Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve already done it. And, if you’re like me, you did it for all the wrong reasons. If you’re lucky, it will work out just fine. (Some would say it always does, regardless.) When I bought my horse, Trace, it was the beginning of an amazing journey I wouldn’t take for. But in terms of a wise horse purchase, it wasn’t. Even the purchase of Rio, my goofy little sorrel that makes me smile every single time I look at him, wasn’t quite according to the protocol I now understand as much more solid reasoning when it comes to buying a horse. Still, I love them both and will keep them as long as they’ll let me. This makes them either the luckiest or unluckiest horses on the planet, because of all the things I am, I am NOT a quitter. Usually to my own detriment. Nevertheless, because I do love a challenge (and enjoy having horse issues to research and write about), I keep these founts of learning around for my own education and humbling. So far, this plan seems to be working. But in the spirit of our grandmothers’ wisdom that advises “it’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one” (although I’ve done both with similar results, but that’s another story for another time . . . ), it IS just as easy to fall in love with a good horse as it is an . . .um . . . challenging one. So here’s a little journaling exercise that will help you wrap your mind around the perfect horse for you. Get a sheet of paper (or if you journal regularly, a fresh page) and answer the following questions to build a mental picture of the horse you want. Write as much as you can as fast as you can, the first thing that pops into your head with each question. 1. Mare or gelding? Why? 2. How old? Why? 3. What breed? Why? (If there are several you are drawn to, you can list more than one) 4. Color/size/physical characteristics (try not to fixate too much on looks, but we all have our favorites. Again, if there’s more than one you like, that’s OK. ) 5. Temperament and disposition. How does your horse behave when he’s learning something new? Surprised, Frightened? Frustrated? or Upset? Annoyed? Is he affectionate or all business? 6. What’s on his resume? Training method, level, intensity? Disciplines? Show record? Trail experience? Ranch work? Former owners? What does he like to do best? 7. What’s his story? Former owners, physical issues, past experience that shape who he is, what he likes and dislikes, and what might motivate him to do whatever it is you’d like to do with him. (Note, I always use “he” when I talk about fictitious horses. I don’t know why. Probably because both of mine happen to be geldings. I like mares just fine. Also, I was an English major and the “he” rule was beaten into me at an early age.) SO . . . now that you have thought all the way around and through your own definition of the perfect horse for you RIGHT NOW, here’s a little pre-shopping visualization for you. Imagine this horse you just described grazing in a pasture. (Sorry. Now you really do have to pick a breed and color.) You’re standing just inside the gate, just watching him. He lifts his head and looks at you, then turns and walks straight toward you. He stops right in front of you and you see soft, quiet eyes on you, waiting. You raise your hand and rub his face. He lowers his head. You put the halter on him and lead him back through the gate and into your life. Return to this list and visualization as often as you can. And don’t forget to come back here and tell us about the horse that shows up for you!
If you answered “Neigh!” to the opening question, you’re right, of course. (You’re also right if you’ve been talking to my horses and the answer is “Nay.”)
However, I’m coming to the understanding that if we’ll let them, horses can say a whole lot more. (Have I gone even weirder on you? Maybe. But probably not.)
We hear a lot about “horse whisperers.” And we’ve had a wonderful opportunity lately to get reacquainted with this concept with Buck Brannaman’s Buck the Movie. (Did anyone else get this one for Christmas?I’m so glad to have my own copy!!)
So in keeping with all this, I’ve been playing around lately with the idea of equine assisted learning and animal communication. My research and interviews for The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses led me to cross paths with lots of these people and dug up enough compelling information to make me want to delve further into these areas. (This, of course, spawned a new idea I can’t wait to tell you about, but it’s still in its incubation, so stay tuned!)
Last week, I enlisted the help of a friend of mine we’ll call Mary. That’s not her real name. If I used her real name in this story there’s a good chance she’ll cease being my friend. And an even better chance that everyone who knows me will then take a much wider circle around me to escape having any conversation we have become blog fodder. So if you know me personally, be advised that what you say can and will be used for the common good in my blog, but I will always protect your privacy. Then if at some point you want to claim the story as your own, we can give you a proper introduction.
