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Grazing with the Herd: From Devastation to Tranquility
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WILD SPIRITS: Running With the Herd
a novel by Ann Clemons
Two Wild Spirits — Hawk, a wild stallion, and Elena — forge an unlikely friendship in this story of self-discovery, drought, lost souls and family.
High Desert ranching is not easy in the best of times, but during extended drought it becomes a delicate balance of life and death that taxes even the strongest of ranch-raised families. Add the dynamic of a hardened teenage foster child and a wild stallion rescued from the system and the story takes an unexpected fork in the road.
On the High Desert in New Mexico, her last chance before being sent to a detention center, Elena meets George and Sally Layton on George's family ranch. She also meets Hawk, an older emaciated wild stallion who has lost his herd — his family — due to a government round up and mustang auction.
While hiking on the mesa above the Layton Ranch, Elena finds ancient ruins and learns much about herself and her cultural history. In discovering more about her past, Elena finds a path opening to her future. The two Wild Spirits, Hawk and Elena, find they have much in common, as do all creatures on this earth.
WILD SPIRITS Excerpts & Reviews
She shivered. A cloud had passed over the sun, and she felt as though cold fingers had brushed across her face, dragging her spirit away from those happy times, bringing her back to the present. Heaving a sigh, she sat up and looked around her. From her perch on the rock, she could see for miles. The heat waves distorted the air between her ledge and the mountains in the East, giving her surroundings an otherworldly effect. Elena turned and looked into the cedar and scrub oak that rambled into the rocky hills behind the place where she sat. Bet I could just disappear forever here, she thought. Just start walking, and fade away into the desert. No one would ever find me. Hell, no one would even bother to try.
"Reading this book was like watching a beautiful flower gently unfold its leaves till it reached full bloom. The characters were so incredibly real. The author captured the beginnings of the spiritual bond that is possible between humans and horses. The girl had been taken captive and had lost all of her family just as Hawk had. She found a spiritual connection with Hawk, the stallion, realizing that both she and the horse had been taken away from the worlds they had known all of their lives.
"Just as Hawk began the process of trusting the humans, so Elena learned she too could begin that process and find a place of her own within the world. Her visions of running with the herd allowed her to experiment with what it was like to have a defined role in one’s life. Her experiences visiting the Pueblo ruin on the mesa helped her to understand the importance of her heritage to the person she could become. She learned she could take the things that were meaningful to her and create a life for herself. This was such a satisfying story to read. I continue to think about it in detail even months after I read it. I look forward to a sequel, if the author is so inclined."
-Ellen, Taos, NM
REVIEW, appearing in the Equine-Assisted Networker, September 2013
Corral Member Publishes “Equine-Assisted Novel”
Ann Clemons joins the ranks of successful authors among the O.K. Corral membership! Wild Spirits: Running with the Herd tells the story of a seventeen-year-old foster child who lands in the same “corral” as a debilitated mustang stallion rescued by the teen’s foster father. Ann shares the beautiful story of self-discovery and the evolution of a deep relationship between the two protagonists, Elena and “Hawk.”
This novel paints a case study in the basic principles of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy from Herd vs. Pack behavior, to Pressure and Pain responses, to the “Re-Circle” method. Not only would this novel be great for an equine-assisted book club, but it could be a meaningful read for folks of all backgrounds and ages!
Download a PDF of the Equine-Assisted Networker Volume 7, Number 2.
Clay tile mural; original artwork by the author
Excerpt from Wild Spirits:
She had hooves, four legs, a tail; she was Horse.
The herd began to move, and she instinctively knew it was time to go to water. Throwing her head up and sniffing the air, she struck out in the direction her senses told her to go. Not even realizing at first that she was leading the herd, she headed up a narrow trail between tall canyon walls made of huge slabs of reddish rock. Their hooves crunched on the gravely surface of the trail, and the only other sounds were of the warm breezes floating down through the canyon and an occasional riffling snort from the line of horses behind her. The rhythm of the hoof beats combined with the singing of the gentle winds to create a serenity that she could not remember having felt before. The trail eventually wound around the end of the tall mesa and opened up into a small, protected area within the rocks. There were a few small trees here and the smell of water was strong.
Going straight to the trees, she pushed her horse body through the branches, and on the other side was a small, spring-fed pond. Only large enough for half a dozen horses to drink from at a time, the pond fed a tiny brook that trickled down into some rocks and then disappeared.
"I want to let you know what a pleasure it is to be reading a book that I'm reluctant to put down, and eager to pick up again! And to know this empathetic, endearing story came through you in such seamless translation. I so appreciate your sweet, perceptive mind. Well done! My how you tell it.....I can almost smell it! Well, you know what I mean. It feels like I am right there with them! Now, I'm just stalling so that I won't finish it! Can't wait for you to get on with the next one! I finally finished and loved the ending that left me feeling content and smiling to myself... what a gentle, warm story you've told. These lovely characters are still popping up in my mind leaving me to wonder how they are all doing now. I have passed your book on to a friend."
- Suzanne, Ocate, NM
"You are safe, little one." It was the voice. The one that seemed to come out of nowhere. "Remember," it echoed in her head, "remember."
Remember? What? she wondered.
