Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Jungle Red Riders

Jungle Reds Writers:  HORSES. As American as apple pie. EVERYONE loves horses. Otherwise, how on earth to account for the long-running success of THIS television show?

The Black Stallion, Fury, Misty of Chincoteague, My Friend Flicka, National Velvet. The list of books and movies rolls endlessly on. And did you know the Olympic equestrian events are the one sport where men and women compete head to head (with one exception our guest will address...)

Author of the forthcoming HARD TWISTED and an equestrian, Chuck Greaves joins us with a primer on the Olympic equestrian events.  By the way, did YOU go through a "horses" phase growing up? Did you have a favorite equine TV show? A favorite BOOK or series about horses? A favorite MOVIE perhaps? Did you ever ride? Do you ride now? Ever have questions about the RULES of all those horse show events? Chuck will be saddling up to join us today and he'd love to hear your questions!

AND we're offering 4 copies of Chuck Greaves' terrific equestrian thriller, HUSH MONEY  to 4 lucky commenters!
Take it away Chuck!

Jungle Red Riders
In a year in which Steven Colbert seems to have spent more time riding Ann Romney’s horse than its trainer has, the dressage competition should attract unprecedented attention in this year’s Olympic Games, which begin on July 17 in horse-friendly London. Since my friends at Jungle Red Writers have been too busy plotting murder and mayhem to follow the run-up to the Olympic equestrian competitions,they’ve invited me to set the table for what promises to be a multi-course feast for even the most casual sport-horse fan.
But first some basics. The three equestrian disciplines – dressage,eventing, and jumping – are the only Olympic events in which men and women compete head-to-head. (That is, if you ignore mixed-doubles badminton, which I strongly recommend.) Each equestrian discipline involves both team and individual competitions,such that six gold medals will be up for grabs when the competitions begin on July 28 at Greenwich Park.
Dressage,or what Mr. Colbert calls “horse ballet,” is a subjectively-judged competition in which horse and rider must execute a series of complex patterns and maneuvers. Jumping is an objectively-scored competition in which horse and rider must navigate a course of jumps within a given time. Eventing is a hybrid competition that combines dressage and jumping with a grueling cross-country obstacle course.
The U.S. ranks among the world’s leaders in equestrian sport, along with Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, England, New Zealand, and Brazil. In fact, the U.S. jumping team (this year consisting of Rich Fellers, Beezie Madden, Reed Kessler, and McLain Ward) will be looking to three-peat for Olympic team gold, against stiff competition from the German jumping juggernaut. While Kessler, who only turned 18 – the minimum Olympic qualifying age –on July 9, is the youngest-ever U.S. Olympic equestrienne, her star will be eclipsed in London by English eventing phenom Zara Phillips,whose grandmother should have excellent seats for the competition,since she is, well, the Queen. (Phillips is the daughter of Princess Anne, herself an Olympic equestrienne.)

Speaking of eventing, the U.S. squad of Karen O’Connor, Phillip Dunton, Boyd Martin, Will Coleman, and Tiana Coudray should, as always, be competitive. O’Connor and Dunton are each five-time Olympians,which speaks volumes in what is certainly the most physically-demanding of the equestrian disciplines. Look for eventing powerhouses Germany and New Zealand, however, to give the U.S. team all it can handle in this exciting, viewer-friendly sport.

Which brings us to Ann Romney, the poor little rich girl who co-owns a horse named Rafalca, which will be ridden in London by her trainer,Jan Ebeling. Ebeling joins a strong U.S. dressage squad that includes Steffen Peters, Tina Konyot, and Adrienne Lyle. Peters, who carries the U.S. hopes for individual gold, will have the option of riding one of two horses, either Legolas or Ravel, both of which qualified for the competition in London, where he will face stiff challenges from all three members of the Dutch super-squad of Adelinde Cornelissen, Edward Gal, and Anky van Grunsven – the latter seeking her fourth straight individual dressage gold.

