This interview originally appeared in 2010 in Portuguese in
the Brazilian magazine Class. The following is a translation of
the interview into English.
CM: You noted that the same techniques to deal with or
riding horses that work for men does not necessarily work for
women. How did you noted this? Through personal experiences or
other people? What are reports?
MDM: I had created and was producing Women & Horses
Workshops in the early 1990s bringing together many experts in
the areas of exercise physiology, female athlete therapists, physicians
and horse riding instructors. It was through these workshops that
I met my mentor Peggy Cummings (www.peggycummings.com)
and she along with all the information I was learning opened my
eyes to new ways of approaching riding, handling and training
was going through lots of physical and hormonal changes during
this time and knew I had to find another way to ride and work
with horses. My body could no longer take the pressure of using
strength and power over finesse and technique. As I produced and
attended these workshops I found I was not alone and many women
were seeking the same resources and hungry for a female friendly
This was the beginning of my search for saddles designed to
support the female rider. Just as the bicycling world learned
that growth in the female side of the industry would come from
comfortable and supportive bicycle seats (saddles), for women
to be safe, comfortable and effective in riding horses saddle
trees had to be designed specific to their conformation. Today,
there are still only a few saddle companies making and selling
saddles for the female equestrian. Our industry is based on tradition
and many companies continue to make equipment based on past use
such as the military and ranching.
I have also looked for exercise programs designed for what women
need to be successful female equestrian athletes. Pilates and
Yoga continue to be the most helpful as they focus on a correct
alignment through the spine and pelvis, strong abdominal core,
which supports the back and frees the limbs to work independently,
CM: The relationship between women and horses can bring
many benefits. Can you mention what kind of physical benefits
MDM: The physical benefits are remarkable. Working with
horses in general requires physical fitness in grooming, bathing,
cleaning stalls, lifting heavy objects, and walking horses to
and from pasture to name a few basic caretaking requirements beyond
the exercise provided by riding.
You are going to get dirty and sweat around horses; it’s a fact.
So enjoy the healthy aspects of working within nature, breathing
the fresh air, exercising your muscles, joints and increasing
circulation of blood flow. It’s really good for you!
Horse sports can provide many levels of fitness. Here are comparisons
of high-energy activities from my first book “Fitness, Performance
and the Female Equestrian” (J. Wiley Publishers):
||Calories Expended (per minute of
|Backstroke Swimming Laps
|Galloping a horse
|Medium-to-Low Impact Aerobics
|Sweeping the Floor
|Walking on horseback
CM: And interior benefits?
MDM: The internal or mental, emotional, spiritual and
intuitive benefits of being with horses are equally if not more
powerful. Women are experts at interpreting language without words.
We were created as nurturers, caretakers and the future of the
newborn depends on us!
talents and intuitive skills innately lie deep within women. Some
are more in touch with it than others but it is there in all of
us. We can tell what a baby needs through body language, various
noises, gestures, dispositions and behaviors. It is the same with
horses. Once we learn their ways of communicating we connect with
them and their world opens up to us.
Women have a way with horses. Our gentle touch, our soft voice,
our non-threatening presence and the sense of peace horses feel
from us communicates. When I go to the barn, out into the pasture
with horses or on a ride, it is meditative; I am removed from
the problems of everyday life and shifted into the natural world
which moves at a slow quiet pace.
I consider horse time my cleansing time. When I go back into
traffic, or issues created by human kind the horse has touched
and healed me mind, body and soul.
CM: Surely, women throughout the world who are truly
involved with horses relate their experiences and feelings to
you. There are facts and feelings in common? What do they show?
You share the same feelings?
MDM: Many women over the years have shared their horse
experiences with me. Some are troubled or worried and write looking
for help; others share their triumphs or a tiny connection that
made a big difference.
The women I hear from tend to be women looking for a special
relationship and wanting a deep bond with their horse. I share
and teach women how to establish a relationship with a horse.
