Hi! I am writing the Free Rein series with a focus on 8 – 12 year old readers and the view to teach them about horses and Christ.
So! It seems that the free rein series is getting a lot of search results at the moment. I would love for that to be because my book series has been discovered by a lot of new readers, but it seems there is a new television show with the same name!
The show Free Rein is set in the United Kingdom but focuses on an American teen on holidays with her mother, sister and grandfather. And of course horses feature in it! It’s interesting to see a new series out for mid-teens. I wonder if the popularity of the show will result in more readers in the same age demographic of horse books. I’ll be excited to see the results for horse book authors!
In the meantime, as people do a search on the free rein series, it seems they’re being introduced to a horse book series aimed at 8 – 12 year olds that is based in Australia. So for those of you who have searched for the television series and stumbled across this site, welcome! I hope you’ll consider giving my books a look or if you have younger siblings, that you might suggest it to them!
As you progress through the Free Rein series, Jacqui, Geordie and Hannah are getting excited about a dressage test that they must memorise and then perform on horseback. I thought I’d explain this concept a little!
Dressage is a way for a horse rider to demonstrate their horse’s training. It shows how responsive they are, how well they move and how calm they can be when performing certain movements. A dressage test is a specific set of movements in a set order that riders must learn and then perform on their horse.
Tests can vary in difficulty, with beginner riders doing less on their horses than advanced riders. Tests are generally carried out in a dressage arena that is 60 x 20 metres in diameter. The riders are to carry out patterns at the walk, trot and canter – or sometimes just the walk and trot – within this arena. Each rider must do this individually in the arena with their horse.
All dressage arenas have a set of letters around the perimeter and within them. Jacqui learned a funny saying from her friends Geordie and Hannah to help her remember these letters. A Fat Black Mother Cat Had Eight Kittens. These are the letters that go around the perimeter, with riders entering the arena at the letter A. The letter C is opposite A and the letters F, B and M are up one side, whilst H, E and K are down the other side.
It is at these letters that riders often have to change something. It could be their gait – from a walk to a trot, or their direction by cutting across the centre of the arena and going the other way. Or perhaps they will need to do a circle at a particular letter – often 20 metres in diameter which is the width of the arena.
Dressage tests can be lots of fun to memorise and ride. They can also be difficult for a nervous rider! You’ll get to experience reading all about this in one of the upcoming Free Rein series books. 🙂
My apologies that I don’t have another Free Rein excerpt to share with you at this point in time! I am working on the seventh book in the Free Rein series, but it’s in lots of little paragraphs currently. This isn’t conducive with sharing an excerpt! I was thinking however, perhaps you’d be interested to read about Geordie and Hannah’s characters in another novel?
Before the Free Rein series, there was my debut novel Horse Country. In this, Geordie and Hannah are regular clients at the East Riding School. In time these two – plus Jacqui – got their own series 😉
So below is an excerpt that may put them in a different light to what you’re used to in the Free Rein series!
Madison grinned as she watched Jacinta manage yet another clear round while under the tuition of Jack. Talented, indeed. I hope he doesn’t push her too hard. She was all too aware of how seriously Jacinta took her competing and riding. But you’re supposed to enjoy it, too. Glancing at her watch she strolled over to the tie up area, aware that her four o’clock lesson would be here shortly. The two young girls that were to be riding were new clients, meaning she’d need to go through the run down of approaching the horse, moving around the horse, untying and leading over to the arena for a lesson.
Many that turned up for lessons were well aware of being around horses and had done so for years but because she never knew how much they knew and how much they thought they knew, it was always safer to explain how things were done at the East Riding School.
She cast her eye over the two ponies that were waiting patiently, half dozing in the shade, taking advantage of the rest before two new bodies were placed on them. Bodies that often represented beginners, legs flapping, insistently asking the loyal creatures to move forward, reins being yanked on, asking them to slow – sometimes the legs and arms at the same time; just to make things a little more confusing. Tucking a strand of auburn hair that had escaped back behind her ear, Madison looked up slowly as she heard excited laughter followed by the constant sound of running feet.
“Well, glad they know how to behave around horses,” she muttered sarcastically, stepping away from the horses and towards the two children; a friendly smile making its way onto her face.
