All Your Body Needs

All Your Body Needs

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

“How might you begin to reframe how you regard your physical being in kinder, gentler terms?”

—Riding Through Thick & Thin

Answering this question can be a new and different game changer in the battle against negative body image. When we start to really think about our body and all it does for us every day — all we can do because of countless split-second miracles firing one after another in rapid succession (and some simultaneously) — it is hard not to realize what we’re taking for granted.

So if you’ve ever caught yourself using words like “buffalo butt,” ” thunder thighs,” “candles,” “tree trunks,” “batwings,” ” muffin top,” ” boulder boobs,” “rollo,” “jelly belly” and other similar insults to your physique, you’ve got some apologizing to do to these fine body parts. To ride a horse takes strength, stamina, and flexibility. Caring for a horse requires even more than that.

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Tossing around bales of hay, unloading sacks of grain, carrying water buckets, mucking stalls, piloting a wheelbarrow loaded with manure and dumping it without mishap, yanking on a lunge line trying thwart a 1000-pound tantrum on the other end, moving fence panels, operating heavy machinery and oh so much more means that as a keeper of horses you are stronger than most and your body deserves not only good conditioning and care (maybe even as thoughtful care as you give your best horse), it also deserves a thank you every now and then — and some nice words used to describe it, even in the privacy of your own mirror.

Try this simple language conversion chart on for size:

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And no, I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to be improving our “wobbly bits” in terms of fitness and health, but ironically, the shortest path to making any changes or improvements we seek is accepting and loving the body we have RIGHT NOW. Once you’ve mended this important internal fence, then making gradual lifestyle changes in terms of fitness and nutrition will likely move you toward your goal on a surer and swifter course than all those name-calling-and-crash-diet strategies you’ve tried in the past.

Give it a try. Aren’t you worth it?

As always, I’d love for you to share your thoughts on FacebookTwitter, or via email.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

See Yourself As Your Horse Sees You

See Yourself As Your Horse Sees You

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

Something about being female — and most especially a female rider — sets up a different kind of self-scrutiny than whatever gets loaded into the male circuit board that allows plus-sized cowboys to hop onto quarter horses to cut, rope, rein their way to championship runs without even so much as a second thought about the watermelon-sized gut hanging over an over-cranked belt. We women, on the other hand, can worry ourselves sick over a little extra pudge — and God forbid — a muffin top. To go up a size in jeans is to admit failure or some personal shortcoming we can’t even name. And nowhere is this more true than in the show ring.

Why is this, I ask you? Or, possibly even more important, what can we do to get past it? How can we learn to think differently about our bodies, even if they aren’t the size or shape we want them to be? As long as we’re fit, strong and healthy, do our horses even care?

Jenni, whose story appears in full in Riding Through Thick & Thin is a perfect example, I think of both the kind of garbage we can take on about our bodies — and the exhilaration to be had in overcoming it. Jenni was born into a line of women, her grandmother, specifically, who truly believed “being skinny” was key to any success a woman should aspire to. “I was never tiny enough to meet her expectations,” Jenni writes, adding that some of the things that are conditioned in childhood often stick with us for life.

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After spending most of her childhood and teenage years believing she was “this obese monster who would never achieve anything,” Jenni met Mary, a friend at high school who rode horses. While Jenny really wanted to ride, she was afraid. Not of the riding or the horses, mind you, but that the extra 15 pounds she carried would be just too much. “ I was fearful of how I would look in breeches,” she says, “I was fearful the horse would stumble with me because I was so fat.”

Jenni says she remembers Mary, laughing at her, saying like, “Jenni, the horse weighs a ton. Literally. Get over yourself. You are not fat, and the horse will never care.”

The horse will never care.

“And he didn’t care,” Jenni says. “And you wanna know who else didn’t care? The instructor didn’t care. And all the girls at the barn felt funny in breeches. NOBODY cared how “fat” I was.”

Jenni says that while she may not be Olympic material, she turned out to be a pretty good rider. What’s even more important is that putting her focus on riding helped her break free of the hang-ups she had about her body, once and for all (Take that, Grams!)”

