By Kathy Des Jardins Cioffi
Horse lovers around North Fulton need not look far for literary equine entertainment. Milton’s Karen McGoldrick, who rides, teaches and trains dressage at her own Prospect Hill Farm, is the author of “The Dressage Chronicles,” a five-book series with an international following.
The last of the collection, “Lessons with Margot,” published in February, is the nonfiction finale to a quartet of novels McGoldrick wrote with horsewomen in mind.
While the western style of riding may conjure images of cowboys on the open range, the Olympic riding sports of dressage, show jumping and three-day eventing are populated almost exclusively by females. Consequently, most of McGoldrick’s fans mirror some stage of her own life: From horse-loving young girl to woman-of-a-certain-age still in the saddle.
At 9, she was poring over “School for Young Riders,” by Jane Marshall Dillon, retaking quizzes at the end of each chapter till she scored 100. At 12, she was bicycling to her first job at a stable near her California home. As a young woman, she taught dressage under a trainer’s supervision. By the 1990s, she was teaching and riding on her own – “have saddle, will travel.” And in 1992, she and her husband purchased Prospect Hill Farm, where she put her English degree to use writing occasional magazine articles.
Eventually, frustrated by “inauthentic” horse tales and hoping to pen something engagingly educational like the historical novels she enjoyed, she focused on fiction.
“I wanted to write about horses and my sport, dressage,” she said, “but when I got to the end of the first book, I realized I was just beginning.” Three novels later, she still wasn’t done.
“I had finished my story, but I still had things I needed to say,” said McGoldrick, who finally found closure with “Lessons With Margot,” a summation “of all the best and wisest things I have learned with my many trainers and coaches the last 40 years.”
Similarly, horses also never stop instructing. McGoldrick chuckled as she revealed that, just a couple of weeks earlier, she was bucked off by her “very special, very troublesome mare,” Gia. “Humility is a lesson horses constantly teach you,” she said, laughing.
Bob Babcock, CEO of Deeds Publishing in Athens, has likewise learned a bit about horses, notably that works about them are very popular – in both printed and e-book versions, across the United States, in Europe and Australia, too. “Wherever women love horses,” Babcock said, “they love Karen’s books.”
Next up in April, Babcock said, is an audiobook of McGoldrick’s first novel, with audio versions of her other four titles coming soon.
Meanwhile, McGoldrick is crafting a different sort of novel – “Eloise Robertson: Extreme Reader,” a coming-of-age work of historical fiction with a time-travel slant.
While it doesn’t sound much like “Black Beauty,” McGoldrick hopes her readers “follow me out the barn door and into another world,” where she promises plenty of familiar subjects.
As she said, “For me to write a story without horses and dogs would be unthinkable.”
Contributing journalist, Kathy Des Jardins Cioffi. Owner of Johns Creek’s KRC Communications.Connect with her at krccom.com.