Two horses standing together by barn
Two horses standing together by barn
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A Storybook Beginning
How a rescue pony in Arkansas inspired a children’s book
By Meghan Murphy-Gill
Photos of Nancy Pruitt, The Flying Ace Farm, and Winston the pony courtesy of Nancy Pruitt
Illustrations by Diana Terry
“We didn’t start out as horse people. We didn’t start out as farmers,” says Nancy Pruitt, who co-owns The Flying Ace Farm in Bryant, Arkansas, with her husband Doug Pruitt. “But now we live on a farm with 26 animals.”
It all started in 2009, when Nancy’s and Doug’s daughter, Melody Kaylyn Pruitt, fell in love with horses, “like little girls do,” Nancy says. Melody was 11, and Doug thought it was just a phase—at the time.

“It wasn’t a phase. It became a lifestyle for us,” Nancy says. They adopted a retired racehorse and then another. And soon, horses became an enormous part of the Pruitts’ lives. One of those retired racehorses even inspired the name of the farm where the Pruitts live now—the same farm where Melody took her first horse riding lessons.

The Flying Ace, or Ace for short, a retired thoroughbred, had broken a bone in his foot, and one vet advised putting him down. But a second opinion sparked hope: Another vet suggested a rehabilitation program that would include pricy heart-bar horseshoes. The Pruitts decided to make the investment. “Those heart-bar horseshoes are very important to us and are our symbol of hope,” Nancy says. Melody retrained Ace and even went on to win the American Eventing Championship in the Junior Beginner Novice Division with him in 2015.

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“Those heart-bar horseshoes are very important to us and are our symbol of hope.”
–Nancy Pruitt
green horseshoe illustration
Nancy Pruitt poses with Winston
Nancy Pruitt poses with Winston
/ Homeward Bound /
Hope thrives at The Flying Ace Farm, where heart-bar shoes hang all around. Nancy says, “You could go on a scavenger hunt [looking for them] around here.” Or within the pages of Nancy’s first children’s book, “Winston the Pony Goes to a Party,” which was inspired by the Pruitts’ real-life pony. Hidden heart-bar shoes can be found within each vivid spread of the book.

“Winston actually came from a kill pen,” Nancy says. In early 2016, she came across the pony while browsing Facebook. “I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness, someone needs to give this little pony a home.’” When it became clear that no one else was going to adopt Winston, Nancy and Doug drove three hours through January rain and sleet to rescue him and bring him home. Doug affectionately calls Winston Nancy’s “midlife crisis.”

“I just couldn’t let him go,” she says.

Winston has a big, gentle heart, particularly for children with special needs.
Though he can be mischievous, Winston is sweet-natured.
Though he can be mischievous, Winston is sweet-natured.
Winston turned out to be a particularly mischievous little pony. He could jump the horse fencing around the Pruitts’ small pasture (this was before they moved to the farm) and open every gate. “I look outside one day, and he was standing on the back porch staring into the house,” Nancy says. He also had—and still has—a big, gentle heart, particularly for children with special needs.
Nigerian Dwarf Goat with head resting on red bar
Nancy has written two children’s books inspired by her family’s rescue horses.
Nancy has written two children’s books inspired by her family’s rescue horses.
/ not so by the book /
Winston had been living with the Pruitts for just a short time when he was invited to a community party for a little girl with disabilities who was preparing for a major surgery. While the Pruitts accepted the invitation, they weren’t so sure how Winston would behave. “We took this little frisky pony to the party, and as soon as he got near her, he put his head down and he let the little girl pet him. He was so still and so quiet, which was somewhat out of character for him,” Nancy says.

It was the way Winston made that birthday girl smile and laugh that inspired Nancy’s book.

“I just wanted other people to know how very wonderful this little guy is and how much we have learned from him. I want to share that with everyone,” she says.

Winston packs a lot of personality into a small horse.
Winston packs a lot of personality into a small horse.
“Milly the Filly,” Nancy’s second book; Winston poses at The Flying Ace Farm; “Winston the Pony Goes to the Party,” Nancy’s first book inspired by Winston
From left to right: “Milly the Filly,” Nancy’s second book; Winston poses at The Flying Ace Farm; “Winston the Pony Goes to the Party,” Nancy’s first book inspired by Winston
Nancy’s follow-up children’s book, “Milly the Filly,” is an equally hopeful story about a horse whose destiny wasn’t quite what others had planned for her. Milly is a racehorse who loves to dance rather than race, despite her fine lineage.

Nancy says she hopes that her books encourage adults to read with children and that both kids and adults can learn from the animals she writes about. Nancy regularly takes Winston and a few other farm animals to read to groups in libraries and schools around Arkansas. “The children love it,” she says.

These days, The Flying Ace Farm continues to be a place of hope for animals in need of rescue. While it’s not an official rescue farm, the Pruitts remain open to animals in need of assistance. And a portion of the proceeds from Nancy’s books goes directly into a fund they’ve set up to assist with horse rescue, rehabilitation, retraining, or retirement.

green paintbrush illustration
Wintson on the Flying Ace Farm
Nancy hopes her books encourage adults to read with children and that both can learn from the animals she writes about.
To learn more about The Flying Ace Farm and Nancy’s books, visit TheFlyingAceFarm.com.
About the Writer
Meghan Murphy-Gill is a Midwest-based writer whose childhood was spent traveling the United States. She loves to cook, eat, and run.

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