And here’s an interesting sidebar for all you would-be one-percenters: While much has been made in the U.S. about Ann and Mitt Romney’s wealth, consider a dressage stallion named Totilas, on whom Holland’s Gall in 2009 set the world-record score (92.30%) in Grand Prix Freestyle competition. Sold by owner Moorland BV in October of 2010 for the eye-popping sum of £10 million, Totilas is expected to compete in this year’s Games for arch-rival Germany, with 26-year old Matthias Rath in the irons. That alone should make the Olympic dressage competition worth watching.
Having personally competed in both show-jumping and dressage, and having attended multiple world championships and World Equestrian Games in the course of my twenty-odd years as an equestrian athlete (marginal)and spectator (semi-avid), I can assure Jungle Red fans that,whatever your level of interest in the equestrian sports, you’re in for a wonderful viewing experience at these Olympic Games, in preparation for which I hope this little primer has helped. 

So please join me in setting aside that book or manuscript, breaking out the cold beverage of your choice, and rooting for all of our great U.S. athletes, both human and equine.
Chuck Greaves is the award-winning author of the equestrian-themed legal thriller Hush Money(Minotaur), and the forthcoming Depression-era true-crime saga Hard Twisted (Bloomsbury.)
Visit him at his website and at his Facebook page!


  1. Welcome Chuck!
    I definitely had a thing for horses...still do really, although I've never gotten any better at riding and the horse always seems to know that he's in charge and I'm just the passenger. Read all of the Black Stallion books but Marguerite Henry's Misty et al were probably the most memorable for me.
    Fave ride - beaches inJamaica and diving off sandbar.
    Fave viewing - white horses/black bulls in the Camargue.

    So Chuck - does Ann's horse have a chance?

  2. I too was a horsy teenager, but a ride along a beach in Mexico a couple of years ago convinced me that my body no longer enjoys gripping with my thighs for extended periods (I could hardly walk afterward).
    I tried to get Olympic tickets for tje equestrian events and was amazed they were all sold out.
    Brits love their horses.

  3. uh, Rhys, the sex chat was yesterday!

  4. LOL ladies, behave yourselves--we have a guest today!

    I loved Mr. Ed and Misty of Chincoteague, but that was it for me and horses. The one time I went riding, the horse scraped me off on a low-hanging tree limb and trotted back to the stable without me.

    Chuck thank you for visiting--this is so interesting! Tell us more about HUSH MONEY!

  5. Fascinating information, Chuck! I also want to know about Mrs. Romney's horse. What events will it compete in?

    As a kid I was fascinated with all things horsey: I knew all the TV cowpersons' horses' names. Buttermilk, Silver, etc. I had such a crush on Spin & Marty, but the idea that they could jump on a horse and ride someplace, well, that was the edge they had over any other cute boy on TV. Those Mouseketeers were just silly looking, in comparison. But we didn't have a lot (or any) of money, so there wasn't a chance that I could ever ride, or even get close to a horse, since we lived in town.

    Fast forward to age 55, which was five years ago. My friend invited me to her ranch in Wyoming, and said we would trail ride together. I said, "I've never been on a horse, do you think I should take a lesson?" She looked at me, deadpan, and said, "Yes, Karen. Take lessons."

    So I found a wonderful teacher who specialized in older and timid riders, and bonus--she had been an EMT for 20 years. She taught me the basics of Western riding, plus a lot of other stuff, and I continued taking lessons from her for a couple years, until she moved from the area.

    Then a year and a half ago, the friend with the ranch talked me into joining her for English lessons at a barn here in town. Wow. I have found my true passion, and I'm so sorry I didn't do this years and years ago. Yes, I fell off in May (the only time in five years), and broke three ribs, but by golly, I got back on and rode at the ranch last month.

    English equitation is so fascinating. I had no idea how much there was to riding!

