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Richards, Susan

RICHARDS, Susan

PERSONAL:

Female. Education: B.A.; M.S.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Olivebridge, NY.

CAREER:

Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY, and State University of New York Ulster Community College, Stone Ridge, NY, writing instructor; has also worked as a psychotherapist in private practice.

WRITINGS:

Chosen by a Horse: A Memoir, Soho Press (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Susan Richards is a writing instructor and former professional in the mental health field who worked for fifteen years as a psychotherapist at a private mental health clinic. She is also a lifelong animal lover, and in her debut book, Chosen by a Horse: A Memoir, she describes how her life was changed and enriched through her relationship with a gentle, friendly horse she initially did not want at all. As Richards opens her story, she is socially withdrawn and emotionally damaged, the survivor of both childhood abuse and domestic abuse during an ill-fated marriage. Her mother died of cancer when she was young; she suffered while growing up under the roofs of several uncaring relatives; and alcoholism was a perpetually looming problem. When a desperate call came from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals asking Richards to take care of a badly abused and unhealthy mare, she was reluctant. Not only did she already own three horses, she scrupulously avoided contact with sick and injured animals and humans alike. Finally convinced, she adopted Lay Me Down, a former racehorse that had been starved and neglected until she was nearly dead from hunger and almost incapacitated from arthritis. Despite her mistreatment, Lay Me Down remained friendly and trusting, and soon horse and new owner developed a deep mutual bond. As Richards interacts with the horse, she begins to see parallels in her own life, feeling her own strength and courage being restored by Lay Me Down's character and powerful determination. Richards describes how she slowly regained the ability to interact with other people, and even to consider the possibility of a new romance. Lay Me Down's life is tragically cut short, a devastating event for Richards, but the lessons she learned from her time with such an engaging and strong-willed animal left her with plenty of hope for a renewed future.

The book is "profoundly instructive" in demonstrating how love can positively affect the development of the "human spirit and help in overcoming pain and loss," commented Pamela Crossland in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly writer called it "a bracing and likable book, highly recommended for backyard horsewomen and their admirers."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Richards, Susan, Chosen by a Horse: A Memoir, Soho Press (New York, NY), 2006.

PERIODICALS

Booklist, April 15, 2006, Pamela Crossland, review of Chosen by a Horse, p. 15.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2006, review of Chosen by a Horse, p. 174.

Library Journal, February 15, 2006, Patsy Gray, review of Chosen by a Horse, p. 140.

Publishers Weekly, February 6, 2006, review of Chosen by a Horse, p. 51.

ONLINE

BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (September 29, 2006), Julie Hale, "Animal Instincts: Redefining the Concept of Pet," review of Chosen by a Horse.

Tacoma Public Library Web site,http://topcat.tacomapubliclibrary.org/ (September 29, 2006), biography of Susan Richards.*

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