My Favorite Illustrated Book –– Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

RedRoom, the site for readers and authors, had a contest this week. We were to blog about our favorite illustrated book. My choice is a highly personal one. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is a book I wrote about a remarkable horse. Tecolote was born prematurely on a freezing night. There was no reason for him to survive–but he did. The book tells and shows what happened as Teco (as we called him) grew into a strong, mature horse.

Tecolote and his Mother, Rosie–
This was taken when he got on his feet.

Although the book is illustrated with photographs that show Teco from his birth all the way to an adult riding horse, the story focuses on his tricky first year. We didn’t know if he would live five days. People from our neighborhood gathered outside the corral where he and his mother lived, praying for him and crying. He looked beyond terrible. Even so, he brought people together from the very start.

Later, when Teco was out of the woods, his mother died. She was an older mare with health problems. Teco faced life as a preemie, then a young horse without a mother. The book centers around how we as his caretakers used the other horses of the ranch and its facilities to give the youngster a secure and normal start. It’s about how he found his place in the herd and made dear friends in the horse and human worlds.

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is a beautiful tale for children, especially those with disabilities or facing loss. Teco’s story shows people––kids and adults–that those with problems can make it and have good lives. It’s is a kids’ book, 44 pages long.

Why did I stop writing at the end of Teco’s first year? We ran out of photos. Once Teco got his feet under him, he took off. The rest of his life was so normal that there wasn’t anything to photograph. He went under saddle so easily it was laughable, and then just headed down the road.

I cover Teco’s early days in the book, but I’ve never written about what follows here, the final part of Teco’s life.

Sandy & Tecolote–My author picture shows
just my face and a bit of Teco’s cheek.
This is the REAL photo. Teco’s giving me a hug.

Tecolote ended up being my horse. I’m an older rider with so many things wrong with me that I don’t know if I should be riding. Actually, I didn’t ride for several years. Due to an improperly set broken leg from a skiing accident, I developed severe arthritis in my knee and ankle. I had to have my knee replaced and my ankle fused. I also have a bad back. Plus I’m a cancer survivor and pretty chopped up because of that. After all that pain and surgery, I lost my nerve. After a lifetime with horses, I became afraid to ride even the calmest horse.

But my husband wanted me to ride with him again. He cajoled me into trying Teco, who had turned out to be the mellowest horse in the world. My husband’s coaxing worked.

Teco took care of me. I needed a special horse like him––gentle and kind and unspookable––to keep me safe. We became a pair as he took me on many safe, smooth rides up the trail.

One of the things that people who don’t ride don’t know about is the bond between horse and rider. Teco and I became as bonded as an equine/human pair can be.

I loved him. And he loved me back. He did a special thing that no other horse has done with me. I’d approach him, scratching his shoulder and neck the way another horse would if grooming him. He’d wrap his head and neck around me, encircling my body. It was the only way a horse could give a hug. (They don’t have arms, afterall.) He gave me a hug every time I approached him.

The book Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could came out and I entered it in a few contests. Life went on. When my grand kids came to visit, Teco amazed me. He’d never seen kids before, yet he packed them around like a trooper. They fell in love.

Sandy & Tecolote –– He’s my boy,
the horse that got me back into riding

After the kids went home, I got back to writing. I was working on manuscripts for two books. I didn’t go down to the barn for about a week. Finally my husband called and said, “I’ve got Teco saddled. Come and ride.”

I was high as a kite, euphoric. The book contests I’d entered were announcing their winners. I’d found out the night before that Teco’s book had won 2011 Silver Nautilus Award for Children’s Nonfiction (Gr. 1-6).  The Nautilus Award recognizes books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living and positive social change. Previous winners include Thich Nhat Hanh and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I was overjoyed–Teco’s book belonged in that company.

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could
Won the Silver Nautilus Award

My joy lasted less than 24 hours. I went down to the barn. My husband had Teco saddled and ready. There he was, resplendent in his golden coat with its black trim. I found it impossible to look at Teco without feeling happy. He was a buckskin; his body was golden palomino color. His mane, tail, and legs were black. I could run my eyes over him and appreciate his straight legs and how his shoulder angled back the way that a gaited horse’s should. He had a short back and long hip, an adorable face. All of Tecolote was beautiful.

But not that day. He stood in the barn, head down, mucous pouring from his nostrils. He coughed. I didn’t like the look of him at all.

On the other hand, he was saddled. Show me a horse person who can resist getting on a saddled horse and I’ll show you someone who isn’t really a horse person.

