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Carly Kade, Author of In the Reins

by Delores Kuhlwein

Author Carly Kade knows a thing or two about love, horses and handsome cowboys.

She breathed softly, and the shavings rustled as she blew breath. I dropped to my knees as I approached her. Reaching her neck, I placed my hand on her shoulder and combed the fingers of my other hand through her soft white mane. Her neck made a perfect U around my body, and I heard her sigh at my touch. I turned toward her, folded my legs inside the bow of her body, picked up her soft velvet muzzle, and lifted her head into my lap. Faith didn’t resist. She nestled into my crossed legs, and I stroked her white blaze, combed through her forelock, ran my palms over the triangular tip of her lovely brown ears, and wished I could stay in this moment forever. ~ Devon Brooke, In the Reins

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of our infatuation with horses is the universal emotion of everything fading away as you lose yourself in your horse, a feeling that sends Carly Kade, Arizona-based author of the wildly popular romantic Western novel In the Reins, scurrying to capture her words inspired by time spent with horses. Often Carly’s notes are taken on the insides of her mare’s feedbags after a ride.

“I scribble down my thoughts while perched on hay bales, listening to the sounds of the horses rustling in their stalls,” she confessed. Many scenes in her books, and even the horse character “Faith,” were inspired by “Sissy,” Carly’s own Paint mare, I'm Gonna Kiss You.

You don’t have to meet Carly to get know her; as a fellow horse lover, you really already do.

“I will own horses until I take my last breath; I love them that much,” she said. “There is nothing more peaceful to me than the quiet bond between a woman and her horse, and I am happiest when I am in the saddle.”

In the Reins by Carly Kade

Carly showed competitively when she was younger; now an adult, she’s an APHA member and still shows in showmanship, horsemanship and Western pleasure. Time at the barn with Sissy, however, has become her respite from the daily grind of adulthood.

“A friend once said something that really resonated with me: ‘What about just being a horse owner and enjoying that?’ Now, it’s the simple pleasures of horse ownership that I have come to enjoy most—long grooming sessions, the meditative rhythm of barn chores or a lazy Sunday ride,” Carly said.

The Inspiration

Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard gives Carly the same sense of peacefulness. Her romantic, horse-laden story of leading lady Devon Brooke and cowboy/horse trainer McKennon Kelly came to fruition through Carly’s desire to give readers an escape with which they could identify.

“I was inspired to write a story that all horse lovers could appreciate, no matter their discipline of choice,” she said. “I have found that my readers are just like me: horse crazy, book crazy and crazy for handsome hunks who know a thing or two about horses, so it naturally became a romance novel where the horse characters are just as important as the leading human characters.”

This story, however, offers more than the average romance novel. It also addresses Carly’s favorite question: “What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Carly Kade

In her experience, Carly says that when something seems scary it’s usually the path she needs to take, and Devon, the protagonist in her novel, reflects her personal understanding of fear. Devon, an inexperienced horse lover who falls for a horse trainer, experiences apprehension when she leaves one life for another that revolves around her courage of accepting change and herself.

"In the Reins captures the struggle between letting life move forward and shying away from taking the reins,” Carly explained. “I think one reason this book resonates so much with readers is because it’s a romantic drama about life and the struggles we all go through to overcome life’s challenges.”

It might come as no surprise that In the Reins earned a Top Five spot on Amazon’s Equestrian Fiction Best-Seller list, went on to earn an EQUUS Film Festival Literary Award for Best Western Fiction and then received two Feathered Quill Book awards in the Romance and Adult Book Featuring Animals categories. The booming success happened, in part, because Carly lets her heart do the writing.

“My horse and I share a very close bond, much like Devon Brooke and Faith do in In the Reins. My own horse is a lot like Faith in that she is forever forgiving of my equestrian mishaps and loves me unconditionally,” said Carly, who did a lot of Sissy’s training herself, which helped her bring Faith’s training to life in the book. She confesses, however, that Devon’s personality is a departure from her own. “Devon is a little bit of a trainwreck. But I do know how to swoon over a cute cowboy!” Readers’ hearts are fluttering over the cowboy character of horse trainer McKennon Kelly, the object of Devon’s infatuation. His character’s depiction comes from the part of Carly who is in love with love.

