On Writing Memoirs, Equine Massage & Starting Your Own Business with Heather Wallace (Equestrian Author Spotlight Episode 9)
Episode 9: In each Equestrian Author Spotlight 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 Heather Wallace Equine Author and Equestrian Blogger at The Timid Rider. You'll learn ...
Watch Heather Wallace's Interview on YouTube
Or Listen to the Audio Only Version
About Heather Wallace of The Timid Rider
Heather Wallace is the writer and photographer for the blog, The Timid Rider, which focuses on the struggling confidence of a returning adult equestrian.
She stepped away from horses as a teen due to anxiety and regretted it ever since. Now she is back, but things are a little different now. She’s a mother, less flexible, and a lot more nervous. The biggest difference? She’s following her passion despite lacking confidence. Join her as she talks about all those things we think, but don't say out loud.
Heather is the award-winning author of non-fiction titles Confessions of a Timid Rider, which details her insights about being an anxiety-ridden, but passionate equestrian and Girl Forward: A Tale of One Woman's Unlikely Adventure in Mongolia.
In her spare time, of which she has little, she spends her time with her husband, three children, two dogs, and pony.
Heather Wallace Interview Excerpt
Carly: You left riding as a teenager due to anxiety, but returned as an adult after having your first child. Tell us why you stopped riding and what inspired your return?
Heather: I stopped riding because of the pit in my stomach I felt every time I was on my way to the barn. My passion for horses had changed into a cause of severe anxiety. I was in the highest level of student and being pushed to compete from my trainers and my family. I appreciate they had faith in me, but I was extremely introverted and uncomfortable with being in front of an audience competing. I often found myself with more difficult horses and in potentially dangerous situations. I never felt comfortable speaking up to the adults. This resulted in severe anxiety and it took over. It was easy at that point to make an excuse that I was gearing up for college and just walk away. But, I never lost my love of the animals or my desire to connect.
I went on to college and then to working full time in Manhattan. For years I lived in New York City and missed this connection with nature and specifically horses. I would dream I was riding through the woods. My husband and I moved to the suburbs of New Jersey and after the birth of my first daughter I decided that I needed to do something for myself.
After 17 years away, I chose to get back in the saddle and start riding again. I haven’t looked back since. It hasn’t always been pretty or easy, but it is definitely worth it. I know enough now and am strong enough to speak up when I am not comfortable with something. It makes a big difference. For me it isn’t about being afraid. I have anxiety. It’s about doing something that challenges me and helps me to grow. I want to be at my best for myself, my family, and my horse.
Carly: You are a Certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist (ESMT) and Certified Canine Massage Therapist (CCMT). What services do you provide? Tell us about the power of massage and holistic healing for our furry friends.
Heather: I am and I love my job! Several years ago a friend of mine saw someone doing energy work on a horse at her barn and told me about it. I had no idea that you could work with horses that way. I did my research, created a business plan, and then became certified in Sports Massage.
Sports massage has incredible benefits for all animals, including humans. Using my hands, fingers, and elbows I work with each animal to support their body’s natural balance. Sports massage and acupressure not only speed healing, but can prevent many problems from occurring in the first place.
Most of my clients are looking to remove tension, increase flexibility and range of motion, and reduce inflammation. However, I have worked with all types of animals with Hi-Low conformation to help open up their stance, provide balance and natural pain relief, as well as help a young horse suffering from an abscess in his jaw to remove the toxins quickly, enhance his immune system, and heal himself more quickly.
Addressing the whole horse, physically and often mentally, means really connecting with them and listening to their softest communication. It has made me a better person and a better horsewoman.
To view Heather's aromatherapy products and order her handmade blends visit: https://animalbodywork.com/aromatherapy/
,Carly: Tell us about your furry friends.
Heather: I have many furry friends! But the ones I call my own are my Welsh x Thoroughbred pony named Ferrous. He’s a 12-year old Red Roan and my heart horse. I waited my whole life for him and we are perfect for each other. He’s challenging but takes care of me. I like to think I provide both care and challenge to him as well!
I also have two rescue mutts. I love all dogs, but have an affinity for big ones. Gonzo is a 7-year old Lab/Shepherd/Chow mix from North Carolina. He has a really strong hunting instinct so living with woods in my back yard and a deer path is a bit chaotic. Beau is my 4-year old Anatolian Shepherd mix. He’s the runt of his little, only about 85 pounds and very sweet. He thinks he is tiny and always wants to be cuddled and picked up. As if! He is also quite reactive, so a strong leader and positive reinforcement is key.
