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NEARLY THERE – a story of friendship and discovery

by Johanna Connor & Gabrielle Byrne

Outside cover of NEARLY THERE

Horse and Pony Info talks to Johanna Connor, co-author of NEARLY THERE


What is NEARLY THERE about?

NEARLY THERE is our first book. We have completed others and will be publishing them as the opportunities arise. The book is a tale of two horses, Budley and Bishop, who go on an exciting journey, meeting mysterious strangers, overcoming obstacles and undergoing zany trials. Along the way, they encounter other animals all unhappy with their lot. Once freed from human captivity these friends embark upon a quest for fulfillment. Seemingly defenseless, they thrive in the face of adversity.

On their meanderings, music and song guides them towards their goal. On the roadside a naked chicken appears and says: ‘Can you help me find my feathers?’ Bishop, a thoroughbred bay mare, asserted to her: ‘Of course, come with us!’ And so the journey begins… on the road to NEARLY THERE!

With its exquisite drawings, catchy tunes, exciting and innovative narration, NEARLY THERE takes you on an unforgettable journey. This is a story for the child in all of us.


What is your background with horses?

I first sat on a horse when I was three, Puk a coloured cob, who lived on Long Island (West Cork). I rode a little as a child and had a pony for a while. Life took me elsewhere but every now and then I was lucky enough to come in contact with a beautiful horse…somewhere, somehow.

A change of direction 

On December 12th 2000, I nearly died. I woke, two weeks later thinking I was headed somewhere else - perhaps a land full of horses. But no, I was in ICU. Four months later, as part of my recovery, I demanded to go riding! That was the day I meet Budley, a heavy, cob gelding. The following day I met Gabby and, a number of weeks later, Bishop, a feisty thoroughbred mare. It was an instant friendship and eleven years later we are still together. Friends, having adventures!


Four years ago I went to Clonshire Equestrian centre in Limerick where I passed my BHS 1 & 2. Instantly I got a job caring for & schooling horses. Budley and Bishop are now retired. We are really lucky though as we have the next generation, Dippy and Beckett, to bring on and ride.

Thoroughbred Bishop meets an elephant in West Cork

What is your background in art and writing?

I have no background in writing. I do however have a background in art.

I studied animation and graphic design, fine art painting and eventually theatre design in London. I worked successfully for a number of years as a theatre designer in Dublin until the irreversible happened in December 2000. I am in my element when I have a pencil in my hand. Quite naturally illustration became my new form of expression. I still paint and occasionally model-make. Creativity is as necessary to me as breathing.

Who will enjoy NEARLY THERE?

NEARLY THERE is a book for the child in all of us. We encountered the enthralling landscape of West Cork where we meet all sorts of creatures, great and small. Our experiences condensed into a process of fun, friendships & new beginnings.

We needed to share our story of Budley and Bishop plus the odd-balls they meet on the road to NEARLY THERE.



         Bishop admiring the view in West Cork             Budley gets a visit from the farrier

About Budley and Bishop – the real horses!

Two more different equines you couldn't meet - yet Budley and Bishop would be lost without one another. Budley is a heavy cob gelding who loves to rest and eat. Bishop is a feisty thoroughbred mare who is always on the alert. Together since 2001, these two have been happily retired here in West Cork. They will be spending their summer holidays in Loughbeg Farm, where you can visit them and all the other creatures living there.


In 2002 Johanna Connor and Gabrielle Byrne formed a creative partnership called Creatures of Serendipity. Johanna says: ‘In the beginning we spent all our time at our drawing boards creating zany characters that found their places onto T-shirts, baby grows & thongs or in breath-taking adventures with Budley and Bishop.’


Serendipitous Times

Enveloped in a world of equine, canine and feline friends, we, Creatures of Serendipity, Johanna & Gabrielle armed with pencils, pens, brushes and ink immersed ourselves in folds of paper and drew incessantly, entwining drawing styles until two became one.

It began with Molly, Gabby’s rotund, excitable pug who became a series of Pug n Poofs then catapulted into worlds of Pigs n Wigs, Dogs n Bogs….

Book with CD available on 11th July 2012 at the launch in Grove House, Schull, West Cork, Ireland.  After this, you will be able to purchase it from Whyte's Book Shop, Schull, West Cork; Loughbeg Farm, Lowertown, Schull or Grove House, Schull, West Cork, Ireland. 


                Johanna and Gabrielle                                    

NEARLY THERE App available on iTunes

This app features the unique illustrations and storytelling by Johanna and Gabrielle with interactive animation and narration to provide you with a special experience that means you will be constantly finding new and different features that enhance and reinforce the story’s central message of friendship and discovery.  

·         Narration – the story can be read out loud for children to fully enjoy

·         Discover the voices of the various animals on their journey

·         Fully interactive storytelling

·         Colouring feature – enjoy 5 different images that can be coloured in using the interactive colour palette and brush – save and share your pictures with your friends

·         Songs – original music played during the story to sing-along with

.·         Photographic media section where you can see the real life Budley and Bishop and other animals cared for by Johanna and Gabrielle. 

To buy the app, go to iTunes and key NEARLY THERE into search box




www.creaturesofserendipity.com (website still under construction)

Find Budley Bishop on Facebook & LIKE their page NEARLY THERE

Email: Johanna.connor@gmail.com

Johanna Connor & Gabrielle Byrne

Creatures of Serendipity, Corrydorrigan, Schull, West Cork, Ireland.