Tag Archives: Horses

THIS WRITING LIFE: Going Horsey Ga-Ga

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Having been genetically programmed from conception to be horse-mad, it’s little wonder I have lots of horsey things. Figurines, stuffed toys, books, photos, paraphernalia and memorabilia from my riding days, stationery, jewellery. If it’s horsey, my brain automatically says WANT.

The other day, while I was searching for something else on the computer, I came across a weird file. What did it contain? Photos of equestrian statues and other horse figures. Because, well, why wouldn’t you take photos of horse statues on your travels?

Doesn’t everyone?

I have a book to write and can’t spend an hour going silly-ga-ga over horse pictures. Except that was kind of what I did, and I excused myself the indulgence by deciding that:

1/. Horses are clearly a writing inspiration and I should look at them often, and that includes photos of stone and bronze ones.

2/. A post featuring a few of these photos would send blog viewers into raptures and everyone would love me and buy lots of my books, and then I could go on more travels and take even more pictures of horse statues.

See? You can justify anything if you try hard enough.

So, given points 1 and 2 above, I’d better get sharing and ensure that my gawking time was not all wasteful procrastination.

Gird your loins and prepare to be wowed. No, seriously. Some of these are brilliant, I promise!

First up, our very own Man with a Donkey memorial in the Gallipoli Memorial garden, near Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.

Man with a Donkey memorial

Richard the Lionheart in front of Parliament, London. So romantic.

Richard the Lionheart, Parliament, London

The fellow is outside of the medieval village and abbey of Conques in southern France. Fantastic place to visit.

Conques Horse Statue

Hay bale art from the 2012 Lantern Festival at Tarrington, western Victoria. If you’re ever in the area in late November this is a must-see. Huge fun.

Hay Bale Art, Tarrington, Victoria

Ah, Versailles. Not much more you can say other than it’s stunning.

Versailles

Horsies in the Tower of London

Tower of London

The Cervantes monument, Madrid, featuring Don Quixote and sidekick Sancho Panza.

Cervantes monument, Madrid

The stunning Fountaine Bartholdi in the Place de Terreaux, Lyon, France. Love this.

Fountaine Bartholdi , Lyon

Superstar racehorse Black Caviar’s compression suit, on display at Equitana in Melbourne in 2012.

racehorse Black Caviar’s compression suit

Isn’t this statue wonderful? It’s The Young Man and the Horse by Heinz Schwartz, and is located on Lake Geneva.

Young Man and the Horse by Heinz Schwartz

The Louvre is full of horses. This is just one.

Louvre statue

Part of the Millennium Monument in Budapest. The sculptures are amazing.

Millennium Monument in Budapest

The 14th century knight Bertrand de Guesclin, galloping on his horse, Caen, France. Fantastic statue.

Bertrand de Guesclin, Caen

Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), also in Caen.

Jeanne d'Arc, Caen

This lovely statue – Amazone by Louis Tuaillon – is in Berlin’s Tiergarten.

Amazone by Louis Tuaillon

And lastly, my absolute freaky favourite, Czech artist David Cerny’s surreal statue of King Wenceslas riding a dead horse, suspended inside the Lucerna Palace in Prague.

King Wenceslas riding a dead horse

Hope you enjoyed this sample of horsey statue photos from my collection. There are many more. A scary amount, in fact. I can’t help it. I just adore these things!

Have you seen any weird or wonderful horse statues? I’d love to know so I can add them to my bucket list.

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THIS WRITING LIFE: To Show We Go!

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Ooh, I so adore a country show. They remind me a lot of growing up, when spring meant the start of show season. From the end of August until the last shows of December I’d spend every weekend at a showground somewhere in south-east South Australia or western Victoria, competing on my horses and having a wonderful time.

