Why Did You Write a Horse Book?

The answer isn’t as simple as “Because you love horses.” While it's part of the answer, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

It was May 2018. I had just submitted my Spring semester grades as a psychology instructor teaching a subject and students I adored. However, a few days later, without any warning, my teaching contract was not renewed, despite a positive end-of-year performance evaluation.

I was shocked, hurt, angry, devastated, confused, and lost—which is how many of us feel when we’re grieving. Metaphorically, I had been not only bucked off a trusted horse, but dragged and trampled on as well. 

In the midst of my fog, a fellow author and dear friend treated me to lunch where we discussed our WIPs. Although the details are still fuzzy from my bereft brain, I briefly mentioned that I although I had already fleshed out my second book, including a strong outline and completely written end scene, at some point, I wanted to write a horse-focused book.  I went on to say that that was never a time in my life when seeing, riding, or even being near a horse didn’t calm, enchant, energize, soothe, hypnotize, and strengthen me. I felt more connected to Life on a horse than anywhere else. 

She said, lovingly, yet matter-of-fact, “Sounds to me like that’s the one you need to write now.” It’s amazing how an objective point of view can snap everything back into focus.

I was starting to feel that maybe I could get back up on that horse. 

A month later, I drove from North Carolina to my home state of Michigan to clear my thoughts, get some footing, and regain even more focus. I met another incredible friend and mentor who helped edit my first novel, at her cottage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  When I shared my idea about a horse book, she helped brainstorm and idea-share about bringing it into fruition.  Our discussions, as well as the beauty and calm of Lake Michigan, allowed me to develop even more details about the book.

I then knew I could get back up on that horse again.

Every summer, pre-COVID, my husband and would travel on a big trip. We had already booked and paid for a good amount for our July trip to Montana but with our income slashed in half, it was still up in the air and wondered whether it was prudent to go. 

So glad we did. 

I will forever be grateful for my supportive husband who asked, “Would we regret not going? You only live once.” One of the pre-planned and pre-paid activities of our trip included a Bucket List item, a stay at a dude ranch. At the beginning of our stay, we were the only guests at the small, family-owned, working ranch. On our first night there, they paired each of us with a horse for the duration of our stay. Daniel was paired with a dark bay named Shadow and I was paired with a stunning buckskin named, you guessed it…


Those three nights and four days in the Montana mountains on Spirit gave me the room to breathe as well as the muse to write.  Spirit also came along at a time in my life when I needed him, as most animals do. In addition, the warmth and direction of the ranch owners and beauty of their ranch allowed me to develop my footing with stronger legs. 

When COVID hit and shut the world down, I turned my attention to creating and fleshing out my manuscript, with the help of fellow authors. 

Although my novel is inspired by Spirit, it is not a real-live account of his life nor my time with him. However, my hope is that Finding Her Spirit shares the collective story and amazing heart of horse-loving children and young adults that grew until horse-loving adults. This picture of Spirit and me, taken by my wonderful husband, has not only been my screensaver for years, my profile pic, and book cover pic, but also remains one of my all-time favorite pictures.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see Spirit again or if he’d ever remember me. But his patience and gentleness forever changed my life. I’m grateful for all the support along the way, but it ultimately took a horse to help me “get back up on the horse.”

He helped me find my spirit. 

I hope that Finding Her Spirit helps you find yours. 

From the first time Tracie sat atop a horse as a child, her passion for horses was born, fueling a lifelong love that only deepened after watching The Black Stallion movie and learning about the incredible filly, Ruffian. As the author of Buried Deep in Our Hearts, as well as a speaker, counselor, and former psychology teacher, Tracie is committed to celebrating and honoring the human-animal bond. She’s also loves to support writers in their process and helps guide them on their writing journey. A Michigan native, she and her husband, Daniel, now live in North Carolina and are owned by two awesome cats, Rutherford Bubby and Oliver Monkey.

I would love to hear from you!  

Tracie Barton-Barrett, MS, NCC, LPC



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