blood pressure. After that we had a running joke in my house when someone got upset. We’d say take a break. Go pet a dog and lower your blood pressure. Okay, I admit it. Usually it was my husband saying that to me, because I’m a type A person who takes on too much and then stresses over how to manage it all.
One thing that’s always drawn me to cowboy heroes is their connection to animals, particularly horses. Now science is proving what cowboys have known forever—being on a horse clears a person’s head, gives a sense of peace and heals in a way nothing else can.
Colt Montgomery, the hero in Roping the Rancher wanted to make a difference in the world after he left the military, so he started a therapeutic horsemanship program at his ranch. I was struggling with the story. It refused to fall into place despite the fact that I had all the right elements—a hero I loved, a determined heroine and solid conflict. I’d read information on the Internet about therapy horsemanship programs, but I couldn’t see the scenes I needed to bring the book to life.
I was talking to a dear friend Sue Casteel about my frustrations and honestly, my fear that I’d never finish the book. Then Sue told me she volunteered at a program like Colt’s, Equest, in Wylie, Texas. Looking back now I’m surprised I didn’t fall on my knees and kiss her feet. Yup, that’s how happy I was. The Internet is great, but I prefer talking to a person to get my research. Sue invited me to Equest’s open house, played tour guide and answered my endless questions. After that visit the story made sense. I could see Colt and Stacy interacting and struggling for control as her brother went through the therapy program. I also saw how horsemanship therapy could change all my characters’ lives.
I had two strong willed people, used to being in control, who didn’t like having their decisions questioned. So what did I have Stacy do? You got it, she questioned Colt’s every decision from the horse he selected for her brother to how many sidewalkers—volunteers who keep an eye on the rider and assist him/her with balance issues—he needed. The solution these two come up with was for Colt to train Stacy as a volunteer so she could participate in her brother’s therapy sessions. The scenes revolving around the horsemanship therapy sessions turned out to be some of my favorites in the book.
Visiting Equest and talking with Sue showed me how staff, volunteers, the client and the horse all work together to form a team. That was the real revelation for me. I realized that’s what this program would do for my hero, his daughter, the heroine and her brother. I finally had the theme for this book—how people who’ve been knocked around by life can come together, form a family and heal each other.