Saddled: How a Spirited Horse Reined Me In and Set Me Free (Hardcover)

How a Spirited Horse Reined Me In and Set Me Free

By Susan Richards

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780547241722, 224pp.

Publication Date: May 1, 2010



One day, at the age of thirty-one, Susan Richards realized that she was an alcoholic. She wrote it down in her journal, struck by the fact that it had taken nine years of waking up hung-over to name her illness. What had changed?

Susan had a new horse, a spirited Morgan named Georgia, and, as she says: “It had something to do with Georgia. It had something to do with making a commitment as enormous as caring for a horse that might live as my companion for the next forty years. It had something to do with love.” Every day begins with a morning ride.

Every day Susan lives a little more and thinks about her mistakes a little less. Every day she learns a little more from Georgia, the kind of horse who doesn’t go in for indecision, who doesn’t apologize for her opinions, and who isn’t afraid to be herself. In Georgia, Susan finds something to draw her back to herself, but also something to keep her steady and focused, to teach her about stepping carefully in unknown territory, to help her learn again about balance.

This is a memoir about the power of animals to carry us through the toughest times of our lives—about the importance of constancy, the beauty of quiet, steadfast love, the way loving a good (and sometimes bad!) animal can keep you going. It’s a wonderful story for Susan’s (and Georgia’s) fans, and for anyone who has ever loved an animal enough to keep on living.

Praise For Saddled: How a Spirited Horse Reined Me In and Set Me Free

"This is not only a horse story but a ‘drunkalogue’ in which the alcoholic tells what drinking was like, what happened to cause her to stop, and what recovery is like now. Animal lovers and recovering alcoholics will be inspired by this story." —Library Journal

"Reading this book was like having an unflinchingly honest talk with a close friend about her struggle for meaning and hope after a devastating relationship and descent into alcoholism. It took a horse to give Susan the strength to change. When no human could have reached her injured soul, Susan Richards found healing in the form of her horse, who had no judgments of her and offered the profound love and companionship that can only be found with an animal. This book is a testament to the transforming power of animals in our lives; it was also impossible to put down." --Stacey O'Brien, author of Wesley the Owl

"Can a book be both looking glass and richly colored animal portrait? In Saddled, Susan Richards performs dual literary magic by giving us the history of a horsewoman retrieving her life from the bottom of the wine glass, and a mirror in which the sensitive reader will see herself again and again. Except that most of us could never duplicate Richards's emotional courage--not to mention delightful humor. Her clarion words reflect a stone honesty that is truly rare. I loved every sentence in this superlative memoir." --Melissa Pierson, author of Dark Horses and Black Beauties

"Saddled is a searingly honest portrait of addiction and the redemptive power of animal-human love." --Ted Kerasote, author of Merle's Door

"Susan Richards masterfully weaves together her compelling story of life lived on the edge with vivid accounts of a horse who gives her reasons to live and ultimately to thrive. She conveys with unflinching honesty the ways her horse Georgia influenced every decision and made reaching every milestone possible. Horse lovers will relate to their healing connection; people who know little about horses will be amazed at the benefits that occur when a horse and human forge bonds of unfailing trust and loyalty." —Allen and Linda Anderson, founders of the Angel Animals Network and authors of Horses with a Mission and Angel Horses

"Susan Richards writes with no sentimentality and great lucid beauty about love: love between humans and creatures, love between broken people whose mending lies in acceptance of their injuries and their willingness to embrace a difficult hope."  —Mary Sojourner, author of Solace: Rituals of Loss and Desire and the forthcoming She Bets Her Life: A True Story of Gambling Addiction

"Saddled is a remarkable memoir of love, loss and ultimate healing. Anyone who has ever adored an animal will understand that many healers come to us on four legs. It was thrilling to watch the author’s life transform as her love for her horse teaches her how to love herself."  —Sharyn Wolf, author of Guerilla Dating Tactics and How to Stay Lovers For Life  

"The unconditional love our animals feel for us is precious, but as Susan Richards so beautifully illustrates in her new memoir, it is the unconditional love we feel for our animals that can change our lives.  This simple love can bring out the best in us, and as Saddled proves, to care responsibly for another creature, we must first begin to care responsibly for ourselves. This is an inspiring, life-changing book." —Abigail Thomas, author of A Three Dog Life

"Saddle up and enjoy the ride with Susan Richards. You'll love it." -- Rita Mae Brown

"Chosen by a Horse contained hints of a childhood among wicked adults; Saddled fills in the details. When Susan Richards needed one sane place to stand against the stresses of a crazy world, her Morgan horse, Georgia, was there to show her that loving an animal grounds you in a way that nothing else can." —Sharon Sakson, author of Paws & Effect: The Healing Power of Dogs

Book Videos

Conversation Starters from

  1. What makes Susan and Georgia a good pair? How do their differences contribute to their compatibility?
  2. What attracted Susan to Stuart? What gave her the courage to leave? During the divorce, was it wise for her to ignore money and instead fight for “custody” of Georgia?
  3. Now an accomplished writer, editor, and therapist, Susan has achieved much in her life. As she described her childhood struggles with school, what did you learn about a child’s capacity to learn? What did her poor grades really indicate?
  4. One of Susan’s clearest childhood memories is of her frightful first night at her grandmother’s house. In an angry outburst, Franz called Susan a prima donna. As she grew up, did affluence hurt Susan’s opinion of herself? What role can wealth contribute to a family’s emotional world?
  5. How did caring for animals give Susan a clear sense of the world? How did horseback riding help her stay sober? Why was the cantankerous Georgia a better horse for this mission than a docile creature, like Hotshot?
  6. Susan writes that she was surprised to receive an inheritance from her grandmother. Why do you suppose Susan was made an heir? Was it a sign of love and approval? Which of the adults (not necessarily relatives) entrusted with caring for Susan gave her the best glimpse of love?
  7. How did Susan’s relationship with her brother, Lloyd, compare with your relationship with your siblings? Were girls treated very differently from boys in Susan’s family?
  8. How did life without a mother affect Susan’s paths to womanhood? What parenting skills did Georgia exhibit in mothering her foal? What is the source of Susan’s abundant “parenting” skills as a therapist and as a caregiver to animals?
  9. Discuss your own ride through life: Where were the safe havens in your childhood? Which people tried to topple your sense of self-worth? Which beloved creatures (human or not) taught you otherwise?
  10. Words and language formed one component of Susan’s healing. How did it help her to have diagnoses for the disorders that had plagued her family? How did her work as an editor help her find her path as a writer?
  11. How did you react when Susan revealed Tim’s double life? Can you imagine what might motivate a person to be so seemingly helpful and yet so hurtful?
  12. Discuss the book’s title. How does it reflect Susan’s emotional burdens, as well as the tools she used to escape them?
  13. As Susan makes peace with her father, what does she discover about the nature of his lifelong suffering? How is she healed through this understanding? Why are some people able to show affection only when they are near the end of life?
  14. The memoir contains many images of houses. What did it take for Susan to call a house a home, from summer camp to her own farmhouse?
  15. In her best-selling Chosen by a Horse, Susan blames herself for Georgia’s behavior, fearing that she spoiled her. How have her feelings about Georgia changed since she wrote her debut memoir? Susan’s second book, Chosen Forever, captures the anxiety of being an author on tour—though book tours brought her to Dennis Stock, the photojournalist with whom she ultimately felt destined to have a happy marriage. How does Saddled enhance your understanding of the previous chapters in her life?