This is a picture of my favorite day ever. Here is the story.
Twelve years ago I was living happily in the north of England, with my previous humans and My Mare Gydja. I was very loved and well treated, but I had noticed that I wasn’t being ridden as much as I used to be.
One day Roger – he wasn’t My Mate yet – and the Woman arrived for a visit. They both rode me, took photos and made a fuss of me. They were kind and seemed to like me, but I didn’t like being taken away from My Mare Gydja for the riding. I pulled, tossed my head, shouted and was generally pretty naughty.
Back in the yard Roger turned to my boss and said, “We’ll take him”.
“Are you mad?” said the Woman, giving him a funny look. “He’s got no brakes!”
There was quite a bit more talking and then Roger and the Woman left.
Maybe they didn’t like me after all. I didn’t mind. I still had My Mare Gydja.
But the next weekend they were back! They collected up my stuff and packed it into their car. I followed Roger into the Stable-on-Wheels, but something didn’t feel right.
Gydja! Where are you? I whinnied.
I could hear voices, and I could still smell my lovely mare, but when the doors were closed and I was driven away My Mare Gydja was left behind! We had been together, just the two of us for five years. She was my herd, the only friend I had. I called for her as the trailer pulled out of the yard, but I couldn’t see or hear her, and eventually I couldn’t smell her either – or anything familiar.
I came to live with Big Fat Cob. After he had chased me around the field a bit and pointed out that all the hay was his we got along fine. Eventually I settled into my new home. But I never forgot My Mare Gydja
Then, two years later, one cold November day, the Stable-on-Wheels was taken from the field by My Mate Roger and the Woman. They were gone all day. When they re-appeared we wandered over to see what they were up to. I could hear something moving around inside our Stable-on Wheels, and as the Woman opened the side-door a little black fluffy nose poked out.
I couldn’t believe my nose and eyes – it was My Mare Gydia!
My Mare Gydja and I were given a special paddock, just me and her, to get re-acquainted. I was so happy that I galloped around and around the paddock tossing my head and nickering to her. She was impressed, I could tell. Big Fat Cob didn’t like being left out of the action and he played up something rotten.
I didn’t care. My Mare Gydja was back, that’s all that mattered.
Over the years I have had to learn to share her with the others in my herd, but the Woman has promised that we will stay together now until the end of our days.
Story first told 2013. Updated November 2021
“Have you finished your book yet?”
Finally my children’s novel, Little Viking Horse, is done – nearly! Writing ‘The End’ when I finished my first draft (the one that didn’t have huge plot holes in it) felt like such a huge achievement, and of course it was. I had actually written a book! But it was still hard to answer the perpetual question from family and friends…
“Have you finished your book yet?”
Well, ‘finished’ can mean lots of things, right? ‘I’ve finished the first draft’ – so the story is down on paper. Or, ‘I’ve finished the first edit’ – improving the flow, correcting obvious mistakes, finding gaps and inconsistencies, deleting repetition. Or, ‘I’ve finished the structural edit’ – after editorial feedback (from Imogen Cooper at the Golden Egg Academy), and many other edits along the way. Until finally, it’s ready for submission to agents and publishers – the story arc works, the characters are rounded, the stakes are raised… So, off it goes, and then the rejections come.
I’m disappointed, but not downhearted. The feedback is good, just ‘a bit too niche’ for this publisher, not quite right for this agent. I prepare a few more submissions, while exploring the possibility of self-publishing. Then one publisher says, ‘This book has something!’ I try to contain my excitement while I wait for them to take it though their internal process…and the rejection follows.
“You are sending it to publishers, so it’s finished?”
Well, it is ‘finished’, but if a publisher decides to take it, they might want me to make changes. Actually, if I get an agent first, they might suggest changes too…so it’s finished, but probably not quite. And even if I get a publisher, it can take 12 to 18 months for the book to be published…so, it’s finished, but no, you can’t buy it yet.
