Episode 85: On Being of Service, Thoroughbred Aftercare & Therapeutic Use of Horses with Joell Dunlap (Equestrian Author Spotlight Podcast)
Episode 85: 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 Joell Dunlap, Founder and Executive Director of Square Peg Foundation. You'll learn ...
Watch Joell Dunlap's Interview on YouTube!
Or listen to the audio version.
About Joell Dunlap of Square Peg Foundation
Joell can’t remember a time when she wasn’t obsessed with horses. Born into a non-horsie family that moved every few years, Joell sought out unconventional ways to bring horses into her life as a kid. Her mother’s family were jockeys - some excellent, some mediocre, some just stubborn. By the time she was in her early 20’s, she was galloping race horses, starting young horses and working at breeding farms and thoroughbred sales. She’s dabbled in jumping, eventing, dressage, polo, fox hunting and reining.
Joell is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Autism Support from Elizabethtown University. She’s taught people in North America, in Europe and in Asia how to use horses to serve the autism families in their community.
Square Peg Foundation leans into autism families that have nowhere else to go - specifically, people with behaviors that preclude them from other recreational activities as well as young adults that need support in getting and keeping a job as well as building a network of friends that is supportive and healthy.
Joell Dunlap Interview Excerpt
Carly: You are the founder of Square Peg Foundation – you work with autism families with your herd of repurposed horses - most of the former racehorses. You've presented at conferences worldwide on the subject of Thoroughbred Aftercare as well as the therapeutic use of horses for people with autism. Talk to us about the organization and the work that you do.
Joell: In 2004, my husband and I started Square Peg Foundation to put marginalized people together with horses that also needed a second chance. We served homeless families, girls that had been trafficked, survivors of domestic abuse - but it was autism families that kept finding Square Peg and it was off track thoroughbreds that needed homes.
In 2008, Square Peg connected with the work of Rupert Isaacson and Iliane Lorenz of the Horse Boy Foundation to learn how best to serve autism families. It turns out that an understanding of and a passion for Classical Dressage is key in building horses who are most effective at supporting the families at Square Peg. As a result, some world class horsemen have supported Square Peg’s work including the Valenca Family of Portugal, Dominique and Debra Barbier of Barbier Farms, Christian Bachinger, 2nd rider for the Spanish Riding School of Vienna and more.
It’s like a dream come true and all of these classical Masters are amazed at the willingness and the intelligence of the Square Peg Thoroughbreds.
Carly: Let's talk about how you channeled writing from the heart into your book A Damn Fine Hand. Tell us about the inspiration behind this book.
Joell: It was a short story that got out of control. I was thinking about the power of story. The ultimate horse story is Black Beauty. What's so significant about Black Beauty is this horse had a voice. Before that horses didn't have voices. Story changes things. Black Beauty was the nidus that started the humane society.
I had this idea for giving this race horse a voice, and I thought horses can only be present. They can only be in the present moment and what a beautiful exercise that would be. I was just kind of flexing muscles and the story of this horse came out.
Even though A Damn Fine Hand is fiction, there's so many people in there that I love. There's so much truth about racing and the way I feel about horses. I decided to tell my story exactly the way I wanted to, self-publish this book, and sell it as a fundraiser where all the proceeds go to Square Peg Foundation.
I decided to go completely around Amazon. We kind of just went rogue with it. The story's rogue and our marketing of the story is rogue. You can buy it at addamfinehand.com as an ebook. We are working on an audiobook version now. We published it through gumroad.com. We just love the way they think about keeping money in in the artist's hands.
I want to people know that this is going to a charity. This is going to care for real horses. This is going to care for real people needing services, so that was our wild rogue idea for marketing off the beaten path and publishing off the beaten path.
Carly: What's next? Where are you heading?
Joell: I'm working with Trafalgar Square Books to write a story of Square Peg Foundation in four parts. It will be a collection of stories gathered from 20 years of running Square Peg Foundation.
I'm also working with my friend Peter Finch on a screenplay titled “All Along.” All Along is an autism story about a young man and his efforts to communicate with those he loves.
Connect with Joell Dunlap and Square Peg
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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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