The Seeds of Experience: Riding Through Thick & Thi

The Seeds of Experience: Riding Through Thick & Thi

Riding Through Thick & Thin

Writers often like to ponder (sometimes as a procrastination device!) both the unsuspecting origins of whatever we’re working on at the time AND sifting through current experiences for hints of what may be next. The truth is we can look all we want to — we usually have no idea what is currently shaping our future work; part of the mystery we all live with is how projects unfold — and from where. You just never know which ones will surprise you by working out well — and which certain “home runs” end up dragging, dejected, back into the dugout to lick their strike-out wounds. Realizing that there is a finite number of books each of us can write in our lifetime, we have to ask as we begin each one, why should this be one of them?

Melinda Nose

After I finished and lived with The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, which was one of those unexpected out-of-the park experiences that still mystifies me, I really didn’t know what I would be writing about next. Then a call from my publisher piqued my curiosity about whether I would be able to come up with a way to write about body image and riding horses in such a way as to help people think, feel, and behave differently around how riders feel about their own bodies — and how that affects the way the ride.

Riding Thick Thin Cover

Fast forward a few years to the release of my new book, Riding Through Thick & Thin. This was a topic I was familiar enough with to write about, having struggled with the same 20-30 pounds for most of my life — and a ridiculous amount of self doubt that rode along with it. In remembering those rides — as a young teen, as a 20-something, and as now as a 50-something — I know firsthand how this special connection with a horse evokes empowerment and freedom that can drown self-doubt in a sea of exhilaration. As I delved into my research, talked to experts and women of all kinds, shapes and sizes, something else became apparent. This topic transcends horses and riding into a much bigger arena — however, the horse world offers up to may solid metaphors to ignore.

So with that in mind, I invite you to ride along with me for a while on this journey, whether you’re a rider, like horses, or are just curious about how getting #bodypositive will help you banish your own self doubts and rediscover the joy of whatever thrills you!

Riding Don't Let

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Does this horse make my butt look big?

Does this horse make my butt look big?

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Permanent change to deeply-ingrained body image issues is not only possible, but it may be much easier than we think.

About two years after The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses hit the mark for so many “women of a certain age,” now coming back to owning and/or riding horses, Trafalgar Square Books approached me with a new challenge: now let’s do a book about body image and riding.

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A what?

Several things intrigued me here. A cursory review of “load” research told me that a floppy 120-pounder could actually feel heavier to a horse than a fit, well-balanced 200-something. A little further investigation revealed that being fit in this sense has nothing to do with size-6 jeans. Rather, it requires an integrated approach to fitness that unites stamina, strength and flexibility (affectionately dubbed the “holy trinity of rider fitness”).

Another interesting factor that popped up right away is how women are conditioned from birth to compare their bodies to others. In a bizarre combination of cultural brainwashing that condones fat shaming with overactive inner critics, many, if not most women internalize the message (whether there is any reality to it or not) that they’re not thin enough, tall enough, leggy enough or whatever-else-enough for whatever we aspire to.

This silliness has done a lot of damage to women’s self-esteem around the planet, including mine, and that just makes me mad. Taking this whole conundrum into the arena of riding and working with horses — the ultimate authenticity enforcers — it makes no sense at all. And yet, this emotionally crippling condition is reaching epidemic proportions, with many women either giving up or overcorrecting in the form of eating disorders.

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As an admitted self-help junkie, and one who has similarly struggled, I couldn’t refuse the opportunity for another deep exploration that would crisscross experts in many different fields, in and out of the horse world, to come up with some useful information and maybe even a few missing answers. Mostly I wanted to develop an arsenal of tools that could help all who struggle with these issues to find their way out of this black hole of self doubt and into the joy we’re meant to have riding horses.

Challenge, however, came quickly on the heels of intrigue. What could I possibly find to say about all this that hasn’t been said before? How in the world would I find and approach people to ask them the important questions about this sensitive topic? Who would help me?

The outpouring of support was amazing. From experts inside and outside the horse world to psychologists and nutritionists; from trainers (both horse and human) to all kinds of women — riders at every level, from all over the world — stories, information, advice and insight infused this project. As I explored, gathered, curated, and organized this information, and with the help of many key others including my deeply committed Trafalgar Square editors, we wrestled this torrent of support into an ironically hefty book filled with, yes, some new ideas, insights, and combinations of strategies I’m proud to present as Riding Through Thick and Thin.