Sideshow alley clowns, Luddenham Show 2016But I also loved all the other things that shows offered – everything from local trade displays to the hard fought baking and other competitions. The livestock pavilions, with all their smells and noise and sleek animals, were wonderful. Plus there were performances and displays and all sort of things to entertain young and old, and celebrate rural communities. I even liked the sideshows, although not that much. I was far too uncoordinated to win anything. Even the laughing clowns, which for some reason I loved (WHY? everyone knows they’re evil), used to defeat me.

Just up the road from me is the tiny village of Luddenham. Last weekend it hosted its 112th annual show and after saying for the last three years that I really must check it out, this year I did. And what a happy, happy time I had!

Lovely horses, woodchopping, bush poetry, whipcracking, sheepdog trials, poultry, an animal petting zoo, trade displays and more, but what really thrilled me was the number of young families there, enjoying this little taste of country life.

Here are some photos from the day.

Bush poetry at Luddenham show

The day started with a Poet’s Breakfast which was a lot of fun. Nothing like a recital of The Man From Snowy River to perk your morning up.

Sheep dog trials at Luddenham Show

Sheep dog trials are always fascinating. This combination did an impressive job with these difficult sheep.

Shearing demonstration at Luddenham show

The shearing demonstration, at the end of which the shearer did a very funny bit of sheep hypnotising.

Junior whipcrack

This young lad learned how to crack a whip from his grandfather. Love how Google photos can create gifs like this!

senior whipcrack at Luddenham Show

Meanwhile. this fellow learned his whipcracking off YouTube!

Veg display at Luddenam Show

In the pavilions we had lovely farm produce…

lowers at Luddenham Show

…and pretty flowers

Decorated gumboots at Luddenham Show

…decorated gumboots

art at Luddenham Show

…art

photos at Luddenham Show

…photography

craft at Luddenham Show

…craft

cooking at Luddenham Show

…and cooking. I bet these categories were hard fought.

Woodchopping at Luddenham Show

Outside we had woodchopping. I do love a man who can swing an axe!

Woodchopping at Luddenham Show

And more woodchopping. I so enjoy watching these events. The strength and skill involved is incredible.

Woodchopping at Luddenham Show

Here’s a junior axeman in the making.

Led horse at Luddenham Show

What I really came to see – pretty horses!

Pony events at Luddenham Show

Pony event judging

Cute pony at Luddenham Show

Too cute!

Australian Stock Horse classes at Luddenham Show

Warming up for a working Australian Stock Horse class

Pony at Luddenham Show

Little pony!

Poultry pavilion at Luddenham Show

As always, the poultry pavilion was a hoot. Chooks are funny.

Mice in the petting zoo at Luddenham Show

Meanwhile, in the petting zoo, we had mice…

Donkey in the petting zoo at Luddenham Show

…and a sweet little donkey

Guinea pigs in the petting zoo at Luddenham Show

…guinea pigs

The petting zoo at Luddenham Show

…and lots more overfed animals. Not to mention gaggles of overexcited children.

Reptile demonstration at Luddenham Show

There was also a hugely popular reptile talk and demonstration.

Vintage machinery at Luddenham Show

A vintage machinery display.

Nepean Hunters Club at Luddenham Show

The Nepean Hunters Club also had a trade stand. Not my thing but I couldn’t resist this pic. Their bow and arrow shooting range was enormously popular.

Dragon bouncy castle at Luddenham Show

Why weren’t there bouncy castles like this when I was growing up?

Hope you enjoyed the photos. I certainly enjoyed my day!

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A (Short) Day At The Races

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Ah, the joy of serendipity! As many of you know, I’m currently in South Australia at my parents’ house in Mount Gambier. Being a bit distracted by other matters, I hadn’t paid much attention to any events that might be happening locally and was delighted to discover that the town’s premier race meeting of the year, the Gold Cup, was on while I was home. Even more happily, a family friend was attending, had tickets to a corporate tent, and when she heard I’d still be around on the Friday, promptly invited me along.  You can imagine how fast I said yes!

