Intern Update: Kat Neis

Dressage Today's Summer 2015 Intern, Kat Neis, shares the story of her quest for quality fictional horse books.
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When I was about ten years old, I was frustrated by the lack of quality fiction horse books for young people.

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The hunt for well written yet entertaining equestrian novels was, and is, a challenge that teen/young adult literature struggles to fulfill. I would scour the bookshelves at the library and beg my mother to drive me to yet another bookstore. It was an elusive chase. The problem was not finding books about horses. No, there were plenty of them--often filled with peppy young girls dressed in pink and their adorable, occasionally naughty ponies. The problem was the lack of technical writing.

I discovered a series of books that were roughly centered around a Thoroughbred racing stable. At that time, I had been intensely interested in Thoroughbred racing--so much so that I convinced my parents to take me to the 2010 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs. I was fourteen and I knew a scary amount about horse racing for a person my age. I was even discovered to have some aptitude for gambling, although I was not yet old enough to take a ticket off the machine, which I learned much to my embarrassment when the bet-counter lady yelled at me for grabbing it after my father had placed “our” bet.

Despite these Thoroughbred books being mildly entertaining, I wasn’t content. My complaint again was about the quality of writing and the knowledge that was presented. I wanted real information. I wanted technical terms about riding--like “furlong” and “travers” and “half pass”. I had never ridden a dressage horse or a Thoroughbred, let alone galloped six furlongs, but these were things I wanted to know. I was critical, both of writing as well as editing, even at that age.

To fulfill my technical needs, I read Blood-Horse and Daily Racing Form religiously. I could easily decipher the million micro-font abbreviations on past performance spreadsheets. I was obsessed with pedigrees. I paged through the stallions and tracked mares’ breeding histories.

So, when the books about the Thoroughbred race barn didn’t even mention the exact workout length in furlongs, or discuss anything remotely concrete about horses or horse racing, I was frustrated.

As my interest in horse racing dwindled and my passion for dressage developed, the discontent returned as I once again found a void of virtually no fictional but educational stories about dressage riders. Even the mere word ‘dressage’ seemed to be an unknown intangible within those stacks at the libraries.

As before, I still yearned for technical information. I wanted stories that were realistic and well written, yes, but more importantly, they needed to include factual and technical horse and riding information.

Since I couldn’t find that, I again turned to other sources to expand my education. I started reading books on dressage basics, books on biomechanics, I subscribed to Dressage Today, and in between, I read the best horse fiction I could find.

So, as I sit here at my desk at DT, and look back on my frustrations, I realize that the writing and editing process, the desire to learn and explain is still an enormous part of what I do and what I like. Here I am immersed in quality writing that offers the technicalities and real information that I yearned for as a child. Although fluffy pink pony stories certainly have their place, I’m so much happier reading and writing about the nitty-gritty, technical and minute details of this sport. And who knows, maybe some day I will make an attempt at writing children’s fiction that includes the technicalities I was searching for too.

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