From the book "She Flies Without Wings: How Horses Touch a Woman's Soul" by Mary D. Midkiff. Copyright c by Mary D. Midkiff. Reprinted by arrangement with Delacorte Press, an imprint of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.

When I ride Theo, this is the world she takes me to. My focus turns inward and my emotions turn on. When I am with my horse, I feel more than analyze, move more than ponder, accept instead of judge.

Her unity with the outside world is so absolute that I have no choice but to follow her into it. I must stop thinking about deadlines and the grocery list and the clinic I'm scheduled to give next month because they have no place in the world my equine guide is showing me. I can't help but open my eyes to what she sees and my ears to what she hears. I note the flicker of a cottontail disappearing into the brush ahead and hear the call of the meadowlark before spotting it. I swim in her quiet.

What I have learned about hallowed places is that my altars and shrines are where horses run.

As minutes tick by to the rhythm of Theo's hooves, my most timid inner voice begins to speak. It is timid because it is accustomed to being drowned by the clatter of the world I live in away from Theo. With a horse in my company and a horse in my consciousness, I am guided. Alone with this guide mare, the voice raises itself to remark on the beauty and variability of the creation around me, on the difference even a slight breeze feels brushing my bare arms, on the fact that spring smells like a greeting while fall holds the scent of things past. I find myself reassured that, no matter how much my material world changes, the world Theo takes me to offers constants I can return to again and again without ever wearing them out. Making my way through a moment with my horse, I am reminded of what is enduring and what is only passing, and this reminder helps me put my daily challenges into healthier perspective.

While we are journeying, Theo's animal spirit envelops me. Her breathing rises to match my breathing. Her animal warmth becomes my warmth. If Theo weren't carrying me into her moment, I could find a moment of my own, but it would not be the same. It is in part the softness of fur against my skin, the sparkle of her coat in the sun, and the warmth of her existence warming my existence that lifts me out of the corporeal world and gently sets me in a spiritual one. I become the goddess who is alive to the fullest only when astride her mare.


One of the spiritual riches that have been wrung out of modern life is the luxury of meditation, which takes the form of prayer for some people but takes many other forms, as well. Meditation offers us an oasis of rest from the spiritually parched stretches of our daily travels. It is an act that calls upon us to set aside the mundane and immediate and seek the mystical and universal. To me, the essence of meditation is any personal time given over to reflection that feeds the soul, a time--in the words of aviatrix and author Beryl Markham--when "I think, I ponder, I recall a hundred things--little things, foolish things that come to me without reason and fade again." .

Horses give us a place where we may meditate. I recently participated in a workshop on creativity and empowerment for women in the second half of their lives. Each workshop began with a period when we were to turn inward in a way I was unaccustomed to: within walls and in human company. With practice, I was able to find my quiet place in this new setting but, whenever I succeeded, I felt as if I were with Theo! In Eastern cultures, people often create altars in their homes or visit shrines where they meditate.

What I have learned about hallowed places is that my altars and shrines are where horses run....