The hawk shifted position on its tree branch and something floated down between the leaves and landed softly on one of the tree roots. Elena watched it fall without moving from her perch on the water tank. She stared at the feather.
"Remember," the voice in her head whispered. She thought she heard drum beats again, but this time it was her heart beating out the rhythm that she heard pounding in her ears.
Slowly she rose and walked to the tree. Crouching down, one knee on the ground, she picked up the feather.
"Remember." This time it was her own voice that whispered. She looked up in the tree. She remembered, then, her mother's voice.
"We are all related, Elena. Every living thing on Mother Earth. We are all One. For everything you take, it is right to give something in return and to express gratitude."
"Thank you, hawk, for honoring me." Elena wished she had something to give back to honor hawk's gift. Looking around, she saw some long pieces of Hawk's tail hair that had gotten caught on the fence. She had a plan.
The horse watched her closely as she stepped past him to the hairs and pulled them free from the fence. She noticed that he didn't move away, even though she had passed closer to him than she had ever been.
Clay tile mural; original artwork by the author
"Ann writes with a poignant clarity and imaginative description. This must-read novel's story-line, character development, and attention to detail paint vivid images into the reader's mind. It is as if one is watching beautiful cinematography unfold in the mind. While the story is relatable to real-life experiences, scenarios, and emotions, it is the way in which it is written that makes it such a valuable read. One can actually feel the heat and dust of the desert Southwest, see the red-rock mesas, feel the sweat from a frightened wild horse. Vividly written, strongly inspiring, this is certainly a novel I would choose to read over and over!"
- Elizabeth, Taos, NM
He sat his saddle easily, absorbing the rhythm of Junior's soft, springy jog. The motion from his horse and the moist cool air were heaven to him, and the fact that he was riding with his family to gather his cattle was icing on the cake. There was no mansion in any city that was a match for the ranch and this forest.
"A sweet and touching story. The experience of Elena's inner transformation is moving and memorable. Her story has stayed with me."
- Melanie, Santa Fe, NM
Lark's dark brown coat glistened with the dampness and could have been the coat of an otter just out of the river. He had a beautiful long stride that was strong but easy to sit. Elena was beside herself with the joy of being in this moment. She watched the muscles rippling in the hindquarters of Tweed as he jogged in front of Lark across the pine-covered forest floor. Elena admired the way Sally looked as one with her horse.
About the Author Ann Clemons
Ann has spent a lifetime working and playing in the equestrian world. For the past decade much of her time and effort have been invested in equine-assisted psychotherapy and learning, i.e. the use of horses in counseling, teaching and team building.
Ann has also been involved in wild horse rescue and the building of suitable habitat for their placement. Working with a university, she has helped put together a program using the horses for treatment of historical trauma on a local pueblo.
Ann lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico and is currently writing the sequel to Wild Spirits.
Visit 4WindsEquestrianArts.com and Horse-Medicine.com to learn more about equine-assisted learning programs.
Providing instruction for the Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Albuquerque area in Dressage and Dressage application for all Equestrian disciplines.
Wild Spirits: Running with the Herd
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Available in these fine stores:
Animal Kingdom Veterinary Clinic, Tijeras NM
San Marcos Feed Store, Santa Fe NM
Cerrillos Station, Cerrillos NM
Broken Saddle Riding Company, Cerrillos NM
Cafe Fina, Santa Fe NM
Feed Bin, Santa Fe NM
Appearances and Book Signings
Interested in hosting a book signing in your area?
Book signing at the Taos Tack in Taos, NM in June 2013
Book signing at the Moby Dickens bookstore in Taos, NM Nov. 30, 2013
Ann at the Moby Dickens bookstore in Taos, NM
Ann signing her novel Wild Spirits: Running with the Herd at the
Triangle market in Cedar Crest, N. July 2014
“Wild Spirits: Running With the Herd takes readers into the mysterious world of the Southwest desert through the eyes and mind of an American Indian teenager, Elena, who has been bounced around in the foster care system. As she struggles to overcome the grief of her past, she forms an other-worldly connection with “Hawk”, a wild stallion who is also grieving for his past. Ann Clemons has created characters that come alive, as does the landscape of the desert and the mesa. Wild Spirits is one of the books that you just don’t put down until you reach the end, and then are sad that the book is over, but the characters live on with you. I am looking forward to sharing more of the lives of the Elena, Hawk and the Laytons. Be sure to put this book on your reading list.”
- Linda Glickstein, Taos, NM
George smiled and winked.
"Well," he said, "that job is done. Guess I'll go get the skid steer out and have a look at the 'coop ruins' project."
"He will look for any excuse to drive that piece of machinery around," Sally said to Elena. "Boys and their toys. That thing is just like a big Tonka Truck."
"Sure makes the job easier though," he said, looking fiercely at his wife. "You'd never get me to do that job if I had to dig a hole that big with a shovel."
Sally snorted and Elena chuckled.
Sally said, "I am off to do some more weeding in the garden before the ground turns hard as a rock again. What is on your agenda, Elena?"
"Thought I'd go up the mesa for a while if you don't need me here for anything until feed time."
"OK. You go on and have fun. Be careful."
"The Laytons and Elena are so real and relatable. I cared about them. I thought about them between reads. Elena captured my heart. I'm eager for the next book."
- Bill, Ajo, AZ