Episode 104: On Building Confidence, Writing Strong Themes & Handling an Empty Nest with Laura Holt-Haslam (Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast)
Episode 104: Welcome to the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast! In each episode, you’ll hear inspirational stories from horse book authors, including writing advice and marketing tips to help you write your own horse book. If you are an author, aspire to be an author, or simply love horse books, then you are in the right place!
In this Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast episode, you'll meet Laura Holt-Haslam of River Pony Press. Saddle up for a conversation about ...
Watch Laura Holt-Haslam's Interview on YouTube!
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About Laura Holt-Haslam
Award-winning author and lifelong horse enthusiast Laura Holt-Haslam writes books that entertain, educate, and inspire horse lovers of all ages. She’s passionate about sharing her love of horses through art, writing, and hands-on learning.
Over the past 35 years, she has taught basic horsemanship and mentored hundreds of children and teens, encouraging them not only to become more confident equestrians, but more compassionate people. Her middle grade novels, Sofia's Surprise, A Place for Sofia, and Sofia and Sundance explore the transformative power of horses and friendship.
Laura is the mother of two young adult children. She lives in Southern Maine with her husband, two adorably naughty cats, and the friendliest dog you’ll ever meet. She and her daughter share ownership of Max, a 26-year-old palomino miniature horse who loves to jump. Max lives with his best friend, a pony named Dusty. They are the official spokesponies of Laura’s publishing imprint, River Pony Press.
Laura Holt-Haslam Interview Excerpt
Carly: Talk to us about Max and Dusty. How did they become spokesponies for River Pony Press?
Laura: Max is a miniature horse who has been a part of my family since September 11, 2001. I learned about the terrorist attack while I was getting ready to trailer him “home” (the place I would board him). My daughter was 3 ½ and I was pregnant with my son, so my kids grew up with Max.
When my daughter was little, I used to tell her stories about her adventures with Max. They often included encounters with a skunk, though thankfully such an incident never occurred in real life. For her sixth birthday, I gave her a picture book I’d written about her and Max. They were both “small for their age” and Max was happy to find someone who could ride him. I illustrated it with acrylic paintings on canvas paper.
Not long after, I attempted to write my first novel about Max, the talking pony, trying to find his way back to his herd with help from a unicorn, my daughter, and her friend. The horses didn’t believe in such imaginary creatures as humans! who had fallen into Max’s world while on a camping trip… it also involved trolls and dragons. I never finished it, though I worked on it on and off for several years. All of this is to say that Max has played a huge part in my life and in my inspiration to write stories.
I don’t own Dusty. I mentored his owner as a child and teen and helped her get into horses as a young adult. Dusty shares a paddock with Max, and the two of them are best friends.
I often use Max and Dusty to interact with kids and teach horsemanship, and thought they’d be great mascots. They live at a campground that’s right on the Saco River in Southern Maine, so I decided to call them the “River Ponies”. River Pony Press is the name of the imprint I publish under.
Max and Dusty (and the other animals at the campground/farm) give me fun pictures and material for my newsletters. There’s also Henry the rescue horse, Ellie the Appy, Wilbur the pig, Socks, Smiles, and Gracie the sheep, and Buck, Philip, Louie, and Chewie, the goats. There are also a number of chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, and three geese.
I hope to take Dusty on some library visits this summer. Max is great with kids but gets anxious when adults crowd around him.
Carly: Tell us about your horse book series.
Laura: My series is written with middle grade readers in mind, but it inspires horse lovers of all ages. Sofia’s Surprise is book one of Sofia’s Story. The book explores the transformative power of horses and friendship.
Nine-year-old Sofia Ruiz has just one Christmas wish—a horse of her own. But without winter boots or fuel to heat their run-down trailer, she would settle for just being warm.
With Christmas only days away, Mom arranges for Sofia to spend two weeks with her grandmother, a stranger she hasn’t seen in six years. A painful rift separates Mom from Gramma Lisa, but neither will talk about what happened. Sofia dreads being left alone.
Sofia’s dread becomes delight when she discovers Gramma Lisa owns a Morgan horse named Delilah. Sofia learns about caring for the mare and eagerly volunteers to do the chores, hoping Gramma Lisa will allow her to ride Delilah.
