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Why My Mysteries Involve Horse Racing!

Horse racing is exciting!

While there are many disappointments, there are successes that warrant celebration, such as this win by our homebred, I’m Dashing. (His mother (dam), grandmother and great grandmother live on our ten-acre horse farm).

The reason I write about horse racing in the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series is that it provides a limitless source of ideas for stories. I haven’t run out yet!

Horse racing has been part of my life (and my husband’s) for many years. I am an owner and a breeder.

I draw on this experience but also get material from on-line magazines such as the Canadian Thoroughbred and the Paulick Report. News items can also give me material to feed into the mysteries.

Animals are a part of my life and always have been. I can’t imagine life without them. When I started writing my first novel, I wanted to include animals and not just racehorses. I find animals fascinating. I’ve been lucky enough to live in rural Ontario for almost all my adult life, and animals have always been around.

Kelly, Meg’s beloved border collie, has a role to play in the novels. Kelly’s character is partly based on a wonderful, devoted and intelligent border collie who was a member of our family for several years.

Each horse has a unique personality. For example, I’m Dashing has a very different disposition from his dam I’m a Kittyhawk. She won three stakes races and we’re incredibly proud of her, but she was a challenge to train. She’s a large, powerful horse, highly strung and super competitive. She had to be taken out for her daily gallops at the racetrack in the early hours of the morning, before many other horses arrived on the track. Otherwise, she would work too hard trying to pass them all.

I’m Dashing is laid back. He doesn’t see the point of doing very much unless he’s racing. This is smart. He doesn’t waste energy!

An obvious and unfortunate reason I write about horse racing is that it has a dark side.

A few trainers (by far the minority) use performance-enhancing drugs and other illegal, unethical, and abusive ways to cheat. Races can be rigged. Jockeys can be paid to lose a race. Cheating not only affects the honest trainers, owners, jockeys, veterinarians, and so on, by creating an uneven playing field, it also makes it unfair for the gamblers.

And worse, affected horses are at risk of injury.

We were once told we should feel very good about the second place one of our horses had achieved in a particular race because the person believed (he wasn’t the only one) that the winning horse had been “juiced”. But, it’s tough to accept. Our horse deserved to be the winner.

There’s money at stake. Whenever money’s involved, there’s the temptation to cheat and be corrupt.

It’s expensive to train a horse and there’s no guarantee of any return. Owners and trainers have the potential to lose a lot of money if things don’t go well. In Ontario, nearly all the thoroughbred racehorses live at the racetrack while they’re in training. We’re lucky that we don’t have to pay someone else to look after our horses when they’re not in training. They come home to our farm, which is less costly. (I’m Dashing will come home for the winter).

Unfortunately, a few owners will place their horses with a specific trainer because they know he or she cheats. They want to win. It’s not always just about the money. It can be about prestige, pride and the thrill of winning.

We like to win! Our horses like to win! But we will never cheat and our horses are well-cared for.

The challenges of horse racing provide endless material for me as a writer! A lot can go wrong, but a lot can go right.

There are many caring and compassionate people who look after the horses every day. I’ve met many in the backstretch working in the barns. They’re devoted to the horses and love them deeply. The horses’ coats gleam and their eyes sparkle, their ears are pricked, their whinnies are soft and welcoming.

Linda, the primary groom in my books, is one of these compassionate and caring people, and works hard for the horses every day.

Horse racing is an exciting, demanding, competitive sport. The athletes are the horses and the jockeys. And many other people play their parts. It’s a crazy world!

Enjoy reading the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series!

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