Like so many of us, Mary has an affinity for horses that reaches back to her childhood and early adolescence. Then, grown up responsibilities and family rearing took her far away from any thought of horses — except, of course, for the occasional fond flashback whenever the subject of horses came up. She’s very grounded, centered and self-aware, possibly the most balanced human I know. These factors (plus a little curiosity on her part) made her the perfect candidate for one of my favorite journaling exercises in The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses.
So here’s what happened. We went out to where my horses are stabled and I got them both out, along with all their brushes and combs. Then I invited her to pick one and brush him. I assumed she’d pick Rio because of his sweet clownish face and docile demeanor. She admitted to being a little nervous about handling horses because some of her memories, come to think of it, weren’t that fond.
So she went straight to Trace. Go figure. His head was stuck way up in the air in what Clinton would definitely classify as his “unsure zone.” In fact, I could almost just see the whites of his eyes. Not a good thing, and I can tell you if she had made a sudden move or sneezed loudly he probably would have come unglued.
I watched as they sized each other up, noting as I did the gentleness of how she brushed him. She didn’t talk; just brushed. Pretty soon his head started to come out of the clouds and the softness returned to his eyes.
“You know, I thought I would choose that one,” she said, pointing to Rio, “but for some reason I feel more drawn to this one.” She patted Trace gently on the neck. His head shot straight up, the wary look returning. We laughed. “He does scare me a little, though, so I’m not sure why I’m choosing him.”
Don’t I know that feeling? I thought to myself. Trace, you may remember, is my first midlife horse, the one that came to me from the group of milling geldings when I wasn’t even looking for a horse. The one who has tried my patience to the cellular level and my soul even more, and yet for some reason, I just can’t give up on him. And, in all fairness, it’s been worth it.
The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses came from a perfect storm of my struggles with Trace, my resulting introduction to Downunder Horsemanship, and then all the Midlife Horse stories I heard and got to write about when I worked for Clinton Anderson. Seeing the difference finding my best solutions made in my own midlife horses journey — and from what I learned and observed firsthand as Clinton’s head writer as I helped him write his best selling Lessons Well Learned and dozens of articles and training tips — I knew I wanted to share what I learned with others as desperate for this information as I was starting out. All because of a persnickerty horse.
For all my trials created at the hooves of this horse, he’s made me a better rider, a more aware rider, and a person who has had to learn (with a lot of help) how to walk through fear to find that “calm courage” Martha Beck describes, and this has helped me in many aspects of my life, on and off the horse.
Every horse has something special to teach us — and I now believe that when you open yourself, on whatever level you choose, to midlife horses, the horse that appears in our life (and believe me, you’ll know it when it happens) is the one sent to teach us something we need to know to heal ourselves of whatever is still bugging us here in the halftime of our lives.
So, going back to Mary, after she was finished brushing Trace and combing his mane, we dragged a chair into the pen and she sat down with her journal to do the “Awaken Your Horse Sense” exercise (found on page 15 of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses). I left the two of them alone (but occasionally peeked, once to see Trace rolling, once to see him walk up to her and nibble at her pen and the edges of her journal and her sleeve. (I should probably stop giving him carrots.)
Then, hearing Mary laughing out loud, I looked just in time to see her walking across the pen — and Trace prancing along beside her, head protectively curved around in front of her, looking at her square on. I wish I had been quick enough to get a picture of this for you, because it was profound to me even before I heard the story behind it.
Here’s what Mary had to say afterward: “I started writing, just mundane journaling stuff . . . you know, trying to get started just by writing anything that came into my mind, just like the exercise instructs,” she said. At that point Trace was totally ignoring me. Sniffing the ground, facing the opposite direction. I kept writing, just this and that, observations, what I thought of this exercise, random thoughts about journaling. Then he dropped to his knees and rolled in the dirt. That was kind of funny, so I chuckled a little bit and he got up and walked toward me. I went back to journaling my observations and he turned away and walked to the far end of the pen.
