Alice MacGillivray, PhD, is author of “Riding Horseback in Purple” written for “women of age” who maybe considering horse ownership – first timers and re-riders alike.  Alice guides readers through scenarios that help dissect the reality of horse ownership from our childhood fantasies. An expert in adult learning, Alice explores ways we connect with horses as leaders, care givers and riding partners. A great read for casual and professional WARHorses who want to make their horse purchase the start of a long, fulfilled partnership.

Alice shares an excerpt from “Riding Horseback in Purple” for WARHorses struggling with the “big decision” to purchase a horse. For those hesitant to jump right into ownership, Alice suggests baby steps first.

Learn by Helping Rescue Centers:  A Win-Win!

Are you a woman bitten by the horse bug?  As a child, I loved horses.  I was lucky enough to ride a few times, but most of my horse experience was on the other side of the fence, staring longingly at an imagined life with horses.

But life got in the way.  My family scraped by financially.  It took me a long time to build a career and raise a family.  By the time I started to think seriously about reconnecting with horses, I was well into my 50s.  I had no friends with horses and even less horse knowledge than I thought I had!  I needed to start learning from scratch.

Christine Hajek, President and Founder of Gentle Giants, with Twister, a mare she adopted from the rescue.

I gradually realized that there are many ways to

[re]connect with horses.  And if you tap into them with some wisdom, they will help you make decisions suited to your unique situation.  Most importantly, you won’t end up with the wrong horse.

Some women rush into adopting a horse.  That is so understandable.  For those of us who feel a lot of empathy for animals, it is painful to see horses who need someone to take them on, feed them, love them and give them the home they deserve.

When I wrote Riding Horseback in Purple, I interviewed people who run animal rescue organizations.  These were women with deep horse experience.  They knew how to deal with the wide range of physical and emotional issues common with rescued horses.  And they also had considerable experience with people (mostly adult women) keen on adoption.  I asked them for advice and was very interested in what they had to say.  Here is an excerpt from MY book summarizing their guidance:

“If you think you might like to go the adoption route, seriously consider the following pieces of advice from rescue organizations. As a matter of fact, most of these suggestions provide great food for thought, even if you buy rather than adopt:

Do you really want to adopt, or would it be better for you to help rescue organizations in other ways, such as donating money, feed, or supplies? Horse sponsorship? Fundraising? Volunteering? All are needed.

To learn about horse adoption, volunteer at a working rescue or horse farm to gain hands-on experience for at least six months before making your decision.

Take riding lessons for six months to a year at a farm where you have to catch, groom, tack, and ride different horses. Learn about basics of horse care, handling, and training.

Ensure you have the resources you need with extra emphasis on access to good coaching and training.

Watch lots of training videos from reputable trainers. Some videos are free online or from a library; some can be purchased on DVD. You may be able to observe live clinics in your area.”

This wasn’t the route I took, but I love this advice: especially the idea of volunteering.  It can be a win-win for the rescue center, their animals and your learning!

Alice MacGillivray








“Riding Horseback in Purple” is available on

Illustration – Fresco at the Palazzo Farnese, Rome painted by Domenico Zampieri c. 1602