Sandy Nathan, Author of Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

What is your book about?

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could tells the true story of a baby horse that was born too soon. Human babies can survive and thrive when they’re born prematurely, but young horses need all the time they can get in utero. A foal born only two weeks before his due date usually won’t survive. When Tecolote was born ten days early, the chances were that he wouldn’t make it.

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could tells the touching story of a young colt who beat the odds. For not only was he born early, his mother died when he was five months old. Alone and lonely, Tecolote searched for friends among the horses of Rancho Vilasa, his home. He needed humans who understood his special needs.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I stood out in the field on the windy, freezing night that Tecolote was born. I saw him struggle to stand and fail. In shock and pain after giving birth, his mother attacked my husband, daughter and me. She bit my husband badly. I can still hear the “click” of her teeth.

From the start, Tecolote’s life was so vivid that it shouted, “Make me into a book!”

But my grandchildren, Cara and Jarrett, are the real reason I wrote the book. I wanted to share the story with them. And with everyone’s grandkids. It’s a book for children, though everyone can read and enjoy it.

What is your goal for the book, i.e.: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

I’d like to foster compassion and understanding for those with who suffer from illness or disability. I have had experience with children with learning problems and mental illness. I’ve had to deal had my own shyness, which almost crippled me as a child.

I’ve seen some people with disabilities mangled by the system in which they found themselves. I’ve seen others with very severe disabilities get what they needed and fly.

I’d like Tecolote’s life to serve as a beacon for those with special needs letting them see that a life with a hard beginning doesn’t have to end badly.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

A great deal of myself appears in the book. I identify with Tecolote. When I was a young child, I was so shy that I hardly spoke. I had few social skills, and yet I wanted to have friends and belong just as much as Tecolote did. I saw myself as he struggled to be part of the herd.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Since it’s nonfiction, the characters in Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could are real horses. Horses have their own personalities, which are almost as unique as human personalities. I didn’t have to develop my characters; I just had to capture the animals’ essences so that readers could experience them.

Tecolote is the main character, of course. He starts out as a helpless infant. Through his own pluck and determination, he survives and negotiates all the jobs a young horse must in growing up.

Rosie, Tecolote’s mother, is probably the purest of heart horse I have ever known. She was beautiful and good and kind. Except for that one night . . .

Shambho is Tecolote’s “bad boy” friend. Born a week or so after Tecolote, Shambho had a hard a time learning his “young horse lessons,” struggling as Tecolote sailed along. He’s another special needs boy.

Tio Eddie was Tecolote’s grumpy “uncle” who came to love him.

Did you do any research for the book? If so, how did you do it?

The research for this book was the “sweat equity” type. I lived it. I started riding when I was ten and got my first horse when I was 13. I was in a junior drill team and exhibited in California’s Bay Area. That’s when the horse show bug bit. I showed all summer when I was a junior rider. I ended up a pretty tough competitor, placing in most of the classes I entered. I liked the AHSA stock seat equitation and reined stock horse classes best.

After a few years away from horses––when I went to school, worked, married, and had kids—I decided at age 40 that it was time to get back in the saddle while I still could. I went to a friend’s open house and rode a Peruvian Paso horse for the first time. They have a special smooth gait that didn’t aggravate my bad back.

I HAD to have one of those horses.

We ended up with 22 of them when our ranch was at its largest. Our family got into Pasomania: riding, showing, breeding, helping to train, and raising Peruvian Paso horses. We exhibited uninhibited addictive behavior. We’re now in retirement mode, down to a mere six horses.

By the time Tecolote came along, fifteen to twenty foals had been born on our ranch.

Where is Tecolote now? What is he doing? Does he have friends? Enemies? Any quirks? Tell us about him.

Tecolote will be ten years old on May 3rd 2011. He’s doing great. He’s sound, healthy and very happy. He lives in a pasture with two mares and another gelding.
When he’s not hanging out with his buddies, Tecolote is my personal riding horse. I rode him yesterday. Teco’s very easy to catch and handle––I note in the book that the foals that have had early veterinary problems are very easy to handle because of all the human contact they had while babies.