It takes certain techniques, understanding horse behavior; awareness
of how the human is “being” in the horse’s space, dedication and
commitment. It is similar to making a difference in another human’s
life. I have seen what horses can do for people in making a difference
in their lives. Horses are truly transforming.
And for me, the relationships I establish with horses makes
every day an inspiring adventure.
CM: About the beginning of relationship, do you believe
that anyone can get involved with the horse or there must be a
MDM: Anyone can get involved in horses but for the horse
to accept you, you must be completely open to learning what it
is like to be in their world. Horses will not accept a person
who is threatening, dominating, angry or tense inside themselves.
People who are interested in getting involved need to experience
the realities of being with horses. Once they have experienced
handling, caretaking, cleaning, riding and all of the physical
chores that horses require to be healthy then they can make the
decision if this is something they want to pursue further.
A person with a natural affinity for animals shows it very early
in their life. If you have ever watched little children around
dogs some are not interested at all, some just pet them unconsciously
because they are told to be nice, but others, only a few that
I have seen, have a special connection, know how to touch the
dog confidently but softly and quietly. You can just see they
have an automatic desire to be related to the dog. I feel it’s
the same with horses. There are some people you just know early
on are going to be with horses forever.
CM: Do you consider your approach to them, which came
through your grandfather, a natural affinity or induced?
I feel fortunate to have been horse-driven my entire life. I have
always known I wanted to be with horses, work with horses, and
have some kind of a career with horses. My life’s journey has
been about finding a way to earn a living to be able to be with
horses, ride horses and keep a few of my own. My ultimate goal
is to make a difference in the future of horses, how they are
ridden, how they are kept, how they are managed and handled. To
me, horses are the saints of the planet and we need to honor and
respect their presence.
CM: What advise/tips would you give to someone not related
to horses because of fear?
MDM: It is completely understandable that anyone would
have fear around a horse. Even the most seasoned professional
has respect for the size, weight, speed and impulses of horses.
Horses are quadruped herbivore prey animals dependent on a herd
for safety. You can equate them to antelope or deer; they are
always on guard for the predator who wants to eat them.
They have large eyes that can see peripherally around to their
hindquarters, ears that swivel in all directions, large nostrils
to smell into the distance and feet that detect vibration in the
ground. They sense danger and shifts in the air that we are completely
unaware of. Because horses are prey they are unpredictable and
can spook or react without notice.
Well trained horses and intuitively talented horse people learn
over time to manage these natural impulses but to the novice if
they see a horse jump or step on someone accidentally they may
be afraid to get involved and get the wrong idea. They may have
only seen high strung spirited horses and do not realize there
are quiet horses that are excellent teachers.
is important for people learning about the world of horses to
start with very experienced horses that can be easily trusted
and handled. There are wonderful horses that love to help you
get started. Start out in a program that will show you how to
work around many different types of horses safely. With practice
comes confidence and horses will begin trusting you which can
then lead to fun horse partnerships.
CM: How do you define your relationship with horses?
MDM: My relationship with horses comes from a very calm
empty space. I have found if I approach a horse completely empty
inside my mind, and I am completely available emotionally and
completely accepting of who they are, they accept me and remain
calm and choose to be with me.
are my teachers, my children, my closest confidants, my dance
partners, my work out buddies, my big warm furry friend, my champion
that runs with the wind and my soul mates. What woman wouldn’t
want all of this!?
Horses have always had this affect on me but it has taken maturity,
life experiences, self-awareness and time with horses for me to
get to this point where my career is based on intuitive and holistic
teaching, healing and training. I imagine it will only deepen
from here to the end of my life.
I am deeply moved and honored to be accepted by a horse. They
continue to amaze, surprise, delight and inspire me. They are
always teaching me something, giving me insights and perspective,
showing me affection when I least expect it and making me laugh
when I get too significant.
I never know what a horse is going to share with me or tell
me and I will always be listening to their voice.