“Geordie and Hannah?” she queried, stopping in front of them, her gaze flicking up to the two mothers behind the pair before refocusing on her students.
The pair nodded, both smiling widely.
“Great! We might as well get started. You can call me Emmy and over here,” she gestured, turning her attention to the two steeds in the tie up area, “are Sheila and Dundee. Geordie, you’re on the chestnut mare Sheila, and Hannah you’ll be riding Dundee today.”
Both girls rushed towards their mounts for the lesson, causing Madison to half smile at her mistake.
“Before you both rush in there,” she called out loudly, strolling after them, “I’d like to show you how we prefer people to move around the horses while at the East.”
“Oh, we already know all that,” Geordie spoke up, stroking the face of Sheila.
“Wonderful! Then you’ll know that I’d much rather you walk up to the side of the horse and pat her from there as a way of hello, rather than directly in front of her,” she commented easily, still smiling.
Frowning, the pair of girls both turned to face her.
“Ok. So let me go over how we approach and handle the horses here,” she stated again, this time having both girls’ attention.
Madison did some math in her head, well aware that she’d easily have two horses untacked, brushed and put away within twenty minutes, but with two horse crazy girls who didn’t appear to be interested in leaving any time soon, she questioned if half an hour was even going to be doable.
She smiled at the two parents as they wandered over to the tie up area while the young girls headed the ponies into their stalls. The open toed shoes of the parents didn’t go unnoticed as she commented on how well suited to each of the mounts their daughters had been. Or rather, how well each pony put up with the two who constantly wanted to canter, tried to talk her into letting them jump higher than would be safe and who spent a reasonable amount of time pulling on the ponies’ mouths. Boy am I glad that Mel is taking these two next time.
Madison frowned as it became further evident that the parent’s weren’t overly horsey as they stood directly in front of the ponies with plastic bags full of apples and carrots, distracting the animals, making it hard for either girl to be able to tie up their ponies.
“Can you help me, please?” Geordie queried, relief evident when Madison ducked under the rail and pushed Sheila back far enough to be able to get the head collar on.
“Me too!” Hannah whined, pulling on her reins with all her might in an attempt to get Dundee to back off the rail so she could reach her head collar.
Madison questioned not for the first time why parents couldn’t stay away until the kids had tied up and untacked their horses. I doubt insisting on that would go down very well with anyone… except me, of course. Oh well, deal with them for the next half hour and then Mel can worry about it. But how do I convince her to take them on again without her being suspicious of me not wanting to teach them?
She grinned, questioning whether telling her twin that she’d enjoy their energy when teaching them would be giving too much away. A frown marred her features as one of the mothers questioned her about whether or not the riding school ran day programs over the holidays. Dear God, no! Plastering on a smile she prayed with all her might that the last couple of places had already been taken.
“Indeed we do. Remind me to give you some flyers before you leave and if you ring the office tomorrow between eight and four, you should get a hold of my mother who runs bookings.”
I may just be lucky enough considering school holidays start next week. We should already be all booked up for the day programs… I think I need a new job.
Realising both girls had brushed most of the sweat out of their ponies’ coats, she picked up a rug, flinging it over the back of Dundee, quickly explaining the order in which the buckles and straps should be done up. The sooner we get these on, the sooner these poor ponies can go out and you two energetic girls can be on your merry way.
Like what you’ve read? You can purchase Horse Country at Amazon, or check out Christine’s other horse books for older readers at http://www.horsecountrybook.com/
In the sixth book in the Free Rein series, Contagious, Kate King’s horse Captain gets sick. In time, so too does Jacqui’s pony Jaq. The family are on watch over all the horses being agisted at Genesis, for fear of the horses having caught something that could easily be passed onto others.
This is the perfect opportunity for Kate to teach her daughter about taking a horse’s vital signs. One of these vital signs is the temperature. And this is an area where values will differ greatly for Australian horse owners and American horse owners. We measure temperature quite differently! In Australia, we measure degrees in Celsius. A normal temperature for a horse will be in the vicinity of 37.5 degrees Celsius, give or take a degree.
The same cannot be said for those who make measurements in Fahrenheit! A horse’s normal resting temperature in this measurement will be a lot higher – around 99.5 degrees up to 100.5.
