Like many adult riders, Melinda Folse rediscovered her passion for horses at the age of 45. As a child who rode horses with fearless abandon, returning to horses in her 40’s presented a new set of fears and challenges. Melinda quickly discovered that these challenges present new opportunities to learn more about yourself as well your horse. This is the beauty of connecting with horses at midlife. In Part II of my interview with author Melinda Folse, we talk about the struggles and the rewards of rediscovering horses in our middle years.
Please tell us about your horses.
I have two geldings, Trace and Rio, who are truly a perfect combo of personality, temperament, challenge and reward for me. I have a friend who told me Trace is my “soul horse” and Rio is my “personality horse. “ I don’t disagree, but I’m still exploring what that means! Trace is actually the impetus for the content of my first book—it was the struggles I had with him that caused all this research, because as a nonfiction writer that’s what I know to do when I want to know more about something! And I found so much information that was helpful to me and I thought would be helpful to other struggling midlife riders that I couldn’t not share it! I’ve learned more about connection, authenticity, and how horses mirror what’s going on inside you. With Trace, he’s my best retreat horse. Rio, on the other hand, brings out my playful, willful, physical side. He’s a challenge physically whereas Trace is more of a mental and emotional “growth opportunity.”
How has age changed your approach to riding?
I’m not nearly as driven or bound to a schedule. I feel freer to just enjoy my horses — and sometimes that’s in the saddle, sometimes that’s on the ground, and sometimes that means I’m sitting on an overturned bucket with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, just being with them and watching them eat. In the saddle, and especially after working up the content for Riding through Thick and Thin (especially after interviewing Wendy Murdoch and immersing in all her wonderful DVDs), I’m able to feel things more. I’m much more mindful—of my own body and breathing, (thanks to the wonderful breathing imagery and explanations of Daniel Stewart and Mary Wanless) and what’s going on with my own body — as well as increased awareness of what my horse’s body is doing. This helps me relax a whole lot more, be less afraid, and enjoy the ride — even when I’m trying to learn something new!
I am a huge fan of your book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses. This book gave me the encouragement to follow my dream of riding at midlife. Why do you think so many women are suddenly following their dream of riding and horse ownership in their middle years?
It’s a combination of things really. In the book proposal I remember saying something like “about the time the kids are finally out of the house — and sometimes the husband is, too” — whole and half generations of baby boomer women looked around and remembered . . . horses. Whether they had a horse growing up, wanted one and never got one, or always had this curiosity and love in the abstract, the availability of time and disposable income suddenly makes pursuit of this dream doable — and they are doing it in droves! Just like the middle age male icon of the shiny new mustang, their female counterparts began getting shiny mustangs of their own (sometimes literally!) And the passion, commitment and joy these women find in this journey quite literally gives them a new lease on life — watching this over and over, I began using the tagline, This is your life, Part II — with more horsepower!
Many women have said to me, “I’d love to learn how to ride, but I’m too old.” What would be your response to this?
If you’re otherwise healthy enough, give it a try. Just be smart. Choose the right horse, take some lessons, don’t take anything for granted and embrace the learning that goes along with this journey. If you take the time to learn how to be as safe as possible, and you build your skills slowly and quite literally from the ground up, you’re going to have fun like you’ve never had — and learn more about yourself than you ever knew.
I understand that you worked with Clinton Anderson for many years. How has he influenced your approach to riding at midlife?
The beautiful gift that Clinton has is breaking down even some of the most difficult things to learn with a horse into doable pieces, and building those skills up in a way that helps people achieve more with their horses than they ever could have without some of these techniques and, as he calls it, The Method. Clinton is brilliant at training horses, but even more brilliant at training people. I loved every minute of getting to work with him and learned so much about horses and people! He has empowered countless numbers of these midlife women to live their dreams and to learn more than they ever might have. I watched this happen first hand in the clinics and tours I attended as part of his staff, and it was fascinating to watch his audiences absorb, then try, then learn what he taught them. It’s been a game changer for a lot of midlife riders, both men and women!
Books by Melinda Folse:
The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses: Finding Meaning, Magic and Mastery in the Second Half of Life
Riding Through Thick & Thin: Make Peace with Your Body and Banish Self-Doubt, In and Out of the Saddle
Clinton Anderson: Lessons Well Learned – Why My Method Works, by Clinton Anderson and Melinda Folse
Grandmaster, by Melinda Folse and Won Chik ParkShare This: