The long awaited sequel to author Karen McGoldrick’s book The Dressage Chronicles (review) is finally here! I couldn’t have been more excited and read it right after I got my hands on it. The sequel, The Dressage Chronicles Book II: A Matter of Feel, is even better than the first one! (Could that actually happen, you might think. Yes!) I loved the first book as we were introduced to Lizzy, a college graduate who leaves the “normal” world, her boyfriend, life as she knew it, and embarks on a trip to Florida with her horse to live as a working student for a renowned dressage trainer. The second book picks up with the cast living up north for the summer and training to qualify for a number of high profile dressage shows.
What I love most about Karen McGoldrick’s books is how believable and relatable the experiences are. We have all dealt with insecurities, triumphs, jealousy, and friendships. She has done an excellent job in character development where I understood each character and could “see” them. I really enjoy a book that has this type of effect. I wanted to be a working student right along with Lizzy, train with Margot, and give Wild Child a pat on the nose (if he’d let me!). If you love the intricacies of the horse or particularly the dressage world with characters that you could easily encounter, then this books is too good to pass up. You will adore it as much as I did!
Karen McGoldrick rides, teaches, and trains dressage at her own Prospect Hill Farm in Alpharetta, Georgia. She is a United States Dressage Federation certified instructor/trainer; earned her USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold medal rider awards, all on horses she trained; and she graduated with distinction from the USDF L program. Karen got her first working student job by answering an ad in her community newspaper at the age of 12. Before, during, and after college, she worked on and off for a variety of trainers until she an her husband bought their first farm in 1992. Karen is an award-winning contributor to USDF Connection Magazine, and she is a regular columnist for the Georgia Dressage and Combined Training Association newsletter. Karen loves talking and meeting with other equestrian lovers, and you can contact her via her website, the dressage chronicles. Karen Goldrick was also gracious enough to sit down with VR and answer a few questions. We are thrilled to have the following interview with her.
VR: What first inspired you to write your first book, The Dressage Chronicles?
KM: I love to write and I asked myself what I had to offer that wasn’t already out there. I also love historical fiction, but only the kind that is well researched and accurate so that when I finish reading, I feel as if I have learned something. And I also have to add that when I was a child I loved Jane Marshall Dillon’s book “School for Young Riders” which tells a fictionalized version of Kathy Kusner’s education as a jumper rider at Jane’s school in Vienna, Virginia.
VR: Is there a message in your current novel, The Dressage Chronicles Book 2: A Matter of Feel that you want readers to grasp?
KM: Lots! I suppose you can tell that through Lizzy I can explore the technical but also the artistic side of the sport (and the emotional side too!) You have to first acquire the technical tools in dressage, and you have to have a good understanding of theory, but after that comes the artistic part. You have to learn to “cook without a recipe.”
VR: I found the characters, situations, and experiences to be very realistic and believable. Are these based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
KM: I have ridden all my life, and I really embraced dressage fully as my avocation in 1983 when I went to work for Sue Malone-Casey. I simply cannot ever run out of material!
VR: As I read the book, I felt as though Wild Child was just misunderstood and was thrilled with how his and Lizzy’s relationship progressed. Was there a particular horse you based Wild Child on?
KM: More than one. But, my new mare Gia was terribly insecure and defensive when I got her. She expressed her anxiety with aggressive behavior. As I studied her and read up on aggression I also found great insight into Wild Child.
VR: One thing I really appreciate is how relatable the character Lizzy is. She is working to fulfill her dreams of becoming a Grand Prix dressage rider and bring along her mare Winsome, but she struggles along the way with confidence and some in her riding. Have you encountered this type of personality more in your experiences or more of the “dressage diva” personality like Ryder?
KM: I know both very well! …and sometimes they are really the same problem expressed in different ways. You can’t throw a stone at a dressage show without hitting either a Lizzy or a Ryder!
VR: Do you have plans to continue the series with a third book?
KM: I am outlining it right now at my fav perch at Starbucks. You are providing an excuse to procrastinate a little.
VR: What is one of the most important lessons in dressage training that you have learned?
KM: That dressage, when approached the right way, makes me a better person. It is a way to live. I must be patient and be satisfied in small steps forward because the end goal of Grand Prix is many years in the making. I must be humble, I must be strong and disciplined, I must stay open minded, I must learn to focus, I must be brave. My horses do not read the books and know how it is supposed to be. They only react…and how they react tells me bluntly how I am doing as a trainer. The list goes on doesn’t it?
VR: What are some of your favorite dressage books?
KM: I have a huge list, because like most writers I am a big reader. I often quote Erik Herbermann, and I used to post something from him once a month in the barn aisle. I still keep up “The greatest portion of the riding task is coming to grips with oneself.” But I have different books to recommend for different reasons. For seat and position I always recommend Susanne Von Dietze. I adore Ingrid Klimke’s book because she is super and because I idolized her father. Just recently I read and loved “Riding in the Moment” by Michael Schaffer. But I also recently loved “The Seven Deadly Sins of Dressage.” Oh my, I could go on and on. I adored all of Paul Belasik’s books too. And I was so bummed when Half Half press went under because everyone should read the classics, and they reprinted so much that had gone out of print.
VR: For those of us competing in dressage, what is one piece of advice you would offer?
KM: You think you will die of shame when you have that disastrous test. But the truth is, that everyone is so self absorbed that they will tsk-tsk with you and then totally forget. We all have failures and the point is to pick yourself up and learn to do a little bit better next time out. To prove my point…how many of you out there remember Robert Dover’s horse getting its tongue over the bit at the Olympics….that tongue was doing the hula up the side of the horses face. HORRORS! Remember? Didn’t think so. And you are not Robert Dover, and this is not the Olympics.
VR: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
KM: I have about 1000 very specific things to say…but I want you all to enjoy the hell out of the story first and foremost and just let all those little specific things find their way into your brain without you even realizing it!
Thank you so much, Karen, for spending some time with VR! Love The Dressage Chronicles series and can’t wait to read more from you in the future!
You can purchase these books below and follow Karen’s adventures:
Here’s a short video on The Dressage Chronicles: