Writing about Virginia’s Horses Takes Patience

NFPW and VPW member Julie Campbell always has been a horse lover. So it was natural for her to write a book about the horse in Virginia.

She just didn’t realize how long it would take. She worked on the book full time while researching and writing on evenings, weekends and days off. “When you boil it down to time I spent just on the book, I’d guess it took about two years,” she said a few weeks before her book tour kicked off.

But then there was another year when it went through two rounds of anonymous reviews and subsequent revisions. She also had to find the illustrations and obtain their accompanying permissions. Tack on another year or so for production: copyediting, design, proofreading, indexing and printing.

The Horse in Virginia: An Illustrated History explores the history of horses in Virginia during four centuries, including how the horse fit into society at any given time.  The University of Virginia Press developed the concept and hired Julie to write it and find the illustrations. There are many books about different facets of Virginia horses – fox hunting, steeple chasing, thoroughbreds and racing – but there wasn’t one general history. Now there is.

Even an avid horse lover like Julie was surprised by some of her findings. “I learned that through the mid-19th century, many if not most horses in Virginia had a gait called ‘amble’ in addition to the usual walk, trot, canter, gallop,” Julie said. “It was smooth and easy to ride and very popular.”

“I also learned that Virginians are very interested in the remains of famous horses, like Traveller and Little Sorrel,” she said. “You can actually see some horse bones at Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters museum in Winchester; they belonged to the horse of a Confederate cavalryman, Turner Ashby. Both the man and horse were killed in battle during the Civil War.”

Want to know more? Ask your independent bookseller to order it for you from the University of Virginia Press. Julie will sign her book March 20 at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond and May 11 at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.