Karma fulfills a dream to ride a horse at age 50

I was never an athletic kid. I was the one who snuck to the back of the line in gym class, lest I had to go up to bat. I didn’t like to sweat. I didn’t like to compete. I was timid when it came to skiing on the intermediate blue trails and scared to death when I encountered icy moguls. I loved riding a bicycle, but was always at the back of the group. But with the help of coaches, I am finally becoming a rider. Starting in my adolescence, I fantasized about riding off on a gorgeous horse “into the sunset.” Where did I get this idea?

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Huckle Hill Press
Brookline, MA

About the Author, Karma Kitaj, Ph.D.

In publishing books about high-achieving people, Karma Kitaj (pronounced “Key-Tie”) has tied together a long-standing love of books with a family emphasis on lifelong learning. As a teenager, Karma devoured Great Books – Dostoevsky, Proust, Kafka. Her mother, an English teacher, grilled her on grammar so she could place first in state English and Latin competitions. In the mid-1980s, when she was turning 40, Karma, a licensed social worker with a thriving private practice, returned to school to complete her Ph.D., responding to her elderly Viennese grandmother’s insistent question: “When are you going to finish your studies?”

For her doctoral thesis, Karma interviewed 50 women who had an alcoholic parent, being struck with their resiliency despite obstacles. She was intrigued with studying more about resiliency, so she parlayed her interviewing skills, her facility for listening, and her love for the written word into a new project. Women who had achieved in careers before the women’s liberation movement seemed to be likely candidates for being resilient. Wellesley College Centers for Women appointed Karma as Visiting Research Scholar and offered the stimulation of a network of scholars. While at Wellesley, she completed the interviews and analyses of 26 high-achieving artists and scientists that led to the publication of her first book, Women Who Could… and Did: Lives of 26 Exemplary Artists and Scientists. (click here to read Karma’s story, “Adventure in Self-Publishing”).

Always challenging herself for the next new learning spree, she began riding horses at age 50 when she and her husband Jeff Cooper bought a weekend property in the hills of central Massachusetts. Though she was not athletic as a kid and never saw a horse until she and her husband rented horses for trail rides on vacations as an adult, she immediately developed a passion for these graceful big animals. Soon she purchased her own horse, solidifying the commitment to horsemanship that led to the publication of her next book, Women Riders Who Could… and Did: Life Stories of Top Level Equestriennes, based on photographs and interviews with 13 famous equestriennes from barrel racers to Olympic jumpers to jockeys. She traveled to remote ranches in Colorado, Texas, Hawaii, California, and Florida to seek out the women who best represent each riding discipline, a thrill for an equestrienne wannabe.

“Women have a harder time in the horse world ... If a woman is successful, you can be sure she deserves it. The women Karma Kitaj writes about deserve our attention and admiration ... It’s a worthwhile book for young riders who aspire to be professionals. The stories of these women will give them the courage to try for the best even though they have encountered challenges.”

—Cindy Sydnor, Long-listed for the U.S. Olympic Team, Dressage Instructor, “R” dressage judge, USDF Examiner for Certification Program”