For all the Jenni and Grams stories out there (and believe me, in researching Riding Through Thick & Thin I met plenty of them), the names and details may change, but the body angst is shockingly similar.) In fact, part of why I wrote this book in the first place was to get to the bottom of exactly what drives this kind of body angst. Whether or not our self-criticism — or the criticism of others —has even a pinky toe in reality, we have to wonder what it is that makes us take it on. And how we can set ourselves free.

Spoiler Alert: the first step isn’t losing weight or exorcizing that muffin top. To break this cycle we must first learn to look at our bodies in the light of acceptance —without any judgment or plan for changing anything. Now allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling — without any need to shut it off or to fix it. See yourself — maybe for the first time in your life — with a big, open, kind, and loving heart.

I’d love to know what your horse doesn’t care about! Reach out to me on FacebookTwitter, on my website, or via email. I look forward to hearing from you.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Reading Your Horse—Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Reading Your Horse—Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

News The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

“If your horse seems to be struggling or uncomfortable or acting out, do some troubleshooting. Pain issues—most often in feet, teeth, and back—are responsible for 80% of horses’ behavioral problems. And often pain and discomfort are related to saddle fit.”

—Riding Through Thick & Thin

I was on the right track, sort of, then I swerved, changed horses and missed the boat completely. Despite this ridiculous mix of metaphor, this is a lesson so worth learning I repeat it to myself often. And if I forget, my horses tend to remind me.

My horse, Trace, is extremely sensitive. And smart. And athletic. So when he started bucking every single time I got on him, I tried one thing after another to make sure it wasn’t a pain issue (right track!).

I changed saddles—several times. Pads. Feed. Treated for ulcers. Floated his teeth. Cleaned his sheath (well I didn’t but the vet did). Consulted a holistic vet who “strength tested” and then had me treat an old leg injury with an herbal compound and wrap it daily for a month or so. Acupuncture, cold laser and some clicking instrument I still don’t understand by a chiropractor who made barn calls. Cranial sacral therapy. Animal communicators…

As you can see, I looked under every rock for the answer. Trace was so sweet and willing when I was on the ground—I had taught him everything in Clinton Anderson’s DVDs—but every time I got on it became nothing short of a wild west show. I do not like wild west shows in which I am a participant.

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So, deciding it wasn’t pain (here’s the swerve), I moved on to a series of trainers who tried first one thing and then another to “train” this strange and increasingly violent buck out of my little buckaroo. One after the other, they gave up. One blamed me and my lack of skill as a rider (he offered to “trade me something I could ride”). Another quit, deeming Trace “too dangerous  to work with,” and the others just shrugged and said I probably ought to get rid of him and get another horse (detour!).

To say I was discouraged, my confidence shattered and worst of all, truly afraid to get back on that horse, were all understatements. But my gut told me this was a horse worth sticking with (right track!). When we worked and played and learned together on the ground, this was the partnership with a horse people yearned for. I trusted him completely…unless I was on his back.

“You don’t ride your dogs and you still enjoy them,” one friend said, trying to console me. This solution didn’t feel quite right either.

Then came Karl, an old-fashioned trainer with a definite idea of what was wrong. “Take him to the chiropractor,” he said. “He’s in pain.”

I was skeptical and didn’t want to get my hopes up again as I ran up yet another bill—and likely, down another blind alley.

“See this?” Karl said, poking a finger into Trace’s neck up near his poll. Trace’s head shot straight up and his eyes grew white rims. “He’s out [of alignment] right there. See that?” He said, running his hand down Trace’s spine and pressing lightly on either side as he did with thumb and forefinger. The muscles of Trace’s back visibly tensed up. “All this is related to that mess up there in his neck.”

Then, watching Trace move around the round pen, Karl pointed out several things, from how he carried his head to the slight pause before his back right leg landed.

Karl, you see, makes his living reading the signs.

But how, if we’re not Karl, and aside from decades of experience of our own, can we learn to read the signs our horse might be in pain?

First, I think simple awareness of this great truth of horsemanship is huge. If 80% of behavior problems are caused by pain, why wouldn’t we start there?

