Rita Mae Brown made her name as a New York Times bestselling author and Emmy-nominated screenplay writer. In the equestrian world, it’s hard to say whether she better known for her series of mystery novels set in the foxhunting community or her charismatic nature and authenticity in the field as Master of Foxhounds and Huntsman for Oak Ridge Fox Hunt Club in Charlottesville, Virginia. She grew up with a deep love for animals and is enamored with the magic of language.
In this extended Q&A selected from Covertside’s interview with her, “The Plot Will Take Care of Itself,” she compares and contrasts the history of horsemanship, writing, and the English language to our modern understanding of all three, and celebrate the Saddlebred as a tremendous athlete in the hunt field. Read more of Covertside’s interview in the upcoming Summer 2020 issue.
On Modern Horsemanship
Rita Mae Brown: There are very few horsemen anymore. When I was young, most everyone knew horses. Even if you lived in the city, you knew the country and could get to it. There weren’t as many distractions. Now it’s 24 hours a day of distractions. We have riders now; we have very good riders, but we don’t necessarily have horseman the way I remember. That’s been one of the biggest changes throughout my lifetime. You’ve got to have a field master who can tell if someone’s horse is tying up and can help, for example, because the rider could potentially be hurt if their horse is lagging and can’t tell what’s happening. People don’t know country ways and animals the way they used to, and that makes it hard to truly know horses.
On Writing and the English Language
Sometimes I sit and look at English and think, “Well, as a language it really isn’t that precise, but it can be.” I mean, there are fewer and fewer people who even know about the subjunctive anymore. I’d tell them to pick up Chaucer and read it in middle English. The rhythm is extraordinary. That’s really when our language solidified. Before that, English was still various different dialects. It’s made of two completely different primary languages that were melded into one language. It was basically from the year 1066 until the end of the 14th century before we finally got it. Some people spend their whole lives writing and they don’t understand what English is. I think it’s the greatest gift we could have been given.
On Saddlebreds in the Huntfield
I have a couple Saddlebreds and people don’t even realize they’re Saddlebred. They’re fabulous athletes and you can hunt them on the buckle. They have great mouths. I have a friend at Kalarama Farm who sends me the ones who aren’t flashy enough for the show ring but are tremendous athletes. They are some of my favorite horses to ride.