Long before rescuing OTBs was cool, this story of an unsuspecting Bold Ruler filly stole my heart and broke it and gave it back again as I stayed riveted to page after page of Barbara van Tuyl’s novel that became what is now referred to as “The Bonnie Books.” For reasons I still don’t understand I connected with this story on such a deep level that I still think about it and its characters from time to time. Julie Jefferson was all I ever wanted to be. She was brave, compassionate, wise behind her years — and willing to do whatever it took to protect and care for this endearing horse.
I loved this story because it so plays into our “diamond in the rough” fantasies about difficult horses. For me, it also inspired patience beyond words with a horse that everyone who watched our struggles chimed in with a collective exasperated, “Give up, already!”. But a gruff old trainer emerged just in the nick of time and together, over a year of slow and painstaking retraining, we redeemed this diamond of mine and proved a lot of naysayers wrong.
We didn’t win any races, but we won the sense of accomplishment that can only come from solving a serious horse problem and coming out of it with a shiny, shorty prize you knew was in there all along.
Do you have a diamond in the rough horse story? How did you know? What did to redeem your own chunk of coal? Let me hear from you! Share your story (and photos if you have them!) on Facebook, Twitter, or MelindaFolse.com
In Part 1 I told you about the beginning of my lifelong love affair with “equine fiction” — and how My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara set the course for my fascination with the horse-human connection.
After probably much more thought than was completely necessary (but so much fun to pour some solid pondering into) I’ve identified four other solid horse life influencers (although each has sequels that kept these stories alive for as long as possible.) My list of finalists includes The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James, and a little-known wild card, A Horse Called Bonnie by Barbara van Tuyl.
Each of these stories brought something different to the table. And oddly enough, you’ll find these themes running through my three nonfiction horse books — and planting some seeds for my own possible foray into equine fiction. We’ll see how that works out.
I told you how I realized the connection between My Friend Flicka and The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses was not only the amazing connection found in the soul-level horse-human connection, but possibly more important, that Flicka was as much about growing up and gaining self-assurance through a relationship with a horse as it was about the horse itself.
Fast forward a few years in my writing life to my new book, Riding Through Thick and Thin. On the surface it’s about body image and riding horses. But dig a few inches under that and you’ll find the repeated allusions to the pure joy we’re meant to feel when we ride. The freedom and take-your-breath-away exhilaration that only comes when you are balanced, fit, and connected with your horse.
Can you guess where I got the mental imagery for this kind of ride? Of course it started with Alec Ramsey’s ecstatic first ride around the island (and later in that first practice ride on a real track) on The Black. I remember thinking of that ride when I rode my first horse, Babe, at breakneck speed (thank God, not literally) around allowed and improvised “track” we had in the flat back section of pasture at our boarding stable. And again on my father’s ranch just outside Hico, Texas, when Patches and I flew across the hayfield just ahead of a glorious Texas sunset (Glad neither of us knew to worry about gopher holes!). And finally, on Trace in the LBJ grasslands with a pack of insane trail riders galloping across a meadow in a stretch of Paradise (Paradise, Texas, that is). Call me weird, but any time I feel this free-spirited joy on the back of a horse, I can’t help but remember Farley’s Alec and The Black.
What real life horse experiences connect you to your favorite stories? Let me hear from you! Post your memories and faves to Facebook,Twitter or MelindaFolse.com
There’s something new bubbling up about this book that tickles me even more than its escalating holiday sales.
Beyond hearing from all sorts of people who have purchased several copies to give as gifts to their horse friends, what’s surprising and maybe even more gratifying is when I hear of people who aren’t middle-aged women or don’t have horses who read this book (usually either because they know me or someone else whose story is in the book) and exclaim, “This is a great book for anyone, whether or not you have, like, or want horses — and whether or not you’re a woman!
This puzzled me at first. I realize, of course, that getting a horse at this time of life does tend to upend everything you’ve come to count on as “normal,” and and the experience does cause you to look at many things in your life differently. Often, our emerging authenticity and “inner lead mare” authority (our horses are SO good at helping us find, regardless of whether we thought we wanted to look for it) does paves the way for different choices and a more engaged and joyful life. This, sisters, is the gift of Midlife Horses. (Click here to view the new trailer that will tell you more about this unique journey.)
