A member of the Tiffin Art Guild, Elinor Spellerberg of Tiffin loves to paint and sketch horses. She loves to ride them even more.
When Spellerberg was looking for a gift for a friend with a new grandchild, she looked for a gift book about baby horses. She discovered many children's books about kittens and puppies, but not horses.
"There were no baby horse books. It's terrible!" Spellerberg said with a laugh. "So I ended up writing three. They're 'read to me' books."
In September, Elinor Spellerberg and her mount, King Solomon (Johnny), competed in the test for membership in the United States Dressage Federation’s Century Club.
The main character in all three books is Toby, a young bay foal.
"Toby's First Day" describes his actions from birth to the end of the day. During that time, he learns to stand on wobbly legs, to nurse from his mother, and to walk outdoors on the grass. He also meets his human owners and wears a halter for the first time.
"Toby Makes New Friends" narrates the colt's meeting with a rabbit, bird, dog, cat and another colt.
The third book, "Toby Learns Some Lessons," talks about the young horse learning to eat grass, wear a bridle, have his coat brushed and get his first horse shoes from a farrier.
The books' target audience is children ages 2-7. Spellerberg also illustrated the books with color images on the covers and sketches on the inner pages. The Chronicle of the Horse, a well-known magazine, is running a business card-sized ad for Spellerberg's books.
"(The editor) was so excited about it she put it on the Internet as a full-page ad," Spellerberg said.
The children's books are not Spellerberg's first efforts at writing.
After studying dressage, she wrote the Dressage Manual and workbook for Ohio 4-H members. She also wrote "The Test" to introduce youth to the art and rules of dressage. The book contains dressage training lessons for young riders who have no access to a dressage instructor.
Spellerberg said she remembered riding her grandfather's work horses when she was growing up in Indiana.
"I was born loving horses. I guess that's the way it goes," she said.
While taking classes at Ohio State University, she met her future husband, the late Thomas Spellerberg. When he was looking for a place to practice law, he settled on Tiffin.
Although her husband bought Elinor a horse after they got married, a negative experience kept him from sharing her passion.
"One bucked him off. She was a nice, lovely old quarterhorse, and she dumped him," Elinor said.
When the five Spellerberg children were showing for 4-H, Elinor served as a 4-H leader. At one point, the family had seven horses housed at their Misty Hill Stables. Having lost count of the horses she has owned over the years, Elinor just says "a bunch."
In May 2012, Spellerberg and her most recent horse, Johnny, became members of the United States Dressage Federation's Century Club. To qualify, the combined age of the rider and horse must be 100 years or more, and they must complete a test that is judged.
The honors came just in time.
"Johnny was 22, but he died in September," Spellerberg said.
With Johnny's passing, she no longer owns a horse. Neither that nor her age has stopped her from riding, though.
Three or four times a week, she shows up at Lane of Dreams Farms, where the Tiffin University Equestrian Team rides. Occasionally, she gives a lesson. Currently, she is re-schooling a horse that has been racing for 10 years. Now he must learn to respond to the rider's signals for direction and speed.
"All a race horse does is run. That's all he knows," Spellerberg said.
Elinor has five grandchildren, including a granddaughter who is a "real rider." She lives in Sweden but visited her grandmother during the summer. They rode together every day at Lane of Dreams.
"To ride with your granddaughter is a very good thing," Spellerberg said. "It's really delightful."
Fellow Tiffin Art Guild member, Mark Levans, published Spellerberg's softcover "Toby" books. Each is 10 pages long.
Copies can be purchased at Paper and Ink in downtown Tiffin or at the Tiffin Art Guild Gallery, 178 S. Washington St., at $5.95 each.