I’m very pleased to welcome Tina on the last day of her blog tour, as she talks about her ongoing passion for horses.
MY LOVE OF HORSES
My love affair with horses began before I can remember. At 18 months, I was too young for pony rides, but the gypsies lent me a horse to lead up and down the beach with the dictum “Tina must have horses”. Right then and there I must have been hooked! A few years later an elderly mare named Jemma taught me how to ride. Though she lived in a field my parents owned, she belonged to someone else. I had to mostly make do with riding schools and because I knew how to ride, I was always given the naughty ponies, the ones who skied, bucked and ran away. I soon learned to fall off gracefully, a skill which came in very handy! Summers on the Isle of Wight were better. They were spent happily riding with a troupe of local children who, much to my envy, were allowed to wear t-shirts and jeans, while I was trussed up in jodhpurs and a riding jacket. But that didn’t spoil the fun of trekking across the island, until we reached a deserted beach and could let our ponies gallop beside the water.
When I was eleven I went to boarding school, which I disliked intensely. Imagine my distress a few years later, when I heard that Jemma’s owner had her destroyed while I was away. Though 29, she was perfectly healthy. The only sign of her age was a little breathlessness cantering uphill. I still carry the image of my father holding her head as the vet put a bullet through her brain. It nearly broke my heart. After that, horses went on hold while I took up rowing and sailing, which was a great way to spend summers as a teenager. Too young to drive a car, a boat was a terrific mode of transport.
It wasn’t until I met my husband in the Greek island of Rhodes and found out that he, too, liked horses, that I rediscovered my long buried passion. I well remember the first time I drove a standardbred. His name was Reddi Boy. I felt a lot safer on the cart than on a horse’s back and I ended up grooming, jogging and even sometimes training them. Harness horses are a special breed and to watch a horse you’ve looked after competing in a race is a thrill and a half. Though they can go at speeds approaching a thoroughbred, many of them race 30 or 40 times a year in all kind of weather, through the bitter cold of a Canadian winter, and blistering summer heat.
For reasons that I cannot fathom, since no-one in my family was like me, I have a real connection to horses. I can feel their happiness . . . and their pain. Many is the time I’ve walked down the shed row, picked up on a horse in trouble and gone straight to the source of the problem. It’s an incredible gift and one I hope I’ve used to help the creatures I like best in this world.
No wonder I love horses so much!
Tina’s debut novel, Horse Flesh, was published by Clink Street Publishing on September 1st, 2016.
Enter the highly competitive world of Standardbred horse racing, in this exhilarating debut from an insider. The story, however, goes far beyond that and touches on universal themes that every reader will recognise.
You’ll be thrust into the front car on a roller coaster ride, through triumph and disaster, that begins on page one. You’ll feel every twist and turn of the story in the pit of your stomach. You’ll laugh and cry with the rough, tough guys who put on the show, rain or shine. You’ll empathise with the women who give this world a heart. You’ll meet the cheaters who use horses as pincushions, who want to win at any price. You’ll get to know the equine athletes who give their all, whatever challenges life throws at them. Last, but not least, you’ll feel the overwhelming sense of community that pervades this world, despite the sharp edges of a highly competitive sport. If that’s not enough, there’s a backstory that will keep you on the edge of your seat, which takes you on a journey from Ontario, Canada to the Rockies, the US, the Caribbean and even the UK. The icing on the cake is an ending full of surprises that will leave you feeling well satisfied.
The characters leap off the page: a brilliant harness horse driver whose drug habit risks costing him everything, his cousin, a trainer who refuses to compromise her integrity, a mysterious individual known only as the Scorpion, lurking in the shadows, pulling the strings, the Director of Racing trying desperately to clean up the industry, his mentor and best friend who has his own agenda, a low life groom who knows too much for his own good, the Canadian Mountie who inadvertently gets involved, with unforeseen consequences, a veterinarian caught between two worlds, young horses unaware of what’s in store for them and trainers whose livelihoods hang by a thread, who face a Hobbesian choice if they are to survive. These are just some of the players in a story where passions run high and where the distinction between right and wrong, good and evil, is always blurred.
Fascinating, fast paced and with shocking twists and turns until the very last, HORSE FLESH is a breakthrough debut novel set to entertain not only horse and racing enthusiasts, but fiction fans looking for a fresh next read.
About Tina Sugarman
Tina Sugarman has been involved with Standardbred horse racing in Ontario for nearly two decades, spending summers on a horse farm a few kilometres from Mohawk Raceway, the premier harness racing track in Canada. She lives in Poole, Dorset with her husband and their maine coon cat, Juliette, and enjoys driving their hackney mare, Mango, in the New Forest. She still takes a keen interest in the sport.