As we get close to December 3rd, I thought it might be fun for you guys to get to know the various characters in Bitter Springs. And while this isn’t a book where the animals have dialog, the horses are still an integral part of the story.  All of the horses, by the way, are based on real people.*

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Pencil artwork by Colleen M. Good, cover artist for Bitter Springs.

*horse folk know that animals are people, too.

The book starts off with Renaldo and Paloma training; she’s on her final year of spade bit work. It’s a long, delicate process that requires the utmost respect for horses as well as the relationship between horse and rider.  It’s typically a five to seven year process, one that leaves the rider needing only to use the barest of touches with his fingers on the reins to communicate with their horse. It’s like graduating your horse to Formula 1 racecar status.

Paloma is Spanish for dove, and she gets her name from not only her coloring–grey with darker grey and white dappling–but because of her habit of hopping about when in a good mood.

Renaldo whistled one long low note and ended it on a sharp high sound. Paloma snorted heavily and calmed down, nodding her head and pawing at the ground playfully with a loud whicker. Renaldo sat still, calling her name under his breath over and over.

“That’s it, there you go,” he muttered when Paloma finally nodded closer, blowing her breath hot and humid over Renaldo’s cheek. He sat still as she lipped at his ear and dark hair, nickering and chattering in her way as she reacquainted herself with his smell.

Apparently deciding he smelled just as he had ten minutes before, she stretched out her neck, bumping his hands with her muzzle. He scratched under her chin and she went still, with her big eyes heavy-lidded and ears up high, focused on him. Grinning, he said, “You are shameless,” then moved his hands to rub her jaw and cheek the way she liked.

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Her movie inspiration. Look at this gorgeous mustang! Ugh, horses are simply amazing, period.

Paloma is an inquisitive little toot who doesn’t like many people beside Renaldo. Except for… well, you’ll see. Paloma is also based off of a very real horse pal, another little inquisitive toot who goes by the name of Junior Brown.

Junior Brown is the Miracle Horse, by which I mean that when his mother Caroline was rescued by my best friend, Caroline was so severely underweight that her pregnancy didn’t show up in testing. And her weight gain was assumed to be from being in a stable (hahaha), loving environment. In horse parlance, that’s called “hay belly.”

Now, at the ranch, there was now Caroline and Doc. Doc was a toothless old gelding who just wanted a family to love, hence the arrival of Caroline. At 5:00AM on July 7, 2007, Doc starts screaming. If you’ve ever heard a horse scream…  Chills. Chrissy (the BFF) and her husband go busting out of the house in their britches and a flashlight thinking there’s a coyote or gator (not unheard of) in the horse pasture. Now, Doc was severely arthritic and really couldn’t run, but he kept running to the house, back to Caroline, and to the house again. TIMMY IS IN THE WELL, in other words.

Chrissy shoves the flashlight into her husband’s hands and runs hell-bent for leather to Caroline.

She gets to Caroline and sticks her hands out, just catching hooves as a baby is being foaled. Now, Dr. Husband (not his real name) has never been around animals or birth before and almost passed out. Animal husbandry ain’t for the weak. I’ll leave out what the cattle dog was up to at this time. Mama Caroline gets the baby all cleaned up, scent-marked and loved on, and me and the kids show up a few hours later after sun up to this curly-tailed, kissy-lipped cutie.

Hay belly? Meet “hay”, aka Junior Brown.

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Junior Brown: Miracle Horse come to wash away all your sins. Or just eat your carrots and peppermints. You pick. This sweet little fella was all tuckered out from the hard work of being born.

This horse was spoiled from the moment he surprised the lot of us.

Now, first time mothers aren’t always quick to accept their new role, and horses are no different. But Mama Caroline softened up and couldn’t love her little foal any more, so gentle and loving. Doc strutted around the pasture like the little Joseph to his miracle son Hay-soos that he was. Doc was limping for days after, but he constantly stood guard over Mama Caroline and the baby, proud and happy and content. Oh, Doc. 

AHHHH!!! They're the cutest thing on the earth. THOSE LEGS! Junior Brown, six hours old.

AHHHH!!! BABIES!!!! They’re the cutest thing on the earth. THOSE LEGS! Junior Brown, six hours old.

The tail was a total sproing for hours.  Too cute.  But the best part of wee Junior here is his kissy lips.

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NO I AM SORRY, THAT IS JUST TOO MUCH. IT IS A HEART, AND YOU MUST KISS IT WHEN YOU SEE HIM.

So Junior was spoiled and beloved, was allowed to climb up onto the porch, routinely drains the bird bath (the water is just tastier), and is practically hand fed because Chrissy is a softy. And while Junior doesn’t like or trust everybody, if he wants you to like him, you’re getting a nose in your armpit.  Or he’s going lip at your hair.  He wants to know what’s going on, and whether or not he’s going to get to be a part of it.  Eh, he’s going to be a part of it. You’ll see.

While Paloma is her own horse, she definitely got her roots from this little sugar booger.

One of my favorite “Paloma-centric” lines in the book is when Renaldo, irritated by Hank being “in charge” (read: not thinking much of this young upstart), snaps at an inquisitive Paloma trying to follow Hank around. “Stop trying to make him like you.” Too late, Renaldo. Too late.

Bitter Springs arrives on bookshelves December 3, 2015, but can be pre-ordered from both the IP store, Amazon, and wherever literature is sold. Links in the side bar.

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