||Dear Reader: Several readers have asked me about Nicholas's
philosophy on horsemanship and my own history with horses. If you're interested, read on!
of the idea for this book came to me when I was preparing a workshop entitled THE HORSE IN
ROMANCE for the Romance Writers of America National Convention in 1998. (That was
also the year I won a RITA Award, the most prestigious award in romance!)
My workshop was partly about horse facts romance authors need to know (see Horse Facts ), but it was also
about why good horsemen make such wonderful heroes. What is it about a man who works well
with horses? Of course, a horseman is lean, strong and athletic (always desirable in a
hero!), but I also thought about the personal qualities that men must develop and combine
in themselves to become great horsemen: confidence with calmness, authority with
tolerance, power with sensitivity, self-control with kindness, responsibility with
understanding . . . and the answer was obvious!
There's a saying I heard growing up in England that sums it all up: "The
outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man." I was born loving horses.
As a child I rode whenever I had the chance, steeped myself in horse stories and pinned my
nose to the window whenever someone more fortunate rode by. At Edinburgh University, I was
lucky enough to take a horsemanship course, where we learned to ride and care for some
retired police horses, the best teachers in the world. Yet I never had the chance to
own a horse of my own until I came to America and was given a "problem" horse
who was running loose in an eighty-acre field. "If you can catch him," his owner
said, "he's yours!"
Because this horse was terrified, it took several days of casually lounging beside a
bucket of grain, but I was determined and at last this grand sooty palomino became mine.
He was a ranch-bred gelding with excellent blood and lots of heart, who'd been almost
ruined by rough handling. With the gentle approach I'd learned in England, I finally won
his confidence. I'm NOT an expert rider, but we had fun impressing folks when I rode him
without saddle or bridle in simple maneuvers (in an enclosed space, of course. Nigel takes
this to much greater heights in ILLUSION), or he worked free, without halter or lunge
line, walking, trotting or cantering in a circle around me in a big open field, obeying
just verbal commands. He eventually died in my arms at the age of 27.
He was the first of the horses I've been lucky enough to own, and each horse I've ever
ridden has had his own special lesson to teach me. Meanwhile, I soaked up whatever wisdom
I could from many generous humans, too: ladies skilled in levels of English riding I would
never achieve; a fellow who'd run away to join the Canadian cavalry as a boy; a Dutch
dressage rider; old-timers who knew everything there was to know about using horses in the
backcountry wilderness of the Rocky Mountains; an English cavalry major, who'd ridden the
Queen Mother's horses, captained polo teams and ridden racing camels, among other wondrous
adventures; working cowboys and other horse lovers.
Perhaps most important of all, to understand what Nicholas understands, I owe a debt to
the outstanding John Lyons, a brilliant horseman and teacher. After letting me watch him
work with multiple horses for three days, John then spent many hours explaining his
philosophy to me, so I could write some pieces about him for Western Horseman magazine. It
was John's approach that enabled me to rescue what had until then seemed like a doomed
relationship with a Thoroughbred gelding, who really thought HE ought to be in charge, but
became a much happier horse when relieved of that responsibility!
However, let me make it clear that the interpretation in MY DARK PRINCE is mine. John
Lyons is best understood from his own books, videos and clinics!!!
Let me also explain that, though I've ridden over some pretty rough trails and gone
over a mountain or two in an English saddle, I have never set hoof in a show ring. I'm not
much of a natural athlete and all my heroes can ride rings around me!! Now I'm
writing full-time, after 25 years with at least one horse on the place, I no longer have
horses of my own. Yet I've tried to learn from cowboys and English riders, mountain men
and cavalrymen, and every horse I ever met.
All of that seeps into my books whenever horses are part of the story, but my true hope
is that you fall desperately in love with the heroes who result!!