Tecolote has one enemy: Leon Gitano BSN, our stallion. The enmity goes from Teco to the stallion. Whenever my husband and I ride together and Barry rides Leon, Teco pins his ears back and acts like he wants to bite and kick the stallion. I have no clue as to why Teco dislikes Leon so much. Leon doesn’t do anything.

Teco’s other quirk is that he hates having a bath. He’ll stand in the wash rack, but he wiggles and paws and expresses how much he hates it.

Why are people so enamored with horses?

This is a big question with a multi-part answer. For me, probably the most rewarding thing about being around horses is the bond that grows between the horse and rider or caretaker. It’s a real connection, an indescribable union that’s stronger than most human relationships.

Did you know that horses have energy flows just like people? I’ve seen charts of equine energy currents. We’ve had equine acupuncturists over to treat horses, with amazing results. When I’m working with a horse or riding one, I can feel that energy flowing through both of us. I almost feel like my horse is part of me.

That’s the spiritual side of horses. Spirit, energy, bonding. Huge topics. I’ve had almost enlightenment experiences showing horses in the Peruvian Paso national championships. I know other people who have had similar experiences.

Mastering fear. I’ve always been afraid of pretty near everything, including horses. I was very shy as a youngster, as I said. Learning to work with horses brought me out of that. It changed my life. Why? If you can’t assert yourself with a horse, you won’t leave the barn. It’s fundamental.

That’s the short answer to why people and horses go together so well.

Have you always lived on a horse ranch?

No. When I was a kid, my family boarded our horses. My husband and I bought a horse property about 1988. We started caring for our horses at home then. Going from taking riding lessons to having a horse is like going from grade school to college. Going from boarding a horse to caring for it full time is like going from college to a PhD program. The changes require huge jumps in what’s required of you.

What does living on a horse ranch teach you?

Multiply what happened in Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could by 365 days a year, by however many years you’re a rancher. It’s intense. Emergencies happen all the time. Things break. Horses get out. Horses get hurt. People get hurt. You have to feed twice a day, no matter what you’d rather be doing. It’s a demanding lifestyle, very disciplined and very much in the moment. I treasure it.

Do you have other books about horses planned?

Yes, I have a thick file of experiences like those in Tecolote. More than half a century of horse tales. My literary agent wanted me to write this book years ago. She said she rocketed between hysterical laughter and biting sadness when she read the file. But much of the material is very personal; I wasn’t ready to tackle it. Now, I’m realizing that the time to write the book is coming.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

Yes. I write for readers who are interested in making a difference and growing personally and spiritually. My readers also want a well written, fast paced, and extraordinary read that takes them to places they never imagined.

Do you have a mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I’ve got completed drafts of books more than outlines of ideas. I started writing full time in 1995, banging out a series of books. I completed drafts of maybe nine books in The Bloodsong Series. The first book, Numenon, has been published. My publisher and I are hoping that the second book will be out in 2011.

A second series, Tales from Earth’s End erupted from me a few years back. my new sci-fi fantasy series. The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy is the first book of this series. I’ve got drafts of two more books in that series completed.

And there’s “the horse book.” I will write it one day. Soon.

Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?

My editor gave me the best advice I’ve heard: “You can write garbage in hopes that it will sell or you can write what your heart burns to write. Your choice.”

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

You’ll make more money as a brain surgeon.

What words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?

“Do good, avoid evil.” But St. Thomas Aquinas already said that.

 Have you written any other books?

Yes, I’ve written three other books.

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice A spiritual companion for modern spiritual seekers. Covers issues like handling eBay addiction that modern spiritual seekers face.

Numenon (Bloodsong Series) The first book of the Bloodsong Series, Numenon tells the story of the richest man in the world meeting a great Native American shaman.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy (Tales from Earth’s End) Set in a future world on the edge of collapse, the enchanting and angelic Eliana comes to earth on a mission that can save her planet. She must find Jeremy, a revolutionary and outcast. They begin a quest to save two dying planets . . . and save each other.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My web site: http://sandynathan.com
My publisher’s site: http://vilasapress.com
Search for my name on Amazon or Google.

One Response to “Sandy Nathan, Author of Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could”

  1. What advice you would give to an aspiring author? | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] From an interview with Sandy Nathan, Author of Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could […]


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