This book is hot off the press, and I’m excited to hear what resonates, what further questions arise, and how we can make this information most useful to those who have been searching for it. In this space I’ll be unpacking some of these ideas a little further (there’s more to my stockpile than can possibly be contained in a single book and I’d love to share it!), so please post your comments, questions, and requests, and I’ll do my very best to supply any additional information you need. Message me on Facebook, Twitter, or via email.

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I look forward to hearing from you!

Melinda

Click here to learn more:

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This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

The Seeds of Experience: Midlife Horses

The Seeds of Experience: Midlife Horses

The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

My first book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses opens with my going with my father to pick out a horse for his new place, a gentleman’s ranch inside the city limits where he could have his roses and keep the city life too. It was a compromise between my mom and dad that seemed to make sense for the next stage of their lives. I was devastated at the loss of the Hico ranch, but glad they found a place with stellar horse pens, fences and a barn with a studio where my dad could paint. Somewhere about that time the bottom fell out of my own life — a second divorce and career wobbliness that had me questioning who i was and what i was even supposed to be doing. Climbing on the back of a horse was the first step toward answering those questions. It changed my direction, my focus and my understanding of what I am meant to write about. This connection with horses, I discovered, touches literally everything important in life. By plumbing these experiences I would have new light to shed to help others who struggle, whether horseback or not.

And, as it turned out, this midlife awakening was not unusual, especially for women looking down the barrel of the second half of life. I am among the last of the Baby Boomers, the little girls who grew up in simpler times, many of whom had or always wanted a horse. Little girls who chose Breyers over Barbies were all grown up — and most of their children were grown, too — and many of them were circling back to horses to find new answers to some of their oldest questions.

Look back at your own empowering experiences and look for their seeds. You may be surprised where you find them, and the new reflections this retroactive mental search evokes.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Celebrating Strength—and Commitment to Horsecare

Celebrating Strength—and Commitment to Horsecare

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Turn conditioning obstacles into opportunities with just a little more focus on revelry and elbow grease.

Let’s join Cynthia Foley, who points out in Benefits of Barn Work (Horse Journal) in a new battle cry in this quest for a better body image “I know I’m fit. I know I could weigh less, especially as I battle middle age, but I have strength and endurance. Have you ever seen a non-horse person try to gracefully put a saddle on a horse’s back, especially a Western saddle? It’s not pretty.”

Or as I like to say (borrowed from my friend’s daughter, cleaned up a bit for the sake of propriety)

Forget Skinny. Get strong! 

Melinda Celebrating Strength 1

And oddly enough, those barn chores we’re all going to do anyway offer up some strategies, if only we teach ourselves to take advantage of these little bits of strength training handed so graciously to us by our horses. When I started thinking about all the things we do every day for our horses that are physical, from the moment we arrive at the barn until the moment we leave, and then started thinking about the muscle groups involved (or that could be involved with a little focused effort, such as engaging the abs before every single thing we do) here’s a list of possible stable workout staples:

  1. Park and walk briskly to the horse pens (warm up)
  2. Gather, load, unload and hoist several flakes of hay per horse over the fence. (Abs, arms and shoulders.)
  3.  Pick stalls, shovel soiled shavings into a wheelbarrow, lift (engage your abs and use your legs!) and push said wheelbarrow to designated dumping spot. (Shoulders, arms, abs, back, quads, calves, glutes — and if you remember to take big deep steps that resemble as much as possible a walking lunge, psoas.)
  4. Lift, carry, dump, scrub and refill water buckets, two reps per horse. (Arms shoulders, lats, back, abs.)
  5. Put everything away, get the hay out of your hair, walk back to the car. (Cool down)
Melinda Celebrating Strength 2

Sound like a workout? It should. As you go about your barn chores today, think about the muscles you’re using in each one. Focus on these muscles, engage your core, and breathe out upon every exertion, and see what you can do to add a little extra conditioning mileage into every step.

This post was originally published on Equisearch.com
photo from http://blackmtnranch.com/
On Finding Perspective

On Finding Perspective

Riding Through Thick & Thin

“ Once  you remove the fear of examining your own feelings about your body and the role you are playing in allowing those feelings to sabotage your joy, you’re on the right trail.”

~ Riding Through Thick & Thin

When it comes to perceptions about our own body, it’s no secret these are mighty influences on how we feel and how we think we look to others. And what’s even more important to consider is how we consciously and unconsciously may be allowing others to influence what we think of our own bodies.

