Inside Shelley Peterson’s Novels and Christmas At Saddle Creek

Nov 09, 2017 Comments Off by Admin
By Kelly Bowers
Canadian Shelley Peterson and her husband David run Fox Ridge Stables in Caledon, ON which is home to over 20 horses.  Shelley wears many hats as the mother of 3 adults and grandmother of  4 young grandsons, as wife, actress, stable owner, and businesswoman.  She is also the best-selling author of eight novels written for young adults; ‘Dancer’, ‘Abby Malone’, ‘Stagestruck’, ‘Sundancer’, ‘Mystery at Saddle Creek’, ‘Dark Days at Saddle Creek’, ‘Jockey Girl’ and her latest, ‘Christmas at Saddle Creek’.
Shelley Peterson actually learned how to tell a good story through her training as an actress and years of working in TV, film and on stage.

Two of the most critical skills were character development and the art of telling multiple stories within your story.  Readers  may wonder where an author’s ideas for a story line or character traits come from.  Some of the people and story lines in Peterson’s novels may be partly inspired by aspects of her own real life.  Her fictional figures often have traits, abilities, feelings and beliefs that she either relates to or envies.  For example, Shelley believes that most people feel, at some point in their life, like they’re different from those around them and they don’t fit in. Years ago, when her own daughter experienced feeling isolated at school, Shelley began to write the book Dancer as a way to help her work through the difficult time.  Examining the characters she creates, you’ll notice that people and animals often feel like outcasts who face challenges with little support.  The act of writing the fictional version may have helped Shelley to work through the real life situation in her mind, and might even help readers going through something similar to gain a bit more confidence in themselves and their abilities. Then, when the lonely soul meets a unique friend, two or four legged, who really “gets them”, connects with them, and accepts them for who they are, the consequences can be life changing.
And lets face it, when it comes to being accepted, horses are the ultimate equalizer.  Sitting atop your loyal steed, you don’t have to be popular or cool or come from a wealthy family to have a loving bond with a horse or pony.  You don’t have to ace your exams or be  asked to the prom to enjoy your time in the barn, trail ride all day, or compete in a horse show with your best four legged friend.   Horses don’t use the same superficial criteria to judge you.  They accept you for who you are and they know you by what’s in your heart.
Shelley’s affection for animals and especially horses is embedded in the pages of her novels and there are several of her characters that have deliberately been given an enhanced intuition and respect towards animals.  This reflects her own belief system that humans, who are also technically animals, need to value and show respect and admiration for other animals, with an abundance of patience and understanding.  So, logically, often the people, horses and other animals in her stories are misunderstood, labelled as untrainable, even unsafe, and judged as unworthy.  When trying to understand such personalities, Shelley advocates us all looking deeper to find the root of the problem and eventually learn how to earn the trust of the mistrustful.
One of my favourite recurring characters at Peterson’s Saddle Creek is Bird. She not only feels like a displaced outcast, she openly prefers the company of animals and was born with the ability to communicate telepathically with them. That’s the one super power Peterson may have yearned for long ago.  She spent years struggling with her very first foal, Sundancer, who’s unpredictable and extreme behaviour earned him a reputation of being unridable and nearly untrainable.  In a perfect world, Shelley would have been able to ask him and actually understand what he needed and how she could help him – right from the horse’s mouth.  And who among us hasn’t wished for that super power at one time or another?  I imagine that’s why Bird exists.
If you have been reading Shelley Peterson’s books, don’t miss her newest novel, Christmas At Saddle Creek which fills in juicy details from previous stories and offers more surprises, trouble and adventures than anyone’s Christmas needs.   If you are new to the series, I strongly suggest you start at the beginning and read all the books in order so as to enjoy them as they were written, getting to know each of the characters you’ll meet again in later books.
With a cozy blanket, horse drawn sleigh, bon fire, and lots of snow, neighbours helping neighbours – a rural Ontario winter jumps from the pages of Christmas At Saddle Creek.  But then there’s crippling storms and power outages, chilling temperatures, cancelled travel plans, hypothermia and of course the family drama. So, it’s about as real as a Canadian Christmas can get.
The holiday begins with a dangerous midnight rescue attempt, but it doesn’t end there. The contentious relationship between Bird an her mother finally come to a head, stopping Christmas dinner in it’s tracks.  And within days, potential disaster is faced twice with their only hope being nothing short of a real Christmas miracle and a little help from friends. Before the snow clears, we say hello to a mysterious yet familiar visitor and a heartfelt goodbye to a dear beloved friend.
My feeling is that Christmas At Saddle Creek is the telling of stories inside the story.  One of these reveals a truth that leads to new understanding with the opportunity for relationships to be repaired and healing to begin.  As Mrs. Pierson says, “Truth must be handled with love and kindness or it will destroy everything.”
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