From a renowned horsewoman and gifted storyteller comes this groundbreaking new book that explores a powerful relationship like no other: the magical kinship between women and horses.
Drawing from myth and literature, the author's own experiences, and interviews with countless women, we learn, through women's deeply personal stories, how horses enrich our lives and connect us to nature-making us readers of rhythm and invisible signs, helping us harness our youthful sexuality, sharing the "horsepower" we need to reach our dreams. And here we see how, for thousands of years, the deep kinship between women and horses has connected us to our most intimate feelings of delight, helped us learn to solve problems, and set our creativity free.
From the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer to the fiction of Jane Austen to folktales from around the world, She Flies Without Wings uses great literature and myth to encompass a wide spectrum of beliefs and perspectives-and creates a true celebration of speed, air, and the spectacular animal that connects us with both.
Filled with the moving lessons--about sensuality, commitment, power, nurturance, and spirituality-women riders have known for centuries, written with a loving hand by an expert equestrian, She Flies Without Wings is an eloquent paean to a pairing that enlivened history, inspired literature, and continues to enchant us all.
In stables and paddocks across the world, young girls lean against horses, sighing with the kind of happiness only horse lovers know. Midkiff (Fitness, Performance, and the Female Equestrian), obviously an equestrian down to her very marrow, tries to convey this ecstasy with a combination of autobiography, storytelling and snippets of poetry, essays and novels. For the most part, she succeeds, recalling her days growing up near a horse farm, nurturing her passion through horse clubs and finally assuming responsibility for her first horse, a temperamental beast unlike the one she now calls her muse. When she takes a step back to examine why women love horses, Midkiff stumbles into sticky sentimentality, evincing none of the detachment necessary for such an exercise. She does better when it comes to the book's real meat: her emotional autobiography. By including passages of breathless admiration, love and obsession, she allows a rare view of horse-based compulsion. She ambitiously divides the book into introspective sections (e.g., "Power," "Creativity," "Danger," "Transformation Through Compassion" and "Freedom") based on what horses have brought into her own and other women's lives (more than 80% of people involved with horses are girls and women), namely a liberating sense of self-acceptance. (Apr. 17) Forecast: While Midkiff's work explores many universal themes, her audience will be limited to other soul-searching female horse lovers. The Horse Whisperer this isn't. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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February 25, 2002
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Excerpt from She Flies Without Wings by Mary D. Midkiff
A Natural Affinity I grew up in New England: Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island. I never rode as a child, although I had my own imaginary horse that I rode around my grandparents' backyard. I obsessively drew horses and wrote poems about them colliding in the sky with brilliant colors around them. Returning to this subject matter as an adult, and subsequently learning how to ride, is like reliving the adolescence I never had and fulfilling a dream deferred. — Patricia Cronin, "Pony Tales," fromHorse People: Writers and Artists on the Horses They Love When I was six, I was a horse. My home was in the heart of central Kentucky on just the sort of white-fenced Thoroughbred horse farm the words "bluegrass" and "Kentucky" suggest. My father managed the breeding farm and crop operations, which gave my family the right to live in the manager's house. While I slept in this house, I lived as much as possible in the barns and pastures where the rest of my herd grazed. That's how I thought of the mares and foals and weanlings and yearlings at Hartland Farm: as my herd. If you had spied me with my herd, you would have seen a girl small for her age, perched precariously atop the post-and-board fence that bordered the Hartland fields. You might have noticed legs too short to reach the second rail. You would not have known I was a horse and that I felt my legs were long and fluid as young saplings stirring in the wind. Even a foal learning how to use her legs can be elegant. When I leaped off that rail and into the horses' pastures, as I often did, I galloped with grace and purpose. I could run with the breezes, or stand still and feel them skim over my flesh. I could bounce out a rhythm or roll down a hill. I could swing my hair, and it would wave in my trot like a long, flowing tail. I learned all this — and more — from horses. I saw that when a horse moves across the open field, it's as if she's following the call of a voice in the air. Her head rises, her ears prick forward to receive a message in horse frequency, and her nostrils open to catch sensory signals drifting by. She doesn't use her tongue to respond; she pushes out feral answers from the hollow between her ribs. At times, all four of her great limbs leave the ground in a display of perfect suspension — one hoof coming down, followed by another and another and another until all have touched earth just long enough to renew the effortless cycle. She gains ground but without need for anything more than stirring the air and enjoying a good talk with her universe. When I moved in the way my herd moved, I felt in my legs the same balance and rhythm and coordination I saw in theirs and I strained toward the voices they heeded. I gained fluency in a body language my own small body was not born knowing but which it longed to speak. In the fields, I listened to the way the horses cleared their nostrils when grazing and called to each other in whispered rumbles of affection or squealed with joy or warning. This was the language of my herd, and I studied it as diligently as I studied my other language, the one of my family. I became good at whinnying, snorting, and delivering those sounds, and the horses learned my voice. Occasionally they included me in their play. They would nibble at my ankles or rub their flanks against my own knobby knees. When I poked my head through the openings between the planks and extended my arm forward, curious foals came to smell my hand. After they got to know me and recognize my scent, they came even closer — nuzzling my head and trying to take a taste of my pigtails. I giggled at the feel of their busy lips on my head and their warm breath on my neck. A horse's acceptance remains one of my earliest memories of belonging. While I struggled to find who I was and would be as a pers