Carly: You wear a lot of hats! You are a business owner, an animal massage therapist, an award-winning equine author and blogger, a freelance writer, photographer, equestrian, a wife, and most importantly a mom. How do you juggle everything? Do you plan your day? What is your strategy?
Heather: My biggest challenge is juggling everything! If anyone has the secret to it, I’d love to know! It didn’t start out that way, of course. When my twins were going to school full time, I began to think about going back to work. I opted against working full time in publishing again as I would need to hire a nanny and wouldn’t be as available to see my kids grow up.
After I learned of equine bodywork, I spoke to my husband about starting a business and came up with a business plan. Starting your own company is a LOT of work and not for the faint of heart by any means. I work longer hours now, but have the convenience of working from home some days but also being there to take my kids to and from school or activities.
I find that my massage work tends to be seasonal. During the down time, I write my books. Otherwise, I take everything day by day and week by week. I’m lucky that now I have regular clients on a recurring basis, so I can plan my time. When I have a free moment, I go to the barn or run household errands.
Honestly, it’s really easy to get burned out. I promised my husband that I will put my computer away by 8PM each night and try to do it even before then. I’m traveling more for work which can be tricky, so now I am looking for a part-time sitter after school one or two days a week. I think that it’s tough as a mother to ask for help, but often it is necessary. And there is nothing wrong with it!
Carly: How did your work in equine massage lead to your creation of The Timid Rider and the writing of your books? Tell us more about The Timid Rider.
Heather: This is a great question. I had a number of my massage clients asking many of the same questions and encouraging me to write a blog. So I decided to go ahead and see what that was about. While I had intended it to be about natural health and wellness, however, life doesn’t always happen the way we expect it.
The first post I was inspired to write was “My Middle-Aged Equestrian Reinvention” and this personal journey type of post was the start of The Timid Rider. I found that when I wrote, it became a purge of sorts and helped me to work through my feelings about returning to riding as an adult, dealing with baby weight, and insecurity. I began to write more of these and less of the other. This was where my passion truly lives.
I do write for myself above others. Writing still helps me process my emotions and work through anxiety attacks. It helps me to focus. I was terrified to share these, but ironically, these were the posts that drew so much engagement with others that felt like I do. Increasingly I receive private messages and comments from others who have been touched by my posts and perhaps even helped them to realize they aren’t alone and there is nothing wrong with them.
Last year, I began a private Facebook group called The Timid Riders to be a safe place for those of us who want to share the highs and the lows with judgment. When I get low myself or find it hard to share then I remember those people that are reading my blog or my story and aren’t speaking up. It helps me to keep going.
Carly: The Timid Rider earned second place in the Publishing Media Equine-related Blog category at the 2019 American Horse Publications High Desert Media Roundup in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Congratulations! This is a very big honor from a very prestigious organization. How did winning this award make you feel?
Heather: Oh wow! I’m still a little unbelieving. The blog category was new I think and I was a new member, that only having been my first full year as a member. I had no idea what to expect or which other blogs I was up against. There are so many great ones.
When AHP began the presentation and I saw iconic publications such as Western Horsemen were in the running, I was shocked. I was even more shocked to find out that I came in second place to them. I still get chills and want to cry about it. To even be considered against such high-quality websites is an honor in and of itself. I always want to give everything my best and this just validates that I am doing something that is good and hopefully beneficial to the equestrian community. I can’t really ask for anything else.
Watch Carly & Heather's AHP Adventures!
Carly: You cover a lot of really important and interesting topics on your blog including horse health, product reviews and confidence issues. I particularly love that you elevate women in the equine industry. You have an interview series called Equestrienne. Tell us about the series and the women you are profiling there.
Heather: I’m so glad you mentioned the Equestrienne series! It did take a little hiatus for the busy summer but it’s back and I’m really excited to share it. I am a firm believer in women supporting women. The horse world can be a bit high brow or judgmental from time to time and I want to showcase those people who are perhaps a little less “flashy” but still trying to make a difference.
Each month, I am focusing on a different equestrienne with a little Q & A, and eventually I would love to turn an in-depth version in to a book with one chapter on each incredible woman. Sadly, not everyone published on the blog will be included but I am meeting so many new and interesting people in the industry!
Carly: You have a private Facebook group called The Timid Riders. Tell us about this group and how people can become members. What are some of the ways you facilitate the conversation in this group?
