When Madi met Harv: A story of a girl and her love of horses
A trip to the gift shop at Canterbury Park turned Jennifer Anderson into something she never expected: a children's book author.
Anderson and her now 17-year-old daughter, Madi Knoblauch, had taken some friends to Canterbury Park in Shakopee, a place they had both visited several times because of Knoblauch's love of horses.
Anderson, a 1991 Alexandria graduate who works at Thrivent Financial, said they were in search of a children's book about horses. Considering they were at a horse track, they did not expect this to be a problem.
"For some reason, this really stuck with me. I couldn't believe it, there were no kids' books," she said. "I then started searching, looking online and I even went to the library. It was crazy, there weren't any books like what we wanted."
This got Anderson thinking.
She thought about her daughter, her daughter's love of horses, their time spent at Canterbury Park, the horse trainer who was not only a mentor but now a good family friend, and her daughter's horses — especially Harveson, who was known to all as Harv.
"Madi has a cool story, a neat story, and I thought maybe I should write a book," said Anderson. "But I didn't have any experience."
That didn't stop her so she pitched the idea to her husband, Brad, and to her daughter, who all live in Glenwood. At first, her husband wasn't so sure, but he quickly changed his mind, and Knoblauch was on board from the start.
"One day I was bringing Madi to school and she told me I had to pursue this idea," Anderson said. "She said to me, 'Mom, just promise me you will do this.' I thought if I make this promise, I'm going to have to keep it. I said, 'OK, I will see this through.'"
A horse tale
Knoblauch, a sophomore at Minnewaska High School and a member of the Tails and Trails 4-H Club, has always loved horses. At the age of 5, she quit dance. Instead of donning ballet slippers on her feet, Knoblauch was destined for cowboy boots.
Her parents signed her up for riding lessons and Knoblauch loved it so much that at the age of 8, she got her own horse.
"She really got into it," said her mother. "She even started competing and showing her horse."
About eight years ago, Knoblauch's stepfather, Brad Anderson, a 1988 Alexandria graduate, got in touch with a classmate who is a horse trainer at Canterbury Downs. Lynn Abrahamson Rarick agreed to set up a meeting with Knoblauch and Anderson and give them a behind-the-scenes tour of Canterbury Park.
Over the years, their friendship blossomed and Rarick, a trainer at Canterbury Park and at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida, became not only a mentor to Knoblauch, but also a close family friend.
A few years ago, Rarick knew Knoblauch was looking for a new horse because Flint, her horse at the time, was getting old and it was time for him to retire. Rarick had kidded about letting Knoblach pick out one of the race horses, but that hadn't happened — yet.
Although Harv had made an impression on the family through his racing days, they didn't know at the time that they would end up adopting him.
Knoblauch had been looking for a horse for about a year when she called Rarick to ask if she had any horses ready for adoption. Many of Rarick's horses find new "careers" after they retire from racing, with some given to 4-H kids to become show horses while others make good trail horses.
"We might sell them, but if we can find good homes for them, that's what's important to us," Rarick said.
She knew it was time for Harv to start a new career and knew that he would be the perfect horse for Knoblauch.
"He's a character. Harv was a race horse and won some races, but we had quit running him," Rarick said. "I made the decision that he was the type of horse with a perfect personality for Madi. It was a good fit. I knew she would be the perfect person who would take good care of him."
Becoming an author
For the book, Anderson did her research, garnered help from fellow Glenwood author Deb Mercier, and found herself an illustrator. Anderson knew exactly what she wanted: realistic drawings of pictures she had taken over the years.
She went to the library and narrowed her search to five books that had the type of illustrations she liked. From those she chose her favorite, which was illustrated by Faythe Mills, who happened to also live in Glenwood. Mills became a professional artist in 1990 and has illustrated several children's books.
"I couldn't believe it, I picked her book out of probably 300 I looked at," said Anderson.
Mills was vacationing in Mexico when Anderson called to explain what she wanted for her 32-page full-color book.
"When I got the call, Jennifer told me that she wanted to have the book done and printed by May 1," said Mills. "I knew I could do it. I work well under pressure. Although, I had never drawn a horse before. This was going to be the first time."
Mills completed the cover first and after that, everything else fell into place. The author and illustrator met in person for the first time Jan. 18 and met every Thursday until the book was done.
"This was really fun to do," said Mills.
Once the book was well on its way to being done, Anderson began the task of getting it published. Rarick suggested asking race tracks to be sponsors. Anderson did and soon received sponsorships from Canterbury Park, Gulfstream Park, Running Aces, Rarick Racing, as well as a variety of others sponsors.
Anderson is donating a portion of the book's proceeds from one of the book signings to Lazy J Horse Rescue, a 28-acre farm near Urbank, and a portion of other sales proceeds will be donated to various retired racehorse adoption services.
"This has been such a fun project with so many possibilities," she said, and her daughter agreed, saying, "My mom did an amazing job."
About the book
A young girl named Madi describes her favorite place to visit — the horse race track. A horse trainer named, Lynn, and Madi become good friends, and Lynn introduces Madi to some special race horses named Caleb's Comet, Sky City, Fashion Tour and Harveson. Not only does she meet the horses and learn all about racing, she becomes close with one horse in particular and something very special happens.
For more information
Book signing events: Friday, May 4, from 4-7 p.m. at the Box Office in Glenwood; Saturday, May 5, from 1-3 p.m. at Blairview Saddle Shop in Alexandria; Saturday, May 19, from 1-2:30 p.m. at Cherry Street Books in Alexandria; Sunday, May 20, at Running Aces and Monday, May 28 at Canterbury Park (times to be determined).