Here’s the truth, though. We often don’t have a very clear idea at all of where we are on the scale of things. We may think we are much larger or much smaller than we actually are. We may be spending so much time and energy bemoaning what’s wrong with our body that we’re completely missing what’s right — or what could be right with a little focused effort. In order to get to our best ride — through life or on the back of a horse — we have to first get real about how we’re built, the shape we’re in, and what our thoughts about our body are really saying.

In a recent study, conducted by Refinery29,  80% of millennial women avoid activities because they’re self-conscious about their bodies. Of the three things causing women the greatest amount of anxiety, going to the beach was a solid frontrunner — thereby launching a resulting #takebackthebeach campaign.

While these women are taking back the beach, I invite you to remember back to the time when having a bikini body meant nothing to you.  When all you wanted from your body was to have fun, and participating in fitness activities carried the sole purpose of getting strong enough to enjoy your favorite activity was your only driver.

Now look at your body again right now through that lens. Ignore the lumps, bulges, and jiggles that normally strap you into the emotional roller coaster and just. Really. Look. For just this one moment, interrupt your current relationship to your body as well as your body’s relationship to the outside world, and objectively consider your body’s strengths. What activity have you put on the back burner because of body anxiety? What would you love to get strong enough to do? What is one step toward that goal you can take right now?

I want to hear from you. Tell me what it might take for you to to have more fun, do more of what you can do, and get strong enough to enjoy it even more. Share your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

How do YOU see yourself?

How do YOU see yourself?

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As I finish winding together the various parts of my new book about body image and riding, I can’t help  but wonder how the body image issues most women wrestle with in general may parallel how we imagine we look when we ride.

Consider, for example, the Dove “Real Beauty” advertising campaign in which researchers discovered the degree to which we underestimate our appeal. In fact, they discovered, women are their own worst critics — and only 4% of the women in the world actually do consider themselves “beautiful.”

The odds of feeling beautiful, it appears, are stacked against us. And the objective truth of how we really look  doesn’t  seem to enter into it at all. Take a look:

 

 

Taking it into the mainstream . . .

Ready for a revealing journaling exercise?  Pretend you’re walking into the room with the sketch artist. Open your journal and at the top of one page title it: How I see myself. Date it. Now, in short phrases or bullet points, describe yourself to that invisible sketch artist who lives in the pages of your journal. Now find a friend or family member you can trust to be objective (preferably one without an axe to grind) and explain this exercise.

Now , using exactly the same categories of information as your own bullet points, interview your chosen person and write down exactly how he or she would describe you as if you’d gone missing (maybe, for example, on an impromptu and unannounced dash to St. Somewhere on the advice of your favorite Jimmy Buffet song) and they were describing you to a sketch artist.

Now compare. What similarities and differences are most obvious? If you were reading these side-by-side lists that your best friend created, what would you say to her?

Calling all control freaks

Calling all control freaks

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“By not trying to control the uncontrollable, we get what we thought we’d get if we were in control.”
~Martha Beck, Victory By Surrender
OK, so here’s a new twist for those of us who count ourselves among control freaks, recovering control freaks or aspiring control freaks. What if true control really lies in being able to let go?
As someone in hot pursuit of “letting go” for the past couple of decades, I’ve puzzled over this concept quite a bit. (Ironically, I can’t seem to let go of it!) What does “letting go” really mean?
Whether we’re talking about people, possessions, situations, dreams, or even suffering, I think the process must be somewhat the same. Not so much of a big, one-time decision: “I’m going to let go of  THAT, once and for all!”  But in truth I think it’s a day-to-day decision we make to live beyond our attachments.
It seems that letting go, like so many things, is a matter of starting small. One small decision at a time, we can teach ourselves to experience the events, situations and people in our lives without attachment — and free fall into the same big fluffy pillow of  contentment we were hoping to find by controlling things.
Stuck in Transition?

Stuck in Transition?

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In anticipation of our new retreat programming — and all kinds of interesting ideas and options for fine-tuning your contentment we’ll be rolling out over the next six months — I’m starting a new series here on the subject of transition.

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on the subject of turning the times of change in our lives into opportunities for re-evaluating, re-ordering and re-directing our thoughts, feelings and actions toward the best possible experience of whatever new reality we may be facing. I’ve found a lot of great stuff and wonderful resources on the subject that I will be sharing here, and I invite active participation from all of you regarding your own struggles, triumphs and experiences with transitions.

