Author And Artist Jody Jaffe Fights Diabetes With Equine Artwork

Apr 5, 2016 - 4:06 PM

Whenever things are looking bleak, Jody Jaffe turns to horses. Whether she was using them as therapy to inspire recovery from her own head injury, or finding comfort by inhaling their smell while leaning into a warm, soft neck during a family emergency, horses have given her many gifts.

“I either ride them, draw them or write about them,” she said.

And when the 63-year-old equestrian murder mystery author and journalist was looking for some way, any way to help defeat a debilitating disease that was affecting her child, she turned to horses once again.

Seven years ago, her son Ben Shepard, then 25, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes after a trip to the emergency room because he was having difficulty breathing. “He was close to being in a coma,” said Jaffe. “When he was in the hospital [horses were] the only thing that kept me sane. I replay really good trips. I was doing a lot of riding in the hospital.”

It’s commonly known as juvenile diabetes, but the autoimmune disease can affect anyone of any age, though it’s most often diagnosed in children and young adults.

In addition to her novels, Jaffe, of Rockbridge County, Va., has been creating mosaic art for more than 15 years, all centering around her love of horses. Several years ago she began to dabble in collages.

“I made this one particular collage that I posted on Facebook, and I got a lot of nice comments, and someone wanted to buy it,” said Jaffe.

This positive feedback sparked the idea to print the image on t-shirts and sell them, via the crowd funding website This company takes care of making and shipping the t-shirts, provides tools for creating custom apparel, and even transmits the funds to the charity of your choice.

“I’ve been trying and trying to think of a way to help,” Jaffe explained. “It seemed like a good way to raise money. It seemed like a good way to harness all my anxiety and worry about my son and all the other diabetics in the world.

“If I were a scientist I would be in the lab 24/7,” she continued. “If I had a million dollars it would be going to diabetes research, but I don’t have anything like that, but I do [make] art. It’s just my way to deal with my worry and anxiety and grief.”

Jaffe called the image Hug-a-Horse, as it depicts a girl with her arms wrapped around her horse. The collage is made mainly out of the ripped pages of an old dictionary.

When she began designing her t-shirts, Jaffe wanted words to go along with the image to attempt to capture the bond people feel with their horse. She chose this Vladimir Nabokov quote: “It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.”

“English is his second language, and he could still harness the beauty of it in a spectacular way,” Jaffe said. “It just knocked me off my feet because every time I look at a horse, I feel the same way; it’s love at first sight and every sight.”

She started with the goal of selling 50 t-shirts and then changed that to 100 and extended the campaign through April 7 because the initial 50 sold very quickly. Since starting her t-shirt campaign, Jaffe has raised more than $1600 and sold almost 80 shirts. She also came up with the catch phrase, “Turn Type 1 Into Type None.”

Jaffe chose the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as her beneficiary, and half the money from every t-shirt sold will go to this organization. “I looked at who was doing what in research, and they seemed to be doing the most,” she said. “My goal is to not die without seeing my son live a normal life.”

To donate to the cause or purchase a t-shirt, please visit:

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