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Posted on June 3, 2024

The origin of A Horse Called Now – A Guest Post by Ruth Doyle

Ruth Doyle’s latest picture book, A Horse Called Now, is one of our wonderful new releases this month. Featuring illustrations by Alexandra Finkeldey, it tells the story of Now, a wise and empathetic horse who helps calm the other farmyard animals when a scary storm approaches. In today’s post, Ruth herself shares what inspired her to write the book and what she hopes readers take away from it.

I’m lucky to be able to share my life with three special horses and it was my big horse, Winnie, who inspired me to write A Horse Called Now. This book is also the culmination of many years of interest in mindfulness and mental health, as well as my understanding of and experience with the healing power of both horses and the natural world.

Winnie, the horse who inspired A Horse Called Now

While training as a nurse, I worked in a psychiatric hospital and, being deeply affected by the patients’ stories, I started to study mindfulness and, more recently, animal therapy as tools for mental respite and healing.

The world is facing a global mental health emergency and children are particularly affected by this. The arrival and dominance of the internet and mobile phones, the pressures created by social media and our increasing disconnection from the natural world, have all contributed to this crisis. I started thinking that it could be helpful to write a story about living in the now as a method of soothing anxiety that might be accessible to children.

Enter, A Horse Called Now. I began writing the story after watching my horse grazing in her field. She was strong, gentle, and present in the Now…the perfect name for a horse who would embody the power of living in the moment!

I knew she was a good listener, immersed in the beauty of the natural world. I imagined what her sensory awareness might be. Horses use emotional responses from other animals and humans as information (Did you know they can hear heartbeats from four feet away?). All around her the wild rabbits were scurrying, crows were squawking, and our pet sheep were noisily “baaing.” I wondered what she thought of their frantic levels of activity…

I imagined that Now would want to calm the ‘boom-boom heartbeats’ of her animal friends by reminding them to relax into the moment. The animals around Now allow their fears to escalate and work themselves into a frenzy! She listens sympathetically but reminds the others that the things they’re worrying about might never happen. She offers a soothing refrain to bring them back into the present, “At this moment, all is well.” Since writing the book, I often find myself using this mantra if I start to worry.

Understanding that feelings pass is another mindfulness technique that can help reassure young people in moments of fear or panic. Life is ever-changing and acknowledging that everything will eventually pass, even the scariest moments, can be a soothing and mindful practice. Now reminds us, “Nothing lasts forever” and that “even the wildest storms will always end.”

I hope that young readers will feel empowered after reading this story. Empowered to know that their fears are valid and that everyone is afraid sometimes, but also to believe that they can find a way to manage some of those fears. Now teaches the other animals about being aware of their breathing, of letting “feelings come and then go.” This idea of acknowledging, but not attaching, to our anxieties can be a useful tool for gaining a sense of control in moments of fear.

My horses have helped me through grief, trauma and displacement. I’m always amazed when they choose to stand or walk with me, rather than roam the field or continue grazing. So many animals have enriched my life and left huge pawprints on my heart, but this book is dedicated to my own little herd who have taught me so much and inspired a story that I hope will leave readers big and small feeling more peaceful.

Ruth’s other two horses, Diesel and Wilson