Myself and family friend, Bernie Tichbom.

Myself and family friend, Bernie Tichbom.

Unfortunately, there would be no Gold Cup. We’d had rain all week and the first day of the cup carnival the day before, and the track started a heavy 10 (the maximum rating and pretty muddy). By the time three races had been run, the turf was that cut up it was looking dangerous. The rollers came out, but when the delay was announced as indefinite it didn’t look promising. At 3pm after a long inspection by the stewards, the meet was abandoned. A shame, especially for all those who put so much effort into the day and its preparations, but the safety of horses and jockeys must take priority.

Mind you, that didn’t stop the partying. Given wind chill had the apparent temperature around 8 degrees, I guess many thought a few drinks would warm them up. But it was all good fun and a happy time appeared to be had by all. Such a pity I won’t be around for the rescheduled race. Maybe next year!

Here are a few photos of the day.

Crowds at the 2015 Mount Gambier Gold Cup

Trackside, early in the afternoon. It was a little more raucous later!

Racing

 See that horse coming last? I backed that one. Sigh.

Steeplechase

In steeplechases it’s not unusual for the jockeys to walk the horses up to the jumps before the race begins.

Steeplechase

 My horse came 2nd. Which would have been fine if I hadn’t backed it only for the win. Not  enough runners for place payouts anyway.

Fashions on the field

There were lots of entrants in the fashions on the field. I thought the girl in ochre on the far right looked fantastic. Sadly she didn’t win. The girl on the far left did.

Fashions on the field

 Trousers suited the day. It was freezing!

Fashions on the field

Gorgeous outfit but perhaps more spring than autumn? I think that’s Amelia Mulcahy of Channel 7 interviewing the ladies. She looked lovely too!

Fashions on the field

With racing halted, all eyes were on the fashions.

Cathryn Hein at the Mount Gambier Gold Cup

No fashions on the field for me. I had no idea the races were on let alone that I’d be going. Otherwise I would have packed a proper hat and gloves, and a ruddy great wool coat!

 

A Horsey History

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Have you ever wondered where your passions developed from, whether they were inherited, nurtured, spontaneous, or even adopted from someone else?

My father, Merv Hein, on Tactful Queen, winning the  1952 Frances Handicap, Naracoorte, SA.

My father on Tactful Queen, winning the 1952 Frances Handicap at Naracoorte, SA.

As many of you will know from visiting Friday Feast, I’m a passionate foodie, yet my mother never cared about cooking, produce or anything cuisine related. She loathed gardening too, whereas I love growing my own food. Dad reads, much more now he’s a bit housebound with looking after Mum, but Mum never did, whereas I’m a complete bookworm. My brother is sporty. I’m an enthusiastic participant but somehow the genes governing easy athleticism and co-ordination passed me by.

My love for all things equine, though? Ah, well, now that’s what is known in the vernacular as a no-brainer.

As happened in those days, my father was indentured as an apprentice jockey when he was 11 years old. It would be impossible to think of an eleven-year-old today leaving home to work and live with a racehorse trainer but Dad did it, thrived and had a bit of success too. I have the most marvellous, if a little battered, whale bone whip in my office which Dad won as the winning rider of Tactful Queen in the 1952 Frances Handicap at Naracoorte, SA.

The whale bone whip prize presented to my father, Merv Hein, as winning jockey of the 1952 Frances Handicap.

The whale bone whip prize presented to my father as winning jockey of the 1952 Frances Handicap.

But I guess he was only following in the footsteps of his forebears, because my grandfather was also a jockey, and my great-grandfather rode jumps races. I have a book I’m currently using for research called Personalities in Pink Coats by Brian J. O’Connor, which covers the history of the Cover of Personalities in Pink Coats by Brian J. O'ConnorMount Gambier Hunt Club. A club of which I was also once a member. There’s a wonderful story in it of a veterans race held on September 12th, 1931 to help celebrate the club’s Golden Jubilee. It was run during the local Winter Race Carnival, I assume at Mount Gambier’s Glenburnie Racecourse, although that isn’t specified. The SA Jockey Club allowed the race on the proviso it was run under SAJC rules and that the jockeys were amateur.