“Then some stuff started coming to me that was a little more personal, engaging my emotions and some internal questioning. He then turned and walked straight toward me, coming to stop with his head right in front of my notebook. What’s he doing? I thought. I wasn’t afraid, but looking back on that now I can’t imagine why I wasn’t. Then he started nibbling at my pen. Does he think it’s a carrot? I wondered, remembering that Melinda said he likes carrots. I noticed how big his teeth were, but again, without any fear. He was clearly playing with me.
“I tried to ignore him and continue writing, wanting to finish writing the thought I had before he came over to me. He nibbled the edges of my pages and then a singe word came into my mind: “Play!!!” I wrote this word, including the three exclamation points, and he then dragged his nose right across where I was writing, leaving a big smudge. I laughed out loud. This horse is telling me to play! I thought.
“So I got up from my chair and just started walking, He came right up beside me and sort of wrapped his head and neck around me, kind of like a protective hug and he was prancing and looking me right in the eye.
“I immediately understood that the message from this horse was that I need to play more. I do a lot of fun things, but it’s all with structure and purpose and intended outcome. I never just play. I’m not sure I even remember how. So I guess he was trying to show me. Here in this pen with this horse, I laughed out loud with no idea of where we were going or what we were trying to do. It was the pure joy that comes from pure play.”
So, midlife sisters, I challenge you now: Go get that journal and find a horse (preferably one you don’t know, but you can do it with your own horse if you’d rather). And, with the owner’s permission, of course, go sit with that horse and just write, as fast as you can, anything that comes to mind for as long as you can make yourself sit there. (10 minutes is a good start. As is three pages of full sized notebook paper. Whatever gets you to sit there and just write. Don’t try to direct, connect or analyze the thoughts that come to you as you sit there. Just write. It may take you a while to get going, as it did Mary. But do what she did and just write EXACTLY what you’re thinking. Even if it’s “I think this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Just keep writing your thoughts. You may be surprised at what bubbles up.
And if you’re willing, post your most surprising thoughts here, on our Facebook page, Twitter, or YouTube. (As one animal communicator explained, pay special attention to the random thoughts that don’t seem to have anything to do with anything. The ones that don’t make any sense at all at first are often the deepest and most profound revelations, once you dig into them deeply enough.) If you’d prefer to be anonymous, but still want to share something amazing, please just email your story to me and I promise a cloak of invisibility around what you have to share.
I can’t wait to read more stories like Mary’s — and with your help, to make people aware of the magic than can come from journaling with a horse.
When I went to the Equine Experience retreat at Hacienda Tres Aguilas near San Antonio Texas, I had no idea what to expect. I had just bought a horse the summer before, we were still getting along pretty well at that point, but something about this new relationship in my life compelled me to want to learn more.
I discovered this opportunity quite by accident (if there is such a thing, which, increasingly, I’m starting to doubt). According to their course literature, passed on to me by a freind who knew I enjoyed delving into such matters, the McCormicks were trained in “Psychoanalytic and Jungian Psychology with an expertise in Object Relations Theory and mysticism.” I had no idea what all that meant, but it sounded pretty serious. I was intrigued.
My intrigue grew with the fact that they had traveled the world studying with an impressive list of greats in both psychology AND horsemanship, including the Celtic traditions of horsemanship. This last part REALLY got my attention. Folding what they had learned about horses and humans into this retreat, the Drs. McCormick called upon their championship Peruvian horses to help participants “explore the transcending connection between horses and people.” The Equine Experience Retreat (which, by the way, is still held several times each year at their beautiful Texas Hill Country ranch) promised “a place to find inner peace, growth, and creativity.”
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been looking for that stuff for most of my adult life. Sign me up!
