females were made for each other, insists Boulder author and
horsewoman Mary D. Midkiff.
however, were made for males.
man can almost sit on a fence post and balance. But a woman
needs a saddle that gently slopes away on the sides,'' she says,
citing differences in pelvic structure and weight distribution.
"`If a woman rides in a saddle designed for a man - and
99 percent of them are - she'll teeter. She'll suffer chafing
and soreness. When you get the right saddle, all that disappears.''
90 percent of horseback riders today are female, why are most
saddles still designed to accommodate the male anatomy?
riding has changed dramatically since women got into the action,
says Midkiff, author of Fitness, Performance and the Female
Equestrian and the just-released She Flies Without Wings:
How Horses Touch a Woman's Soul. Founder of the Boulder-based
Equestrian Resources, Midkiff travels the country teaching training
and riding techniques that work for the female body.
couple of generations ago, horses were primarily a male tool,
used for labor, transportation and war, Midkiff says. Training
methods - often brutal - reflected that no-nonsense attitude.
have always loved horses, and wanted to be with horses, but
often couldn't be,'' she says. `"But those limitations
have now all been removed - the corsets, the skirts, the religious
and societal constraints that say a lady doesn't sweat.'' As
women began riding horses, horseback riding started changing.
Cavalries disbanded, farmwork became mechanized. Riding became
more sport and recreation, and the harsh treatment meted out
to horses grew gentler, she says.
ironic that the liberation of the horse and the liberation of
the female took place simultaneously,'' says Midkiff, 45.
latest book, which went on sale Tuesday, goes beyond the physical
relationship between females and horses to explore the deeper
connection that binds a gender and a species.
It's a subject
dear to the heart of the native Kentuckian, who grew up mucking
stalls and grooming horses in exchange for riding time, since
her family couldn't afford to buy her a horse. She figures it
has something to do not only with most females' innate desire
to nurture and a horse's natural responsiveness to kindness,
but also with the power a woman feels astride a horse.
the years, I noticed that when women talked about horses, their
faces took on a special light,'' she writes in She Flies
Without Wings. "Their eyes sparkled, they laughed easily,
and any natural reserve they felt about talking to a stranger
about deeply personal feelings evaporated. These reactions weren't
limited to horsewomen. I also met women who rarely rode or who
never did, women who had only fantasized about knowing or owning
a horse, women who had ridden as children but not since; when
the topic was horses, the same light illuminated them all.''
moved to Colorado four years ago - with her husband, Tom Aronson,
and horse, Theo - riding in the Rockies moved her to acknowledge
her relationship with her horse was deeply spiritual. "We
don't have to work at this,'' she writes. "The landscape
may be new and different but every step my horse and I share
is natural and familiar. It was as if, when we stepped from
the barn together, we passed into a refreshing and sacred world.''