Greencastle, IN (08/20/2018) — A horse named Zipper taught Hannah Hearon '19, she says, to be resilient, brave and graceful.
Now she's using her experiences with her American Quarter Horse, a gift from her dad, to inspire a creative nonfiction-writing project that she undertook as part of DePauw's summer research program.
She now owns four Quarter Horses, but "it was Zipper who taught me everything I know about horses," she says, "and arguably even more about myself."
An English writing and history double major, Hearon has spent the summer researching Quarter Horses and traveling to Texas, Wyoming and Oklahoma to interview people who ride and care for horses. She met with writer Mark Spragg, author of "Where Rivers Change Direction," a memoir about his life working on his father's dude ranch in Wyoming.
"I have a lot of scenes written already, but the key will be tying them together in a logical, compelling way," she says. "I've experienced enough touching moments on this journey to write a book, but my goal for this project is a single essay to submit to small literary magazines."
The Quarter Horse's versatility has always intrigued her. "It's fascinating how one breed can go from roping to jumping in the change of a saddle," she says. Hearon's research explores the breed's history and characteristics in hopes of better understanding what makes it so adaptable.
Quarter Horses earned their name for their ability to beat the thoroughbred in a quarter-mile sprint. They're a blend of Turk, Iberian and Barb stock - Spanish horses captured or bought by Native Americans - bred back to leggy, English thoroughbreds. "The result was a hardy, versatile horse that would later help 'settle the west'," Hearon says.
"People tend to think that research has to be STEM-based, but that's not the case," Hearon says, referring to the science, technology, engineering and math fields. "Exploration is an important part of the creative process; art and research are not mutually exclusive."