So I naively packed my riding boots and clothes (not understanding that this was not going to be a riding experience at all) and headed off to the Hill Country to hunt for that elusive “still place in my heart” the McCormicks promised would help me learn to connect with the “heart and rhythms of nature.” Especially, I hoped, with the heart and rhythm of my increasingly agitated horse, Trace.
Even then I realized on some level that it was my own escalating agitation and stress that was coming back at me through the misbehavior of my horse. He was simply mirroring what was going on inside me, but it would be a while before I learned about that. (Chapter 10, to be exact, of my new book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, a somewhat errant chronicle of this journey. At this point, we are still in Chapter 1, headed toward Chapter 2 where a Peruvian horse named Maximo escorted me to the trailhead of my midlife horses journey.
Here’s a book excerpt to describe how it all unfolded:
“The day before, an aging Peruvian horse named Maximo had demonstrated for the group how he could use his buddy sourness to play my overactive nurturing instinct like a cheap fiddle. Then, as I later tried to lead him “with authority,” he plain-old ignored my pace and used each turn as opportunity to graze, oblivious to my “authoritative” yanks on the lead rope. “Max sees that you have no boundaries,” Deborah McCormick, Ph.D., explained to me and to the group. The message resonated with issues I had dealt with time and again in my life, without resolution.”
Do you cringe when people say how “nice” you are? Do you habitually sacrifice your own needs (or wants) to accomodate the needs (and wants) of others? Then maybe it’s time for your midlife horses!
“Horses see us for who we are on the inside,” agree many of the popular “horse whisperers” of today (who are parroting, by the way, the grandaddy of them all, Tom Dorrance.). The bottom line for those of us who have chosen midlife horses as a journey to rediscover who the heck we are? Watch the behavior of the horses you interact with very closely. The inner reality is closer than it appears.
Ok, this is just plain funny. If you remember that old Hans Christian Anderson fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” (and I’ll just bet you do) . . . and if you’ve ever spent any time in or around a corporate setting, you’ve most likely seen firsthand the condition some business analysts call “CEO Disease.”
This is a rampant condition where no one in the workplace is willing, for fear of reprimand, political fallout, or worse, job loss, to confront an ineffective or counterproductive leader. Instead, they just follow along, doing their tasks as assigned, and at the same time, each doing his or her part in letting the company drift from its core purpose.
I have been fascinated in recent conversations with HerdWise CEO Kathy Taylor about how equine assisted learning can reveal the dynamics of work teams, uncover surprising blocks to productive relationships that hinder corporate leaders, and even demonstrate in an unforgettable way how different leadership styles are needed to meet the needs of the team and the objective of the task at hand. By mimicking the energy of a leader, horses mirror workplace dynamics in graphic, unforgettable and often, humorous ways.
But by far the funniest and most telling thing I ever saw was this video of a CEO “leading” his team in their effort to get Kathy’s therapy horse, Roxy, over a pole in the center of a pen. This is especially funny if you know that Roxy has no qualms about walking over that pole. It’s a task she often does easily and willingly. But she clearly sees though this guy and no amount of “leading” — or coaxing or cajoling (and I believe there might have even been a trail mix bar bribe involved) will get Roxy over that pole.
Watch also how his team follows him around and defers to his ineffective antics. One lady gives a half-hearted attempt to support his effort by trying to block Roxy from leaving, and she even tries to reinforce his instruction by pointing the way they want Roxy to go. This is clearly a work team accustomed to following its leader, even when what he’s doing is not accomplishing the team’s overall goal.
Just got back in from a two hour ride that turned into four — and grueling trot-a-thon on Trace and a bend-o-rama on Rio that has my core muscles quivering like Santa’s legendary bowlful of jello. You just never realize the need for well-developed core strength until you’ve trotted around in circles for two hours on a snippy horse, followed by another hour and a half on my passive aggressive sweetie pie that much prefers leaning to bending, whose cantering is more like a ride on Six Flags Over Texas’ Runnaway Mine Train than the slow, easy circles of my dreams.
