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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

Review of "She flies Without Wings:
How Horses Touch a Woman's Soul" by Mary D. Midkiff

Reprinted from "The Rocky Mountain News", Denver, CO (April 20, 2001)

Horse Power: Societal Changes Pull More Women into Enjoying the Animals

Horses and females were made for each other, insists Boulder author and horsewoman Mary D. Midkiff.

Saddles, however, were made for males.

"A 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.''

Given that 90 percent of horseback riders today are female, why are most saddles still designed to accommodate the male anatomy?

`"Ask the saddle makers,'' Midkiff says, sighing. They'll tell you, she says, about not messing with a time-tested product.

But horseback 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.

Until a 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.

"Females 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.

"It's ironic that the liberation of the horse and the liberation of the female took place simultaneously,'' says Midkiff, 45.

Midkiff's 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.

"Over 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.''

When Midkiff 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.''


female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

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