This just in, raising once again a topic very close to my confused middle-aged heart:
Anne Bondi, BHSI, SRT Director and member of the University of Sunderland Equestrian Study Group, summarized, “There is a huge amount of new technology becoming available to researchers in this field, which makes it very exciting, but the first challenge will be to harness this in order to find out what is ‘normal’ and ‘good’ when describing horse, saddle and rider interaction—we simply don’t know yet.” (Click here to read more about this breaking tacky news)
I don’t know about you, but this saddle conundrum is as fascinating to me as it is mystifying. Or, in a new corollary to the old joke about horse people, “show me three saddle fitters and I’ll show you three people who don’t agree on anything — and two people who can only agree that the third is dead wrong.”
If you, like me, struggle with the question of saddle fit . . . and unlike the old cowboys who just threw their favorite saddle on any horse they rode with whatever pad they happened to have and rode all day without another thought . . . you may be interested to follow this breaking news in the horse world I just gleaned from one of my favorite new haunts, Chronicle of the Horse.
The good news, I think, is that we’re at least trying to do better for our horses. And as Oprah likes to say, “when you know better, you do better.” And from my little vantage point in researching such tacky subjects for The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses — and through my own trials and errors — I’ve seen the HUGE difference in how a horse moves and how well the rider moves with him once the saddle fit is corrected.
Look for my upcoming post and photos from my visit to Ironstar Farms and the wisdom shared with me by the Schleese saddle rep — and later the same month, my interview, photos and YouTube post from my re-visit to the balanced ride concept (and personal epiphany) with western saddle maker Ron McDaniel of McDaniel Saddlery.
What do you think? Who out there has saddle fit info, resources, or stories to share? Weigh in, everyone, so we can all know better — and do better!
Want to know more? Click here to view book trailer!
Just got back from a morning watching Lisa Ramsey ride in the Fort Worth Stock Show Chisholm Challenge, and of course, it got me to thinking. She took first place in trail (Click here to watch the video!), second in Western Equitation, and a show stopping first in a drill team event, winning against several other teams with a prehistoric themed routine she and Cody-saurus did with others from All Star Equestrian. (Click here to watch this dyno-ride. It’s quite a bit of fun. I’m still not sure how they talked the horses into this . . .) As far as I’m concerned, however (and regardless of what the judges decide), it was a blue ribbon outing all around.
Lisa, you may remember, was featured in the Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses on page 22 as part of Chapter Two, “Why Horses? Why Now? In which we explored the idea of grounded horsemanship—how horses can enrich and enhance your life even if you don’t, can’t or have no desire to ride.
Since being injured in the line of duty as a Fort Worth Police Officer in 2003, Lisa spends almost all of her waking moments confined to a wheelchair. Except, of course, for the time she spends on the back of a horse. Working with All-Star Equestrian in Mansfield Texas, Lisa has found a new sense of freedom, one she never imagined possible, and with steady progress that keeps surprising her and everyone else around her, has found a challenge that keeps her competitive spirit alive and well.
Lisa, who has participated — and won belt buckles — in this event for the past two years, has discovered a new opponent — the one on the inside. “For me the competition has become all about doing just a little better at something than I did on my last ride. Sometimes these are big things that other people notice, and other times it is something only I recognize, but I know was a mark in the win column.”
Though each heat is a judged competition between riders with similar challenges, it’s never about the other riders, Lisa will be the first to tell you. In fact, she notes the progress since last year in all her competition and celebrates these milestones as if they were her own. Each year, the Chisholm Trail Challenge reflects the aggregate of all these little weekly milestones — a celebration that reflects a unique victory for every participant.
When Lisa began therapeutic riding several years ago, she required two sidewalkers on each side who literally held her up on the horse. This, some would have predicted, was about as good as it was likely to get. With no feeling from the chest down, Lisa has great difficulty with even the simplest of bodily maneuvers; lying flat, she can only lift her head and shoulders. When sitting, balance is difficult for her, and sometimes even staying upright in the chair is a challenge in an of itself. (She says she fakes it sometimes by relying on her arm strength and a subtle grip on something stationary to make it look like she’s sitting unassisted.)