Wherever you ride and care for horses around the world, it’s important to know what measurement is used on a thermometer to check a horse’s temperature. Digital thermometers are great in that they show the numbers on them, but it could be concerning if you expect to read 37 and instead you find 100 as the figure on display! Luckily the other vital signs are measured the same worldwide. This includes the horse’s respiration rate (breaths per minute), heart rate/pulse (beats per minute), hydration status and capillary refill time.
Here’s an excerpt from the sixth book in the Free Rein series, Contagious.
Kate took in the droopy ears of Captain and a runny nose. The fluid wasn’t the clear colour it should be, but instead was a yellowish-green colour.
Being cautious, she grabbed a thermometre to check his temperature. Standing to the side of his hind end, she lifted Captain’s tail a little and placed the thermometre in his rectum after putting some lubricating jelly on it. She was sure to place the thermometre against the side of his rectal wall, rather than straight into the bottom of the horse. If she did this, the thermometre might be placed in a piece of manure and the temperature reading wouldn’t give her the best indication of Captain’s body temperature.
With it placed on the side in his rear end, she let it sit for a minute until it beeped. Because it was a digital thermometre, the temperature appeared in numbers on a little screen. Kate frowned as she took in the figure of 38.8 degrees Celsius.
Captain had a temperature. A horse’s normal temperature range lay at 37.5 degrees Celsius, plus or minus a degree. Because Captain’s temperature was over 38.5 degrees, Kate knew that something was wrong in his system. This as well as his droopy looking ears and runny nose told her that he had something that made him feel unwell – and something that could affect the other horses on the property.
Kate chose to put Captain away in their quarantine yard, rather than back out in the paddock where he would come into contact with other horses. After she’d placed him there and called the vet, she grabbed a bucket and put some disinfectant and water in it. Then she grabbed the brushes and halter she had used on Captain and placed these in the water, giving them a good scrub.
As Kate worked, she thought about the other horses on the property. She knew she needed to check them all over to make sure none of them too, were sick.
She hesitated, wondering if it was best to wait for the vet to arrive and give a verdict on Captain before she jumped to conclusions about the others.
“But if he is contagious then the others could already have it and need the vet, too,” she reasoned with herself.
She went inside quickly to change her clothes and scrub her arms and face in the bathroom before going out to look at the other horses. Kate started in the paddock Captain had been in, glancing at the others from a distance. If she didn’t need to touch them, she wouldn’t.
When she noticed the animals happily grazing with ears pricked and no sign of lethargy, she decided the rest in the paddock were fine. She made a note to check temperatures the next day and to keep an eye out for any signs of illness.
As Kate checked the other paddocks that housed horses and ponies, she was relieved to find that they all appeared in good health.
“Maybe it’s just Captain,” she said to herself, silently praying that it was and that he wouldn’t get any worse.
She sighed with relief when she noticed a vehicle making its way down the drive. The vet was here.
Like what you’ve read? You can purchase Contagious on Kindle over at Amazon.
I believe this particular term used to describe a horse’s height isn’t Australian. It’s a term commonly used by many horse people around the world.
Jacqui and her friends ride ponies more often then they do horses. A pony is known to be 14.2 hands high, or shorter. Horses and ponies are measured in hands and can be as small as 7 hands high, right up to over 21 hands high – wow! It depends on their breed.
A hand is equivalent to 10 centimetres or 4 inches. One inch is 2.5 centimetres. So 4 inches multiplied by 2.5cm is equal to 10 centimetres.
So let’s consider a pony that is 14 hands high. If we multiply 14 by 10 centimetres, we will have a pony that is 140 centimetres high. Now this height isn’t measured up to the horse’s head. It is instead measured from the bottom of the hoof, up their front leg, all the way to the top of the wither. All horses and ponies are measured this way.
If a pony is 14.2 hands high, this means it is 14 hands and two inches high. So this would be 140 centimetres plus 2 times 2.5 centimetres. In total, the pony is 145 centimetres high at its wither. The wither is the point where the mane ends and the back starts. It is also the point where we put the front of the saddle on the horse.
