Episode 14: On Therapeutic Riding, Writing Non-Fiction & the History of Grand Prix with Betty Weibel
Episode 14: 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 week's episode, you'll meet Journalist, PR Professional and Author Betty Weibel. You'll learn ...
Watch Betty Weibel's Interview on YouTube!
Or listen to the audio only interview.
About Author Betty Weibel
Betty Weibel is a lifelong equestrian with a successful career as a journalist and public relations professional. The former newspaper reporter has written hundreds of news articles and features. She published her first nonfiction book with The History Press in 2014, The Cleveland Grand Prix: An American Show Jumping First.
Today, she is a principal in Yopko Penhallurick LLC, an award-winning Chagrin Falls public relations agency, and she is APR certified by the Public Relations Society of America. She also conducts workshops and consults on topics such as maximizing special events, media interview skills and marketing communications.
A graduate of Lake Erie College, she serves on the Board of Trustees of the Ohio History Connection and Ohioana Library Association. She has also served on the Board of the Chagrin Valley PHA Horse Show (and is a former co-chairman), Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center, and the Ohio Humanities Council.
Betty Weibel Interview Excerpt
Carly: I think the best way to start the interview off is to learn a little bit more about you and your involvement with horses. I'd love to hear how you fell in love with horses.
Betty: Like you and so many people who are listening, horses were part of my childhood. I always had a fascination and was lucky enough to get involved in riding lessons in my early years. I later went on to do 4-H. I took riding lessons and cleaned stalls in trade for lessons early on and went on to finally get my first horse. I just enjoyed the sport so much and competed as a junior.
My background is in the hunter/jumper world, but I think I've done everything from riding side saddle and fox hunting to Western. I love learning new things, so it's been great for me.
I loved horses so much as a kid that I chose to go to college with an equestrian program at Lake Erie College. I double majored in Equestrian Science and Communications because, in addition to riding, the only other talent I had in life was writing.
Carly: Do you currently own a horse?
Betty: I do! I have my own barn and I start every day cleaning stalls. It puts your life in perspective when you start your morning by shoveling manure. I have my retired show hunter Luminaire and he's 21. My daughter competed with him as well, so he's had an illustrious career and is enjoying himself now. He does light hacks and he's joined by two other oldsters. Snickers is a retired therapeutic riding pony who's 34 and my youngest addition is 28. Moose is a 300 pound mini-horse. They are a joy to take care of.
Carly: You are a supporter and admirer of the work of Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center, as well as, Path International. Tell us about the value of therapeutic riding programs and how you became involved with therapeutic riding.
Betty: In college I learned about therapeutic riding programs. Later one of the individuals who was in my class went on to start his own therapeutic riding program and grew it into over the years Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center. Fieldstone is one of over 900 PATH International certified centers in the world and that's the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship.
I was aware of what they were doing and I started helping by using my skills in publicity and promotion helping them get some attention when they decided to build their own facility, so I kind of followed it along and stayed involved. Later I joined their Board of Directors and have since continued to support them and help them. I'm really proud to be a part of it and see the little things that happen in a riding lesson when adults or a child connects with the horse.
Betty: When you see someone wheel in for a lesson or come in on their crutches or braces and gradually get to the mounting block and then get into the saddle which is a long process for some of the students, It's almost like they're set free once they're on a horse and it will just warm your heart.
If you've never been to a therapeutic riding center I encourage your listeners go on the PATH International website and find a center near you. Just check it out. It's just fascinating to see the impressive work that's being done and the connection between a horse and a human and how it really heals the soul.
Carly: I commend you for the work that you're doing, sharing the stories, and using the degrees that you've gotten in college to really promote this beautiful healing partnership between humans and horses and the organizations that are making that possible which leads us to your most recent book, Little Victories. Tell us about your book.
Betty: There are so many stories at Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center and at every Therapeutic Riding Center and so much great work being done. I felt my role was to help share some of the stories. The book cover for Little Victories is a combination of Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center and one of the main subjects Debbie Gattis.
The book is non-fiction obviously and a true story. I took the approach of one individual's story and that's Gaddis because I had heard of her story. She was a riding instructor, a young girl, out of college teaching lessons when a roof collapsed on her one winter. She was paralyzed in a horrible accident and I knew Debbie remotely. I saw her story and followed it. It made all the headlines in the newspapers and it's more than 25 years ago this happened. I was interested in the story and became even more curious about the rest of the story beyond the initial accident. Debbie went on to ride again and that's where she discovered Fieldstone Farm.
She shared with me so many details that were hard for her and she was so kind because she understood my purpose was to help people and non-horse people, too. I started with Debbie's story and I included along the way different stories. I tried to share different perspectives of therapeutic riding and how it helps people.
Carly: A portion of the proceeds from the book sales go to therapeutic riding programs. Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to donate a portion of the proceeds?
