Deanie Humphrys-Dunne is a multi-award winning children’s author of eight books : My Life at Sweetbrier–A Life Changed by Horses, Charlie the Horse, Charlene the Star, Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes, Charlene the Star and Bentley Bulldog, A Tractor Named Wilbur and Un Tractor Llamado Wilbur and Wilbur’s new Home. Many of her fictional books are beautifully illustrated by Holly Humphrys-Bajaj who also designed Deanie’s covers. Wilbur’s new Home is wonderfully jointly illustrated by Wanda L. Urabazo and Holly Humphrys-Bajaj. The series of Charlene the Star books is told by the animal characters.
Deanie’s writing has earned the coveted Mom’s Choice Awards for My Life at Sweetbrier and A Tractor Named Wilbur. Charlene the Star and Hattie’s Heroes won the Reserve Champion Winnie Award at the Equus Film Festival in Children’s Fiction. In that same contest, My Life at Sweetbrier won the Winnie Award in Equine English Biography. Other accolades include the Feathered Quill Silver Medal, Readers Favorites silver medals, and New Apple Solo (Gold) Medal, among others.
Deanie believes the message that perseverance is the key to accomplishing amazing things and has made it her mission to share this message, one that can benefit every child. Through her inspiring, real life and fictional works, children learn that anything is possible when they refuse to give up on their dreams. Deanie knows from her own life experience that we can attain much more than we ever imagined possible by never quitting.
Deanie’s stories remind readers that tenacity is the key to success. She shares proof that obstacles can be overcome. With the goal of being a positive role model for generations of children, Deanie loves to write entertaining stories that emphasize values that build self-esteem and confidence in young readers. She works tirelessly to create stories that appeal to children in an engaging manner.
Deanie has been featured on several author websites including TheAuthorsShow.com, and blogtalkradio.com with authors JD Holiday and Annette Rochelle Aben.
What Makes a Champion?
By Deanie Humphrys-Dunne
I was born with cerebral palsy, which made walking difficult. In fact, I was nearly four-years-old when I took my first unsteady steps. A doctor said I’d never walk, but Daddy wouldn’t accept that. Instead, he chose to teach me to ride horses.
Daddy and I worked diligently toward our goal. After six years, I’d learned basic things— walking, trotting, and cantering. I asked Daddy if I could learn to jump.
I grew up at my family’s riding school, called Sweetbrier. It was the place where my dream could come true. What did I dream about? Becoming an equestrian champion. Lots of kids can do that, right? In my case, there was an obstacle to overcome.
“What if you fall off, honey?”
“Daddy, I’ll get up. I always have.”
He said he’d think about it, but my intuition said success wasn’t around the corner.
My fingers felt clammy, because I was nervous. “Daddy, you can’t refuse. You’ve always said I can do anything. You can’t change now. How can I become a champion without jumping?” I stared into his big blue eyes, holding my breath.
“Alright, we’ll give it a try.”
“Can I jump with Cocoa? She’s small and we’re already friends.”
“Sure, honey. Cocoa’s a good choice.”
The next day, Cocoa and I were cantering around the riding ring. Would this the big day? Would we take the first jump? Daddy walked into the ring and set up a cross rail. My mouth felt dry. My hands felt cold and clammy. My legs trembled.
“Okay, honey, steer Cocoa toward the jump.”
Clip, clop, Cocoa trotted toward the little jump. Her front feet landed. I slid off and stared at her.
“Are you okay, sweetie?” Daddy brushed me off. “Next time, try to press down more on your heels.” He hugged me and lifted me back into the saddle. I sniffed back the tears.
“Let’s try again. Steer her toward the jump. That’s it. Heels down.” Again, when Cocoa’s front legs landed, I fell off. Again, Daddy brushed the dirt off, kissed me, and lifted me back on. I expected him to tell me to try again, but he looked into my eyes. “Honey, I think we need to wait until your legs are stronger before we try to jump again.”
“Daddy, isn’t that giving up?”
“No, we’re taking a break. I’ll let you know when you’re ready.”
Tears ran down my cheeks. I patted Cocoa, wondering if she felt sad too.
Nearly two years later, Daddy surprised me. “You’re ready to try jumping again.”
I steered a big, cream-colored horse named Laddie toward the cross rail. He was calm, but my heart thumped in my chest. My legs shook. I stared at the tiny jump. Laddie tilted his blue eyes down, looking for it. I held my breath. When we reached the other side, I was still in the saddle! “Daddy, I jumped!” Daddy kissed me and said we did a good job.