  6. Rhys, gripping with your thighs is not necessary. Just sayin'.

  7. Sorry. Forget the gripping with thighs bit. Is that TMI?
    I learned to ride with an English saddle and if you didn't grip, you fell off.
    And no more quips, Ro...

  8. Oh, sigh, I was such a horse girl. I grew up with them--we had to clean out stalls before we caught the school bus! (WIth a shower in between..) And we used to ride our ponies into town to get ice cream when we were young..when we were older, I rode for fun, my sisters hunted. And one sister still teaches dressage and eventing! I did love wearing the jodphurs and black hard hat.

    I was always ..timid. After I splatted on the floor of a ring and got grit in my face it was all over. I got back on, of course, but it was never the same.

    SO-horse books! Golden Sovereign and Midnight Moon. Cammie's Choice. Misty. King of the Wind. And of COURSE--the most hilarious--the Horsemasters on Mickey Mouse club! (Anyone, anyone?)

  9. Oops..pushed enter too soon. (oops, sorry.) (It's not a thighs thing.)

    Welcome Chuck! And yes, more about HUSH MONEY!

  10. Oh Hank,
    I can so see you into those jodphurs! I only got to horseback ride occasionally on vacation, but of course, I loved it. That was all western riding, which I understand doesn't even count because all the skill is in the English saddle, right?

    My daughter rode for a while, but then the daughter of the stable owner got thrown and broke her collar bone in a few places and that was the end of that. I loved those horse clothes accessory stores though!

    Welcome Chuck! You have a a natural audience here!

  11. I've enjoyed watching the equestrian events although I've never been a horse person. I took riding lessons while at summer camp as a nine-year-old and the horse behind me bit my horse which then kicked the other horse and...well, it wasn't something to make me a fan of riding.

    Jungle Reds, you keep increasing my TBR list. Thank you for introducing me to so many new (to me) authors. Chuck, I've added your books to my list. This sounds like an interesting setting for mystery novels.

  12. Just a note from WREDs affiliate KRED that while Chuck Greaves rides English, he's in a Western time zone...he'll be along after he's awakened, watered the horses and mucked the stalls...XOR

  13. Horse-loving in my childhood was relegated to books such as “Misty of Chincoteague,” “My Friend Flicka,” and “Black Beauty.” And, as previously mentioned, Mister Ed, the television horse, along with Flicka, Silver and Scout and all the rest . . . the Spin and Marty serial on The Mickey Mouse Club . . . . But the Princess and her brother loved going horseback riding, which made it truly memorable for me as well.

  14. So glad I happened to click on Reds today. =;-D Because y'all KNOW my favorite subject ... :) ;)

    I was bummed to see that Totilas wasn't going to the Olympics. His rider had an inconveniently timed case of mono. (Note that I know the horse's name and not the rider's.)

    A long time ago on the Sisters in Crime Guppies list there was a discussion about vampires doing dressage because they'd have plenty of time to get good at it, except they'd have to keep replacing their horses every several decades or so.

    I returned to riding this spring, although spring surgery put me on a hiatus, plus I'm now waiting until the barn isn't overrun by summer camp kids. :) I approach riding more like partner yoga or even meditation. I know that my entire body including my mood communicates messages to the horse, so I'm focused and "present" so I can make adjustments.

    Good luck with HUSH MONEY, Chuck!

  15. Chuck, Welcome! Wondering if you were a fan of Dick Francis... because your title HUSH MONEY (Hot Money...) seems like one he would have loved.

    I was into horses insofar as DRAWING them endlessly and I collected a few horse figures. Didn't everyone. YES, Black Stallion. And as an adult I loved The Horse Whisperer. There is something about horses.

    The Big Apple Circus used to showcase amazing equestrian performances by Katja Schumann which hooked me -- would LOVE to see a performance of the Lipizzaner stallions. Fascinating stuf... to be in so much control of that much power! I can see why it would lend itself to a thriller.

