Have you always been interested in horses and when did you start writing and getting books published?
My answer to the first portion of your question would be a simple “no”. Horses were always in the background, during my early adulthood, as my youngest sister was enamored with horses and a simple and quick Christmas present would be a horse statuette purchased for her. But I paid very little attention as my interests were centered on the sea and all that swam in the salty waters of our Mother Ocean.
Eventually my love for the sea distilled down to an overwhelming compulsion to learn all that I could about our brothers, the whales and the dolphins. And while living in Hawaii, I was fortunate enough to be able to work with these marvelous creatures and the joys of bonding and partnering were first explored.
Later in life I met my wonderful wife, Terry, who always had a dream of developing a relationship with a horse of her own. And while we lived in Brazil, this magical union did occur and to this day, Apache and Terry are inseparable and were excellent role models for my first equine relationship. Sometimes, like a fine wine, things that take time and come to you over the years are rich and robust in their depth and clarity. That is how I feel my connection with horses came to be.
Now to the second part of your question, this is my first “book” project although I am not new to writing. In fact, “Straight from the Horse’s Heart” is a compilation of, not just short stories, but journal entries that I made over the course of several years.
Each entry, or story, was prompted by an emotional and stressful event from the crash of a space shuttle to the death of my parents and highlights how the horses reacted to these occurrences and in turn, how they touched my heart and soul. Many of these stories were shared on the internet with fellow horse rescuers at Lone Star Equine Rescue which is now aligned with Habitat for Horses. It was my hope that these captured moments in time would give to their reader’s faith, courage and fortitude in continuing their fight against equine abuse, neglect and slaughter.
It was not until I made a promise to a now deceased friend to “tell the story” that the idea of a book was conceived. So my wife and I set about to collect and compile what I had written and almost as if like magic, the book was born. It was the “natural” thing to do and we both felt driven to make it happen. One of the happiest days in my life was to see the book appear on the pages of Amazon.com and the first one was ordered off from my website www.rtfitch.com. I knew that my promise had been kept and that a long and lengthy journey had come to fruition.
The proceeds of ‘Straight from the Horse’s Heart’ go to Habitat for Horses; tell us about this organization?
Habitat for Horses is our nation’s largest all breed equine rescue and protection organization. HfH is headquartered in Hitchcock Texas where we maintain a ranch and intake facility but the bulk of our rescued and rehabilitated horses are cared for in volunteer foster facilities (homes) in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, the Carolinas and beyond.
The founder and President of HfH is Jerry Finch, a very caring and compassionate individual who is an accomplished author in his own right. He is mentioned throughout our book and was the one who pressured me to put my feelings to paper. I owe him a lot and consider him to be my very best friend. The work of HfH is chronicled in our book and it encompasses everything from the rescue of one single abused horse to being the major driving horse rescue whose members waded through waist deep, snake and alligator infested waters to save horses that survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. This is a very colorful and talented bunch of people.
HfH has managed, through the work of many dedicated volunteers, to reach the top 20 shelters in the US for ZooToo’s Million Dollar makeover. On April 7th the top 10 shelters will be announced at the HSUS convention in Las Vegas and for the next 10 days the US public will vote for the number one shelter and recipient of the Million Dollar make over. This is special as for the very first time there are 2 horse organizations in the top 20 and if we manage to make it to the top 10 we will be representing every single horse and horse owner in the United States.
No insult to dog and cat shelters but this will be the first time that the horse community will be represented on such a scale and we will need everyone’s help to win. Please, stop by www.habitatforhorses.org to see how you can help to make this dream come true. The positive impact that such a prize will have on the horses and the education of the public will be out of this world.
Do you do anything else with horses that generates an income?
No, in actuality this project is not a true money making venture, for our business, as the bulk of the proceeds go to HfH. (The main intent is to get the message out.) Most of our horse related activities revolve around taking care of our adopted horses and volunteering for HfH. It is our objective to give “to” the horses and not to take “from” them. What they return to us is far more precious than anything money could buy.
How much of your day/week relates to horses?
As of late, with the advent of the ZooToo competition, several hours each day are dedicated to the horses, even while I am away at my paying job. Such things as TV and going to the movies have been put on the back burner while we work the rescue issue.
Also, there is a lot of time spent marketing, updating, shipping, and answering questions related to the book. It has only begun its journey and it takes a lot of cultivating and promoting to get the word out to the general public.
And, of course, we spend several hours each day taking care of our herd, playing with them and maintaining our property that makes up their home.
I am also working on a second equine related book, this time it’s a novel. So the bulk of our days are centered on horses and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Are you self published or did you go through a publisher?
