Trust your heart and ignore the naysayers: “Buck” director Cindy Meehl on following your midlife passion

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When Cindy Meehl, the 52-year-old first time director of the award-winning documentary “Buck,” first came up with this idea, it was the beginning of a  midlife dream we can all get our hearts around. Cindy, an artist and a housewife, had never made a film of any kind before — in fact, she didn’t know the first thing about documentaries. Except that Buck Brannaman’s story needed to be one.

Cindy describes this  pivotal decision in her recent interview with freelance writer and horse enthusiast Jennifer B. Calder: ” I didn’t go into it because I wanted to see my name in lights or make the great American film,” Cindy says. “I went into it knowing what this message was about and knowing if something moved me this much, to where I had that passion in my heart, then I should really think about it.” And I didn’t tell anyone—it was just this little thing, a little voice in my head, ‘”this should be a film; this should be a film…”

Cindy Meehl’s dream became major motion picture “BUCK,” Winner of U.S. Documentary Audience Award–Sundance Film Festival 2011

So how in the world would you go about making a documentary when you don’t know the first thing about film making? Cindy is a big believer that the right people come together at the right time to do the right thing if given half the chance. (I actually experienced this phenomenon while writing The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses!) “Where your mind goes, energy flows,” is Cindy’s favorite descriptive quote of this process. I couldn’t agree more.

So what idea, dream, or impulse do you have that deserves your passion? What changes are you willing to make — and what risks are you prepared to take to follow a certainty that something MUST be done and you are the right one to do it?



“The horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see. Sometimes you will.” Buck Brannaman

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by Melinda Folse (formerly Melinda Folse Kaitcer) Order it now at!

What a profound statement from Dan “Buck” Brannaman in the riveting documentary, “Buck,” now showing in theaters everywhere (learn  more at . Go see it and reply to this post with your favorite quote! Free “Saddle Up Your Midlife Horses” t-shirt to the first five who respond!

What is most interesting to me about this statement from this celebrated “horse whisperer” is that, in the midlife horse experience we often completely miss this gift of pure gold.  It’s so easy to blame the horse when things don’t go as we hoped in this relationship. We deny what our horse’s  behavior may be telling us about who we are on the inside. Or, paraphrasing Buck and before him, Ray Hunt, and before him, Tom Dorrance, “horse problems” almost always turn out to be horses with “people problems.”

That invaluable reflection from our ponies, girlfriends, is the essence of what we can learn from our midlife horses. And, whether we like it or want to admit it or not, you can’t fool them or change their opinion. Horses just call ’em as they see ’em . . . and it’s up to us to figure out what changes we need to make so we’ll like what they see in us!

What did my horse, Trace, tell me? (I’m not sure why I’m sharing this, but it does give context to my struggles, documented for all the world to see in my recent book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses.)  That I have an innate tendency to overthink, overachieve and overreact. That I am something of  a control freak and get upset when I can’t have my own way. That I am sensitive to others’ feelings and emotions, need a certain amount of sincere, positive feedback, and am happiest when I have a job to do or something new to learn. I don’t like being pushed around. There’s a certain amount of disrespect I’ll put up with from people if  I like them, but enough’s enough. And bullies bring out the  crazy in me.

Fortunately, my second horse, Rio,  shows me a sweeter, gentler reflection (if a little headstrong): I like to have fun, I’m sweet and committed (sometimes overcommitted) to doing the right thing, loyal as a dog, and my quirky personality gives me a knack for making people laugh — especially when things start to get too serious.


What does your midlife horse tell you? Don’t have a midlife horse, but wondering what’s going on in your inner landscape — and outward relationships? Get yourself one of these swishy-tailed mirrors and you won’t be wondering for long!

The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses by Melinda Folse (formerly Melinda Folse Kaitcer)

Join the fun, challenges, and camaraderie only Midlife Horses can bring! “Like” us on Facebook, Follow me on Twitter, and check out our community videos and photos (I built it — y’all come! If you send me your favorite midlife horses stories, photos and moments, I’ll post em!) on YouTube and Flickr.

Happy Trails!

Saddle Up! Your Midlife Horse is Waiting!


Today I put my husband’s shirt on my horse.

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by Melinda Folse (formerly Melinda Folse Kaitcer)

No, I’m not kidding. Following both Clinton Anderson’s advice to “get creative with your desensitizing tools”  and the old cowboy trick of tying stuff on your saddle to “get the buck out,” I decided to see if I could help my jumpy, side-sensitive horse, Trace, work through his over-reactiveness to things touching his sides.

Now, here’s the kicker, if you’ll pardon the expression. Because Trace is so jumpy I’ve already done a tremendous amount of desensitizing with him from the ground. In fact, he expects nothing less from me. Using Clinton’s “Approach and Retreat” technique, I’ve jabbed, flapped, poked, slapped, rattled, and waved enough to make myself a laughing stock of my entire barn. And for the most part, it’s been worth it. However, when the strings hanging from the back of my favorite two saddles touch his sides, he STILL goes off like a rodeo bronc.

So this was my newest idea. Taking my cue from Clinton Anderson’s advice to “get creative with your desensitizing tools,” I chose my husbands long sleeved shirt to help desensitize my jumpy horse to things (like saddle strings) that tickle his sides and make him buck.

Trainer Denise Barrows was game to help me with this experiment, and as soon as I manage to get it posted,  you can see how it “unfolded” on YouTube. You’ll see me working with him at first, then trainer Denise Barrows takes over to apply a little more experienced pressure. Notice how she increases pressure by pushing him, then releases the pressure by letting him take a rest, then starts again. Developing this kind of “feel” of when to increase and when to release pressure with horses is an art form, I’ve decided. (And I do think it also applies to teenagers.)

Seeing the shirt collar standing up against the back of the cantle, Denise remarked that it looked like the headless horseman was sliding down off Trace’s butt. (Clinton always says that the more you try to scare your horse, the calmer he will get . . . what could be scarier than this?)

The idea was to start small, with the shirt tightly rolled, doing basic groundwork and moving slowly into lunging, walk, trot and canter. We thought that as he became OK with it, we’d let more and more of the shirt hang out of the roll until the whole shirt was draped over his back end.

You know what they say about best laid plans. Trace had other ideas about how this exercise should “unfold,” and after two or three good kick-ups on the lunge line, the shirt somehow came unrolled on its own.  I’m still not sure whose column gets the win for this one  . . . watch the video and cast your vote! What was your most creative desensitizing tool?

Send me your “creative desensitizing” videos (camera phones welcome!) My favorite wins a free Saddle Up Your Midlife Horses! T-shirt!


Saddle Up! Your Midlife Horse is Waiting!

To create your own trail map to find the resources you need, solid horsekeeping advice from the experts I found on my own journey, stories of all kinds of women and their horses finding what they need on the midlife trail, and plenty of ridiculous anecdotes just like this one from me, order your copy of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses today!

The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses by Melinda Folse (formerly Melinda Folse Kaitcer)

And once you read the book, be sure to check back here often. I’m in the process of creating a community just for those of us finding our midlife thrill on the back (or by the side) of a horse. Come! Join the fun, laughter, camaraderie and joy only midlife horses can bring. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (please send your videos–even camera phone!– and I’ll post them!) and Flickr (send photos of you with your horse!). I’ve built this community for us all to share, commiserate, celebrate and, to the greatest extent possible, laugh our butts off in the pure joy only midlife horses can bring. Y’all come!