Spirit of the Saluda River

Spirit of the Saluda River cover;

An easy reader for ages 5-8+, Spirit of the Saluda River is told by Spirit, a blind 20+ year-old Shetland pony rescued from an island in South Carolina's Saluda River. Despite a difficult past and obstacles in his recovery, Spirit goes on to become an inspiration, particularly to deaf and blind children.

Based on the true story of an incredible pony rehabilitated by Palmetto Equine Awareness & Rescue League (P.E.A.R.L.), a South Carolina-based horse rescue. A portion of the proceeds from the book’s sale benefits P.E.A.R.L. Cover art & illustrations by Emmi Gordon. (ISBN: 1-4536-5868-8)

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Honorable Mention: Early Readers

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Runner-up: Children's Western

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Story Monsters Approved! Early Reader Fiction Book

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"Many times, the children were scared to ride me. I would sniff their hands to try and earn their trust. Most of them were giggling and smiling by the time our ride ended. The faces were always new and I loved making each one happy.

My one wish was that the children would stay longer. Still, after each ride, they would run right off, and I rarely saw a face more than once."


"This is a beautifully written true story about the spirit of an abandoned pony. Although blind and abandoned, Spirit was rescued and, with the help of kind animal lovers, adopted and thrived. The author presented the story with tenderness and thoughtfulness. I love the fact some of the proceeds go to an animal rescue group!"

—Diane Semanski, New York

"This heartwarming story is based on the life of a real blind pony who swims across the Saluda River. Spirit is a pony who likes children, but is overworked. When he loses his eyesight, his owner no longer wants him and Spirit is abandoned. He breaks free from a paddock where he has no water, food, or shelter and soon finds himself in the river. Although he is stranded, he eventually ends up in the hands of a caring rescue facility that brings the neglected pony back to life. Spirit finally finds the love that he has craved for many years. This wonderful story was also illustrated by a very talented 13 year-old girl."

—Anouk Busch, New Jersey, Horse Rescue United, Inc.

"I rehabbed Spirit, aka River Rat. He was an AWESOME pony. The facts in the book are just the tip of the actual story. It was a hard road. That pony never quit so Cathryn and I didn't either. I will never regret one minute of my experiences with him, good and bad. His final years were spent as a spoiled little pony, he loved his new 'job,' his new pony friends, and his wonderful adopter."

— Nancy T., South Carolina

"Lately, I have read quite a few children's books about animals. If I were still a little girl, I am certain I would re-read this story or make my Mommy re-read it to me. The illustrations are so beautiful that I would draw them all the time. The story is based on a true story and a percentage of the proceeds benefit Palmetto Equine Awareness & Rescue League (P.E.A.R.L.), who saved the real Spirit."

—Gloria Picchetti, Chicago, Illinois

"Spirit of the Saluda River by Diana Tuorto is an empowering journey based on a true story. A horse, soon to be called Spirit, loved giving rides to children but when he began losing his eyesight, his owners decided to get rid of him. Spirit was abandoned, left without food and water in a bare field. As he breaks his way out of his enclosure, he discovers water in an unlikely place and without realizing it crosses the Saluda River. He finds sanctuary on the island but struggles to find grass anywhere. Eventually, he is discovered and rescued by a woman named Nancy who rehabilitates him with affection and food. This lovely story follows Spirit’s journey of survival as he discovers a new place to call home.

The story is told from the perspective of Spirit, a horse that embarks on an inspiring journey of survival. His life slowly changed as he began to lose his eyesight, a situation that Diana Tuorto captured with empathy, allowing you to feel his frustration and pain. The story is heartbreaking as this horse is cast aside and left in a field, unable to see where he is. This will tug at your heartstrings and his plight will resonate with children of all ages. His journey has themes of resistance and determination as Spirit refuses to give up. The rest of the story focuses on Spirit’s rescue and rehabilitation, which is a great representation of what animal rescuers accomplish. Children will enjoy the happy ending when Spirit gets a second chance at life with a caring home that loves him for who he is. The story is empowering with a great message that parents and children can learn together. The illustrations are lovely and unusual with a sketch style that pairs well with the story and depicts Spirit’s journey. Spirit of the Saluda River will touch a lot of hearts in an endearing tale that serves as the perfect introduction for small children to learn about what animal rescuers do."

—Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite

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