The veterans were aged 60 and over and among them was my great-grandfather Lou Hein, aged 63, riding Kings Street. The eldest rider was Jim Hanlon aged 77. As you can imagine, the race drew considerable interest. Perhaps some locals expected carnage. Not a chance. These riders were all true horseman and had been all their lives.

My great-grandfather Lou Hein circa 1900.

My great-grandfather Lou Hein circa 1900.

Lou was the only Mount Gambier man to ride, the remainder were from over the south-east of SA and western Victoria. I would love to say he won, but he didn’t. That honour went to 71 year old Jack Stock, riding 2/1 favourite Bonny Deen. According to Personalities in Pink Coats, Jack was a bachelor but won a lot of lady admirers that day. It was the silver cutlery that did it.

My great-uncle Clarence also rode and there’s a wonderful family tale of how, in 1928, Clarrie, aged sixteen, travelled from Mount Gambier across the Victorian border to Coleraine for a race meeting. When the meet proved unsuccessful, he headed back to Casterton where, the next day, he rode King Sam to victory in the Casterton Cup. Fast forward to 2008 and there’s Clarrie, aged 96, once again at the Casterton Cup, only this time presenting the prize to the winning jockey of the same race he’d won eighty years before.

My grandfather, Lloyd 'Torchy' Hein on horseback.

My grandfather, Lloyd ‘Torchy’ Hein

With this kind of family history it’s little wonder I was born horse mad. Fortunately I had Dad on hand to help teach me horsemanship. He was no longer a jockey, his career having ended at age twenty-one when his apprenticeship finished and he’d grown too big for the job, but there are some things you don’t forget. My teenage years are a blur of horses and horse events. Pony club, trail riding, saddle horses, dressage, eventing, showjumping, hunting – if it involved a horse and riding, I was probably in on it. I even worked for a couple of racehorse trainers riding exercise in my gap year before university.

Sadly, I no longer ride but I’m still horse mad and it’s a pretty fair assumption that when you pick up one of my books there’ll be a horse or two woven into the tale. I simply can’t help it.

Science may not have proven the existence of a gene for horse-mania, but if my family history has anything to do with it, something’s sure going on.

 

My Top 5 Favourite Horse Stories

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I’ve just begun writing my next rural romance which features a heroine determined to resurrect the long-defunct local hunt club’s point to point race, albeit with a twist that not everyone approves of.

To help put me in the mood, I’m reading a history of the Mount Gambier Hunt Club, of which I was a once a member. All the adventurous tales and amusing anecdotes, including those of my great-grandfather Lou Hein, grandfather Lloyd aka “Torchy”, and uncle Clarrie, who were also members, got me thinking about my favourite horse books.

So here they are!

1/. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

The Black Stallion by Walter FarleyI cannot express how passionately I felt as a child about this story of a boy called Alec Ramsay and a stallion simply called the Black, who find themselves washed up on a barren island after a storm wrecks the ship on which they were travelling. Slowly the pair form an unbreakable bond. When they finally make it home, it’s discovered that the Black is one super-fast horse. Soon, he’s pitted against the best in the land in a race that will have you turning those pages at a gallop. Gawd, I get teary just thinking about it.

Seriously, if it was in any way possible, I would have married this book. I loved it and the entire Black Stallion series that much. I also wonder if this was the book that made me want to be a writer. The daydreams I had over it! Certainly it has a very special place in my reading heart.