Captain, the horse ridden often by Jacqui’s mother Kate is over 16 hands high, or 160 centimetres at the wither. That’s taller than me!
Here’s an excerpt from the fifth book in the Free Rein series, A Dollar Goes a Long Way.
Sunday morning the King family headed off to church. As had become routine, Geordie joined them. Jacqui happily headed out to kids church with her redheaded friend, thinking once again how nice it would be if Hannah were with them.
Hannah didn’t think much of God, church or the bible. It seemed to make her uncomfortable anytime Jacqui would talk about it, so she’d learnt to not bring such things up in front of her other friend. Jacqui wondered if that meant Hannah would never learn about God.
This week they were looking at having the strength to do something, in spite of being scared. Jacqui was surprised to find that this was what courage was all about.
As their teacher talked about being obedient to God even though you’re scared, Jacqui realised she had recently had such a conversation with her mother. Jacqui’s pony Jaq had been getting difficult to handle and Jacqui had fallen off him a couple of times.
She was scared of falling again, and had decided it may be easier to not ride him at all. Kate had encouraged Jacqui to get back on her pony in spite of being scared of falling.
Under Kate’s instruction, Jacqui had been able to correct Jaq as he got pushy and disobedient. This had helped her confidence to grow a little. That afternoon Kate had had a fall off her horse Captain, and broken her arm.
Jacqui had been surprised to find that her mother would be getting back on a horse as soon as her arm was better and the doctors said it was ok. Kate didn’t seem scared by the idea at all.
Jacqui had come to learn that falls would happen every now and again, but if she learnt from them it would make her a better rider. She just needed to learn to protect her body in the event of a fall, and to correct her pony if his behaviour caused the fall.
Their teacher at church was talking about the many things that King David did in his life while being afraid. David was described in the bible as a man after God’s heart. Above all else, he cared what God thought of him and sought to do what his Saviour would want.
“It is understandable that we feel pressure from people at home, school or elsewhere, but we need to recognise that God is the main One whose opinion we should care about. Sometimes we may be scared to do something that we know is right. Or maybe we are being stubborn and we just don’t want to. It’s important to consider what the right thing to do is, and do it in spite of being afraid.”
A young girl put her hand up in the class. Brian nodded at her.
“Do you have a question, Sarah?”
“If we do something even though we’re afraid, because we know it’s good for us, does that mean we won’t get hurt?”
“Now that’s a tough question! We have to trust that God will look after us, but we also have to know that things can go wrong.
“Let me give you an example: if I was nervous about crossing a really busy road and I decided to cross it anyway, because I needed to get to the other side, that doesn’t mean I can’t get hurt. In fact, if I don’t watch the cars and wait until a safe time to cross, I can hardly expect that God will make it work out fine for me just because I want Him to!
“We need to be careful about how we do things, but we also need to trust God that He knows what’s best for us. If we do something because we know it’s the right thing to do, like apologise to a friend for a disagreement that you had, then at least we can be comfortable in knowing that we’ve done what God would expect of us. It doesn’t mean that the friend we apologise to will accept our apology, unfortunately! That is up to them.”
Jacqui thought about this. She realised that she was trying hard to respect Hannah’s discomfort about anything relating to God and felt this was the right thing to do. It didn’t mean that Hannah would recognise Jacqui’s attempt to be sensitive to her feelings and say thank you, or even decide that she wanted to know about God. That was tricky!
The young blonde decided she would make an effort to pray about her friend. It was lovely that Geordie was so receptive to the idea of church, but it would be nicer still if all three of them could go together.
There are instances in the Free Rein series where horses or ponies need to be relocated from one property to another. An example is when Geordie and Hannah get their first ponies. They have to be moved from Hannah’s Aunt Jan’s property, to Jacqui’s parents’ property, Genesis.
This can be done in a large vehicle that is able to fit many horses – a truck. For smaller numbers of horses, a float can be used. This is a trailer for horses that attaches to the back of a car.
A float may otherwise be known as a horse box or trailer. You can have a single horse float that houses only one horse. Or a double horse float, that is able to fit two horses in it. Floats can be angle loaders, in which the horses stand in them on an angle as they travel. Or horses can be loaded in straight, facing the back of the vehicle that is pulling them.
