In stables and paddocks across the world, young girls lean against horses, sighing with the kind of happiness only horse lovers know. Midkiff (Fitness, Performance, and the Female Equestrian), obviously an equestrian down to her very marrow, tries to convey this ecstasy with a combination of autobiography, storytelling and snippets of poetry, essays and novels. For the most part, she succeeds, recalling her days growing up near a horse farm, nurturing her passion through horse clubs and finally assuming responsibility for her first horse, a temperamental beast unlike the one she now calls her muse. When she takes a step back to examine why women love horses, Midkiff stumbles into sticky sentimentality, evincing none of the detachment necessary for such an exercise. She does better when it comes to the book's real meat: her emotional autobiography. By including passages of breathless admiration, love and obsession, she allows a rare view of horse-based compulsion. She ambitiously divides the book into introspective sections (e.g., "Power," "Creativity," "Danger," "Transformation Through Compassion" and "Freedom") based on what horses have brought into her own and other women's lives (more than 80% of people involved with horses are girls and women), namely a liberating sense of self-acceptance. (Apr. 17) Forecast: While Midkiff's work explores many universal themes, her audience will be limited to other soul-searching female horse lovers. The Horse Whisperer this isn't. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.