"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ride Your Own Horse

(This blog post also appears on Linda's blogspot, Writing Out West. Photos are from author's personal collection. Not for reuse without permission.)

When I was growing up, we always had a bunch of horses around the farm, and most of them were too wild for us kids to ride. My dad was always afraid we'd get hurt so he wouldn't put us on anything that wasn't broke really well or ridden down for a few days before we climbed up on its back. Many times if he was breaking a colt, he would "snub" the colt to an older horse. By this, I mean he would put a lead rope on the colt's hackamore (he preferred hackamores to bridles). The person on the older horse would help control the colt with the lead rope. The person on the colt had the reins, but the snubbing rope was an added insurance in case the colt started bucking or decided to run away.

One of my dad's favorite horses was named Dan. He was a spirited Appaloosa. Dad wouldn't let just anybody ride that horse because he was afraid if the rider "didn't know what he was doing" he'd "ruin the horse." I'll never forget the day when he decided he was going to let me ride Dan. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous – more about ruining his horse than getting bucked off. Dad decided we were going to ride to the top of Blue Mountain at our ranch, a steep climb through pine trees and over rocks. Even though he'd ridden Dan pretty good ahead of time, we started out with Dad snubbing Dan to the horse he was riding. By the time we got to the top of the mountain, Dan was tired (or at least I hoped) and Dad wrapped the snubbing rope around my saddle horn. I was on my own on the ride back down. It was quite a thrill to ride that horse. I made it back to the ranch in one piece and didn't ruin Old Dan.

I know you're wondering what this has to do with writing. Well, I'll tell you. We all like to have some help now and then with our writing. We like someone to hold that snubbing rope and keep us from getting bucked off; i.e., rejected. We want to hear what others say about our work. We want their advice, their critiques that will kindly and gently point out bad plotting, punctuation mistakes, weak conflicts, poor characterizations and so on and so on. But sooner or later, we have to gather the reins, put our foot in the stirrup, and settle our butts down deep in the saddle. We might be a little afraid to put our heels to that horse, but there comes a time when we have to trust ourselves, our knowledge, our instincts, and all we've learned along the way. Sooner or later we have to let go of that snubbing rope and ride our own horse. What's the worst that can happen? If you get thrown off, just dust off the dirt and swing into that saddle again.

--Linda Sandifer

Linda is the award-winning author of thirteen novels. Several of her books have been translated into Norwegian, Swedish, Romanian, and Russian. She has won such awards as Idaho Writer of the Year, Affaire de Coeur's Reader's Choice Award, and Women Writing the West's Laura Award. She has worked as a secretary, a bank teller, a technical editor, and once even trained to be a beautician. Born and raised on a ranch, she has spent most of her life in Idaho. A mother and grandmother, she and her husband own and operate the ranch her grandfather homesteaded in 1915. You can see more about her books on her website.


  1. Hi Linda. Makes me want to get on a horse. I'm afraid I'd break my neck or get my teeth kicked in. I hope there isn't some writers equivilant to that... But getting bucked off and getting back on sounds manageable. That's kind of encourageing really.

    --Ben Page

  2. Hi Linda:

    Great analogy. I can relate to that.

    Bill C.

  3. Wow! Linda, what a great post! I love how you likened snubbing with writing. At some point an author has to let go of the security rope and ride. It's hard to do sometimes.


  4. Love this post! And I loved the story. Very inspiring.

  5. Wow, Linda. Loved the anaolgy and the pictures. Makes me want to climb in a saddle and take a ride, but, as you stated, it would be best for me to keep my butt in the chair in front of my computer and write, write, write.

  6. Yes, it makes me want to ride again too, but preferably on a horse as old as I am.

  7. Hi Linda:

    Great analogy. Teaching and mentoring is something we all need, but there comes a time when we have to give up the "snub rope." Reminds me of the time I first swam across the old river swimming hole. I had developed the ability to finally do it, but not the courage.
    Finally some older boys cut my snub rope by tossing me out in the middle. Scary at the time, but my learned skill came forth and I reakized all I had to do was swim, and I could make it. The same is true with writing.