But then one of of these non-horsey, non-middle-aged-woman readers explained to me that since the book touches on so many of the issues we all face in midlife (whether or not we have the horse thing going on), the book provides a framework, using horses as a metaphor, for examining these issues in the light of any dream or passion we’ve let slip to the wayside. As the last group of Boomers to cross the center threshold of our lives, it is important and natural to go back and revisit those things that once made our heart sing and see if there’s something there we’d like to do again while we still can.
I’d love to know more about how The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses is starting to reach beyond the barn and into the hearts of anyone who wants to dust off a dream and discover a new path to living more fully in the second half of life. Post a comment here, join us on Facebook, or tweet your thoughts when you see this topic pop up on my Twitter feed.
And above all, to anyone out there thinking about dusting off an old dream,
Couldn’t resist taking a quick shot of the pair of socks that expresses all too well how most of us feel about our midlife horses. But I couldn’t resist the urge to add another item to this list.
Right here in the throes of the holiday shopping frenzy, I have to take this opportunity to tell any guys out there looking for the perfect gift for the woman in your life, there is absolutely nothing more endearing to those of us on the Midlife Horses trail than a man who loves our horse (and especially, a man who loves our horse book–see one prime example below). And one who supports us as we pursue this passion, even if it means letting us have our barn time at the expense of the attention June Cleaver would most likely have focused elsewhere — perhaps on the dustbunnies rolling across your dining room floor (the ones she steps over on her way out the door on her way to the aforementioned barn).
So, first, the obvious plug for The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses as the perfect holiday gift for any woman on your list who either has horses now, loves horses and is contemplating Midlife Horses, or is simply looking for something to help her find the authenticity she needs to chart her own course for the second half of life.
Going back for a moment to our experience at the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering last month (our official opening weekend of Gift Season, it turned out), I noticed another midlife horse phenomenon. It seems that while some of the women I meet who are getting into their Midlife Horses in a big way now that the kids are out of the house have husbands (or significant others) who are cowboys, ranchers or equine competitors — and now they want to claim a piece of that action, too. And they want to do it on their own terms. Just as many others, however, seem to have men in their lives who do not share this interest, but are supportive (or at least tolerant) of this passion because of how happy it makes us.
So here’s what’s really priceless: Having a man in your life who truly understands and supports your passion for Midlife Horses (not to mention the creation of a book that takes the obsession to a whole new level). He’s the guy who doesn’t ride, doesn’t really want a horse, but nevertheless, one who will go with us to the barn when it’s dark and cold, frets with us over our horse problems (and does what he can to help us solve them), listens to all our plans and dreams, celebrates even our smallest victories with us (even if he has no idea what you’re talking about), consoles us in our less-than-victorious moments (sometimes these also require ice packs), reads the paper in the car on a pretty Sunday afternoon while we ride, holds our horse while we go to the bathroom during a clinic (and takes photos we can use for a book and articles–or just our own review– during the same below freezing 3-day clinic), goes “horse camping” with us (and all the extra hauling that entails) and meets us with a cold beer and a hot steak when we get back from getting lost on the trail. He’s they guy who slips your horse a potato chip when you’re not looking and saves all his restaurant peppermints as horse treats.(Be prepared, though. Your horses will like him a lot better than they like you. They can be bought.)
So guys, if you’re looking for a gift to give that will win her heart forever (besides my book, of course) I’ll let you in on a BIG secret. There is nothing sexier to us than a guy who loves your horse. These are the guys who get it. Rather than feeling threatened or jealous or annoyed at the time we spend away from the home fires (and it is important to try to keep a balance; see chapter 3), these are the guys who understand how much happier and settled we are when we spend a chunk of our time with our Midlife Horses. Often, they are also the first ones to send us to the barn when we get irritable. (I’m not sure my horses appreciate this hand-off, but I do always come back home much happier–and probably nicer.)
So if the woman in your life has the “horse thing” in her blood, the very best thing you can do for yourself and your relationship with her is to support it with all your might. You will be amazed at the difference this gift will make in the time she does spend with you — and in the way she feels about you — from now on.
I have a new favorite radio station. It’s an Internet station (who knew?) called the Horse Radio Network. If you, too, are among the horse obsessed, go check it out immediately! These people have way too much fun talking about all things horses and beyond— all day, every day!