2/. Riders by Jilly Cooper

Riders by Jilly Cooper. Ah, how can one go past the absolute naughty deliciousness that is Rupert Campbell-Black, Cooper’s much-adored equestrian star and complete bounder? While the story is actually more about Jake Lovell, and his rise in the professional showjumping world, it’s his arch-rival Rupert who looms large. Rupert is truly awful sometimes, but he’s brave, smart, funny, unapologetic, deeply loyal to his friend Billy, and fabulous in bed, and we can’t help but forgive him.

What’s great about this story is that there are more like it, including Rivals, Polo and The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous. Given Cooper writes lovely big fat books, that means hours and hours of reading delight. Wheee!

I always imagined myself writing bonkbusters like this and it was a huge shock to discover my stories turned out nothing like Cooper’s. Ah, well…

3/. French Relations by Fiona Walker

French Relations by Fiona WalkerFrench Relations and its follow-up Well Groomed are very much in the vein of Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles. There’s lots of posh carrying-on and plenty of laughs, plus lashings of lovely romance. French Relations begins with Tash French heading to her eccentric mother’s Loire chateau for a summer break. On arrival she finds Alexandra has bought her a wholly unsuitable, half-mad stallion to ride. When sexy eventer and Tash’s devastating teenage crush Hugo Beauchamp turns up, he’s conned into giving Tash lessons. But there is more than one eligible male in the chateau, taking Tash’s love life on a rather twisted journey.

Ignore the horrid cover (the original was far better), this is great, addictive fun!

4/. My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara

My Friend Flicka by Mary O'HaraLike The Black Stallion, O’Hara’s trilogy had me enchanted as a child. Wyoming sounded like a kind of horse heaven and I wanted to visit so badly.

Once more, this is about love and trust between a boy and his horse. Both of whom kind of end up saving one another.

It’s a beautiful tale and a guaranteed heart-warmer. But if I recall correctly, I think it was the second book in the series, Thunderhead, that I liked most.

 

 

5/. The Man From Snowy River by A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson

The Man From Snowy River by AB Banjo Paterson. There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around

That the colt from old Regret had got away,

And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,

So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

Reading or hearing that never fails to send a shiver down my spine, and when discussing horse stories it would be impossible not to include this classic Australian poem. It’s exciting and romantic, set in an iconic location, and features a brave hero and his “small and weedy beast” of a mountain-bred horse, both of whom prove their merits in spectacular fashion. Nothing like an underdog to stir an Aussie heart!

The language is wonderful. The rhythm of Paterson’s poem draws us in and sweeps us along, and it’s hard not to get teary over the drama of it all. A must read.

 

If you’re wondering why I didn’t include Black Beauty, it’s because I never really warmed to that book. I also haven’t included The Silver Brumby because, somehow, I never discovered it. How that tragedy occurred is one of the great mysteries of my life. Equine-obsessed me miss a horse book? Impossible! Yet somehow it happened.

Do you have a favourite horse story or movie? I’d love to hear about it. A horsey girl can never have too many equine tales!

 

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: Spirited – Australia’s Horse Story

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While I was visiting Canberra the other week for the Australian Romance Readers Convention, I was fortunate enough to catch the Spirited: Australia’s Horse Story exhibition at the National Museum of Australia before it closed.

Being horse-mad from birth, I can’t resist the call of anything equine and the museum was only a pleasant stroll around the edge of Lake Burley Griffin from the QT Hotel where the convention was being held. A sunny autumn day, some horsey goodness… perfect.

The museum released a great video of the exhibition which is well worth a look. It certainly got me excited!

It was rather thrilling to be confronted with more video on entrance to the exhibition, this time showing wild brumbies in action. An elderly man, who said he used to help his dad break brumbies, and I stood mesmerised by the footage in warm, horse-loving companionship. We were so entranced we watched the video loop through twice. Even when I left to take in the main exhibits, he stayed on. I don’t think he wanted to leave.

Video still of brumbies at the Spirited exhibition

As expected, the exhibition was a trove of interesting artefacts and information. Look at this: A first edition of The Silver Brumby alongside Elyne Mitchell’s typewriter.