 

For this we need to have some resources at the ready—a vet, an equine dentist, and yes, a chiropractor (and if either of these folks will be sedating your horse they really should also be vets). Equine massage therapists and cranial sacral therapists can be tremendously helpful if they know what they’re doing. And although saddle fitters who aren’t trying to sell you a saddle are few and far between, I’ve run across some extremely thorough resources in Dr. Joyce Harman, DVM and Susan Harris. Dr. Harman’s books and DVDs on Pain Free Saddle Fit (she has one for English and one for Western) are extremely helpful in assessing how your saddle fits and in evaluating one you’re considering buying. Harris’s DVD and articles on her website are fabulous for understanding how a horse moves and how to assess the movement of your own horse.

When choosing horse care professionals be sure to get references from people you trust who have used these folks before. Other good sources are your vet, trainer, or farrier. But don’t just take their word for it. Read up, ask questions, educate yourself all you can on learning how to listen to what your horse’s behavior might be telling you.

Having a little knowledge—and your own custom-built “A-Team” at the ready—goes a long way toward your own readiness to read the signs your horse is giving you that he’s not comfortable and needs some help from his human. Best of all, this awareness and having a plan will help you nip pain-related behavior problems in the bud and take the short path back to your happy trail!

This post was previously published on horsenetwork.com

It’s Not What We Have, But What We Do With It That Counts

It’s Not What We Have, But What We Do With It That Counts

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

All jokes aside, it really isn’t as much our size that matters most when we ride; it’s what we do with the body we have that makes all the difference. Once we really understand and accept this, the better we’ll ride, the easier we’ll be on our horses, and the more fun we’ll have on this glorious trail we all share, regardless of our weight or body type.

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If you’ve ever fallen into the trap of thinking that you will only be able to ride well when you get into those size 6 breeches or Wranglers, I’m here to pull you out with the advice of one of my favorite experts, Coach Daniel Stewart, author of Ride Right, and Pressure Proof Your Riding. “Any body shape can ride to success,” concurs Coach Stewart. “You just have to find your own definition of what success is for you — within reason.”

Coach Stewart helps us move away from judgment and toward practical solutions that help us make the most of what we do have going for us and mitigate those things that are, well, less than ideal. He even makes a clever comparison between horse breeds and human body types to illustrate how in our horses we accept physical build and attributes of each breed without question (or any sort of bemoaning) — and then we match those attributes to what we ask that horse to do.

As one of our virtual panel of experts in Riding Through Thick and Thin, Coach Stewart tells us, that regardless of our riding goals, developing our own unique set of affirmations around what we do have going for us is what lays the thought groundwork for future success, however we may define it. “We have to train a rider to find whatever is in her that’s positive,” Coach Stewart says, “and then we can build from there.”

So now that you’ve taken that unflinching and self-compassionate look at your body with an honest assessment of what you have to work with, acknowledging any challenges without judgment, it’s time to make a plan to put yourself in a place where you can do the very best you can with all you have and all you are. With this as our new mindset and mantra, we may be both surprised and delighted at what we can achieve! In Riding Through Thick and Thin I offer readers a self-test to help determine exactly where they’ll be beginning this journey to a better body image; CLICK HERE to download this free self-evaluation form to find your own starting point!

I’d love to hear your success stories — and how making this shift in how you think about your body has made a difference in your riding, your outlook, and your overall sense of satisfaction with your body, in or out of the saddle! Reach out to me on FacebookTwitter, my website or by email.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Get Out Of Your Head And Into Your Body

Get Out Of Your Head And Into Your Body

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

“Spending some time learning to separate fact from fiction and truth from ‘mounted mythology’ can make all the difference in our ride.”— Riding Through Thick & Thin.

Do you have a “rider’s body?” You know the one. Long and lanky, legs that can wrap a horse, arms that reach without leaning, flat belly (and chest), strength without bulk, and most likely, a blonde pony tail.

Whatever.

The rest of us spend our riding lives trying to make what we have work, and most likely, bemoaning our short limbs, thick waist, big boobs, or whatever pains us most. To that my Riding Through Thick & Thin experts say, “Snap out of it!”

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“You can’t change short legs, a big frame, a long torso, and so on — it’s the body God gave you,” says Susan Harris in Riding Through Thick and Thin, “And while you can’t change the fundamental shape and conformation of your body, you can learn how to work with your body’s characteristics to maximize your effectiveness in the saddle.”


