Sometimes a Woman Needs a Horse:
A Personal Story of Discovery of a Spiritual Message
in the Horse and Rider Experience

by Betsy Talcott Kelleher

Xulon Press (April 25, 2014), ISBN 978-1-629-52667-6.
Reviewed by Denise McAllister
Posted on 04/20/2005

Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

This author and I have a lot in common. We both love horses. We both went through divorces that we didn't want or believe in and leaned on our horses for emotional support. Most importantly, we're both Christian women.

Like many women, Kelleher is a caregiver—always putting her needs after her husband's and family's. After years of an unhappy marriage, she was blessed with the gift of partnership with her horse. It wasn't easy, though. The horse was strong-willed and didn't always want to listen to a higher authority, much like Kelleher in her struggle for independence. While she was training the horse, she realized that God was training her. Ultimately, she learned that submission is not such a bad word. Just like when a horse submits to the rider, resulting in a beautiful dance, so can submission to God. Freedom and free will are wonderful things. But unharnessed, wild behavior can result in a chaotic life for both horses and humans.

Only other horse enthusiasts may be able to relate to the obsession that develops when loving these animals. The author mentions how her "dishes would go unwashed, the floor unswept, the laundry undone" while she stood at her window watching the horse frolic, dash, and snort in the pasture.

Sometimes, non-horsey husbands can become perturbed at our captivation. I've been there... Riding my horse in the summer when it was still light out at 9:30 pm, inhaling the delicious perfume of the Georgia honeysuckle, only to come home to a husband who couldn't understand why I was out so late and resented it.

This author once was transfixed when she saw a young woman riding an Arabian horse, just schooling it and practicing. They were like a well-oiled machine, gliding gracefully, as if horse and rider were one being. The subtle cues the rider must have been giving to the horse were invisible to anyone watching. This scene impacted the author so much that she later was compelled to improve her riding and her relationship with her horse. She entered competitive endurance rides.

Kelleher may have inherited her love of horses from her grandfather and great-grandfather, who were both blacksmiths. Photos in the back of the book, some dating from the 1940s and 1950s, are an added treat.

This is one woman's story of struggle—for her own identity, for love and support she wasn't getting in her first marriage, for a closer relationship with her Creator. It also represents the story of other women. Many of us have "been there, done that" and can wholeheartedly relate to Kelleher's words.

There were a few parts of this book that I worried might be too geared towards people who understand and work with horses. But horses are at the heart of this author's story, so it stands to reason that she detail certain information. The writer skillfully uses horse and rider examples as a metaphor for the relationship between humans and God. Even if one has no experience with horses, many readers will enjoy and learn new life lessons from this story. As Kelleher says, "I came to understand that a woman's greatest need is not for a husband, a close friend, or a horse, but for the ultimate connection and partnership with her Creator!"

Betsy Talcott Kelleher is a horse lover who writes from a Christian perspective. Her monthly column in the Illinois Horse Network newspaper appears under the heading Sometimes God Uses Horses, sharing horse-related experiences with spiritual insight. She lives in Granite City, Illinois with her husband. You can find more information about this author on her website.

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