Typewriter used by Elyne Mitchell and a first edition copy of The SIlver Brumby

The first displays were interesting, focusing on colonial life and the important role horses played in the development of the colony and agriculture. Horses were uncommon in the early years of settlement. A few arrived with the first fleet, but according to the museum guide book by 1791 only one stallion, one mare and two colts survived, and horses remained scarce for several decades.

There were some wonderful artefacts on display from Springfield station, near Goulburn, including this magnificent dress harness fitted with the Faithfull family crest.

Carriage harness with Faithfull family crest decoration from Springfield station.

From Burrungurroolong station, also near Goulburn, came this wonderful rocking horse. I would have killed for something like this as a kid. That’s a go-fast rocking horse if ever there was one!

Wooden rocking horse from Burrungurroolong station.

I thought this carved-out log trough was amazing too. Imagine the hard work involved in its creation.

Carved log feed trough.

I also really liked this forging anvil, which was used by blacksmith Samuel Sinclair, who arrived in Bermagui in 1904 to set up shop after having served as a farrier in the Boer War. I know it’s hard to tell from the photo, but this thing was HUGE and weighed 348 kilograms.

Forging anvil.

My favourite display was probably the trophy cabinet. This contained, among other things, the 1866 Melbourne Cup won by The Barb, and is our earliest known intact cup. Initially, the Melbourne Cup was a prize – a gold watch or cash – and the first actual cup was awarded only in 1865, which makes this version particularly precious. The other two trophies are the 1867 Melbourne Cup and Queen’s Plate won by Tim Whiffler. Apparently two horses called Tim Whiffler competed in the Cup that year, with ‘Sydney Tim’ taking the prize, along with the Queen’s Plate two days later.

Ornate Melbourne Cups and Queens Plate

The exhibition had its quirky items too. Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, here’s Jackson, a toy horse used in the 2007 alternate Birdsville races when an outbreak of equine influenza caused a ban on the movement of horses and shut down the normal event. In typical outback fashion, the show went on, with mock races fielded with stuffed toys.

Jackson, the stuffed toy Birdsville races competitor

And more quirky exhibits. An inkwell made from a horse’s hoof. This makes me think of the snuffbox the British made from Marengo’s hoof, Napoleon’s favourite warhorse, and was presented to the Household Brigade.

Hoof inkwell.

There was even an old horse-drawn dairy carriage, circa 1947, complete with poo (out of shot, unfortunately). One of the plaques told a great story of a bakery horse who was so habitualised that it simply set off on his route when flu kept its driver from turning up to work.

Lincoln Park Dairy delivery cart

This sculpture had so much life, and was (ironically?) surrounded by anatomical specimens, including bits of Phar Lap.

Wire man and horse sculpture

There was much, much more in the exhibition, including information on breeds in Australia, a fascinating video on the use of the whip in horse racing, medals from Olympics and other major events, pony club tales and photos (rah!), and pieces on all the various equestrian sports Australians compete in, from dressage to campdrafting and everything in between.

Definitely worth the visit but for those who missed it, never fear! The National Museum of Australia has pages and pages on its website about the exhibition. There are photos, videos, and deeper stories about horses in Australia. You can spend ages on there. A fantastic resource for those who love horses or are simply interested in our history.

And here’s my souvenir from the exhibition: Hot Chocolate the blow-up wonderhorse. What a steed!

HotChoc3.0

Not quite the real thing but at least he’s house trained, doesn’t eat much, and packs away flat. Sadly, he will never, ever compete with this darling. Not in my eyes.

Cathryn as a little girl with Mysty

My first horse, the romantically named Mysty. Best horse evah. Sigh.

Yep, once a horse-girl, always a horse-girl!