But somehow — and some would say, miraculously, Lisa has learned to balance on a horse so well that now she has sidewalkers there if she needs them, now keeping a hand on just her lower legs. Making tight turns, changing directions and negotiating obstacles are, in and of themselves amazing feats, given the circumstances, but she does it — and does it so well she wins competitions and has been invited more than once to do an exhibition to show others what is possible in this arena where miracles are everyday occurrences and possible is just a word.
Still, she keeps striving for more. A former collegiate athlete and lifelong competitor, Lisa’s challenge is achieving some sort of personal best every single time she rides. And at the end of the ride, after she celebrates, she, as any driven athlete does, sets her next goal: What can get just a little better the next time out?
Cody, the handsome Haflinger horse she rides, is a kindred sprit, one she describes as “laid back until it’s time to go into the ring, then he’s all business, ready to go out there and do his job.” Cody, like Lisa, is a serious minded competitor who relishes challenge — and gently rises to it every time they enter the ring: “He hates being third or fourth to go out, Lisa adds, “he has to be first. “
Lisa and Cody are quite the team to observe — earning a standing ovation at the May 2010 PBR exhibition they participated in and will be featured in an upcoming episode of Clinton Anderson’s Downunder Horsemanship show on Fox Sports, to be aired in March. (Watch this space for details!) In fact, Clinton’s crew was there today, filming the event and doing a follow up interview that brought home to me just how far Lisa has come with her Midlife Horse experience that began just before our first conversation in 2009 when she was starting her rediscovery of how much she enjoyed the company of horses.
When you set your feet on the Midlife Horses trail, there’s just no telling where it may lead. And that, I think, is half the fun.
So what challenges you? What obstacles are blocking your personal Midlife Horses trail — and what will take to remove them? What resources do you need to clear the way to your own joy that comes from being in the company of horses?
Let us hear from you! It’s that time of year to get a renewed grip on that joy and inner sense of purpose that attracted us to this experience in the first place, and there’s no better way to remember it than a good conversation with kindred spirits. Post your thoughts below as a comment, on our Facebook page, Twitter, or share a video of you enjoying your horse on our YouTube channel!
Whatever your challenge, large or small, just figure out that first next step is the key to getting there. Let’s all gather up our courage this year and, with a bow to St. Nike, “Just Do It!”
If you answered “Neigh!” to the opening question, you’re right, of course. (You’re also right if you’ve been talking to my horses and the answer is “Nay.”)
However, I’m coming to the understanding that if we’ll let them, horses can say a whole lot more. (Have I gone even weirder on you? Maybe. But probably not.)
We hear a lot about “horse whisperers.” And we’ve had a wonderful opportunity lately to get reacquainted with this concept with Buck Brannaman’s Buck the Movie. (Did anyone else get this one for Christmas?I’m so glad to have my own copy!!)
So in keeping with all this, I’ve been playing around lately with the idea of equine assisted learning and animal communication. My research and interviews for The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses led me to cross paths with lots of these people and dug up enough compelling information to make me want to delve further into these areas. (This, of course, spawned a new idea I can’t wait to tell you about, but it’s still in its incubation, so stay tuned!)
Last week, I enlisted the help of a friend of mine we’ll call Mary. That’s not her real name. If I used her real name in this story there’s a good chance she’ll cease being my friend. And an even better chance that everyone who knows me will then take a much wider circle around me to escape having any conversation we have become blog fodder. So if you know me personally, be advised that what you say can and will be used for the common good in my blog, but I will always protect your privacy. Then if at some point you want to claim the story as your own, we can give you a proper introduction.
Like so many of us, Mary has an affinity for horses that reaches back to her childhood and early adolescence. Then, grown up responsibilities and family rearing took her far away from any thought of horses — except, of course, for the occasional fond flashback whenever the subject of horses came up. She’s very grounded, centered and self-aware, possibly the most balanced human I know. These factors (plus a little curiosity on her part) made her the perfect candidate for one of my favorite journaling exercises in The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses.
So here’s what happened. We went out to where my horses are stabled and I got them both out, along with all their brushes and combs. Then I invited her to pick one and brush him. I assumed she’d pick Rio because of his sweet clownish face and docile demeanor. She admitted to being a little nervous about handling horses because some of her memories, come to think of it, weren’t that fond.