To be clear, the transition I’m talking about can come in any shape or size. Apparently the process of letting go of the old and embracing the new is pretty much the same regardless of whether the change you’re dealing with is major or minor. From changes in work, relationships, health, housing, routine, or any number of other things, it doesn’t seem to matter whether they come suddenly and dramatically — such as an accident or a winning lottery ticket — or from a creeping state of circumstances that has finally evolved into a life changing decision.

I’ve written a lot about midlife here — that ultimate time of transition everyone faces to some degree or the other. In our many conversations over The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, we’ve agreed that midlife is more a state of mind than a specific age range. And after talking to hundreds of women about their midlife horses, I fully appreciate that for some, the sensation of midlife “crisis” comes in their thirties, and for others (lots of others, as a matter of fact) not until their seventies! Although these times and sensations of “crisis” that forces or inspires some type of transition most often occurs at the changing of our decades, they are also likely to appear any time we experience, as author Gail Sheehy once put it, the “predictable crises of adult life.”

So as we explore the subject and ideas around making good, smooth transitions (horsemanship pun intended), we’ll look at topics including:

Reorienting your approach to your new reality by finding the inner stillness that will help you reflect, reevaluate, and gain clarity on your own deepest priorities (we’ll have more great resources on this soon, but in the meantime, check out Deepak Chopra’s Primordial Sound Meditation for a great place to start!).

Evaluating obstacles, issues and resources — and creating strategies and solutions that offer comfort and security in the interim, with specific action steps for moving forward. (Denise Barrows points us toward an interview she heard recently on NPR with one of my favorite “Getting Things Done®” resources, David Allen. Check out the free interview excerpt here, or go to interviewer/producer David Freudberg’s HumanMedia site for more information or to purchase the entire interview!)

Practicing extreme self care (Get thee to the bookstore or e-book site of your choice and purchase Cheryl Richardson’s The Art of Extreme Self Care) to help you realign physically, mentally and emotionally to your new reality — and the highest possible standards of who you are and all you are meant to be.

Finding the support you need to explore your own feelings and find the confidence that will keep you focused and motivated to make choices and decisions that continually honor and reflect the true nature of your highest self. My personal go-to source on all the “finding your own way” sorts of topics is Oprah-renowned life coach Martha Beck, with a special nod to her newest book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.”

What interests you most on this subject? What in particular do you struggle with when you’re facing a transition? Where are your specific challenges in the above four areas? I’d love to hear from you here in the form of a comment, on our Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter communities, or via email to me at mkfolse@gmail.com.

Just Say WHOA

Just Say WHOA

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One of the best books I’ve read lately is Cheryl Richardson’s The Art of Extreme Self Care.  Taking care of ourselves can be a creative challenge as well as a practical and logical one when life gets busy and demands on our time and attention exceed our available hours.

And interestingly, Cheryl herself struggles with the issue of constant re-balancing, remarking that sometimes when she finds herself at the office at 9:00 pm she has to stop and say “is this really what I need to be doing to take care of myself right now?”

And let’s face it. Sometimes it is. When taking a little extra time to get some situation at the office under control will allow you to be more peaceful, focused and productive going forward, it can be worth it to burn a little midnight oil. We’ve all been there.

And some of us have gotten so elated with the progress we make when things get quiet and we can hear ourselves think that we’ve stepped over the edge of situational effectiveness into the realm of habit. When it’s always better to stay late and arrive early and fill every morsel of free time with work in the name of “getting things under control.

This would be time (combining Richardson’s advice with horse vernacular) to just say, “WHOA!”

And here’s what’s funny about that. Once we set that intent — and that bell to go off in our heads when we veer too far off the course we’ve set for ourselves — it becomes easier and easier to monitor our choices and habits to create the solutions we need to stay happy and balanced in all the areas of our lives.

One thing I’d like to emphasize, too, is that it’s a process. A a constant re-balancing, reassessing and retooling. I’m finding out this is not a situation you solve once and that’s it. It takes vigilance. Determination. Patience. And self-scrutiny that borders on the obsessive.

Got any thoughts on that? Any tricks or tips for balancing priorities when one particularly demanding one tends to hog your time an attention? How do you know when it’s time to “Just say WHOA?”