 

THIS WRITING LIFE: Feeding my inner horsey girl

Last Friday I scooted off to the Melbourne showgrounds for Equitana, Australia’s “Premier Equine Extravaganza” and full-on horsey-fest. I’ve never been to one of these before and had no idea how huge it would be. The place was packed, not just with people but with stalls and demonstrations and everything you can imagine related to horses. In other words, bliss!

I took lots of pics to moon over later in the privacy of my own home but some things, like lovely horses, are meant to be shared. So here is a little of what I saw…

 

Too cute for words horses!

Magnificent horses.

 

Action horses

Fancy horses.

 

Superstar horses. Well, Black Caviar’s (aka Nelly) compression suit anyway.

 

Curious baby horses

 

Mechanical horses (for training jockeys)

 

Want one for my backyard horses

 

And by the end of the day, this is exactly how I felt. Zzzzzz.

 

 

FRIDAY FEAST with Jessica Owers

It’s Spring Racing Carnival time and Friday Feast is frocking up! Well, not quite, but things are starting to smell sweetly horsey around here. Rightly so, too! Rotten cats keep taking over the blogosphere and it’s about time that our noble and magnificent equine friends kicked back.

Not that I’m biased or anything…

I am absolutely delighted to welcome our very first non-fiction author to Friday Feast. Not just any old non-fiction author, mind you. That simply wouldn’t do. Friday Feasts only feature the best Australian authors and today is no exception.

Jessica Owers is an award-winning freelance racing journalist who has worked for such illustrious publications as Breeding and Racing and RM Williams OUTBACK magazine. Among many other achievements, her writing has also appeared in Inside Breeding, The Thoroughbred, Turf Monthly, OUTBACK and Racing Life.

In 2011, her book Peter Pan: The Forgotten Story of Phar Lap’s Successor was released to great acclaim, going on to win the Bill Whittaker Award for Best Racing Book in Australia 2012.

Take a look and you’ll see why. This is a story we should know!

 

Peter Pan: The Forgotten Story of Phar Lap’s Successor

 

In 1932, they said there would never be another Phar Lap. Yet within months there came a racehorse so wildly brilliant that he was instantly compared to the dead champion. He was Peter Pan. Within months of Phar Lap’s death, Peter Pan had won the Melbourne Cup and then two years later, won it again – the first horse in 72 years to take home a second. The newspapers of the day called him a ‘superhorse’ and declared ‘another Phar Lap takes the stage.’ But over the long years, Australia forgot their new champion. Peter Pan: The Forgotten Story of Phar Lap’s Successor is the tale of the horse that came next – the brilliant, speedy Peter Pan. Casting off the shadow of Phar Lap, this tells the story of triumph during the Great Depression and the coming of a champion when Australia least expected one. It is time to restore the standing of our other great racing hero.

 

Oh, I do love a good horse story and I’m sure you will too, especially one so expertly written. Peter Pan is available now with just a short click over to Booktopia, Bookworld or Book Depository, or for the ebook, try Kobo, Google Play or Amazon Kindle.

Now giddy-up, Feasters, because here’s Jessica!

 

At this colourful time of year when it’s all about Spring Carnival, I’m thrilled to guest blog on Cathryn’s ever-popular Friday Feast. The events detailed below occurred during a recent research trip to the U.S. for my second book, the biography of Shannon, a 1940s Sydney idol and one of racing’s most captivating and least-understood Hall of Fame racehorses. His book is due out spring next year.

Every so often, you just want one

 

It was very hot, and lazy early afternoon. I was on highway I-87 in upstate New York, rolling my rented wheels towards Saratoga Springs. It was the kind of day that makes you want to drive with your hand out the window, feel the brisk whip of wind through the car. I’d had a radio interview from my hotel room that morning, and it had gone overtime. Within minutes of hitting the road to the Spa (Saratoga Springs is affectionately called ‘the Spa’), I was starving.

