LISA D. STEWART, writer, long-distance rider
Bridge builder between city and country.
I was born with the horse-loving gene in Detroit, Michigan, to parents who knew little about horses, but who couldn't resist my relentless desire have one of my own. By age eight, a move to Oklahoma sparked the purchase of Honey, an old cow horse, which I rode bareback over the Oklahoma plains.
By age 18, I was news director of the Butler, Missouri, radio station, in pursuit of my other passion--reporting.
At 22, I rode 3,000 miles, with my former husband, over seven-and-a-half months, through seven states, with two riding horses and three pack horses. Out of necessity on that journey, my husband devised a saddle that was better for horses' backs. When we returned, we patented it.
By 28, my former husband and I had built the largest custom saddlery in the U.S., Ortho-Flex Saddle Company, eventually employing more than 100 people and selling more than $25 million in patented saddles and tack around the world.
By 40, I was divorced and starting over with two small children, no formal education, and no money. After selling pre-arranged funerals door-to-door to get through my first Christmas, I found the specialty food business and learned to successfully brand and sell products to major chains and mom-and-pop retail stores. I learned also to write grants.
At 50, I left the family-owned Kansas City food processor for which I worked, for a free-lance writing career that produced magazine articles, Internet and print content, non-profit, state, and federal grant proposals, feasibility studies, business plans, and investor presentations.
By age 54,I needed to take my horseback trip--the one I dreamed of as a girl--not with 400 pounds of gear and five horses--but alone, my way, at my pace, to recover the girl who at eight first had dreamed of such a trip. That girl seemed at the time to have no other identity than pure power, potential, and joy. I never expected to see her again, but I rediscovered her--on horseback, alone.