E.J. Noyes writes about her new novel Pas de deux, pony clubs, and how she met her wife.
Pas de deux is a very artistically licensed story about how my wife and I went from being not friends at all when we knew each other as teens in Pony Club, to getting married. I know—what a twist, right?
I come from a horsey family but over the years my family got less horsey and more city, which left me in a loving horses but no longer having horses phase of my life. When I was 12, my grandma surprised me with a three-day horse riding course at a local riding school. Her idea of “She used to ride as a young girl so I’ll just let her have a little taste of it again and that’ll get it out of her system” backfired spectacularly. From that course I moved to a weekly lesson and horse care course, to afterschool work and extra riding of the school horses, to taking some school horses out to the local Pony Club and then when I was old enough I began some low-level coaching.
But the Pony Club portion is the important part of this story. The Pony Club I attended had a mix of people from my riding school, people with their own horses, and also…people from The Other Riding School That Was My Riding School’s Rival situated just up the road from where I’d entrenched myself. Being 12/13/14 and riding borrowed horses, I was very aware of the other girls who had their own horse, or horses, and never really expanded my friend circle beyond my small riding school crowd. I did eventually get a horse of my own when I was 14—a brilliantly tolerant, bombproof and sweet gelding, Monte Carlo.
This is where I’m going to get a bit equine Romeo and Juliet. Or…Juliet and Juliet. See, my wife was from That Other Riding School and with the unspoken rule that you just don’t talk to Those People, there was definitely some antagonism. Now she’ll deny it (and does every time I tell people the story of how we met) but she was aloof as heck to me, to the point where she came across as mean. And because we’re the same age, we competed against each other a lot—and we even have 1st and 2nd place trophies from an event our Pony Club held—so we had to interact. We kind of circled around each other, fake-smiling, not smiling at all, and exchanging the bare minimum of words until I left Pony Club.
Fast forward to about 2005-ish and I was still at the same riding school though now as a fulltime coach and agistment (boarding) manager, when who should wander in but Now-Wife. She’d been hired as a coach. My annoyance was barely contained spluttering outrage as I went to the manager to ask her, “W…T…F?!”
Manager told me to get over it.
To cut a long story short, I did. And I learned a valuable lesson too. People aren’t always as they seem. My wife comes across aloof because she’s SUPER shy and once I’d realised that, it was embarrassingly easy to fall first in friendship, then in love with her.
When people read Pas de deux I know one of the burning questions they’ll have is “So who is Caitlyn based on and who is Addie based on?” The answer, friends, is that the two characters have bits of both me and my wife in them. Though I will say, my wife far surpasses me for dressage talent, and competed and trained to quite high level before life happened.
But the real star of this book is Dewey. He’s based on a horse some of you may know as Favourite Son—Dewey—but whose real fancy name is Midwood Aadieu (Farewell III x Belcam Aantoinette). Everything Book Dewey does is something Real Dewey would do or has done. My Dewey is a clown with a low boredom threshold, a huge amount of curiosity and a love of people. And honestly? He’s the best looking horse on the planet.
One of the hardest parts of this book was during my final writing phases and into editing when we were in the process of selling horses that we’d bred because we were moving from Australia to New Zealand. I was, and still am, heartbroken that Dewey had to be sold and yet again I find myself in a horse-loving but horseless stage of my life.
That said, it’s kind of comforting knowing that not only is Dew immortalised in Pas de deux as a superstar Grand Prix horse, but so is a much more exciting version of mine and my wife’s life. Oh, and in case you’re wondering who was 1st and who was 2nd at that Pony Club event? She was 1st to my 2nd, and I couldn’t be prouder.