Book Review: Life Without Stirrups

Life Without Stirrups, Dagny Mofid, Margaret Evans 

A Witty Memoir About One Person's Gallop Through Life

By Dagny Mofid

307 pages, $17.47

ISBN 1507624859


Reviewed by Margaret Evans

Dagny Mofid did what all of us dream of sooner or later. She bought her own horse. She didn’t have aspiring competitive goals and she wasn’t a seasoned long distance backcountry rider. With riding experience stashed up as a child and then resumed as a young adult, her equine clock was ticking and the idea of having a horse of her own for some gentle riding was like a mid-term elixir.

In her absolutely delightful, witty, funny, and bare-all emotions memoir Life Without Stirrups (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform) she shares the wonders, challenges, triumphs and emotional pitfalls of equine ownership.

“Like a thirtyish woman who starts hearing the faint yet demanding tick of her biological clock, as I approach forty I began hearing my horse-ownership clock…. This was when my mind began staging regular arguments with me. Why wait? Do you want to be fifty when you get your first horse? Now is the time. Go for it! You only live once! Yes, horses are really expensive, but it’s just like having an additional car payment…”

Enter Merlot.

Now, buying a horse named after the colour of wine smacks of romance but the three-year-old Arab had more than his share of defining effervescent moments. Challenges came from all directions, from entering his stall to something as simple as turn-out. According to Dagny’s candid assessment, after two months of ownership and her Arab’s professional training, Merlot’s likes were food, bucking, galloping, and rolling in dust. His dislikes were everything else in the world. Observations were anger management issues (kick first, ask questions later), and his potential for improvement was to be determined. But he was healthy, had perfect conformation, great feet, smooth gaits, was the perfect size, and was unashamedly pretty. 

“My only real problem was that he needed a lobotomy,” wrote Dagny of her “Evil Demon.”

From Washington State, Dagny and husband Kam moved to Texas where Merlot’s training and attitude adjustment efforts continued. By now, Kam had been bitten by the riding bug and “Maximus,” a quiet, 16-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse, joined the trio. Kam idolized Maximus, who was underweight and with the scars of a less-than-ideal life behind him. He scoured the planet looking for the best grain, hay, and vitamin supplements money could buy to put weight on his horse’s bones and a shine back in his coat.

Kam, a corporate executive, travelled extensively. But at home he found in Maximus his decompression centre. 

“After he slept off jetlag, I would often find Kam in the backyard, quietly grooming Maximus,” wrote Mofid. “The horse, like an old soul, had a strange ability to absorb Kam’s worries.”

Quickly, Merlot and Maximus became pasture mates and a lifestyle of cleaning barns, cleaning horses and the aromatic scent and sound of soft leather became their mantra. 

But life had a few bucks to give the Mofids. They faced another move, this time to California. Dagny overcame a cancer encounter with melanoma. And she needed to face a monumental decision for Merlot who was, in many ways, too much horse for her to handle despite all the progress they had made. He needed new opportunities more suited to his enduring spirit.

“Montana” would fill the void left by her beloved Arabian and become the new pasture mate of Maximus. It was all Kam’s idea, buying the big Quarter Horse with foot problems. But he poured love and nutrients into the appreciative equine and after a year of nurturing, he became sound enough to ride.

A final move took them to Saint George, Utah, a red desert place where the stark beauty of sandstone cliffs and desert washes bridged a peace that settled in Dagny’s soul. The trails and trials of life found the Mofids appreciating slower, simpler, more profoundly meaningful things - rides through red rock canyons, pinyon pine forests, and soft gurgling rivers while inhaling the smell of eucalyptus or creosote after a desert rain.

“In truth, I never became the rider I wanted to be,” Mofid shared candidly in a statement many relate to. “Confident riders give a horse confidence. For me, it was the other way around. It is truly important to ride the right horse for you. I recommend Grandma-safe ‘babysitter’ horses over the age of 15. And when you find one, never let go – like good husbands, they are gems.”

The couple has a uniquely special life that continues to unfold in the company of horses that are always looking eagerly around every curve and contently at the trailer that takes them safely back home. 

Book Review: Life Without Stirrups