So what does this mean? I think above all it means that any time spent bemoaning our shape and size is time wasted. Instead of descending down that proverbial rabbit hole, I offer up (with the help of some generous experts) another option. What if we look objectively at our own bodies and spend our energy figuring out how to make the most of what we have? And, if there are things we can do to maximize our capabilities, such as increasing our core strength, amping up our upper body, finding a more secure place of balance, or simply incorporating mindfulness habits to help us “ground, center and grow,” in the words of the late great Sally Swift, this is where we can re-engage our noggins in a more productive direction.

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Namely, this is where we can set some specific, measurable goals, identify the active steps to achieving each one, and give ourselves a deadline for accomplishing each step. And remember, the smaller the steps you can identify, the more doable each endeavor will become.

Set yourself up for success with objective evaluation, deliberate thinking and baby steps that will add up to big results!

I’d love to hear from you! Reach out to me on TwitterFacebook, by email or through my website.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

It’s In There, Dorothy

It’s In There, Dorothy

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

“Be open to change, to acceptance, to whatever it takes to learn what is real, authentic, true and right —and let go of all that’s not.” —Riding Through Thick and Thin

This is truly one of the big ideas behind Riding Through Thick and Thin. It’s just so easy to get caught up in what we think others think, what others actually say — and what society deems acceptable . . . and not-so-acceptable. To make peace with our body image and make changes (or not!) for our greatest good, it’s time to pull the plug on this endless loop once and for all.

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Through countless interviews with experts, scholarly and not-so-scholarly articles, scientific journals, and casual conversations with real women facing real struggles over how they feel in the skin their in, here’s what I learned in the process of researching this book:

First, it doesn’t really seem to matter whether we’re talking about a few pounds or a few hundred; the mindset and words used to describe these feelings is shockingly similar — and more often than not, driven by the opinions of others.

Second, to open ourselves to real change in how we think, feel, and talk about our body means turning our focus inward instead of simply internalizing the input from the world around us. It’s time to get quiet and face our body issues squarely, and then do what we need to do to figure out our own best answers.

Finally, sometimes this may mean taking others’ observations to heart and making lifestyle changes that will lead to improved health and fitness. Or it may mean (lovingly) telling them to go jump in the nearest lake.

It’s only when we learn to reach for our own deep truths that we can begin to sift what’s real from what’s not. It’s in there, Dorothy — and it has been all along. Go inside and find it.

And let me know when you do! Reach out to me on TwitterFacebook, my website, or by email. I look forward to hearing from you!

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Get Ready to be Surprised

Get Ready to be Surprised

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

Once we start digging for “truths” it may surprise you what you think of yourself and your riding, and what you think OTHERS think of your riding. And above all, what all these “thinks” are doing to your self-image and the quality of your experience with horses.

In just one of the embarrassing stories I tell on myself in Riding Through Thick and Thin (and believe me, there are many), I relate an experience of riding in an arena at a friend’s ranch in preparation for a clinic the next day. To say that I was apprehensive about this clinic might be the understatement of the decade. I saddled up, entered the arena, and began some slow circles on the sillier of my two horses.

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Another friend joined me and began circling with us, then she cued her horse into a lope. Without thinking about it too much, I followed suit. We were laughing and talking as we rode and I gave little thought to what I was doing in my effort to just keep up. Quite simply I was lost in the moment. All clinic anxiety dissipated, I was in the zone of joy.

Later, over dinner, my clinic-phobia returned and I voiced my concerns — half joking, half not. The friend hosting us for the weekend looked at me, not bothering to conceal her surprise. “I can’t even believe you’re saying that,” she said. “When I saw you two down at the other end of the arena chasing each other around like puppies i have to admit I felt envious — and a little bit insecure. You’re a much better rider than you think you are.”

Whaaaaaaaaat????

As it turns out, sometimes we have no idea of how others see us. Not that it matters, except as a reality check for how we see ourselves. We are so often our own worst critic that for the sake of our self-concept it is important to learn to take an occasional step outside our own awareness and try to see ourselves through the lens of an impartial observer.

If you don’t have an honest — if shocked — friend to offer up some observational insight, it might be worth it to ask for this kind of feedback from someone you can trust to keep it real. It is only through honest self assessment that we can begin to see things as they really are — and not as our hated imagination would have us believe.

