By Kimberly Gatto
Portraits by Adrienne Morella
It has been said that a good writer has the power to move the human heart. For horseman Shane Ledyard, this adage has proven to be true. With a growing line of equestrian books that have touched readers of all ages, the Pennsylvania-based trainer, clinician, and USEF judge has been winning rave reviews.
Shane had never seriously considered the possibility of becoming a writer until a chance meeting with a special horse inspired him to put pen to paper. The resulting novella was “Horse Gone Silent,” the first of Shane’s best-selling volumes. It is, as one reader aptly noted, “a book that will speak to your heart.”
Shane’s foray into authorship began rather unexpectedly. Despite having earned praise for his writing ability while in high school and college, Shane was too busy building a successful equestrian career to ever think seriously about writing. “I was doing a clinic at my friend Laura Conroy-Zaharek’s,” Shane said. “She had a horse in her barn who had a phenomenal backstory—it truly was like a Disney movie. I used to see him all the time when I taught clinics at Laura’s. Sadly, Laura called me one day and told me the horse had to be put down; it was a really tough situation. I went to visit Laura and her husband to console them, and for whatever reason I told them, right then and there, that I was going to rewrite the ending of this horse’s story. It happened just like that.”
Writing a Best Seller
On the drive home, Shane could not get the story out of his mind. He began the writing process as soon as he arrived at home. “It was hard to sit down and write at first,” he said. “Then I decided to use voice-to-text and found that, when I was speaking, it was easy to pretend I was the horse, telling his own story. I forced myself to work on the book using voice-to-text while I was driving to and from the barn and clinics. Then I would come home at night and edit each chapter.” “Horse Gone Silent” was completed in a mere three months.
“It’s written from the horse’s viewpoint, so the horse is telling his own story,” Shane said. “The title comes from the fact that there was a time in this horse’s career where he had gone to a new home and the owner found it strange that the horse never made a sound—he never nickered or whinnied.” While the novella is considered fictional, it was rooted in the horse’s true life story—but with a happier ending. “Horse Gone Silent” tells the tale of a show jumper called Calebo who, like many horses, experiences a variety of owners and situations in his lifetime—some good and some heart-wrenching. Through it all, the horse retains his faith in humanity. “The story was so touching that I felt in my heart I had to tell it, even if it was never going to sell,” Shane said.
Shane’s original thought, in self-publishing on Amazon, was to give copies of the book to Laura and a few friends and family members. He was therefore surprised when reviews began appearing on Amazon and readers from all over shared positive feelings about the book. Beautifully written and inspiring to the core, “Horse Gone Silent” eventually became an Amazon best-seller. In fact, the book was so well-received that folks began asking Shane when he would be writing a sequel. The answer became clear one year later with the release of “Sycamore Whispers,” the second title in the “Horse Gone Silent” trilogy. A third book, “Brielle’s Promise,” followed.
All three novellas have garnered rave reviews among equestrians and fellow writers alike, surpassing all of Shane’s expectations. In 2020, “Horse Gone Silent” won a Whinnie Award from the Equus Film Festival. More recently, a Spanish language version of the trilogy was released into the market. In October 2022, Shane released “The Pony That Wouldn’t Whinny,” the children’s book version of “Horse Gone Silent.” Additionally, Shane has developed a line of coloring books entitled “Color Me Real,” which are created from his own photographs from his travels. The photos are converted to line art that make wonderful and unique coloring pages.
Passionate About Horses
Despite his accomplishments as a writer, working with horses remains Shane’s primary career and passion. His life story is rooted in the bucolic town of Wycombe, Pennsylvania, where he grew up as the youngest in a family of six children. “My mom was a nurse and my dad was an accountant and teacher,” Shane said. “We lived in Bucks County, which was the heart of horse country. We were within an hour’s drive of the barns of several Olympic medalists. We always had a horse or pony around, but I never really got into it when I was a child.”