Hobbling back to the cool comfort of my twirly desk chair, I just decided to go back and re-read Chapter Four, “Leg Up!” of my recently released book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses . When I was writing the book, I realized through countless conversations with other women like me that one of the biggest challenges to midlife horsemanship is getting and staying fit to ride. Not only does this kind of conditioning make sense for improving our overall health and wellbeing, but when it comes to riding and working with our horses, it is crucial to be strong enough to be effective, keep ourselves safe, have a good time, and above all, keep coming back for more!
And, perfectly timed with today’s epiphany, there was a nice reference to this chapter on Rebecca’s TSB Riding Adventures July 27 blog post, titled “The Working Rider’s Workout,” as she prepares for a Wyoming Ranch ride (Yee Haww, Becca! You go, girl! I just learned the other day that dressage is like crack–more on that later– and I can’t wait to see if Becca finds the same is true about chasing cows!) Let’s stay tuned to this one and see how it comes out!)
Any others of you out there have a neat destination ride planned this year? Let us hear from you! We love to be inspired — and sometimes, live vicariously. Also, look for my upcoming post on some great fall rides I just learned about from a new friend who has personally done them all and can give us some great inside information on a surprising “trail culture” cropping up out there for trail enthusiasts across the nation.
And, as for getting that “core of jello” I’m sporting these days a little more solidified so I can be more effective in future trot-a-thons and bend-o-ramas, stay tuned for more info and exercises as I go back this coming month and revisit (and actually consistently DO) all those great core building exercises I tucked into Chapter Four of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses. Anyone out there want to do them with me? Anybody up for a little spirited “core building competition?”
What’s up with this change in my body structure that, number one, confirms I have entered that “certain age” and, number two, means twiggy legs and flappy triceps can’t be too far behind? Is this cruel reshaping really necessary? Unavoidable?
“NO!” Say the experts I consulted to build Chapter Four of my new book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses. This chapter , entitled “Leg Up!” deals with the specific conditioning required to be effective with a horse — and, incidentally, could quite easily put us int he best shape of our lives.
The nice thing about this “exercise program” is that our horse chores are such necessary tasks we often don’t realize what a workout we’re getting. With a little awareness and a tiny bit of tweaking of our “horsekeeping” routines, we can be on the road to rock-star fitness without even realizing it. (This reminds me of a stretch of time when I was desensitizing Trace to the saddle by throwing it on him 100 times a day. If he hadn’t gotten bored with it and given up his goofiness, I could have had an upper body like Wonder Woman!)
And beyond the obvious fitness benefits that ride the coattails of barn chores like tossing bales, toting water buckets and mucking stalls, guess what else is packed quietly into this sneaky midlife fitness regimen?
Check out these Chapter Four factoids:
An hour of trotting burns 400-600 calories (in your body, not the horse’s!)
Mounting a horse uses every single muscle in your hips and legs
Just sitting on a horse simulates an extended squat, constantly working quads, hamstrings, abductors and aductors — simultaneously!
(I didn’t see any stats on how many calories sitting on a bucking horse burns— not to mention yanking him in circles until we’re both a bit dizzy— but I know it has given me jaw muscles like a pit bull. Probably not a good thing.)
So with all this fitness in mind, I’m off to the barn to ramp up my routine (in what they’re calling the second hottest Texas summer on record. I try not to pay attention to the counters, but I think I heard this is the 16th straight day of 100+ degree heat.) Maybe copious sweating will help right these upside-down shorts.
So . . .Fitness after 50? Just another gift we receive at the hooves of our midlife horses! I’ve included in the book a number of ideas for making the most of this built-in (if a little unwitting) fitness program, from specific exercises I discovered to interesting ways of combating this disturbing “flab phenomenon.” I’ve shared what I found to get motivated enough to reap yet another surprising benefit of the midlife horse experience. Now it’s your turn.
