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Women & Horses by Mary D. Midkiff - horseback riding fitness techniques for women

Women & Horses, knowledge for the female equestrian; female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

Letters & Emails

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I'd like to share a few of my favorite letters and emails with you. All are printed here with the kind permission of the writers. Please send email and letters - I would love to hear from you!

January 2, 2008
Dear Mary,

My name is Caroline Aguiar. My husband and I own a guest ranch in Baja, Mexico. Horses have been a part of my life since I was a small child. Your book, She Flies Without Wings, put me in touch with that little girl (me) who was drawn to the horse at a very early age and who has loved them ever since. Whenever I have come to a cross roads in my life involving a difficult situation or change, the horse always relieved any sadness, anxiety or worries that might have overwhelmed me. For years I have tried to reason with myself and analytically figure out this strong connection I feel towards horses and after reading your book, it dawned on me that the "why" is not really important. It is what it is, and I am so grateful and blessed to have horses in my life.

Mary, without taking up too much of your time. I just wanted to add something that has engraved on me an even deeper belief in the magic and healing powers of horses.

This past October, my horse of 6 years became seriously ill and we had to put him down. I was crushed. About the same time I found out my father was terminally ill with cancer and he didn't have much longer to live. It was a very trying time.

I'm so busy, I don't really get any alone time. So when I'm at the ranch and out riding, I love to disappear into the hills, just myself, my horse and my dog. It's truly relaxing for me. It rejuvinates my very being and I'm able to carry on with the hustle and bustle of every day life. Well, here I was, my horse gone and my father was so sick. I felt lost. We were still finishing out the season with our groups who visited our ranch and I began riding another horse who my husband had recently bought. He was planning on adding him to the string for our guests. My husband loaned him to me until we could find another horse for me. His name is "Cuate" and in spanish that means friend.

I began riding him and he was certainly a nice well dispositioned horse and a working ranch horse. But I kept having all sorts of feelings such as insecurity, I kept thinking I was going to fall or the horse wasn't right and it was so out of character for me. I used to ride barrels and ride over trails most people would hesitate to ride through. I've been riding all my life and here I was doubting every inch of the trail, the horse and most of all doubting myself. I think Cuate could feel my fear. I tried so hard to conceal it but with horses, they know.

I spent a good deal of time handling him on the ground, or just watching him while he grazed in the pasture. We got to know each other and at the same time I came to terms with what was going on with my father, who passed away this past December. Cuate is very different from my other horse. His temperament is more calm and peaceful. I think that is what I needed in my life. In fact after my other horse died, I had been hoping for a horse like Cuate to come along. My hopes were answered but my fears were blinding me from seeing it.

Spending time with Cuate, either riding or just hanging out in the corral has soothed my grief over my father and although I don't know why, after my father passed, those fears I had and doubts just vanished. I've never felt safer on Cuate and I feel like we're an excellent match. Just the other day I was rubbing his head and I stopped for a moment when he nudged my hand and looked me right in the eye to keep going. It was a glint of understanding or communication however trivial it may seem, its a beginning. To me, being in the presence of the horse and being able to work with them as closely as I do and finding such a nice horse as Cuate, is a real gift.

Thank you for writing such a wonderful book!

Sincerely, Caroline Aguiar, Baja Rancho La Bellota,

Templeton Thompson ad her mare JaneMay 12, 2007 - I want to express my gratitude to Mary Midkiff for what she did for me and my mare Jane recently at Equine Affaire in Columbus, OH. I was singing from Jane’s back in the evening program called Pfizer Fantasia and a couple of hours before our Saturday performance, Jane was signed up to be a demo horse in Mary’s “How to Calm the Nervous Horse” presentation. Jane had done beautifully the first couple of performances, but she had definitely been nervous since it was her first time in front of about 5,000 people. So, the demo couldn’t have been more custom-made for us. Mary used acupressure and massage along with her essential oils called The InBalance Horse, (which I personally recommend keeping on-hand at all times), and within about 20 minutes or so, Jane was calm and connected with me - it was INCREDIBLE! Her head was down, she was hipshot, not nervous at all, it was like she was “home” and ok with it all. That night, when the crowd applauded, she acted like it was old hat, I was so honored that she was so “with me” and I’ll be forever thankful to Mary, she truly is AMAZING and a real gift to the horse world… Thanks Mary!!

Templeton Thompson & Jane

August 3, 2006
Dear Mary,

My name is RJ and I am 23 years old, and horses have played a major role in my life since birth. They are the inspiration for my art and my writing, but, most importantly, they are the greatest source of peace and stillness that I just can't achieve anywhere else. I come from a very diverse background (being half Cherokee Indian-half Irish), and though I look more Cherokee than Irish, the one thing that I have inherited from both sides of my family is the "horse craziness". The Irish side of my family were mostly Gypsies and farmers that relied heavily on the workability of their horses, while the Cherokee side focused on the spiritual bond created between rider and horse. I get my passion for horses deeply and honestly, and it has grown as I have grown over the years.