I decided to ride him to the arena and see how he did. He walked slowly, head almost touching the ground. He coughed and had no energy. In fact, he acted as though he might fall down.

“This horse is sick,” I said to myself, heading slowly back to the barn. When I got off of Teco, he lowered his head. Liquid poured from his nostrils, splattering on the barn floor.

He had pneumonia. It didn’t respond to the massive doses of antibiotics the vet gave him. I was mystified; I’ve had horses for 55 years and have never seen one with pneumonia. Our part of California is too mild.

Teco kept getting sicker. We took him to the hospital. We have one of the best equine hospitals in the country in our valley. Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center is a wonderful resource. They’ve saved the lives of many of our horses.

They’d save Tecolote, too. When he unloaded the horse from our trailer, my husband said a  half dozen bright young vets swarmed around him.

“They climbed all over him for hours, discussing what might be wrong and doing tests,” my husband told me. They’d fix our horse.

Tecolote: Always Elegant

A day later, we went in for a conference. The vet who was coordinating Teco’s case said, “If we can stabilize him well enough to go home, he can hang out in pasture with his buddies the rest of his life. But you can never ride him again.”

We sat there, stunned. “What do you mean?”

“He’s too dangerous to ride,” the vet explained.

“What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s in heart failure.” He drew a diagram of Teco’s heart, showing how part was greatly enlarged. Their ultrasounds had given them a clear picture.

“But how did this happen?” I couldn’t believe it. “Is it because he was premature?”

“It has nothing to do with his prematurity. It’s been happening over the last two or three years.”

In shock, I realized that no one had ridden him during those years. My husband likes rip-roaring horses with tons of spirit. I wasn’t riding, being too traumatized by all my surgery. Teco stood in pasture, apparently fine, enjoying life with his friends.

And dying. We brought him home and gave him all the zillions of meds the clinic prescribed. Twice a day, my husband ground maybe thirty human pills with a mortar and pestle. He mixed their dust with molasses and water, and loaded the mess into a syringe with the end cut off, which allowed him to squirt the meds into Teco’s mouth. The horse raised his head as high as he could; he did not make it easy.

When the heart begins to fail, it enlarges, trying to make up for it’s decreased strength. It can’t pump enough blood to the animal’s body, and it can’t recirculate fluids. They begin to build up. On a horse, fluids collect along the animal’s belly––the lowest point on his body. Fluid gathers between his front and back legs as well. Teco looked he had a blanket of gigantic kitchen sponges stuffed under his skin from his the front of his chest through his hind legs. The meds did nothing.

Teco’s book kept winning awards. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could was a finalist in two categories of the 2011 National Indie Excellence Contest:  Animals/Pets General and Juvenile Non-fiction.

I was in this crazy world where the awards kept coming in and Teco got worse. I’d go down to see him in his pasture. He’d be standing there, head down, in a corner by himself. He was leaving this world. He was leaving me.

Tecolote–– Making a Full Circle

The vet said he had only a day or two to live when we put him down. If we hadn’t, the end would have been horrible. Just before I left the field so the vet could do his job, I scratched Teco’s neck the way I always did. Sick as he was, he turned his head and neck around and embraced me. A final hug, and he was gone.

I ended up in the hospital in the midst of all this. I started getting chest pains as Teco deteriorated. If you call up your doctor––and my internist was pretty far away––and say, “I’m having chest pains,” that doctor will say, “Go to the Emergency Room right away.”

If you walk into an Emergency Room, a haggard-looking lady in your mid-sixties, those medicos will JUMP. They did every test you can imagine. I was scared stiff, not knowing what was happening with my body.

It boiled down to: My heart was breaking. Tecolote was being ripped from my soul.

* * * * *

Tecolote died May 1, 2011, four days before his tenth birthday. He was a miracle when he was born and a joy all his life. He brought horses and riding back when I thought that part of my life was over. I loved him for the obstacles he overcame in his life, and what he helped me overcome.

Here’s Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could’s Amazon page. You can loook inside the book and see Teco. I put up some photos of him and our other horses on the page, too. At the end of 2011, the book garnered two more prizes. It was a winner in Children’s Nonfiction and a finalist in Children’s Picture Book Softcover Non-fiction of the USA BOOK NEWS “USA BEST BOOKS OF 2011” AWARD.

* * * * *

That’s why Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is my favorite illustrated book. It’s all I’ve got left of him. I’m glad I’ve got the awards and the book.

I’d rather have the horse.

Tecolote –– He’s free now.

