Jolly holiday fun: Twelve dancing horses celebrate Christmas in new book by Iowa City author

Sep 14, 2016

The Horse That Ate Christmas, written by Debbie Brady Shellady and illustrated by Victoria Peterson Laird, is the latest children’s book published by the Write Place. It tells the true story of Zsir, a dancing horse, who gets into trouble on Christmas Eve when he eats all of the treats in his stablemates’ stockings. When Zsir wakes up the next morning with eleven disappointed stablemates and a serious holiday tummy ache, trusty Dr. McNutt and sweet Aunt Amy must find a way to help Zsir save Christmas for his friends.

Shellady’s inspiration for this book came from a real-life Christmas incident involving her own dressage horse. She is an avid rider and has boarded her horse at West Branch Horse Farm, the setting of The Horse That Ate Christmas, for many years. “Since the story is a true story about my dressage horse, it was very easy to write,” she said. “For several years, the boarders at my stable have encouraged me to tell the true story about Zsir eating all his stablemates’ treats on a snowy Christmas Eve. They thought children would enjoy reading about his Christmas Eve adventure.”

Featuring watercolor artwork by Laird, The Horse That Ate Christmas is a warm and whimsical tale that is sure to entertain young readers. Shellady hopes that they will enjoy hearing about Zsir’s holiday mishaps and about how he, Aunt Amy, and Dr. McNutt saved the day. She also hopes to write another children’s book about horses in the future. “I’ve boarded my horse at the West Branch Horse Farm for ten years,” she said. “Over that period of time, there have been many interesting horse adventures. The stable owner has many true horse stories to tell that would make other great children’s books.”

Debbie Brady Shellady worked as an educational consultant for the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency for thirty-five years. She also served as a school counselor for Bennett Community Schools. Shellady has a bachelor of arts degree from Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, and a master of arts from the University of Iowa. She currently lives in Iowa City.

The Horse That Ate Christmas is available for purchase on Amazon and


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