“I took the best from the men I once knew and those I still know, the ones I’ve read about in my favorite books, all the ones I’ve imagined, and mixed those qualities with all the things I wish men could be,” she explained. “Then, I sprinkled in a little of what I imagined a cowboy who can make the eight on the back of a raging bull would be like!”

Carly Kade

A Horse-Crazy Kid

Cowboys, cowgirls and dreams of horses filled the childhood of many modern-day horse lovers who can’t recall a time they didn’t love horses; for Carly, the love of all things equine has always been present. She remembers counting horses in pastures from a backseat window on family road trips, or spending her days lying on the floor writing about and drawing horses and playing with her collection of models.

“I had them all—every My Little Pony and all the Breyer horses. I never wanted to play with the dolls. I only wanted their loyal equine friends,” Carly reminisced. “Then everything changed on my 10th birthday.

“A brightly colored package containing a purple halter was given to me. I didn’t have a horse of my own to put it on, but I loved it anyway because it was purple—my favorite color—and it was an item for a real horse, not a plastic one. Unbelievably, that halter turned into a birthday road trip that brought me to Missy, my first horse and the best life coach a young woman could ever ask for. I am ever indebted to my parents for that generous gift when I was just a little girl. It wasn’t always easy to afford her, but they did it anyway because they knew I loved horses and it wasn’t just a phase. It was forever.”

Missy saw Carly through her adolescent years as teacher, partner, best friend, her county’s 4-H queen contest and as her mount when winning a coveted Western pleasure class title at a huge show.

Carly’s love of colorful breeds continued to blossom when she found Sissy, who stands in as Faith when she films promotional videos for the upcoming television series inspired by In the Reins.

“Ironically, I didn’t give either horse their barn names (Missy or Sissy). I like to think there’s something about the similarity that implies these two horses were meant just for me,” Carly explained.

Carly Kade

The Connection

Carly is the real deal. She’s not merely an author or highly skilled researcher; she’s a horse owner who lives the lifestyle, and this lends a sense of authenticity to the novel.

“I wanted to include a romantic relationship in my story that built on life lessons experienced in the horse world,” Carly said. “Horses build character and require dedication. They are a big responsibility and teach us compassion, as we often have to put their needs before our own. I am a better human because I’ve owned horses.

“Reflecting on the process today, it feels as if In the Reins just flowed out of me and was just something I had to do. That’s the way I feel about having a horse in my life, too. It’s just something I have to do.”

They say the best writers are readers, and that’s exactly the case with Carly.

“Before I am a writer, I am a reader. I know how I feel when I get lost in books. I like chapters to end with cliffhangers that keep me hooked and saying, ‘Oh, just a few more pages.’ I love hearing in reviews how readers stay up into the wee hours of the night to finish the book. So many people have told me they finished it in a day. I love books like that and am so happy that I’ve been able to write a book readers find difficult to put down,” she said.

According to Carly, there has been a “very real magic” connected to the people her book has touched.

“I am overflowing with gratitude for all the passionate people, especially the readers, who have come on this journey with me,” she said.

In fact, many of her non-horsey readers tell her they are learning about the human-horse connection because of her book.

“That makes my spurs jingle!” exclaimed Carly, voicing one of her trademark catchphrases.

In the Reins is not the typical cowboy romance. While it has its moments of intimacy, it isn’t overly graphic,” she added. “The journey I’ve been on with my book reminds me of the Rumi quote, ‘Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.’ That quote really sums up the pull my love for horses and creative writing has on me. That love, that pull, has not led me astray.”

Like her protagonist, Carly had the courage to follow that pull, and chasing her dreams paid off in a big way, and for that she is grateful.

“I am one lucky author cowgirl,” she said.

Read on

Carly Kade’s book is available in paperback and eBook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo; follow her Facebook page and YouTube channel for more information and updates. Cowboy Away, the much-anticipated second book in the In the Reins series was released in late 2017.

Originally printed in the Winter 2017 issue of Chrome; reprinted with permission of Chrome and the American Paint Horse Association. Photos ©

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