I came across your book She Flies Without Wings while browsing through the equine section in Borders, and it was like this book had been written with me in mind. Every word that you have written echoes the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that I have when it comes to the relationship that I have with horses. I absolutely couldn't believe it...So I read it a second time. Reading your book has given me a goal that I have been wanting to reach for a very long time, but never had a name for it until now. I want to thank you for inspiring me to seek out my Horsemaster's certification, which will only open the pathway to my ultimate dream: my own mustang rescue.

The first horse that I ever rode was a mustang mare named Blaze, a silver grulla with bright, jagged blaze that colored her face from forelock to chin. She had been rescued from the slaughter house by her owner Nancy back in 1989, and even though she had been battered and scarred from her life out in the Badlands of South Dakota and from the crude capture methods that snared her and most of her herd, I thought she was the most beautiful creature that ever walked the earth. In the years that I rode at Nancy's farm, Blaze was mine to ride, feed, groom, and love on, and in return she opened up my entire world by introducing me to hers.

Blaze died in the spring of 2000 at the age of eighteen when she came down with a severe case of laminitis. Nancy couldn't bear the thought of her horse suffering, so she had her humanely put down...Of course, I was there, and I still mourn her death. Out of all the horses that I have ever ridden, Blaze touched me in a way that I never thought possible. She's the main reason that I wanted to start a mustang rescue in the first place, especially after Nancy told me the story of the horrors that Blaze had gone through, and the years of therapy that she had endured to achieve healing and trust of humans.

Out of all the books that I have read about the bond between horses and their riders, your book speaks volumes louder than the rest could hope to achieve. Thank you...Thank you for putting into words what it is to be a horsewoman, especially for those who just don't understand (the majority of "those" being men). I hope that you continue writing more books such as She Flies Without Wings and Fitness, Performance and the Female Equestrian because I absolutely can't wait to read more. Thank you so much again...And give my regards to Theo.

Gratefully yours, RJ

May 18, 2006
Dear Mary,
I really enjoyed the newsletter article you sent. I agree whole heartedly that riders need to stretch and keep their riding muscles in shape from the ground. I teach Yoga for Riders and like to think of it as ground work for people.

We know how important ground work is to our horses, and it is just as equally important for riders. All riders who take my Yoga for Riders classes receive a Yoga diary in their information packets and recommend they keep a Yoga journal. I ask them write down each day that they spend some time doing Yoga before going out to the barn to ride. And how their ride goes, and comparing it to the days they don't make time to do their Yoga Poses and stretches before they ride.

I receive many e-mails from them saying that they really can tell the difference when they take some time to do a bit of Yoga either at the barn in the tack room before they ride or at home before they leave for the barn.

I have been practicing Yoga for 20 years now. I started doing Yoga 20 years ago when I became a jockey. I needed a workout that would work my muscles and my mind with out adding big bulky muscles. Yoga was it... Now that I have been teaching Yoga for Riders Classes I'm amazed that more riders don't warm up before they ride. Then they wonder why they can't get certain movements, even the simple ones to be performed smoothly. Usually because they aren't asking properly. Their low backs and hip flexors are stiff and they aren't able to follow the motion of the horse thus they are interfering. Which of course leads to frustration both to the horse and to the rider.

Thank you so much for promoting the importance of doing any type of stretches before you ride to keep riding muscles in shape. Not to mention it helps with body control as well.

Sincerely, Cynthia Medina

Dear Mary

My name is Helen Shellhammer. I live in beautiful Northern California and in the last six months have purchased a 9 year old thoroughbred that I had been admiring from afar for over 4 years. I haven't ridden in over 20 years but have felt a calling as I approach my 40's to my old childhood world of the barn, horse smell and long trail rides. I feel I have forgotten more than I ever knew about horses and riding which has driven an insatiable desire for books, clinics, training and knowledge. I have never been more that a backyard rider with some small little shows and play days tucked in here and there but have always had an ability with horses to say "reach them" or probably more accurately "be reached".

I have read at least 10 books in the past three months searching for vocabulary that matches my desire, my interest, my passion and my life with my new horse. I have just finished (devoured) your book, She Flies Without Wings and at last feel I have validation in this life I am sharing with horses and am compelled to thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting into words what I am experiencing. I have had such a huge range of emotion experiencing danger, tenderness, wildness, athleticism and a beautiful connection with my horse that I now cannot imagine my life without. Thank you for discussing issues like menopause, career changes, marriage, family and injuries in your equestrian experience.

Your story is a treasure and has offered amazing perspective to my journey. Thank you for sharing it.

Helen Shellhammer, Woodland, California

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