I wandered into the local library seeking horse books. That’s what I’m interested in since I got my new horse a few months ago.

I chose several to read during winter. One I picked up was Susan Richard’s, Saddled. I liked what various critics said on the back of the book’s jacket. (For good or ill, I am often swayed by those back cover comments.)

I began to turn pages and realized that I was reading a book by a recovering 12-Stepper. Suddenly I knew my instincts in choosing the book were good and that the pages would be meaningful for me.

Richard’s economic background is very different from mine, but her family and addiction narrative is where I connected to her. Her alcoholic father abandoned her at an early age, leaving her with her grandmother, who did not want the responsibility of caring for a child and took an instant dislike to her. The pain and misery of struggling to survive in a “family” where she was not loved and cared for resonated with me.

How she started drinking and the terrible recounting of her disastrous marriage are inter-woven with her love for Georgia, a Morgan horse. She bought the animal while still married to her abusive husband.

The book is a complex story, but this didn’t bother me as I followed her words through her journey to sobriety and success. I understand her mode of thinking as she picked her way through learning to live without the crutch of addiction — any kind of addiction. Her love for her horse and her other animals is the stage where she plays out her recovery.

The story of Richard’s struggle to get back her beloved horse after an aborted attempt to take the animal from her abusive husband is interesting — and compelling. But, the grit of the story was Susan Richard’s ultimate redemption through the grace she finds in loving herself.

Linda Rosenthal (Jan. ’11)adds, “Good luck, Frances, with your quest to find out what your inklings lead you to leave behind in the new year. I know one of my leave-behinds is my tendency dwell, obsess, or even incorporate into my own being the opinions and especially fears of others.

I must not allow them to take over my life. I’m also working on the ‘voice’ of self-confidence. I must project what I feel more honestly when I speak. Otherwise, I sink to people pleasing, the mark of codependence that I work every day to leave behind.”

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