So she went straight to Trace. Go figure. His head was stuck way up in the air in what Clinton would definitely classify as his “unsure zone.” In fact, I could almost just see the whites of his eyes. Not a good thing, and I can tell you if she had made a sudden move or sneezed loudly he probably would have come unglued.
I watched as they sized each other up, noting as I did the gentleness of how she brushed him. She didn’t talk; just brushed. Pretty soon his head started to come out of the clouds and the softness returned to his eyes.
“You know, I thought I would choose that one,” she said, pointing to Rio, “but for some reason I feel more drawn to this one.” She patted Trace gently on the neck. His head shot straight up, the wary look returning. We laughed. “He does scare me a little, though, so I’m not sure why I’m choosing him.”
Don’t I know that feeling? I thought to myself. Trace, you may remember, is my first midlife horse, the one that came to me from the group of milling geldings when I wasn’t even looking for a horse. The one who has tried my patience to the cellular level and my soul even more, and yet for some reason, I just can’t give up on him. And, in all fairness, it’s been worth it.
The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses came from a perfect storm of my struggles with Trace, my resulting introduction to Downunder Horsemanship, and then all the Midlife Horse stories I heard and got to write about when I worked for Clinton Anderson. Seeing the difference finding my best solutions made in my own midlife horses journey — and from what I learned and observed firsthand as Clinton’s head writer as I helped him write his best selling Lessons Well Learned and dozens of articles and training tips — I knew I wanted to share what I learned with others as desperate for this information as I was starting out. All because of a persnickerty horse.
For all my trials created at the hooves of this horse, he’s made me a better rider, a more aware rider, and a person who has had to learn (with a lot of help) how to walk through fear to find that “calm courage” Martha Beck describes, and this has helped me in many aspects of my life, on and off the horse.
Every horse has something special to teach us — and I now believe that when you open yourself, on whatever level you choose, to midlife horses, the horse that appears in our life (and believe me, you’ll know it when it happens) is the one sent to teach us something we need to know to heal ourselves of whatever is still bugging us here in the halftime of our lives.
So, going back to Mary, after she was finished brushing Trace and combing his mane, we dragged a chair into the pen and she sat down with her journal to do the “Awaken Your Horse Sense” exercise (found on page 15 of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses). I left the two of them alone (but occasionally peeked, once to see Trace rolling, once to see him walk up to her and nibble at her pen and the edges of her journal and her sleeve. (I should probably stop giving him carrots.)
Then, hearing Mary laughing out loud, I looked just in time to see her walking across the pen — and Trace prancing along beside her, head protectively curved around in front of her, looking at her square on. I wish I had been quick enough to get a picture of this for you, because it was profound to me even before I heard the story behind it.
Here’s what Mary had to say afterward: “I started writing, just mundane journaling stuff . . . you know, trying to get started just by writing anything that came into my mind, just like the exercise instructs,” she said. At that point Trace was totally ignoring me. Sniffing the ground, facing the opposite direction. I kept writing, just this and that, observations, what I thought of this exercise, random thoughts about journaling. Then he dropped to his knees and rolled in the dirt. That was kind of funny, so I chuckled a little bit and he got up and walked toward me. I went back to journaling my observations and he turned away and walked to the far end of the pen.
“Then some stuff started coming to me that was a little more personal, engaging my emotions and some internal questioning. He then turned and walked straight toward me, coming to stop with his head right in front of my notebook. What’s he doing? I thought. I wasn’t afraid, but looking back on that now I can’t imagine why I wasn’t. Then he started nibbling at my pen. Does he think it’s a carrot? I wondered, remembering that Melinda said he likes carrots. I noticed how big his teeth were, but again, without any fear. He was clearly playing with me.
“I tried to ignore him and continue writing, wanting to finish writing the thought I had before he came over to me. He nibbled the edges of my pages and then a singe word came into my mind: “Play!!!” I wrote this word, including the three exclamation points, and he then dragged his nose right across where I was writing, leaving a big smudge. I laughed out loud. This horse is telling me to play! I thought.
“So I got up from my chair and just started walking, He came right up beside me and sort of wrapped his head and neck around me, kind of like a protective hug and he was prancing and looking me right in the eye.
