Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jayne Thurber-Smith, Equestrian & Freelance Writer

Belle and Jayne
Residing in Norwalk, Virginia, USA, Jayne Thurber-Smith is an award-winning freelance writer for various publications including Faith & Friends, Sports Spectrum magazine, cbn.com, and more.
As a sportswriter, Jayne has had the opportunity to interview various celebrities from MLB Player Josh Hamilton to Olympian Scottie Hamilton, to Surfer Bethany Hamilton.  
Besides her visionary journalism, Jayne is an avid equestrian and riding instructor. She is a weekend rider and is in love with her horse Moonrise.
Jayne is thankful for all the horses she's had the opportunity to partner with throughout her lifetime to make her the person she is today. 
Welcome Jayne!
When was your first encounter with a horse?
My sister's boyfriend had a gorgeous dark bay named Ivy Rose which he really didn't have the time for. When I was 13 I began taking care of her in return for riding privileges. It was the same year my dad and mom separated so Ivy caught a lot of my tears. She was a retired harness-racing horse and she could GO. To just let her run across our field after a relaxing trail ride was when I felt my freest. I have always thought the term riding "stable" was so fitting; I never feel more emotionally grounded and "stable" than during my horse time.
Jayne and Moonrise
What is your riding discipline?
I ride Western and bareback.
Where do you like to ride?
I love a trail ride with some nice wide, smooth stretches for a good canter.
What horses do you currently stable?
I have never been able to afford to keep my own horse. One of my favorite writers,
Nancy Shulins, wrote in "Falling for Eli" that a horse lover never has an excuse for not being with a horse. If you cannot afford your own, there is always some stable looking for workers. I have always worked for riding privileges and have had the joy of getting to know over a hundred different horses. Now that we have finally put our kids through college my husband says we can afford to board a horse but I told him if I had a horse of my very own I would be at the stables with her every night, and then where would that leave him? My dream is to one day move out of suburbia to a small house with a big barn.

What is Triple R Ranch and what do you do there?
Triple R Ranch is a youth ranch southwest of Virginia Beach, Virginia. They have a beautiful herd of around fifty horses and they run summer riding camps, girl scout camps, family retreats, along with hosting lessons and various special needs equine therapy programs. Some of their sweetest horses are rescues from terrible backgrounds. I always say a rescue never forgets what he's been rescued from. The more resilient they are the more heartbreakingly grateful they become. They will do anything for you. I help out with anything horse-related: feeding, grooming, tacking, mucking, throwing hay, teaching, leading pony rides, riding shotgun on hay-wagon rides. Other than raising my four children, it's the most fulfilling and satisfying work I've ever done.
As a riding instructor, what training methods do you use?
I want lessons to be more play than work. I love setting up various obstacle courses through which my students have to take their horses at various gaits. That's when you truly see the connection between the horse and rider and how they handle situations that can become frustrating if that necessary unspoken communication isn't there. Also musical hay bales is fun, instead of musical chairs-- it's good for practicing emergency dismounts.
Do you have a favorite anecdote to share in regards to your time with horses/students?
I'll never forget assisting my first equine therapy session. The teacher's name was Katie and she is one of the most competent horsewomen I have ever met. I was in awe of her and her favorite horse, which was an Appaloosa named Lucky. We put 7-year-old Seth up on Lucky and I was the side-walker. Seth had autism and was non-verbal. As we led Seth around, Katie said with a big smile, "Do you want to trot, Seth? Say it and Lucky will trot for you. Trot. Say it, Seth." You could tell he wanted to, so badly! His head bobbed up and down but Katie wouldn't give in. She kept saying, "Trot. Say it, Seth." We walked around the arena a few times with Katie gently urging him and suddenly we heard "T-t-t-t-t-t-t-t!" and Katie excitedly exclaimed "Trot! Yes, Seth, great job!" and Lucky immediately trotted. I was so impressed with all three that day -- with Katie's patience, Seth's effort, and mostly the fact that Lucky, after hearing the word "trot" over and over again from Katie's urgings to Seth, finally knew when she said it like she meant it that it was OK to trot. My favorite memory is Seth's glowing face at the end. That's why I do equine therapy: the smiles of these kids who get to be "normal" for at least an hour a week is better than any payday.

What does horsemanship mean to you?
I love being around horse people. I can be a real talker and I think the first thing that hit me during my first lunch at the ranch's lodge was how quiet the "barn table" could be. We would joke and tease like the other tables but there were often long lulls in the conversation that for the first time in my life didn't feel like awkward silence. I think that speaks to the depth of being a horseman, that so much of your time with horses is spent in non-verbal communication that you are that much more of a thinker, and you become so competent at working out situations internally that words aren't always necessary. I love that.

You are an accomplished writer and editor. What has been your most exciting project to date?
First I need to say that I have never walked away from conducting an article interview that I thought, 'Wow that was a waste of time.' Whether they last 15 or 40 minutes I always learn something valuable from someone's story. That being said, my favorite of favorites was writing about author Kim Meeder, owner of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in Oregon. I love horse-related books and had picked up her first book "Hope Rising" and read through it, literally sobbing, in a day. I went back and got the sequel, "Bridge Called Hope"; tears come to my eyes just writing this: tears of sadness over what people and animals suffer through, and tears of wonder at the miracles of recovery. She calls her ranch "The Ranch of Rescued Dreams" and each chapter tells a story of an abandoned or abused horse who meets an emotionally lost girl/boy and they find each other. I was so thrilled when she agreed to do a phone interview with me for my Christian magazine. Halfway through our talk I had to stop her. "Kim, I often type through tears while taking down a beautiful story, but I'm bawling here. Sorry but I need to take a second to calm down!" Her heart is as big as the sky and the work she is doing just takes my breath away. I loved the resulting article so much that I booked her a couple of years later to do a story for a secular magazine. She had another 1200 words' worth of miracles to share with me. Another dream of mine is to fly out there to work with her for a summer.
What are you currently writing?
I told my editor the end of May that I was taking a month off for my only daughter's June 21 wedding and he wrote back that he would love to see me write a story about it. I told him I would have to stop crying about it first; I know it sounds like I cry a lot but only when it really matters :) It was one of the most bittersweet days of my entire life. I lost my daughter but gained a best friend, she's truly amazing in every way. Thankfully she's only a 30-minute drive away and we're crazy about her new husband.
Do you have advice for beginning writers?
You can never take enough notes. I am forever writing on a note pad or typing on my IPad unique and purposeful phrases that stick in my head, either ones that I admire and want to emulate or that I will use in my future writings, duly credited of course :).
List 5 things that your fans may not know about you...
1-I have 7 siblings and 9 step-siblings.

2-My oldest sister is a much better writer than I, but has yet to release any of her craft to the fearful critique of an editor.

3-My husband's refusal to have more than one cat at a time is the only thing that keeps me from becoming a crazy cat lady.

4-One of the horses I help look after is the great-grandson of Secretariat.

5-I am distantly related to the late and great James Thurber and his writing makes me laugh like no one else's.

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