Horse floats are handy tools for moving horses to competitions or new homes. They need to be pulled by vehicles that can handle extra weight and have a tow ball to attach the float to.
The King family don’t have their own float. In instances when they need to transport horses, they hire a truck or borrow a friend’s float to do the job.
Here’s an excerpt from the fourth book in the Free Rein series, Learning to Fall.
Hannah entered the classroom and sat down opposite Jacqui with a large grin.
“Guess what?” she asked excitedly.
“Is this about another party?” Jacqui asked, unsure.
“No! It’s about horses,” Hannah replied, waving impatiently to Geordie as she dawdled into the room.
Geordie continued slowly, taking her time to put her bag away and get to the table. Hannah frowned at her.
“You did that on purpose!” she accused her friend.
“Did what?” Geordie asked innocently, holding back an amused smile.
Jacqui wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to tell Geordie to be quiet. She wanted to hear Hannah’s news!
“So what’s your news?” she asked Hannah curiously, hoping her friend would share, now that Geordie was seated at their table.
“My Aunt Jan rang last night and asked when we’re next coming to visit her. Apparently she’s gotten a new pony, and she wants her three helpers to come and exercise her ponies over a weekend so that they all get worked. She said the spring grass has given them lots of energy and they need to be ridden instead of her giving them exercise by lunging them.”
“Can we visit her anytime soon?” Jacqui asked, surprised and pleased.
“Can I take Rose?” Geordie asked, talking about her mare.
“Yes and no,” Hannah responded to her friend’s questions, “she asked if we could come for a weekend very soon. I already asked Jan if we could bring our ponies and she said that wasn’t such a good idea.”
“Why not?” Geordie asked, surprised.
“Don’t you remember we talked about that last time we were there? Jan doesn’t have a lot of room for extra ponies, plus because they’ve been on a different property, she’d have to keep them separate from her ponies.”
“Just in case one of hers was sick and passed it onto Rose or Jasper,” Jacqui finished for Hannah, remembering the talk with Jan when they’d first visited.
“Oh yeah, I remember now. I’m not sure I want to go if I can’t take Rose.”
Jacqui suddenly felt disappointed. If Geordie didn’t want to go, maybe Hannah wouldn’t either… and she couldn’t possibly go by herself.
“If it’s just for a weekend, you could spend time with Rose during the week and as soon as we get back, Geordie,” Jacqui suggested, keen to go.
“Yeah, Jasper could do with a weekend off, I think! I’d love to ride some of Jan’s ponies again and see the new one she’s recently gotten,” Hannah said, causing Jacqui to smile in relief.
“Please, Geordie? I’d love to go back to Jan’s. We had so much fun last time.”
“I don’t know… I’ll think about it.”
Jacqui prayed her friend would do so, and change her mind about not wanting to go. She struggled to focus when the teacher had called the roll and started the day’s lesson. It suddenly seemed so important that the three girls went along to Jan’s for a weekend!
Once a month I like to do a short post on a term that comes up in the Free Rein series. It may be one that is specifically Australian, as has been the case for the word agistment. Or, it may be a word that is specifically horsey.
This month’s term is agistee. As a recap, the word agistment refers to boarding for the horse. In Australia it is common for people to pay a fee to keep their horse on a property. This is often known as agistment. It may include keeping a horse out in a paddock 24 hours of the day, with other horses. They have access to grass, water and companionship.
It may also include keeping a horse separately in a paddock, in a stable – or both at different times of the day. An agistee is someone who pays the fee for their horse to stay elsewhere. Generally the agistee is the horse owner.
Although the horse is being kept on someone else’s property, it is often the responsibility of the agistee to tend to the horse’s needs. This includes feeding, feet care, rugging, riding and on some properties, even picking up manure.
Although some places do offer to feed, exercise and rug horses – for an extra fee – it is generally the agistee who does all this. This is the case in the Free Rein series. Geordie and Hannah, Jacqui’s friends groom their ponies, ride them and care for them. Jacqui’s family makes sure there is safe fencing, grass and water, but otherwise the care is generally left to the agistees.
Being an agistee means you can have a horse, even if you don’t have your own land. It can be a great way to get a pony without having to buy a place to keep it.