I know I didn’t even scratch the surface of good ideas in this area. What’s your horse fitness strategy? If you have any good fitness amping tips, suggestions or strategies, please share them with the growing Smart Womans Guide to Midlife Horses Community! Just post a comment in reply either here on this blog, on our Facebook page, or via Twitter or LinkedIn. And, if you have a photo or video of some good horse-related fitness routines or strategies, send them to me and I’ll post them on Flickr or our You Tube channel! Camera phones welcome! It’s all about helping each other keep it right side up!
It’s a darned good thing I didn’t know that was a Pulitzer winning photographer taking my picture this morning to go with Kathleen Green’s upcoming Dallas Morning News Article featuring The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses. THAT would have made me nervous. But quite to the contrary, our early morning photo shoot with crackerjack photographer Robert Hart was nothing but fun!
The horses behaved admirably, the blistering Texas heat had yet to fully wake up for another 100+ degree day day, and I’m not sure, but I think Robert got some photos he liked. (He said that when a photographer makes the “ooh oooh oooh” monkey noise, it’s a good thing. Did I mention he won a Pulitzer? Although I’m fairly camera shy and highly self-critical, I’m guardedly optimistic about this one.)
As one not accustomed to being on this side of the interview or camera, I’ll have to say it was a little weird at first. But, just like the Horse Radio Network “Horses in the Morning” radio interview last week, once I get started talking about The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, all weirdness faded into my genuine enthusiasm for sharing this book.
You know the best thing about writing this book? Because it came from my own personal midlife horse quest — and because I built it to be a resource guide for readers to use as a springboard for finding their own answers, the ideas, connections, and useful information just keeps flowing my way!
That’s why I’m so glad we’re building this comunity — a gathering place where we can all pool our ideas, stories and experiences — and just generally bask in the fun and camaraderie the whole Midlife Horse experience can bring! (I’m looking into adding a virtual margarita machine . . .)
If you haven’t done it already, please visit (and “Like”!) our Facebook page and join the conversations growing there! Id love to hear from you any time something on this blog strikes a familiar chord — and, if you have pictures of you and your horse, advice to share, funny video, or favorite quotes, if you send ’em, I’ll post ’em! We’ve built an exciting social media hub that includes this blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Flickr.
Meet Teresa, (pictured here with her midlife horse, Lladro). It was on a quiet morning ride, when Trace and I were the only other ones at the club, that we began to mimic, in follow-the-leader fashion (at a respectful distance on the far end of the arena, of course), Teresa and her beautiful and majestic Fresian through their daily dressage maneuvers.
We botched them all, of course, as neither of us knew what the hell we were even trying to do, but in the process (and in Teresa’s charitable kindness) a friendship was formed over our midlife horses.
As we rode along afterwards together (with Lladro casting a disdainful but tolerant eye toward Trace) it was our discussion of what our midlife horses mean to us that actually sparked the exploration that, three years later, became 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.
Teresa was giving me the 411 about the Fort Worth Horseshoe Club where I had just moved Trace. “We have the cleaners — they come out every day and clean their stalls their buckets their feed bins. Their stalls are cleaner than my house. We have the groomers, they come out and shampoo, brush, apply hoof dressings and keep their horse looking like a million bucks. We have some that stay pretty much on the ground, others who take a lot of lessons, some ride just for fun and others are very serious competitors — or used to be. There really is something in this experience for everyone!”
“What do you think it is about horses that attract women at this time of life?” I asked in what would become the genesis of this book .
“You know the look a baby gets on his face the first time he tastes chocolate? That’s what a good horse day feels like — and that’s what keeps us coming back for more!”
I woke up this morning the same way you do on any big day, in the foggy recollection that something exciting and long awaited was about to happen. This, friends, is the day my new book, The Smart Women’s Guide to Midlife Horses: Find Meaning Magic and Mastery in the Second Half of Life finally hits the streets. WooHoooooooo!
It’s been a long time coming, starting on the day I was riding with my friend Teresa (you’ll meet her and her horse, Lladro, in an upcoming post). I had just moved my horse to a wonderful place that was home to about 75 horses, and I couldn’t help but notice the number of women out there who were my age and older.
