from "The Courier-Journal" Louisville, KY (April 29,
affair with horses
DIANE HEILENMAN, The Courier-Journal
happy Brandi and Mia and all those soccer players were when they
won their world championship game?
like that almost every day when you work with horses.
In part, that's
why Mary Midkiff starts her latest book, "She Flies Without
Wings: How Horses Touch a Woman's Soul," with the revelation:
"When I was six, I was a horse."
In part, that's
why we have had a Kentucky Derby for, soon, 127 years.
In part, it's
why there is such an influx of women into the once largely male
equestrian world, sparking books like Midkiff's, a slew of horse-crazy
items aimed at women, and a steady growth in riding and in the
backyard horse population and boarding facilities despite surburban
I know because
I'm one of the increasing numbers of "ladies" out there
spending all available time and disposable income on coaches,
horse gear, horses, hay, gasoline for the truck and convenience
food for the family left at home.
how tough it may be at the office, in the kitchen, the bedroom,
on the commute or with the kids, you get a daily dose of victory
It comes from
doing things as small as/as big as sitting on a horse for the
first time, brushing dust off 1,200 pounds of muscle and bone,
galloping over cross-country fences, teaching a young horse manners
around carrots, rehabilitating an injured horse or just having
the confidence to wear elasticized riding duds in public.
of course, come with a balancing dose of disaster, and the addictive
adrenaline sport of riding and handling horses brings problems,
injuries, tragedies, disappointments, financial setbacks, emotional
bombs and physical challenges.
and fixing them is part of the empowerment of the horse world.
we talked to, from young amateurs to seasoned professionals, have
individual stories to tell of how they became involved with horses
and how their attachment has grown. But all of them shared what
seems to be an innate need for horses and the good sense to let
this noble species be one of life's guides.
equal to men, if not bigger and stronger ...'
grew up thinking she was half-filly, she was raised that close
to the barns and pastures of a thoroughbred breeding farm in Lexington,
Which is why
it seems strange that this former groom, horse trainer, event
rider and road-race runner has become a library-bound researcher
and desk-tied writer.
a new leaf for me. . . . I've always been very athletic, very
physically oriented," said Midkiff, who lives in Colorado.
"That was pretty much the first half of my life, I think."
current life is on a road trip that will bring her to Louisville,
promoting her second book, "She Flies Without Wings: How
Horses Touch a Woman's Soul" ($23.95). It was published
this month by Random House.
Flies Without Wings" is part memoir, part essay. It links
literature and real life as Midkiff quotes everyone from Mark
Twain to Jane Austen and interviews women across the country who
have been consoled, empowered, soothed, transformed and linked
with their horses in a manner that is emotional and cerebral.
first book addressed the mechanics of riding in "Fitness,
Performance and the Female Equestrian," said she wrote
the second because she noticed the expanding bond between women
and horses as a contemporary phenomenon.
and horses found each other through emancipation in the 20th century,"
freed from use in war and the farm, and that shift coincided with
the shift of women from sidesaddles, corsets and constant child-bearing
to physical, financial and scheduling freedoms.
seem to enjoy the company of one another in the barn's atmosphere,
where they gossip, groom and comb hair, said Midkiff.
have a gender difference. They don't seem to care so much about
the caretaking thing."
The real transformation
occurs when girls ride.
get on the horse and feel powerful, tall and strong. We are equal
to men, if not bigger and stronger, when we are on a horse. It
makes you feel very, very good and beautiful and important,"
women and horses are natural companions because both relate nonverbally,
the horse naturally and women through centuries of gender training
where empathy, compassion and intuition were valued -- as was
the idea of power through finesse rather than muscles.
a Women and Horses fitness program to give women the ability
to ride better and with more harmony. She also is president of
Equestrian Resources, a marketing firm for show, sport and recreational
beneficiary of everything I do is the horse, I believe,"
she said. "I don't want to underplay the importance this
has on women and girls' lives, but the thing that really benefits
from all the information and work I do is giving the horse a long,
A third book
is planned, more of a historical overview of women and horses,
"some sort of twist on the women and horse concept,"
Midkiff said. "That will always be my message and my subject.
I've pretty much committed my life and career to that."
read from and sign her book tomorrow from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Glenview
Pointe Hawley-Cooke Booksellers, 2400 Lime Kiln Lane.