Victoria Bylin: My New Neighbors

Vicki Logo“This house backs to a farm for retired thoroughbreds,” said our realtor.

My eyes popped wide. “Really?”

“Absolutely.” beloved-horses

Sure enough, if you walk up the incline and shove through some bushes, you can see horses in the distance.  I don’t want anyone to get confused.  This is a small tract house in a Lexington, Kentucky suburb. Our new yard is big enough for our dog and a barbecue, but it’s not nearly big enough for a horse.

Nonetheless, I can see horses in the distance. I don’t know which part of me was more excited: the little girl who grew up reading all the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley, or the western writer who instantly had visions of putting a horse race in her next book. Then again, it might have been the weary traveler–the woman who just moved her whole house into a Pod–who nearly melted with relief at the thought of having a real roof again.

house-outsideEither way, the writer in me got to thinking about horse races. It doesn’t take much for the set-up.  As long as there have been men and horses, racing has been part of our history. Records show both chariot races and mounted races in the Greek Olympics in 638 BC. Ancient Rome had its share of horseracing as well. The sport as we know it now got a boost in the 12th century when knights returned from the Crusades with Arabian stallions and bred them with English mares. Two-horse races–with bets riding on the winner–no doubt provided chills and thrills. house-with-me

That’s the kind of race I’ll use in that future book. Just two men (or maybe a woman) and two horses pitted against each other, maybe at a county fair or a Fourth of July celebration.


Those two-horse races eventually evolved into the “Sport of Kings” and horseracing as we know it today. It came to America with British settlers and first took root on Long Island around 1665. Not until the Civil War, though, did it become an organized sport. With that growth came gambling, and with gambling came a criminal element. 

horses-in-mistThe writer in me is seeing a plot-twist in the making. When I write the book with the horse race, there’s going to be more at stake than just the winner’s purse. Anyone else envisioning Snidley Whiplash in a shadowy corner? When the time comes, I’m going to have fun with this story!