Give it a try and let me know what happens. I can’t wait to hear your stories of amazement that will help bury my own . . . and how we can all learn this lesson together!

Reach out to me here, on Facebook, Twitter, MelindaFolse.com, or email me at mkfolse@gmail.com.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Measure with the right stick (or tape).

Measure with the right stick (or tape).

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

Most of us have grown up with an idea of the “ideal rider’s body.” Whether that for you is a size or a number on the scale, maybe it’s time to re-examine your measuring device. Health and fitness experts — and even doctors agree that the better questions to ask include:

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– How do you feel?

– Are you healthy?

– Do you have enough energy to do what you want and need to do?

– Are you strong, effective and safe in the barn and the saddle?

– Is your horse happy and healthy?

In a recent media brouhaha over this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover girl, Ashley Graham, I listened to the back and forth, between retired 70’s supermodel Cheryl Tiegs telling E! News she wasn’t happy with Sports Illustrated‘s annual Swimsuit Issue featuring “full-figured women.” The former S.I. cover girl said that a woman’s “waist should be smaller than 35 [inches],” and while she the found Graham’s face “beautiful,” she didn’t think it was “healthy in the long run” to put a curvier model on the magazine’s cover. And then came Graham’s rebuttal: “There are too many people thinking they can look at a girl my size and say that we are unhealthy,” Graham noted. “You can’t, only my doctor can!”

Tiegs later apologized, saying the media distorted what she was trying to say: “I was not equating beauty to weight or size, but unfortunately that is what the media reported in headlines,” Tiegs wrote in an open letter to Graham in the Huffington Post. “I was trying to express my concern over media images and the lack of education in America about healthy choices, thus the reference to the 35-inch waist as a guideline to health.” Citing Dr. Oz, Centers for Disease Control, Harvard University, and the American Diabetes Association, Tiegs is not wrong. Just maybe a little bit misguided in that blanket assumption.

In Riding Through Thick &Thin, we offer up all kinds of ways to incorporate “the holy trinity of fitness” into the day-to-day lifestyle of riders who are pressed for time in a way that would actually benefit anyone else as well. Making sure to do something (a little or a lot depending on how much time you can make available) every day — and to have a selection of activities you enjoy — in the three areas of:

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Stamina (walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, etc.),

Strength (resistance training with weights, bands, barre, core work)

Flexibility (stretching, Yoga, pilates, etc.)

With our daily commitment to the “holy trinity of fitness” we unlock the secret of sneaking up on overall fitness that, when paired with good nutrition, keeps us healthier at any size. It also nukes the “I don’t have time to exercise” excuse for even the busiest superhero.

And, while it’s true that if you commit to getting and staying strong, fit, and healthy, your waist may likely be (or start moving toward) that 35-and-under ideal, to say that’s the marker is just plain short sighted.

So toss out those measuring tapes and size 6 jeans, ignore the haters, whether their concern for your health is true or false, and put your attention on what you’re doing every day to protect your health by getting fit in these three important ways.

Tell me about your fitness routine. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, melindafolse.com, or email me at mkfolse@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

A Horse by Any Other Name?

A Horse by Any Other Name?

News

I’ve always been fascinated by how people name their horses. Do you choose a name that reflects a personality trait? A physical characteristic? A favorite character or personality? An ironic name? A laudatory predictor?

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And, unless you raise a horse from scratch, you may pretty much get stuck with someone else’s quirk. Superstition dictates that we not change a horse’s name. Unless we get a horse whose name doesn’t really fit him. Or if, like me, you come by horse whose name, you later realize, was changed by the person who sold him to you — or a previous owner — are you then obligated to change the name back to the original? Or is that changing it, thus evoking the wrath of the bad luck fairy.

So let’s hear from you. What’s your horse’s name? How was he/she named and by whom? Did you change it or bow to superstition? If your horse is registered, were you happy with the choices proffered by your papers, or did you go with the “barn name” so you could call him whatever you want to? Are you looking for the right horse name? Take a look at this post from Five Star Ranch for some prompts, guidelines and interesting associations. Reach out to me here, on Twitter, Facebook ,or on my website.

No pressure, but whatever you choose, remember that you could be saddling future owners with your cleverness!

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This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Does this horse make my butt look big?

Does this horse make my butt look big?

News

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