Pamela Cook writes page-turning women’s fiction set in escape-worthy places. Her novels feature tangled family relationships, the ups and downs of friendship and explore life issues like grief, belonging and love. Her novels include Blackwattle Lake (2012) Essie’s Way (2013), Close To Home (2015) and The Crossroads (2016). Her September 2019 release is Cross My Heart. Pamela is the co-host of the exciting new podcasts Writes4Women and Writes4Festivals, and Assistant Program Director for the Storyfest Literary Festival which takes place in Milton, on the south coast of NSW, Australia in June each year. Pamela is proud to be a Writer Ambassador for Room To Read, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes literacy and gender equality in developing countries. When she’s not writing, podcasting or festival planning she wastes as much time as possible riding her handsome quarter horses, Morocco and Rio.
More Than Research: Re-connecting Through Equine Assisted Learning.
Like my lovely host Jennifer Scoullar, I’m an animal-lover and horse rider. I only came to riding as an adult – apart from a few trail rides when I was in my teens – but have always had a sense of the power and sensitivity of horses.
Back when I was researching the Black Saturday bush fires for my first novel, Blackwattle Lake, I came across an article about horses being used as a unique form of therapy. Overcoming trauma by spending time with horses in a supervised, supportive environment was helping some of the victims of the fires come to terms with their experiences.
Intrigued, I kept that article from The Good Weekend and always knew I’d write about it someday. So when it came to finding a form of therapy to help a traumatised child in my latest story, the idea appeared instantly. I read quite a few pieces on the various forms of therapy, watched some you-tube videos and checked out websites but it was spending a day actually working with horses at Horsanity that really helped me to understand how life-changing working with horses can be.
I’d gone to the centre purely to research the process for my book but in a very short time found myself immersed in the sessions in a much more personal way. The small group session included a combination of talking to the practitioners, spending time purely in the presence of the horses – in this case, a small herd of magnificent Friesians – and then grooming and doing groundwork with a particular horse. This was followed by deep reflection on the process and the emotions it triggered. A huge part of the process – this form being equine-assisted learning rather than actual therapy – was to slow down, listen to both the horse and your own reaction and to take the time to truly connect in the moment. Dealing with my own grief after losing my closest friend wasn’t something I anticipated but those feelings decided they wanted out and while this sort of loss isn’t something you ever really recover from, working with the horses was a hugely cathartic, helpful experience
I came away with invaluable information for my book but also feeling refreshed, grounded and more at peace. I’m hoping that the information I’ve included in my plot for Cross My Heart will intrigue readers, even those who are (weirdly!) not horse lovers.
While Equine Therapy and Equine Assisted Learning remain quite left field, they are being used more and more to help both children and adults overcome trauma, including returned soldiers and victims of domestic violence. Tapping into the primal wisdom of these beautiful creatures for my novel was such a joy and it’s an experience I hope to repeat some time in the future.
CROSS MY HEART
When a promise kept means a life is broken …
Tessa De Santis’s child-free marriage in inner-city Sydney is ordered and comfortable, and she likes it that way.
Leaving her husband and successful career behind, Tess travels to an isolated property where the realities of her friend’s life – and death – hit hard. The idyllic landscape and an unexpected form of therapy ease her fears, and her relationship with Grace begins to blossom.
Cross My Heart is a haunting story of guilt, redemption and friendship set in the beautiful central west of New South Wales.
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