There was an immense amount of time spent researching and brain-storming about which direction we should go. Self-publishing, with a top of the line publisher, won out due to the following main considerations:
1.) Time in production – when we said go they moved forward.
2.) Control of content
3.) Maintaining legal rights to that content
These conditions were paramount in our decision as we did not want to wait nor did we want to give up our rights to the editing of the content. We had a message to get out and we did not want it tampered with or delayed.
We, personally, paid for the PR work, editing, design and marketing and probably will never realize a return on that investment but it does not matter, the message is being told. We do have two brick and mortar publishing companies now standing in the wings, but we have not given into the pressure to sign a contract with them due to the loss of rights. So we are hanging tough on this particular book.
If anyone would like help or information on how to become self-published I will be more than glad to give some insights gleaned from our personal experience.
Do you think that whether your horse book is fiction or non fiction bears on how easy it is to get published?
I don’t believe so as the bulk of the correspondence, that I have had, with publishing firms centers around prior work. This makes it difficult to get started but once you are out there you begin to peek their interest. Our work is considered non-fiction but there are portions that may stretch that definition depending on your depth of imagination. As an author, I am granted the ability to apply a little dab of literary license.
Any advice for those interested in pursuing writing about their love of horses and turning it into an income?
My first bit of advice would be to approach your writing as a hobby and a tool in which you can express yourself versus being motivated to earn a living from your efforts. If your talent and insights are polished enough you may mature into generating an additional income stream and maybe, ultimately, a full time income but none of that would ever happen over night. In essence, don’t give up your day job nor subvert your message and style in an effort to make a fast buck. It’s all about the message/story your heart is trying to tell, be true to yourself, first.
Is there anything else with horses you’d love to learn about or try?
Oh yes, my only fear is that I won’t live long enough to learn all that I want to learn. It is my goal to continue to delve into the science and meta-physical aspects of equine behavior and communication. Besides the spiritual and emotional aspects of bonding and partnering I hope to become adept at understanding even the pure and scientific principles behind the behavior that our equine cousins exhibit.
It is imperative, to me, to learn about their past, their history and evolution so that I can better understand the drivers that speak to our horses of today. This topic interests me enough that I am enrolled in several university sponsored equine behavior courses.
I would also enjoy improving my skills as a competent rider and companion for my equine friends. Good communication and partnering while in the saddle makes for an enjoyable trail ride and sharing session, one that both of us can look forward to.
Favorite horse memory?
There are many, from seeing the face of a little girl light up when she first adopts a formerly abused pony to pulling 5 horses out of a flooded field that had been underwater for 7 days after Hurricane Katrina.
But in reality, I guess my all time favorite would be to relive the day that my wife was surprised with her very best Christmas present, ever… her soul mate Apache. I will never forget the joy that it gave me to ensure that my wife realized one of her lifelong dreams and to even have her parents there to witness it. (This was no small feat as we were living in Brazil at the time). That day was the first day to the rest of my life with horses, both she and Apache have made the world a much better place to live, not only for me but for many, many other horses.
Easy question… a second book. Already underway anxious to get it completed. While I was in Manhattan filming my Blackberry commercial a producer came over and asked if I would be interested in writing a screenplay about the odyssey of bringing Apache back from Brazil. All other writing projects were put on hold and although I know nothing about writing screenplays I began to chronicle the adventures of our horsey life in Brazil and the epic journey of Apache to our pastures in Texas… and the story continues.
But we are energized as the story is true, exciting, filled with love, death,international intrigue, espionage and triumph. It’s the horse story of today and a remarkable one to tell. So the adventures of the little rescued cart horse, a Mangalarga Marchador, and how he affected change to dozens of horses in the US is on tap next. I am excited about its future release and anxious to get it into the hands of horse lovers around the world.
Best thing about your sport/profession?
I am not a sportsman nor do we compete with the horses, but if being a horse rescuer stands up to the test of being a profession then I have an answer for you.
The best thing about working on stopping equine abuse, neglect and slaughter is that when you go to bed at night you can be confident that you have made a difference with your life and for someone else’s. If you just join a humane society and pay your dues you have made a difference.
If you make telephone calls or volunteer to sit at a booth and pass out pamphlets you are special. If you foster, volunteer at the ranch or stuff envelopes you have touched someone. If you desire to stop the pain, increase awareness and act as an agent to improve conditions for the horses, you are experiencing some of the best and richest moments in life.
Everything that you do for the horses IS the best thing about this profession/career. Thanks to all the volunteers everywhere who give their time, their money and the simple sincerity of their love… you are making a difference. May the Force of the Horse ® be with you!
“You know you’re a horse person when… on rainy days, you organize the tack room, not the house.”