I’m happy to welcome award-winning Soul Mate author Sally Brandle to the Power of 10 series. Today, Sally shares essential trail riding tips and her latest release, The Hitman’s Mistake.
You’ve always dreamed of meandering on a woodsy trail on a calm, trusty steed? Well, me too. I’m living my childhood dream of every pony girl—four decades later. It all started with a Living Social coupon to a local equestrian center. For the last six years my gelding, Lance, and I have shared a treasured trust in one another while trotting trails. A shout out to Vanessa Kuhlman, owner of Highpoint, who teamed me with a wonderful four-legged teacher and friend.
Lance and I assisted or ponied riders on frequent trail rides, and here’s what I’ve learned. I’m far from an expert, but I pride myself in paying attention. I’ve ridden stable horses in Spain, Ireland, Mexico, and most Western states. Horses are kind, intelligent creatures allowing us to ride them. Enjoy the blessing!
1. Do your homework on area stables offering rides. View online comments about the owners/guides, horses, and terrain you’ll be riding on. Honor the weight limits and find the right fit for your comfort level. Please consider a lesson first. At a minimum, watch a couple of You Tube videos on basic riding cues and horsemanship or go to a site like Hay-net.co.uk for tips.
2. Be honest with your ability—to the point of underselling your accomplishments.
3. Go prepared if the stable doesn’t list requirements on their site. Long pants, long sleeves, sunglasses, sunscreen, boots with a low heel, and a pocketful of mini carrots are my standard equipment. Yes, I carried boots and breeches to Hawaii for my birthday trail ride on Ziggy.
4. Arrive about fifteen minutes early and absorb the barn vibe. It should be calming. If you have kids with you, remind them that quiet voices and slow movements are mandatory around horses. When you’re given the okay, you greet a horse by walking in from the side and letting them smell you first. Horses are prey animals. If approached from behind their natural instinct is to kick or flee. Stable horses should be calm, but don’t assume.
5. Ask first about giving treats and where your horse prefers to be petted. The guide will show you how to flatten your hand to offer a carrot. If the mounts aren’t fully tacked, offer to help groom. The quicker you form a bond, the better your ride will be.
6. You’re in the saddle. Don’t be shy voicing a concern if the stirrup length doesn’t feel comfortable. If you can’t do a one-handed stop, ask, and then do a couple circles utilizing the technique. If something unusual happens on the ride, you need to know how to implement your emergency brake. Scratch your horse’s withers and complement him throughout the ride.
7. Sit up straight and relax. Keep your reins to where they’re not pulling on the horse’s mouth. Been to a dentist recently? Well, your horse has much worse than a rubber dam in his mouth. Most horses are trained for leg cues. If you want to move to the left, you push him with your right calf. Need to stop, lean slightly back, and say whoa. I’m non-violent, but there were a number of customers at the stable I truly wanted to whack for reaming on their horse’s mouth.
8. Enjoy the sights, smells, sounds, and energy of riding in the woods. Take deep breaths of fresh air. I prefer early morning or dusk. It’s magical in the fall when you pass through a field glistening in sunlight with spider webs adorning tall, dry grass.
9. No ride’s guaranteed to be without incident. 99.9 percent of the time they will be, but, if you do slip off, relax (as much as possible ), tuck, and roll to the side or back end. You don’t want to fall forward and under hooves. I try to remember basic moves of head down and hands in. Hopefully you’ll be unhurt and can get up and mount again.
10. Have the guide take photos enroute or after you’ve returned and the big grin plastered on your face won’t leave. Give your horse plenty of scratches, praise, and carrots-if it’s okay. Ride again!
After Miranda Whitley stops crooked cops from assassinating a prominent Seattle judge, she’s next on the hit list, and her survival depends on the buff FBI Agent she’s had one awkward encounter with. But can she find him in time?
The last person Grant Morley expects to discover on his annual supply run to a Montana mountain hermit is alluring Miranda Whitley, nearly dead from a bullet wound in her side. An accidental witness or the cold-blooded accomplice to would-be assassins?
Miranda must convince Grant of her innocence, evade the killers intent on preventing her testimony, and fight her unwanted attraction for the agent…an attraction which seems to be mutual. Fortunately, love thrives in Emma Springs. If you love sizzling chemistry, Montana’s mountain landscape, and fast-paced action, then you’ll love Sally Brandle’s galloping thriller, The Hitman’s Mistake.
Setting: Our heroine’s pruning indoor plants in the lobby of Seattle’s Justice Building after hours.
Squeaks from her mom’s old pruning shears echoed in the large, vacant room. She pulled another uneven limb of the Chinese Elm closer to her face and squinted. While she clipped, a peppery fragrance released from the wood.
A twig grazed her cheek, making her flinch. She brushed the neckline of her purple T-shirt with the back of her hand.
The place threw off the vibes of an abandoned morgue. Chill. She released the limb, let out a long breath, and grabbed a lop-sided branch from overhead. Tonight, even a rude prosecutor’s voice rupturing the tranquility would be welcome.
Not happening this late, but Ike would be descending in the elevator any minute. Hopefully in a better mood than when she’d watered the jade plant in his judge’s chambers earlier. He’d been tense, without the fatherly banter he doled out when she visited him and his wife, Shirley.
Soft taps came from a few feet behind her. She tilted her head.
Footsteps? From the stairwell? Miranda released her grip, and the tree limb sprang free. She swung her head and watched the branch skim the fly of the trousers on the man now towering over her right shoulder.
Not Ike. She froze.
“What in the hell? Oh, didn’t see you there—” he sidestepped, and her cup scrunched in protest under his big boot. The lid popped off and the double shot of Kona glugged into a mocha-scented pool.
He jumped to avoid the puddle. “Damn energy conservation put you in the shadows. Sorry, I nailed your coffee.” His swinging backpack missed her nose by inches.
She twisted her body and scooted her butt until her shoulder jammed against a carved pot.
“I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“It’s okay,” she mumbled, keeping her head lowered to avoid further contact with the bag-wielding klutz wearing black trousers. Must’ve been him she’d glimpsed a few minutes ago, while the elevator doors had closed on the floor below Ike’s.
“I’ve never been attacked by a branch. Must say, you deployed it well,” the deep voice announced. He stopped directly in front of her.
His hiking boots made her size-nine high-tops appear dainty.
Not the shoes of a snobby lawyer or a lost, post-trial pimp trying to find his way out of the building. Still, the flailing branch served him right for sneaking up on her. “I didn’t hear you.”
“And I shouldn’t text and walk,” he said in a lighter, almost sexy tone. “I’m Grant.” He dropped his pack and stuck out his hand.
An FBI tag printed ‘GRANT MORLEY’ hung from the bag.
She peered from under her cap’s brim and gulped.
Agent of Interest. Her heart took off at a gallop.
Reviews & Interview
Multi-award winning author Sally Brandle weaves slow-burning romance into edgy suspense stories. Sally left a career as an industrial baking instructor to bring to life stories of women who learn to trust their inner gifts. Her rescue Aussie is her companion during long spells of writing, bouts of tormenting weeds in her garden, or afternoons spent riding on the wind with her twenty-eight year old Quarter Horse. Sign up for her newsletter at http://www.sallybrandle.com for a free segment of her latest book, The Hitman’s Mistake.
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