  16. I must be one of the only people on earth who never had an interest in horseback riding, although as a youngster I enjoyed TV programs about horses. (And I still know all the words to the theme song from Mr Ed:-) Growing up in a housing project, I knew that being around horses would never happen. A couple of my nieces have been horse lovers, and my youngest niece has been taking riding lessons from her county recreation department for the past four summers. I've watched her a couple of times if one of my visits to her family has coincided with a riding lesson. It's really exciting to see the intense concentration on her face and oh, my, it is frightening to me when she has a horse that's skittish. I was the proud aunt when I overheard an adult expressing admiration for how well she handled an ornery horse one time. The closest I ever came to horseback riding was being on a burro when I visited Petra in Jordan in 1978. The guide who led the horse seemed surprised to meet an American who had never ridden. I think he had seen too many American cowboy movies! (I am quite clumsy. When I found out that I had to get on a horse to go down into the heart of the Petra site, this less than graceful apartment-raised person almost backed out. When they gave me the option of the smaller animal I was only a little less frightened. Seeing members of my group who were in their late seventies getting on horseback gave me a little more courage.)

    Probably because of my own fearfulness about getting on a horse,I really enjoy watching equestrian events and greatly admire the athletes who compete.

  17. Forgot about Horsemasters! Hallie, saw Lipizzaners, they were awesome. And anyone remember a show called Chimera? Fabulous show, also ran as Zingaro, I think. And then the magnificent horse who was the star died. Rhonda, did you ever see?

    Hank...you rode your ponies into town? I'm still trying to picture that with the little leopard print heels.

  18. I'm a fan of horses from afar. I think they're beautiful and did see the Lipizzaners in Atlanta many years ago - they really are quite spectacular. I've only been on a horse once and just froze. The horse knew I was scared to death, of course, and just stood stock still; refused to budge one inch. And I was okay with that. Several of our neighbors have horses and I'm still admiring them from afar.

  19. Very informative post. Thanks! I was a horse lover as a kid and read all the horse books everyone has mentioned. Loved Dick Francis. Had Breyer horses. Saw the Lippizaners. Now I have a 15-yr-old who's horse mad; in fact, I've got to haul her out to the stables in less than half an hour.

  20. The wondrous Kaye Barley shows amazing horse sense. If you admire them from afar they absolutely, positively CANNOT step on your foot! Trust Reds on this one...

  21. Okay, everybody, I'm awake!

    First of all, thank you for the questions and comments, and the interest in HUSH MONEY, which, if you haven't been following, has been called "an auspicious debut" (Kirkus, Critics Pick), and a "stellar first novel" (PW, starred) and a "delightful debut" (Library Journal, starred.)

    I too came late to horses, having been introduced by my wife in the early 1990s. (I later told her that if I'd known what we were getting into, I'd have chosen a less expensive hobby. Like smoking crack, for instance.) I started with lessons, then leased a horse, then flew to Belgium and imported a wonderful Selle Francais jumper named Eden du Boilary, who, I'm sorry to say, coliced and died a couple of years ago.) We later joined the storied Flintridge Riding Club, on whose board of directors I served, and we've pretty much traveled the world on horseback (including Scotland, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, and France.)

    As for HUSH MONEY, it's a legal thriller with, as they say, equestrian elements, in which a youmg lawyer hired to represent a wealthy socialite in connection with the death of her champion show horse finds himself caught up in a spiraling web of blackmail and murder in which he becomes both the prime suspect and the next likely victim.

    And as for Jan Ebling, who's done quite well on the Romneys' horse so far, I don't expect him to medal, but then again, that's why they hold the competition!

  22. Rosemary - I hadn't heard of Zingaro/Chimera, so I went a-Googling. Here's some footage. (I hope the link works.) The show looks fantastic:

    IMO, equestrian vaulting, like you see in that video, should be an Olympic sport.

    Chuck - I have a question. Equestrian jargon is probably second nature to you, but may not be to a reader picking up the book. How do you help keep non-horsey readers from getting lost and feeling left out?