Heather: The Timid Riders is private group because I really want to make it a safe place for those coming to share their feelings. There are only three introduction questions and I am very strict if you are welcomed in and don’t follow the rules. There is no advertising of any kind and any one who is negative or belittling is removed. Luckily, everyone has been really lovely so far.
I want this to be a very engaged group where the members start conversations and share. It can be difficult to get things going so every so often I will prompt with a question. I don’t want me to be the focus, however. Recently I had an idea for a blog post and decided to ask the members their opinions and suggestions, which sparked a lot of comments and stories. It was great! We all have something unique to share. They may be in a group called “Timid Riders” but all have a lot of experiences that are worth sharing.
Carly: Tell us about your books.
Heather: I have technically four books. The first two are sassy little things called the Equestrian Handbook of Excuses. The first edition is perfect for trainer gifts or stocking stuffers and the second, is a higher-quality photography edition. It lists a number of popular excuses not to ride and then has a sarcastic comment back. But the end result is always the same, just go ride the damn horse!
Confessions of a Timid Rider is my first memoir and one that is very personal to me. It won the 2018 EQUUS Film Festival WINNIE award and was a #1 Amazon bestseller in three categories for almost 6 weeks. Each chapter is a different confession and a real deep dive into how I am a timid rider. It’s very personal to me.
Girl Forward: An Unlikely Tale of One Woman’s Adventure in Mongolia was published in 2019 and chronicles my adventure joining the Gobi Desert Cup, an endurance horse race in Mongolia, as an official in 2018. Most people are shocked that I went to Mongolia to live in the desert without electricity or plumbing. After all, I’m supposed to be timid, right?
While I may be an over-thinker and excessively over plan and worry, I do like to challenge myself and learn. I never want to stop learning. More, I love to travel. I’ve learned so much about myself and I wanted to share the experience. I’m so honored that this book won a Reader’s Favorite 5-star award and is up for consideration in the 2019 EQUUS Film Festival WINNIE awards.
Carly: So far, you have written memoirs. Why did you choose to write such personal stories about your life?
Heather: Go big or go home right? I am all about being bold. There is nothing scarier to me than showing people who I am inside and out. I honestly am quite shy. I’m actually very guarded in life and tend to have very few people that are truly close to me. Writing is a way for me to connect with the world around me. But this also means any negative feedback is like a strike to the gut. My original editor for Confessions of a Timid Rider missed a lot, so it published with errors. It was so embarrassing. I loved my editor for Girl Forward, so Confessions is getting a thorough once-over again and will be updated.
Carly: How did you go about writing a memoir? How did you get started? Talk us through it.
Heather: My first memoir, Confessions of a Timid Rider, was based on my blog posts. I took several separate posts that created a story and edited them into chapters, then wrote several new ones to fill in the gaps. I didn’t have to change the way I write and it felt very natural to me. Girl Forward was very similar although I wrote it straight through as a remembered each experience. I’m told that the books are very relatable and easy to read. I consider that a huge compliment because I want it to be like I am talking directly to the reader.
Carly: Which hurdles did you personally face when writing so openly about your life and how did you overcome them?
Heather: My family is very supportive of me for the most part. They don’t love my being on the computer or working “all the time” though. I think it’s because they see me in the house while my husband goes to an office.
My biggest struggle to the outside world is opening myself to criticism and judgment. I am very raw and honest. I talk about my experiences. So because of that, I put everything I have into it and reading a negative comment really affects me. I am lucky that I don’t have trolls at this point, but I understand that is part of it. I am willing to take the risk if it means opening up the conversation about anxiety and confidence. I am just one person, but there are so many others who are just like me. It’s not about fear, it is about courage. That is the message I want to get across.
Carly: I’m interested about your time in Mongolia, which inspired Girl Forward. You’ve been twice. Tell us how you got involved in the Gobi Desert Cup and what you learned about yourself traveling to another country to support this unique race.
Heather: Mongolia and The Gobi Desert Cup have truly been life-altering. In 2018 they had released an ad requesting a blogger and photographer for that year’s event. A friend on social media tagged me in the comments and drew it to my attention. I’m very decisive although no one could accuse me of being spontaneous. I talked to my husband and asked him what he thought about be applying. His response was, “You’ve gotta try”. So I applied and a week later spoke to the co-founder Camille Champagne on the phone for almost three hours. She offered me the position by the end of the call.