That changed when Shane turned 16. “I got a job working on a haunted hayride at a horse farm,” he said. “I was really into the cowboy image—you know, driving a pickup and wearing a cowboy hat and boots. One of the girls working with me was an English riding instructor. She started making fun of me for being a ‘poser’ and not even knowing how to ride. So I started taking lessons and was hooked from the start. Imagine a 16-year-old boy showing up at a hunter barn in cowboy boots—that was me!”
Located close to numerous horse shows, Shane was drawn to the splendor and precision of the hunter ring. “When I was 17, I met Louise Kass, who was a judge in hunters and equitation. She told me that one day I would be a judge also. It was funny, since I could barely canter at the time! I made it in the business because of Louise’s push and my mother’s encouragement.”
Highly motivated to succeed in the business, Shane started his own horse transport company while he was still a teenager. “I did single horse hauls, transports to clinics, and things like that,” he said. By the age of 18, he was buying and selling horses, mainly from auctions and racetracks. Shane exited the transport business after a decade and began teaching lessons and training hunters and jumpers, then obtained his USEF judge’s license, just as Louise Kass had predicted. Soon he was competing on his own horses as well as some customers’, showing young hunters at Devon and the local circuit.
Around this time, Shane took lessons with as many of the great trainers in his area as he could, always investing in himself, and later obtained a job working for noted horseman Jimmy Kohn. “I wasn’t good enough to ride for Jimmy,” Shane said, “But I worked for him, mucking stalls and doing other barn chores. I learned so much from Jimmy; I still have those conversations memorized in my mind.” Following Jimmy Kohn’s passing after a battle with cancer, Shane committed himself to the business of buying, selling and training horses.
At the age of 28, Shane reconnected with a childhood acquaintance who turned out to be the love of his life. After dating for a little over a year, Shane and Carice, a healthcare worker, were married. “Carice and I grew up three miles apart,” Shane said. “We even rode the bus together. In fact, I used to tease her and make her cry! Later on, she became friends with my sister, and we started hanging out together. Our first date was at church on Easter Sunday, and we were engaged the following November. I am so blessed to be married to her.”
Within a couple of years, the couple welcomed their son, Kevin, followed by daughter Kaydy three years later. Now 12 years old, Kaydy has inherited the “horse bug” from her dad. “Kevin didn’t get into the horses at all,” Shane said. “He did leadline at Devon, but that was really it. That’s okay with me because we get to do all the guy stuff together! But Kaydy became obsessed with the horses. She goes with me to the barn four to five days a week. She works her tail off.”
Shane is highly devoted to his family, even taking the time to coach his kids’ sports teams on a regular basis. To Shane, family comes first.
Aside from family, Shane keeps a busy schedule that involves riding, judging and giving clinics through his business, Ledyard Equestrian. Additionally, he teaches several days per week at Rosewood Equestrian Center in East Greenville, Pennsylvania. “I love it there because I never have to worry about my clients’ horses,” Shane said. “The barn manager, Kelsie Jett, is amazing at her job. I can focus on my clients and their horses’ needs. I hadn’t been showing in quite a while, but I was able to compete a young horse for a client, Susan Lee, over this past summer, which was great to be able to do. It was nice to be able to connect with my daughter and my clients in that way.”
Most of Shane’s clients ride in the hunter and equitation rings, though he also teaches some jumper riders. He also travels across the country, giving clinics to riders of all ages and abilities. “I like to teach ‘inspirational clinics’ to help teach kids what the judge is looking for,” he said. “I explain to them that we judges want them to do well and feel good about themselves. So I teach them and tune them up for good performances in the ring.”
Whether he’s writing, teaching or judging horse shows, Shane’s primary goal is to inspire others. “My favorite line from the Bible is ‘stay strong and courageous.’ It transcends any religion or belief, and I hear my mother’s voice and encouragement in it. She taught me that people remember how you make them feel and that you can change someone’s day—or even their life—with something as simple as timely, kind words,” he said. “I use the horses and writing as a platform for just that. If I can give others courage through my teaching and writing, then I feel like I’m fulfilling a purpose.”
For more information, visit www.ShaneLedyard.com
Photos by Adrienne Morella, www.adriennemorellaphotography.com