In preparing for this morning’s interview on their Horses in the Morning Show, which they describe as “The first live morning show with an equine theme. A light, lively, entertaining daily look at the horse world and the people in it. Hosted by Glenn the Geek and Jamie Jennings and produced by Jennifer H. The show will include entertaining conversation, out of the ordinary guests, numerous regular horse related segments, listener call in, contests, giveaways and so much more.”
SO, I clicked back through a few of their archived programs (I heartily recommend this, by the way), and to my delighted surprise, I completely lost track of time in the most fun research I’ve had since attending Clinton Anderson clinics! (If this horse thing doesn’t work for Clinton, I’m pretty sure he has a solid career waiting for him in stand-up comedy.)
Scrolling through past Horses in the Morning shows, I laughed at the horse situations I related to all too well (especially Jamie’s BAD day), got ideas of where to look for better deals on horse stuff, got a great gazpacho recipe (barely fit the hot pink Post-it note I hastily scrawled it on), picked up a few horse business marketing tips (not that I’m in the horse business, per se, but I am trying to reach the same audience with this book!), and generally got that “barn time feeling” without leaving the cool comfort of my twirly desk chair (it IS 110 Texas degrees out there, y’know)
When you visit this great fun and informative Internet radio network, you can listen to my recent interview about The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses and see how I did! They really liked the book, I think. It was my first radio interview and I was plenty nervous to start with, but Glen and Jamie put me at ease almost immediately and the next thing we knew we were just talking about midlife horses — my favorite subject!
If you do go listen to this interview and have any feedback, questions, or suggestions for me for future interviews, post your comment, along with your mailing address and email and I’ll send you a limited edition Saddle Up your Midlife Horses! T shirt.
Happy Trails — and Midlife Horse Lovin’ Cheers to the Horse Radio Network!
They say 50 is the new 30. Really, marketers? And if that’s true, I ask you, did “they” (whoever “they” are) also re-designate our midlife birthday?
With all this “50 is the new 30” stuff flying around (and really annoying some of us), it has really set me to thinking. Last year, as I began work on my soon to be released book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife horses: Finding Meaning Magic and Mastery in the Second Half of Life, (Trafalgar Square Books, 2011), I wondered how you know when you’re at midlife. After a lot of research and mulling over this rather complicated topic, I have your answer.
It turns out that rather than a specific, measurable amount of firepower on your birthday cake, the exact threshold of this epic period of transition is really as individual as we are — and, because it is often triggered by certain life events, large and small, it seems to be different for everyone.
If you’re wondering whether you’re “there yet,” take my quiz and see if your “certain age” has arrived.
Have you recently:
1. Purchased your first pair of reading glasses? Then, finding your “number,” gone back to purchase them in bulk?
2. Plucked a dark and unruly chin hair? More than one? More frequently?
3. Waved goodbye to a child leaving for college?
4. Waved goodbye to a marriage that just couldn’t go the distance? (Flipped off a soon-to-be ex-husband leaving for his younger new girlfriend?)
5. Discovered that much of the knowledge you’ve spent your career accumulating is now obsolete?
6. Launched an adult child to true independence — a career and/or family of his/her own?
7. Witnessed the declining health of your parents? Watched them “downsizing” and realizing for the first time why.
8. Sorted through old photographs and memorabilia, wondering what happened to all those dreams, goals, plans, and things you always thought you’d do . . . “someday?”
9. Attempted to do something physically you used to do easily and found it strangely foreign and difficult?
10. Had to really think about it when someone asks how old you are, and found yourself stuck for an answer to long it’s been since you’ve done something that truly feeds your soul?
If you answered “yes” to more than a couple of these, my friend, there’s your wake-up call. Beyond any birthday that ends on “0” (or even “5”) “midlife” for our generation is more of a feeling than a number; and, if we’re clever, we can discover our own ways to use that feeling to postpone the next stage indefinitely. Like the cream filling in a Double Stuff Oreo or the intoxicating sugariness in the heart of a July watermelon, we are the first generation to realize that we can make the middles of our lives the very sweetest part.
How? Follow me. I’ll show you the trail I and millions of others are taking to bring Meaning, Magic and Mastery to the Second Half of Life.
The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses: Finding Meaning Magic and Mastery in the Second Half of Life is scheduled for release on July 1, 2011, and is now available for preorder at www.horseandriderbooks.com.