I jumped right in and without having ever been to Mongolia or ever having been around an endurance horse race. It was a challenge. I had never worked with an event in another country or of this magnitude. But I strongly believed in their mission to raise awareness and funds for the dwindling nomadic culture.
My first year, I challenged myself by camping in a ger, a portable home the nomads use, and not having restrooms for two weeks. I didn’t know the language and had only photographed dressage, show jumping, and cross country. Endurance was a different beast. Plus, I had to have limited equipment and gear.
The second year was even better because I knew so much more what to expect and was looking forward to seeing friends I had made. The riders who attend really make a big difference in the feel of the event as well. To meet so many equestrians from different disciplines all there for adventure and to support the nomads and their horses was humbling.
But more than anything, despite the long hours, I found that I was really drawn to the quiet. We were hundreds of kilometers in the steppe and desert, in the middle of nowhere, waking to the sound of horses nickering or walking by. It is truly like stepping back in time. More, it is a real insight into how horses behave naturally as well as the people, away from all distractions.
If you ever have the chance to visit Mongolia and participate in the Gobi Desert Cup, do it. You will learn so much about yourself when you strip away all the noise.
Carly: What do you wish you had known when you started out on your author journey or on your entrepreneurial journey? What’s something you wished you had a “do over” on?
Heather: Does it have to be just one? Just kidding! I have made so many mistakes in business and in writing. I can’t say I really do wish for a do over for most of them because I have learned so much in the interim. In business I would say only that it is important to have boundaries. It is so tempting to work nights and weekends but you have to keep yourself accountable. Your personal time is important too.
With regard to writing, just put pen to paper or hand to keyboard and write! Even if your head isn’t responding just start typing and ‘free write’. You’d be shocked at what happens.
Carly: What do you think is the most common reason for people failing or giving up? Why do people put their pens down, stop working on their small businesses, or get out of the saddle and walk away?
Heather: Because it is easier. It is so much easier to give up and walk away. I know, I’ve done it. Sure I felt bad, but it was easier than having to work hard and do something that wasn’t easy for me.
Carly: Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Heather: I don’t consider myself a genius at marketing in any way, I still have a lot to learn. However, I do think it is important to network and meet other writers in your genre and communicate with potential readers too. There is so much “fake” out there and the world is craving authenticity. Be yourself, get to know others, and get out there where you want to be.
Carly: What might a reader be surprised to learn about you?
Heather: Oh geesh. I’m literally an open book. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that I absolutely love to dance. I grew up dancing ballet, tap, and jazz then in high school began to go to the latin clubs and learn street dancing salsa and merengue. I was even asked to join the ballroom dance team in college and trained at the Broadway Dance Center in NYC in jazz and hip hop. If there is music I will dance. I hate going to the gym, so I recently found an adult dance/fitness class in my area and started going. I’m incredibly out of shape but I’m invigorated!
Carly: What makes you feel inspired or like your best self?
Heather: Music inspires me and I listen to it all, but I don’t love concerts unless I can dance. I feel the most connected to myself when I do that. I’d love to have the same feeling when I ride but I am too much in my own head. I’m considering playing music in the arena and trying to marry my two favorite things.
Carly: What are you curious about right now?
Heather: I’m curious about everything! I want to learn more in depth about aromatherapy and more massage techniques. I would love to learn more about liberty horsemanship as well. The connection with horses is to me, the most important gift they give us and we need to foster that.
Connect with Heather Wallace
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Check out the Equestrian Pulse Podcast hosted by Louise Dando, Heather Wallace, and Andrea Parker
The Equestrian Pulse Podcast takes the pulse of the global equestrian community. A podcast by international bloggers Heather Wallace (The Timid Rider, USA), Andrea Parker (The Sand Arena Ballerina, AUS), and Louise Dando (In Due Horse, FRA) interview or chat with brands and equestrians regarding nutrition and fitness, trends, horsemanship, and confidence amongst all disciplines.
What a spur jingling interview!
I learn so much from other equine authors and appreciate how unique each of our writing journeys are. I love that all the authors featured in this series are linked through our creativity, passion for writing, and love of horses. I think it is so important to support each other. I appreciate the support of a fellow author. Thank you for giving me the gift of your time! #authorsunite
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I LOVE HORSE BOOKS! If you are an author who writes about horses and would like to be spotlighted let me know. I’d be happy to include you, too. Sharing about fellow horse book authors makes my spurs jingle! Visit my contact page at https://www.carlykadecreative.com/contact.html to fill out a request.
About Author & Podcast Host 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.
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!