Highway food is never the best, is it? It’s usually a select choice of greasy or greasier, fat or fattier. On that day, I skipped past iHop, Chucky Cheese and Wendy’s, none of which took my fancy. There’ll be something better, I kept saying, then miles of blacktop slipped under the car. My stomach began to eat its own lining.

Eventually, a state of famish will make you eat anything, so when an exit pointed to McDonald’s, I eased the rental off the highway and went in search of the golden arches. I knew that it was a fast fix, that in this heat McDonald’s food would leave me feeling disembowelled. But, food was food. I was just too hungry to care.

The first thing I’ll tell you about this McDonald’s was that it was spotless. It was the prettiest renewal of this franchise I had ever seen… neatly mowed lawns, a picnic area to gobble your takeaway. At the drive-in window there was an apple tree, stooped and splendid with fruit. The place was so unlike any McDonald’s I’d ever been to that it made me forget entirely the acrid food I was about to purchase.

I bought a single cheeseburger, that’s all. I didn’t upsize or meal deal. I didn’t need anything to wash it down. All I required was a little bit of fuel that would turn my vitals over until Saratoga, and so I took my little cheeseburger, wrapped in a small paper bag like something from 1977, and I parked in the picnic lot. I climbed out into the stale August afternoon, hair-dryer hot, and I tucked in.

Now, every once in a while life takes you by surprise. This was one such day. My little cheeseburger was delicious. It had been put together so well it looked like its brothers up on the ordering board (well, almost). The gherkins, perfect green frisbees, were tucked between the bun and the beef, each (there were three) sliced and diced perfectly. Whoever put them in there put them in carefully. There was nothing mushy about the burger, it was the perfect harmony of lightly melted plastic cheese and ketchup in spot-on quantities. It was the kind of cheeseburger to call home about, the kind to write a blog about.

When Cathryn asked me to guest on the Friday Feast, I just knew my little cheeseburger had to be the star of the show. My fiancé (an Italian restaurateur) will be mortified. Though my cheeseburger cannot compete with the impressive efforts of past guests, creators of gnocchi and chocolate surprise, exotic recipes from colonial Africa even, there’s something cool about it, something basic, don’t you think? The McDonald’s cheeseburger is the thing we’ve all had. It’s usually terrible, slapped up and messy and rundown with guilt, but when you get a good one, oh its good.

So, at this point in the blog I’m supposed to outlay the recipe of the divine wonder you’ve just read about. However, because the McDonald’s cheeseburger is neither a recipe nor divine, I’ll have to skip that part. Instead, I’ll tell you why my highway cheeseburger, though it fell down in nutritional talent, stood up in other ways that only a writer could isolate: it represented a brief stop on a long and fabulous holiday, a stop on the open road one hot, oily afternoon when I had few woes and only the itchy pursuit of the bending highway. It represented the brief, good things in life, the little things, and certainly reminded me that the best things in any moment of any day can come (almost) free… $1.06 is pretty good going, don’t you think?

Shocked and repulsed that a lowly cheeseburger has made it onto the fabulous honour roll that is the Friday Feast? Or, delighted that something so basic can be so good every once in a while? To win a signed copy of Peter Pan: The Forgotten Story of Phar Lap’s Successor, reply with your version of when something so bad has been so surprisingly good. The best answer will get a copy of Peter Pan spirited to them right in time for Melbourne Cup day.

 

Oh, I so, so adore this story! It’s amazing how much pleasure you can derive from simple things. Fish and chips on the beach. A luke-warm pie at the footy (supporting the Sydney Swans, of course). Not exactly health food, but hitting the spot perfectly.

So come on, Feasters, show our first non-fiction author a good time and regale Jessica with your tales of bad-good things. There’s an amazing prize up for grabs!

Giveaway closes midnight Tuesday, 25th September 2012 AEST. Australian addresses only, sorry.

If you would like to learn a little more about Australia’s strongest female voice in racing writing, visit Jessica at her website, check in on the blog or follow her on Twitter.