Pleasanton Weekly

Column - December 6, 2013

A therapeutic unicorn

by Jeb Bing

Local author and internationally-known equestrian E. B. (Liz) Hendrix will sign copies of her first book tomorrow and again next Saturday at two Livermore locations and then Dec. 15 at the Greenville Equestrian Center where she's known for her years of teaching the skills of dressage.

But her book, "Angel & Evie-Catching a Unicorn," is only the latest chapter of her nearly 30 years of riding in the dressage and hunter/jumper world. At 16, she was jumping 5-foot courses at the Verden Sporthorse Auction in Germany and is now certified at the Fourth and highest level in the U.S. Dressage Federation.

All those good times and competitive ventures came to a crashing halt three years ago when an inner-ear infection, possibly from a shingles virus, led to Bell's palsy, a form of facial paralysis resulting from a dysfunction of the cranial nerve. Although most victims eventually recover, Hendrix was not so lucky. Her nerves regenerated in an incorrect way, leaving the left side of her face excruciatingly painful to touch, even painful in the slightest breeze or sideways head movement.

For months, her husband Nathan, a paramedic in Richmond, took time off work to help care for their daughter Evelyn (also known as "EV"), who is now in the second grade at Rancho Las Positas Elementary School in Livermore, near their home. Liz Hendrix was told by medical specialists that although her nerve damage was rare, there were others with similar conditions that medical science has not yet been able to cure.

With several teenagers and some adults in her dressage classes at the Greenville ranch where she teaches, Hendrix gradually returned half-days, bundled up in a hat, scarf and sunglasses to keep the wind out of her face. These classes are important because they teach riders on English saddles, which give them better control of their horses in dressage competitions. Dressage is especially popular on the East Coast, where Hendrix grew up; not so much here in the West where Western saddles, more associated with cowboys, cattle ranches and horseback riding lessons, are commonplace. Hendrix, in fact, before her illness, taught riders who competed in dressage competitions in the Olympics.

As time wore on, Hendrix, who had taken up art as a hobby and has earned honors as a writer, turned to both as a therapeutic way of moving forward and escaping the misery that was embracing her. It worked. As a little girl, just like most girls who love horses, every horse she loved seemed like a unicorn. This legendary animal has been described since antiquity in folklore particularly in children's stories as a symbol of purity and grace. Its large, pointed, spiraling horn has even been said to have the power to heal sickness.

"Angel & Evie-Catching a Unicorn," names that her daughter EV helped create, offered Hendrix just that kind of healing therapy and offers readers a heart-warming story as well. In his review of the book, Dale Leatherman, editor of DiscoverHorses.com, praises Hendrix for her picture book for beginning readers about the feisty Evie who searches for a unicorn of her very own, imagining a pretty white mare with pink mane and tail. In the magical land of Einhorn, just such a unicorn dreams of finding a little girl of her very own, one with gentle hands, a cheerful voice and plain brown hair, like Evie. Aided by fairies, Angel begins her search and the two find a friendship that is made to last.

Hendrix's characters are heartwarming, and her vibrantly colored illustrations draw the reader into a wonderful world with unexpected surprises on each page. Hopefully, this book won't be her last, and she and her daughter EV are already conspiring on a sequel.

"Angel & Eve-Catching a Unicorn," by E.B. Hendrix, hardcover, 36 pages, 36 illustrations, $19.99

Buy the book and meet the author:

* Saturday, Dec. 7, from noon-4 p.m., at Woopsiedaisy Toy Shop, 154 South J St., Livermore

* Saturday, Dec. 14, from 2-4 p.m., at Cooleykatz Toys, 1959 Second St., Livermore

* Sunday, Dec. 15, from 2-4 p.m., at Greenville Equestrian Center, 4180 Greenville Road, Livermore.

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