Early 2020 and the London Book Fair looms. The Golden Egg Academy want to profile my book – maybe the right agent and the ideal publisher will see it there! I prepare the ‘blurb’, one line pitch, author bio…then, Covid lockdown begins and the Book Fair is cancelled. Publishing slows down, to a crawl. I carry on with a few agent submissions, but finally two thoughts crystallise for me.
Firstly, it’s more important for me to get my story out there than it is for me to be a traditionally published author. I want Little Viking Horse being read by the people that I wrote it for. It’s a special story for me, not just because it’s my first book, and I have a niggling worry that I will be pressed to change the story in ways I don’t want to, to make it more ‘commercial’. And even if I secure a publishing deal, with the impact of Covid, publication timescales are getting longer and longer. Do I want to wait? No.
Secondly, a significant reason for having a publisher is to help the author find a market – and I have one already, through the Little Viking Horse Facebook Page and in the Icelandic horse community, both in the UK and internationally…from which I can reach out to a wider market. I have had enough feedback on my book to keep my ‘imposter syndrome’ fears in-check, so I am satisfied that what I have written is good enough to publish. Followers of Little Viking Horse have been waiting a long time already. I make a firm decision to self-publish.
You are publishing it yourself? So it’s finished?
Well, nearly. I just have to get it copy edited, have a cover designed, internal design and layout, a couple of illustrations (not essential but I hanker after a classic Black Beauty feel), arrange printing, distribution and marketing…
Then an agent asks to see the full manuscript! I send it, along with details of my next project, because my plan to self-publish Little Viking Horse in the UK is set. The finish line is getting closer and I launch the book cover at the British Icelandic Horse Championships in June, in front of about fifty members of the Icelandic Horse Society of GB, and the Icelandic Ambassador to the UK!
Self-publishing is not an easy route – a publisher would be taking care of many of the processes that I am currently wrapping my head around. But people who have done it before me have been generous with their time and advice, and I am roping in friends and family to help me with the things that feel beyond my skill set. I’m very nearly ready to order my first printed copies for a final check, and I am in the process of setting up my website to be able to take pre-orders for signed copies, hopefully from September, with an official publication set for October.
So your book is finished?
It is…almost…and you can read about it here https://littlevikinghorse.com/the-book/
Gyðja frá Króki
Gyðja means Goddess. She is registered in the studbook – no. IS1096286632. Gydja is brown with a white star, and has beautiful red highlights in her mane, and in her very long tail. She is 13 hands high. She is known as My Mare Gydja or Giddy, and Roger used to call her Bambi on account of her big, kind brown eyes.
Gydja was born in 1996 in Iceland, and was imported to the UK in 2002, when she was six years old, where she lived with a lovely family. She was very nervous when she first arrived, and her owner spent a lot of time introducing her to the very different English countryside and gaining her trust. A few years later she was joined by Fleygur. Sadly due to a change of circumstances Fleygur was put up for sale, and came to his new home with us in Shropshire, leaving Gydja behind. However, two years later, when Gydja too needed a new home, there was no question – her owner wanted to her be reunited with Fleygur, and of course we were never going to say no!
As a ridden horse she was willing and bold (the early kind training really paid off!). I never knew her to spook at anything and she would go where ever I asked – including joining a parade down a High Street, followed by The Vikings of Middle England, and walking right past a marching band without batting an eyelid. She was really fast in gallop, but much more keen on trot than tölt.
Sadly, she had to be retired from riding at the age of 19 due to arthritis. Like the others she lives out 24/7, and lots of moving around is helping to keep her mobile and fit. Most of the time does doesn’t need any medication for her arthirits – though sometimes she overdoes the frolicking about, and can be a bit stiff for a few days. She has developed Cushings disease too, so her beautiful shiny coat is now more often greyed and brittle, but we have managed to avoid laminitis through carefully watching her weight, and with the help of medication.
She still has the same beautiful eyes and gentle nature though.