Things didn’t always go smoothly and it took another three years before I could jump well enough to enter competitions. Every day, I imagined becoming a champion, especially on the days when I fell off once or twice. Perseverance is the key to success, I often whispered to myself.
Daddy traveled across the country to find me a special horse, one who could compete in the big shows. Her name was Fleet Nancy, but her nickname was Peach. She was beautiful, black, and gifted at jumping. When we did well, she’d buck or crow hop to show me she was pleased. She’d press her neck against my hand when I patted her. When we entered our first competition, we won first prize! I was so nervous, I wasn’t sure whether we did well, so I asked my sister. Over the following years, Peach and I won many championships together.
Whatever your goals, stay focused and work hard. We all have challenges. Learn from your failures instead of dwelling on them. Never lose sight of your dreams. I believe that’s how champions are created. I can’t recall any winners who ever quit, because they know it’s what happens after you fall that matters.
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by Deanie Humphrys-Dunne
During my childhood, my singular passion was to become an equestrian champion. It’s not a particularly unique goal, but my situation was different than most because I was born with a handicap that made walking a challenge. It was a huge blessing to have parents who instilled the idea that I could do anything if I persevered. That meant I couldn’t moan over how many times I fell off when I was learning to jump. After six years, I started jumping in competitions.
After I’d been jumping for a few years, Daddy bought me a beautiful black Thoroughbred horse named Fleet Nancy, so we could compete in the big shows. Her nickname was Peach. Peach’s only job was to excel at jumping, and she did. She showed it was fun for her by hopping up and down, doing small bucks called crow hops.
“Daddy, can we go to the show at the Riding Club in Weston? I heard the course is tricky because it’s hilly. Can we practice a couple of days before the show, to make sure we’re familiar with all of the jumps?”
“Good idea, honey. We’ll go there on Friday before the show.”
Our practice jumps helped me feel comfortable with the rolling terrain. Peach didn’t mind that the course wasn’t perfectly flat like most were.
On the morning of the show, Peach and I were practicing before our class. Everything went smoothly until we approached the last jump, the in and out. It’s two jumps with one stride in between. I thought Peach was ready to leave the ground at exactly the right time, but instead, she slid into the first part of the jump and I fell off. If you’re looking for the biggest embarrassment ever, this was it. I imagined every set of eyes in town staring at me when there was no rock to hide behind. And that’s not all. My amazing, perfect Peach galloped off the field at breakneck speed while the announcer yelled, “Loose horse!” over the loudspeaker. Peach ran off whenever she’d been naughty.
Naturally, anyone who didn’t know what happened felt compelled to check it out. I brushed myself off as Daddy walked onto the field. “Are you okay, sweetie?”
“Yes, but everyone was watching us.”
Daddy kissed the scrape on my cheek and wiped the dirt off with his clean hankie. “We’ll get some ice for it. Don’t let the fall bother you. When it matters, you and Peach will shine.”
Someone led Peach over to us. Daddy put me back on and we headed for the in and out again. I whispered, “Peach, that wasn’t nice. We’d better buckle down and do it right this time.” My legs trembled like they always did after I fell off, but we managed to take the in and out well. I patted Peach’s neck and tried to put the incident behind us.
“Honey, your class is next. Peach has rested since this morning. Be confident. Ride her like you always do. Then you’ll be hard to beat.”
Daddy kissed me for luck and we trotted onto the field. I gave Peach the canter signal and we galloped toward the first jump. Perfect, I thought. Peach and I took every jump in stride. When we finished, she crow hopped all over the field. I kissed her neck. My legs shook again because I was excited. “Now we’ll wait and see, Peach. We did our best.”
Daddy clapped and whistled from the side of the field. When Peach and I went over, he kissed me and said, “I don’t think anyone can top that.”
We waited for the winning numbers. Finally, the announcement came over the loudspeaker. “First place, number 91, Fleet Nancy, ridden by Deanie Humphrys.”
I kissed Peach’s soft brown nose and trotted her onto the field past the judge. The ringmaster pinned the bright blue ribbon on her bridle. We won every class that day and the Open Hunter Championship. It was incredible. It showed that even when your day doesn’t start out right, you can still change the outcome. When you have a setback, turn it into a comeback. When your biggest desire is to become a champion, you learn to be unstoppable.