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Intersection Column | Out of the Saddle

by Stephenia H. McGee

I had a plan. For as long as I could remember, I’d wanted to be a veterinarian. Sometimes I dreamed of exotic animals and a job at the zoo. Other times I pictured myself lovingly caring for creatures great and small at a clinic of my own. Most of the time, however, I focused on my greatest love. Horses.

One Christmas when I was about six, my mother gifted me with a Shetland pony. Kringles was old, ornery and usually displeased with my fervent attention. My mother’s high-strung Arabian mare soon captured my eye with her flashy gaits and something she and I instinctively shared—the need for speed. Whenever Momma wasn’t paying particularly close attention to me, I’d climb the fence, sit on the top rail, and wait. Within moments, Shapendez would sidle over and allow me to climb on bareback. It only took a few near heart attack moments for Momma to realize Shapendez and I were the greatest of friends.

My love for horses stayed with me through school and into my college years, where I earned a degree in Animal and Dairy Sciences with a concentration in Equine Sciences from Mississippi State University. By that time, I had decided I no longer wanted to head to vet school. I’d spent years learning natural horsemanship, and I had my sights set on being a trainer and the owner of a large horse farm.

God had other plans. I’ll never forget the day I sat in a neurosurgeon’s office with tears streaming down my face. He asked me what I did for a living. When I told him I trained horses, he shook his head, and with compassion in his gaze, said, “Not anymore, you don’t.”

I was devastated. I had no idea what to do with a degree I couldn’t use and a health problem that would forever take me out of the saddle. My husband handed me a notebook filled with my story ideas and encouraged me to take a closer look at the hobby I’d always loved.

For the next several years, I learned the craft of writing. I went to conferences, took classes and bought shelves full of books on plotting and structure. I loved writing. Looking back, not only was I a child who loved a reckless gallop, but I was also the girl who turned her spelling list into a story and took sacks of books from the library every week. Suddenly this entire other part of me began to bloom.

Both of my loves intersected with the first book I contracted with a traditional publisher, The Secrets of Emberwild. In this 1905 story, a headstrong and independent woman is determined to be a trainer in an era when women aren’t allowed to race. With Nora and her colt, Arrow, I got to relive a bond I’d once shared with a horse of my own, a foal I’d also helped usher into the world.

Nora uses natural horsemanship methods, much to the dismay of the men employed at her farm. Especially when she’s working with a temperamental young stallion! I really enjoyed getting to bring my experiences to life as Nora trained Arrow for harness racing at the fair.

When a stranger turns up at Emberwild and is hired to take over with Arrow, Nora has plenty to say to Silas Cavallero. But she’s soon surprised to discover he employs many of her same methods and that they are both students of Gleason’s horse training. To top it off, Arrow seems to really like the guy!

Researching for this novel was like returning home. I ordered a copy of Gleason’s Horse Book and looked up different methods and equipment for the time. My experience with horse anatomy, nutrition and care, as well as my own time spent as a trainer, helped me connect with Nora in a way I never had with any of my other characters.

I hope you will join Nora and Silas at Emberwild as they unravel the terrible secrets Nora’s father left behind—and how those same secrets could be the answers that Silas desperately needs. Gallop through the fields with me and feel the wind in your hair as Arrow soars.

As is always true, God’s plans may not be what we expect, but they are for the best. When I found myself out of the saddle, I ended up right where I didn’t know I’d always belonged. I can’t imagine having any other job than this crazy, beautiful, amazing writer’s life and I thank God for His grace, kindness and faithfulness in getting me here.


About the Author

Stephenia H. McGee is the award-winning author of many stories of faith, hope and healing set in the Deep South. When she’s not reading or sipping sweet tea on the front porch, she’s a writer, dreamer, husband spoiler and busy mom of two rambunctious boys. Learn more at


About the Book

A gifted trainer in a time women are not allowed to race, Nora Fenton prefers horses to men—they never tell her what to do. After her father's passing, Nora is determined to save her struggling horse farm. But when a stranger arrives and starts asking disconcerting questions, she suspects he may have other motives than unseating her in the training job that is rightfully hers.


Did You Know?

Every day we make more than 35,000 decisions. From what to wear to what to say, the decisions we make—even good ones—compound over time and impact those around us. With so many choices each day, no wonder we experience decision fatigue which shows up at the end of the day when we are most likely to fudge on our smart eating program, skip our exercise routine or make that impulse purchase. How do we make good decisions? Here are some tips.

  • Automate routine decisions. Knowing the style you wear, what you will and won’t eat, and how you will treat others makes the decision once and for all.

  • Ask if this decision is yours to make? Or is this decision clearly someone else’s responsibility? If you step in, are you taking over a situation that does not belong to you?

  • What is the next right thing to do? Complicated situations can usually be navigated by taking one next step at a time.

  • Is this decision a good example of what you teach your child? Would you encourage your best friends, family members and children to make a similar choice?

  • Does Scripture already give clear directions? Jesus distilled the Ten Commandments into two: love God and love people. What does love require in this setting?

Knowing what we will and won’t do ahead of time reduces the number of choices we make each day and provides wise guidelines for the decisions that constantly present themselves.

-PeggySue Wells, The Patent


Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore

“I love shopping at my local bookstore because of the personal touch. The manager always greets me with a smile and makes me feel welcome. After the past several years of isolation, the sense of community at the bookstore is a balm to this book-buyer's spirit!”


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