  23. i don't know much about horses, or equestrian events, though i have read some articles about the young reed kessler. does she, or any other US contender have a chance at gold?

  24. I was lucky enough to have a horse when I was little (age 10-16), though I rode Western. I competed also in equitation (Western version of dressage, though more about rider than horse) and other categories.

    At the 1984 Olympics, I got to see the cross-country portion of the Eventing competition, which blew my mind. I was just so impressed by the speed and endurance of those teams over huge obstacles. I've tried to find as much of the equestrian coverage during the London Games.

    As for horse books? Dick Francis all the way, as my own inspiration for my (auto) racing mysteries. Chuck, I'll definitely check out HUSH MONEY!

  25. So sorry to hear about your horse succumbing to colic, Chuck. This horse business demands almost schizo swings between toughness and tenderness.

  26. Good question about equestrian jargon, and the same question applies, I would imagine, with any book that takes readers into unfamiliar waters. In HUSH MONEY, my lawyer-protagonist is a total fish-out-of-water in the show-jumping world, and since he is the book's first-person narrator, he too is unfamiliar with the sport and its jargon, and so takes readers on a gradual immersion -- and then only as deeply as is necessary to advance the plot. It is, after all, primarily a legal thriller.

    And Boomer: Reed Kessler did not advance to the individual jumping medal round, to be contested tomorrow, but both Rich Fellers and McLain Ward did.

  27. This morning, a lot of us are clicking back and forth between Reds, what we're supposed to be working on and NBC's live stream of Olympic Dressage.

  28. Like many young girls, I went through a horse-mad phase during the middle grades, but my family didn't have the funds for lessons at the time. At age 7 or so, I had gone to a riding camp (Camp Waredaca in Laytonsville, MD), and had ridden a little during summers at Camp Celo (NC) as well, so at least I had some idea of what riding was like. I read Black Beauty and National Velvet, Misty of Chincoteague, and a lot of Marguerite Henry's other books... The Black Stallion, too, but I didn't continue the series, and somehow I never got around to My Friend Flicka.

    I grew out of the horse-crazy stage sooner than some of my friends, but I continue to enjoy horses vicariously as an adult, in the novels of Dick Francis and the Valdemar novels of Mercedes Lackey (intelligent, telepathic horses -- what could be better?) And "Airs Above the Ground" is still among my favorite Mary Stewart novels, with it's plot centering around a stolen Lippizaner.

    I've taken a few trail rides as an adult, enough to show me that I don't have the knack of controlling a horse when it decides to be ornery. And I jumped at the chance to see the Lippizaners live when a group was touring about 10 years ago. But for some reason, I never seem to catch the horse events during the Olympics, and this year was no exception. Drat!

  29. Hi Chuck! What a fun post! I grew up with horses. My dad rode (all Western--Texas, after all) and once even took me sheep-herding on a friend's ranch in west Texas. (Hot and dusty.)

    All those horsey books, and THEN Dick Francis. My dad and I shared every new Dick Francis book for years. I had the great pleasure of meeting Felix and introducing him at the Henley Literary Festival last year.

    Thanks for the equestrian primer, and can't wait to read your book!

  30. How amazing to have you, Chuck, as today's guest. I came late to the discussion--I was watching the dressage this morning, had the pleasure of watching Jan Ebling. I grew up fascinated by horses, by dint of many of the horse books already mentioned, but rarely had the opportunity to ride. In 6th grade a boy trying to impress me brought over his donkey for me to ride (big, white devil of an animal), then chased after us, whacking the donkey on the butt to make him go faster. A novice rider, bareback, I was bucked off and broke a rib, but stilled loved horses. As an adult, I managed to own horses; as I lived in Texas, it was practically a requirement, lol. Was bucked off a green-broke gelding I was working with a halter, ended up with "roper's fracture" of my little finger.
    Dick Francis fascinated me, as he did such an amazing job of incorporating his own love of horses into his novels. Thanks to JRW for introducing us to your books, Chuck, and thanks for your insight into the equestrian part of the Olympic games. I'll be looking for your book!