When I remarked on this she explained. “We have lots of women out here who just love being with their horses. Some are the cleaners— they come out and wash their horse, scrub their buckets, and their stalls are cleaner than most houses. We have the groomers. They brush, shampoo, condition, apply hoof dressing, and wash their horses’ faces. Some do groundwork — they walk with their horses, hand graze, round pen and lunge. Others of us ride, some just for fun and some working on learning new things, and a few serious ones who go to a show every weekend. We have all come to the place in our lives that our kids are grown, we have a little disposable income, and this is where we want to be. Some of us have husbands, some don’t; some husbands participate, some just come to the parties. But every day, or as often as we can, we come here for our ‘horse fix’.”
Then I remember asking the question — and getting the answer that started this book (even though I didn’t realize it at the time):
“What do you think it is about horses that make us want to have them at this time of life?” I asked.
She thought for a moment and then replied, “You know that look on a baby’s face when he tastes chocolate for the very first time?”
So here we are, some three years and many many miles (and lots of chocolate) later, with this beautiful book created for this special group of women.
Check it out (and place your order!) at www.horseandriderbooks and please let me hear from you! My goal was to create the book I was looking for when I came back to horses in the middle of my life. I was looking for more than “how to” . . . I was interested in doing things right, of course, and I wanted to learn how to find the experts I needed and to know what questions to ask, but beyond “how to,” I wanted to understand “why to” — and to make sense of it all in the context of my own life and experience and goals. I also wanted to hear from others like me—to learn from them, laugh with them and sometimes cry and complain with them. It is not an easy journey — and there is a lot to know and some of it is not pretty. But I’ll have to say it’s all been worth it. And just like that first taste of chocolate, an unexpected delight!
So if you’re a “woman of a certain age” (or not! All are certainly welcome — even the men out there just trying to understand this obsession), whether or not you have a horse, I invite you to join the community we’ve created around this book. Stop by as often as you can to 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!). This is our free Midlife Horses support community — a place for us all to share what we’ve learned, commiserate, celebrate and, to the greatest extent possible, laugh our butts off in the pure joy only midlife horses can bring. I’ve built it — now, y’all come!
In Chapter 9 of my new book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses: Find Meaning, Magic and Mastery in the Second Half of Life, I make an unapologetic confession. I own three saddles. And while I love each and every one of them for very different reasons, none of them fit my horse.
As it turns out, there’s a whole lot to this saddle fitting thing — whether you ride English or Western, and I found a few experts to help me understand this complex issue — and I barely scratched the surface! As you follow my well-worn train of saddle frustration, you might as well learn from my mistakes, get ideas of where you might find the experts you need, and have a decent idea of what questions to ask and what kinds of things to look out for.
The bottom line? While it’s hard (and usually impossible!) to get horse experts to agree on anything, I did find a general consensus on this topic. When you’re trying to fit this “moving target,” there are three things to look for:
1. Your horse has to be comfortable and able to move freely without pain.
2. You need to be comfortable and well balanced in the saddle.
3. The saddle must be designed and suited to the purpose you intend to use it for.
When you’re saddle shopping, it’s easy to find a saddle that meets any one of these criteria, sometimes two. But girlfriends, take it from me and keep on shopping until you find one that meets all three. You may have to spend some money (and once you find the one you want, you might be able to find it used at any one of a bazillion online or in person resale sources.), but believe me, it will be worth it.
And, it may not be as cozy to watch TV in the evenings sitting on a saddle instead of that Pottery Barn sofa you’ve had your eye on, but at least you’ll have a secure seat when it really counts!
Come! Join the community that’s building around this book. Stop by as often as you can to join the fun, laughter, camaraderie and joy only midlife horses can bring. Find us here, 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!). This is our free Midlife Horses support community — a place for us all to share what we’ve learned, commiserate, celebrate and, to the greatest extent possible, laugh our butts off in the pure joy only midlife horses can bring. I’ve built it — now, y’all come!