As Sofia and Gramma Lisa pursue their shared passion for horses, Sofia feels increasingly conflicted. She wishes she and Mom could move in with her grandmother, but Mom’s strained relationship with Gramma Lisa stands in the way. If they cannot forgive, will they force Sofia to choose between them?
Sophia's Surprise was a Winnie Award winner at the 2021 Equus Film and Arts Festival in Young Adult category.
A Place for Sofia is the second book in the series. It's a heart-warming story about friendship and discovering family in unexpected places.
Sofia Ruiz adores her horse, Sundance, a gift from the grandmother who has cared for her during her mother’s absence. Weeks before her eleventh birthday, her mother demands that she pack her things, forcing Sofia to leave Sundance behind. She’s sent to live with the great-grandfather she barely knows. Anxious, lonely, and determined to be reunited with Sundance, Sofia searches for a way to return to her grandmother.
After meeting the neighbor’s miniature horses, Sofia is invited to join the Mini Whinnies Horse Club with quick-tempered Olivia, who uses crutches to walk, and her twin brother, Ryan, who’s afraid of horses. As her horse and human friendships grow, Sofia wrestles with where she belongs. Will she ever see Sundance again?
Sofia and Sundance is the third book in the series. It's an uplifting story of horses, friends, family and the bonds that bring them together.
Eleven-year-old Sofia Ruiz thinks her dreams have come true when she’s reunited with her beloved horse, Sundance. But life isn’t as perfect as she’d imagined.
Olivia and Ryan expect to ride whenever they want, leaving Sofia with all the chores and little time for her own horse. Their bossy demands and constant bickering are getting on her nerves, but how can she stand up to them? Being the new kid at Maplewood Middle School is hard enough without worrying about losing her only two friends. When the most popular girl in sixth grade befriends Sofia, her relationships with Olivia and Ryan are pushed to the breaking point.
After an accident leaves Sundance’s confidence shaken, Sofia must discover how to regain her horse’s trust—and her friends’.
Carly: You've written other horse books, too. Tell us about those.
Laura: Studies show that practicing gratitude leads to greater happiness, improved relationships, higher self-esteem, reduced stress, and better performance in school, so I developed Grateful: A Guided Gratitude Journal for Young Horse Lovers
This engaging, horse-themed journal encourages tweens and teens to celebrate everyday blessings, focus on the positive, express appreciation to others, and show kindness and generosity. Each page of the journal contains thoughtful writing and drawing prompts. Many pages also include horse-themed illustrations that journal writers can color or decorate.
Whether they are accomplished equestrians or simply admirers of the beauty of the horse, this journal will help young horse lovers unleash the life-changing power of gratitude.
My newest book is Emily Edwards Equestrian Extraordinaire. Also, written with a middle grade reader in mind.
Twelve-year-old Emily Edwards is confident she has what it takes to become an accomplished equestrian. She’s read every horse book in the library, watched countless how-to videos, and can name every Kentucky Derby winner since 1875. There’s only one obstacle standing in the way of her success.
She’s never ridden a horse.
When Emily wins an essay contest and is awarded a full scholarship to a week of horse camp, she’s ready to impress the staff with her knowledge and skills. Unfortunately, the no-nonsense head instructor doesn’t recognize the brilliance Emily knows she possesses. But that isn’t Emily’s only struggle. Learning how to make friends and be a friend may prove an even greater challenge than becoming an equestrian extraordinaire.
Connect with Laura Holt-Haslam
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About Your Host Carly Kade
Carly Kade is an award-winning author, horse owner, creativity coach, and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast. She helps fellow writers start, grow, and expand their author careers. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle!
Carly's In the Reins equestrian romance book series was written with horse lovers in mind, no matter which discipline they ride. The horses are as vital to moving the story forward as the human characters are.
These books are perfect for poolside reading, taking to the beach, or settling down with after a day of horseback riding.
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Books by Carly Kade
Carly Kade writes for anyone who loves horses, handsome cowboys and a great romance. Creative writing about horses makes her spurs jingle!
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