Betty: When I was putting Little Victories together, I thought it would be nice if I could give back. I decided to independently publish and set up Brown Dog Books for that purpose because I could control that a little bit better. If you are doing the publishing through KDP publishing or another group, you sort of have removed the middleman and the profits are such that you can control what you're able to share and keep the cost down quite frankly. That's why I decided to publish this book independently so that I could be able to have a little bit more of the proceeds.
Carly: Talk to us a little about the history of Grand Prix and what inspired you to write The Cleveland Grand Prix: America's Show Jumping First. I know it's important to you that people don't forget that the American Grand Prix competition started in Ohio.
Betty: The Cleveland Grand Prix is something that was near and dear to my heart because I'd been a volunteer and worked on the horse show for many, many years. I also did their publicity. I knew the history. I'd worked over the years in the show jumping world. Part of my publicist role at one point was being Head of Public Relations for the American Grand Prix Association so, I went around the country dream job to every Grand Prix in the country introducing the sport to journalists. I'd take them on course walks, let them see the jumps, and meet the riders.
Betty: I broke my foot in a horse related accident and had a couple of surgeries, so I started on the book. Why Cleveland? You think the first Grand Prix would have been in Kentucky or Florida, but at the time Cleveland was this incredible world-class equestrian hub and back in the Industrial Age Cleveland, Ohio was the home to many millionaires like the Rockefellers, the Humphreys, and many other families with passion for horses. I have a lot of interviews in the book and research from some of the old horsemen, so it chronicles the history so people don't forget the roots of show jumping and they don't forget Cleveland as the original home of American Grand Prix.
I was so proud because the Cleveland Grand Prix book was part of an exhibit in Kentucky at the Kentucky Horse Park at the Wheeler Museum which is in the United States Hunter/Jumper Association offices.
Carly: You mentioned this dream job. What was so fascinating to me as I was researching you and your books is that you have such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to communication and the horse industry. I was reading an article Sidelines Magazine that in the mid 1980s ESPN had committed to broadcasting several of the Grand Prix and you helped the commentators prepare, but at one point you ended up being a commentator. Tell us about that.
Betty: It really is interesting when you start this career path, opportunities present themselves and this was just that situation. I never set out to do anything with television, however we were at a Grand Prix in Vermont and the producer came and told me we have a problem. The commentator missed their flight and we were getting ready to prepare for a broadcast. ESPN at that time was broadcasting a number of different Grand Prix around the country. He said, "You know, you're the one who gives us the questions to ask, the background, and all the information. Will you fill in?"
I like to be behind the scenes. I like the role of promoting others not being upfront. It's not quite as comfortable, but I decided to do it. I think that is what's happened to me along my career path. Opportunities come up and you just have to say okay because you don't want to wonder "what if," so I said yes that day. They asked me if I would come back and do some other broadcasts and then I did a few for PBS. There's some old clips around.
Betty: I'm so lucky that I can combine my equestrian experience with my communications skills. No matter how old you get or what you've done, you want to keep learning. I'm doing new things and and that's how I ended up starting to write books.
Carly: You have a wealth of expertise. You've been in the equestrian industry for a very long time, you're a communications professional, you've now written your own books, you've run commentary on TV, and you have your own PR agency. What advice would share with authors that are aspiring to write their own books?
Betty: The old adage — baby steps. Start small. It might just be a short story. It might be a little article for your local newspaper. Just start small and you grow from there. My advice would be to not be so intimidated by the process. A good place to start is having a routine and a discipline for writing.
Connect with Betty Weibel
EQUesting Blog: https://bettyweibel.com/blog/
Betty Weibel - https://www.facebook.com/bettyweibel
Cleveland Grand Prix - https://www.facebook.com/Cleveland-Grand-Prix
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Betty-Weibel
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Thank you for tuning in to the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast. See you next time! I'm your host Carly Kade. Creative writing makes my spurs jingle!
About your host and author Carly Kade
Carly Kade is an award-winning equestrian author and the host of the Equestrian Author Spotlight podcast. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle! She writes fiction about horses, horse shows, Western pleasure and a handsome cowboy or two. Her books are for people just like her — crazy about reading, horses and cute cowboys!
In the Reins, the first in Carly's series of novels inspired by the equestrian lifestyle, has been an Amazon best seller for more than 10 weeks, is an EQUUS Film Festival Literary Award Winner for Best Western Fiction and has earned two Feathered Quill Book Awards in the Romance and Adult Book featuring Animals categories. The In the Reins equestrian romance series is available now in Audiobook, Paperback and eBook on Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks and Kobo.
Carly Kade writes for anyone who loves horses, handsome cowboys and a great romance. Creative writing makes her spurs jingle!
Books by Carly Kade