 

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Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could Wins the 2011 Silver Nautilus Award!

 

Press Release. April 25, 2011:

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could by Sandy Nathan has won the  2011 Silver Nautilus Award for Children’s Nonfiction (Grades 1-6).

The Nautilus Award recognizes books, audio books, and e-books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living & positive social change. In addition to its awards for adult literature, the Nautilus Awards recognize distinguished contributions to the worlds of art, creativity and inspirational reading for children, teens and young adults. Previous winners include: Echart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hanh, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and . . . Sandy Nathan . Author Sandy Nathan also won the 2009 Silver Nautilus in the Indigenous/Multicultural category with her novel Numenon. (Once on the link, scroll down to find Numenon.)

“I’m terribly excited about this win,” says author Sandy Nathan. “The Nautilus Award means so much to me. It’s purpose––recognizing life-enhancing, life-changing literature and spoken art––aligns with my life’s purpose––producing books that enhance and change the lives of those around me. I couldn’t be happier.

Tecolote’s win is especially meaningful. The little premature and soon-orphaned horse in the book grew up to be my horse. He’s the only horse we own who is reliable enough for me to ride. I’ve got a replaced knee, fused ankle and a couple of other physical dings that make me very cautious about getting on a horse. Tecolote is my boy. He takes care of me.

“One of the things about horses that makes them so special is the way they bond with human beings. Or maybe it’s the way we bond with them. Whatever. Teco and I are bonded. That’s a sweet experience.

“We thought Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could was a natural for the Nautilus Awards. Tecolote’s been inspiring us since he showed us his will to live after being born prematurely and then losing his mother when he was so young. His sweet story of trouble and triumph inspires children and adults.”

 

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

What are the reviewers saying about Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could?

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could has a five star average (as high as it can go) on its Amazon reviews. Here are a few words reviewers have said about the book:

Rebecca Johnson, Amazon Top Ten Reviewer: “Sandy Nathan is such a good story teller you will be captivated from the first word until the last. She has included adorable pictures which make the story come alive. This is such a warm and amusing tale it made me laugh out loud a few times. I loved how Sandy Nathan explains how horses grow up and need special attention to be well mannered and tame. This is not just a children’s book, it will be enjoyed by people of all ages. What a lovely book.”

L.C. Evans, author Talented Horsewoman: “The book is beautifully illustrated with photos of Tecolote and the other horses on the farm. It would be a great gift book for horse lovers of all ages. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is written simply enough so children can read it themselves, but it will also appeal to adults.”

Zippora Karz, author The Sugarless Plum: I absolutely loved this book! Through Tecolote’s journey we feel the love of a mother for her child, (horse for filly and colt), how to find friends, play with them, and create mischief as well. This is a story for any age. I cried and laughed and marveled at all the ways love can be expressed in our lives.


* * *

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is available on Sandy Nathan’s Web Site and on Amazon in print and Kindle forms.

Tecolote as a paperback book.

Tecolote as a Kindle book.

Tecolote is an adult horse.

From Sandy Nathan: “My preference is the paperback book. It’s color, inside and out. The book is beautiful. In addition to all the photos, the print book has a header and footer on each page. The header––a long strip across the top––is clouds and blue sky. The footer is green grass. They emphasize the country feeling of the book.”

“On the other hand, you can download the Kindle version in a minute and be reading it. You can’t beat the price: 99 cents. I was very pleased at how the pictures came out in the Kindle book. Very clear, though black and white.

“We’re working on getting Nook, Sony, and iPad versions ready.”

 

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THEY’VE BEEN LAUNCHED! The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy and Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could Two New Books by Sandy Nathan

January 1, 2011 is the official launch date of two new books by Sandy Nathan. The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy and Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could are officially for sale. We’ll have news of launch events shortly. Right now, check the links for LOTS of information about the books!

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

Here’s a video to give you the look and feel of the book:

Wonder what a book’s characters look like? Here’s a special video prepared by author Sandy Nathan to show you what she thinks the characters of The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy look like:

TECOLOTE: THE LITTLE HORSE THAT COULD

Coming out simultaneaously with The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could presents a heartwarming tale of survival and overcoming pretty much every obstacle life can throw out. This is the true story of Tecolote, a Peruvian Paso colt born prematurely on a freezing night. Join Tecolote as he fights for his life and grows strong and big, becoming a member of the herd and trusted riding horse. Illustrated with photos of Tecolote and his friends taken when the action was happening. Great for kids of all ages.

Here’s a video that gives you the heart of the book:


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