Like many girls growing up, Diane Robbins Jones of Rye was struck with a strong passion to be a horse owner, so much so that she would scour the want ad section of local papers to find the cheapest horses available before giving a weekly pitch to her parents.
A variety of reasons, however, ensured that Jones’ dream was not meant to pan out as she hoped. But as she grew up, left the Seacoast to go to college and eventually moved to Boston for work, her equine love never wavered. Jones would often find herself at various ranches whenever the opportunity presented itself, although she never took any formal riding lessons. This was the case until a new job allowed her to return to Portsmouth, where she found herself living a mile down the road from a local stable.
“If I can’t take a riding lesson now,” she said, ”then there’s something wrong with me.”
This is when she met Rudy.
“I was taking lessons, noticed him and thought, ‘Oh, wow, what a cool horse,’” said Jones.
Rudy, at the time, was under his third ownership and was well-known around the stable as being a charismatic and immensely lovable horse but still in the very early stages of training and with a bit of a trust issue. But he was for sale, and Jones was enamored. After leasing Rudy for three months, she finalized the purchase and began what she would later refer to as the greatest challenge and greatest joy of her life.
“It took into my third year for Rudy and I to really bond and begin to trust. I started thinking about Rudy’s life. I’m his fourth owner in 10 years and he had been bounced around. People weren’t committed to him. No wonder he doesn’t want to trust a human,” Jones said. “I began drawing this parallel and the more I worked with Rudy, the more I started having this thought of how there are a lot of kids out there who are going through similar things. The book began writing itself.”
After two years of writing, Rudy – A Big Horse with a Big Heart was published Nov. 21.
“His story needs to be out there and I think this is going to be something that is relatable to kids,” said Jones.
The book’s narration is told through the otherwise silent perspective of the horse.
“In terms of being abandoned by a parent or feeling frustrated but not having a voice, I wanted to write something that a kid could relate to by having Rudy show his feelings about the stuff that was happening in his life,” she said.
Rudy – A Big Horse with a Big Heart was also written with the intent of teaching children the importance of commitment and what it really takes to train a horse.
“There have been times where I thought about the idea of maybe this horse isn’t the right one for me, maybe I don’t have the skills to bring him where he needs to be. There are times when I get nervous; he’s a big, huge horse,” she said. “Any of your weaknesses as a human get picked up and magnified by the horse. It really shows you things about yourself. The process was not at all what I was expecting. It’s a lot easier to be friends with a human than a horse, but it really is rewarding.”
Jones has some advice for aspiring horse owners.
“If you’re going to do this, you have to be all in,” said Jones. “You need to realize that horses are a living, breathing being that have basic emotion. It’s not all about what you want to do — it’s a partnership. You need to have that partnership with your horse for you to really be able to bond.”
On top of highlighting the true adventures and hijinks that Rudy has wound up in over the years, Rudy – A Big Horse with a Big Heart also includes an educational glossary of horse terms related to riding, care and anatomy, as well as horse facts. Full-page watercolor illustrations were painted by local artist Karen Busch Holman.
“Karen is amazing. My book is her 15th children’s book and she has five more coming out in 2019. The illustrations and her attention to detail are just so great,” she said.
For more information on Jones’ book Rudy – A Big Horse with a Big Heart, the latest information on local book signings, readings, and access to the book, visit Facebook at Rudy the Rudster or Instagram at rudy.therudster.
— Andrew Clay
Featured photo: Diane Robbins Jones with Rudy. Courtesy photo.