  31. True confession: I've never read a Dick Francis novel.

  32. I love horses, from afar.I rode a little when I was young at camp, but it was too expensive a sport for my family-living in NYC. But every movie and book about horses drew me. They are so damn beautiful, and powerful-puts me in mirky psychological waters, I know. Favorite movie-The Man From Snowy River-beautiful horses, in beautiful country, and a campy Kirk Douglas :)

  33. Oh yes. Horsey here. Horsey, horsey, horsey little girl. Western. English. Jumping. Bareback trail rides. Ooh. That brings back memories. I was invited on a bareback trail ride when I was 8. When the time came to leave for the stables, I started crying and wouldn't get into the car. Auntie-Mom asked what was wrong. Funny little horsey-girl me, I thought we were going to ride naked.

  34. Great post, Chuck! Your book sounds fascinating!

    I loved horses and read all the books everyone else did. When I was small, I'd ride (at the same time as my brother) the big, old horse on my Gran's farm. Bareback. Later, I lived on my aunt's farm for a couple of years and would ride one of her two old mares each day.

    I saw to it that my kids had riding lessons when they showed interest. Both sons lost interest quickly, but my daughter kept them up for several years.

    I haven't had a chance to ride as an adult and couldn't now if I did. But I still love horses and love to watch them.

    Does anyone remember the movie, Hidalgo, with Viggo Mortenson? About a great American mustang racing all the expensive blooded horses of the wealthy? Great horse scenes. (And Viggo's not hard to look at, either.) Viggo's such a horse fan that he bought the horses he rode in the Lord of the Rings movies and in Hidalgo.

  35. Chuck, we have something in common with Martin Clunes, the British actor who plays Doc Martin. He also did not begin riding until just a few years ago. He did a wonderful two-part show on the horse, called Martin Clunes: Horse Power, for American Public Television, which aired on PBS stations a couple of months ago.

  36. Link to the trailer for Hidalgo.


  37. I was a horse-crazy kid, rode at summer camps, saved up my babysitting money to pay for riding lessons, read all of Marguerite Henry, the Black Stallion books, Jean Slaughter Doty...anything horsey I could get my hands on. But then a couple bad experiences (and probably more important, becoming a teenager with a boyfriend) ended the actual riding.

    I still enjoy watching horses work under somebody who knows what they're doing, though. I went to three days of dressage during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and that was lovely.

  38. Linda, that trailer for Hidalgo is beautiful - gorgeous. I don't know how I've missed that film, but I'm grateful to you for posting the link, thank you. I have a ribbon shirt that I bought after my mother died, but I could never wear it. It has a wide band of horses around the chest area. It reminds me too much of her paintings and the part of her that was buried long before she died. I intended it to be an honor shirt.

  39. Thank you (!!!) to all the Reds, and to their great group of fans, for making me feel so welcome today. Special thanks to Julia for blurbing HUSH MONEY ("A smashingly memorable first effort. Chuck Greaves has major writing chops"), and I hope you'll all look for HARD TWISTED, my Depression-era literary/true-crime novel, coming from Bloomsbury on November 13 (but available NOW for pre-order.) Be well, and keep on reading!

  40. I've been enjoying the Olympic equestrian events, too. I've loved horses since childhood and always wanted to be a veterinarian specializing in large animals (read: horses)when I grew up. That didn't work out, but I did get to ride a lot in my teenage years, using both Western and English style saddles. I was fortunate to live in an area with a half dozen stables, all of which are gone today. One by one they fell victim to strip malls and new housing. What a pity. But thanks to Dick Francis, I've read some excellent mysteries based in the world of horses. I look forward to reading HUSH MONEY. Glad you were blogging here today, Chuck.