“I immediately understood that the message from this horse was that I need to play more. I do a lot of fun things, but it’s all with structure and purpose and intended outcome. I never just play. I’m not sure I even remember how. So I guess he was trying to show me. Here in this pen with this horse, I laughed out loud with no idea of where we were going or what we were trying to do. It was the pure joy that comes from pure play.”
So, midlife sisters, I challenge you now: Go get that journal and find a horse (preferably one you don’t know, but you can do it with your own horse if you’d rather). And, with the owner’s permission, of course, go sit with that horse and just write, as fast as you can, anything that comes to mind for as long as you can make yourself sit there. (10 minutes is a good start. As is three pages of full sized notebook paper. Whatever gets you to sit there and just write. Don’t try to direct, connect or analyze the thoughts that come to you as you sit there. Just write. It may take you a while to get going, as it did Mary. But do what she did and just write EXACTLY what you’re thinking. Even if it’s “I think this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Just keep writing your thoughts. You may be surprised at what bubbles up.
And if you’re willing, post your most surprising thoughts here, on our Facebook page, Twitter, or YouTube. (As one animal communicator explained, pay special attention to the random thoughts that don’t seem to have anything to do with anything. The ones that don’t make any sense at all at first are often the deepest and most profound revelations, once you dig into them deeply enough.) If you’d prefer to be anonymous, but still want to share something amazing, please just email your story to me and I promise a cloak of invisibility around what you have to share.
I can’t wait to read more stories like Mary’s — and with your help, to make people aware of the magic than can come from journaling with a horse.
I’ve heard (but I can’t remember where) that the E-reader was the most received gift this holiday season. And yes, great competition now abounds to the tried-and-true Kindle (now with its new Fire incarnation), and these puppies are all getting more affordable, easier to use and, offering us the options of searchable content and a way to bookmark and clip the ideas, thoughts and sections we want to remember from what we read, may just keep the margins of print books free of scrawled notes that mean little to anyone but us (Does anyone beside me read non-fiction with a pencil in one hand and a highlighter in the other?)
So what does this cultural phenomenon have to do with The Smart Guide to Midlife Horses? Everything, apparently. Here’s what our publisher had to say that made me do the holiday happy dance:
“Melinda Folse’s bestseller THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES is surely ushering in a new generation of horse-related books. Her book’s appeal to the readers of ebooks—considered by some to be the future of book publishing—is apparent as sales in digital format have skyrocketed! We are thrilled that the book’s message and content translates so well across multiple platforms, print and digital. Melinda’s book is one of the first of its kind to offer great educational content, along with great stories and a few laughs, in a format suitable for the midlife woman on the move.”
So, speaking from one cultural phenomenon (Boomer women and their Midlife Horses) to another (the proliferation of e-readers) all I have to say is WooHoooooooo! And of course, thank you to all who purchased my book this year — in its print or digital format (I’ve heard several people say they bought it both ways because it’s faster to find specific information and resources with the searchable feature of the e-book, but they still prefer the print version to sit and read).
If you’d like to purchase The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses for your new Kindle, click here. Got a different E-reader? No worries, as our friend Clinton Anderson would say. Click here to purchase The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses in other e-book formats.
And speaking of Clinton, while you’re there, be sure to check out Clinton Anderson’s Lessons Well Learned, also now available in e-book formats! Getting to co-write this book with Clinton was one of the best assignments a horse crazy aspiring author could ever hope for — and Clinton’s stories and experiences with horses and people are as fascinating and enlightening as they are entertaining!
So . . . now what? As this fabulous year draws to a close, I’m catching my breath a bit, getting more content loaded on my newly revamped website, and planning a 2012 blog calendar filled with tips, resources, ideas and insights to help make 2012 your Year of the (Midlife) Horse.
Want to come along? Subscribe to this blog (comments always welcome!), shoot me an email, join our Facebook community, give us a Tweet, or share on our YouTube channel when something interesting happens or occurs to you on the Midlife Horses trail. Above all, please feel free to share your victories, challenges, questions and observations with the diverse online community we’re gathering here. It’s your life, Part Two! With Horsepower!
“This [Dressage Today] article relates directly to what we have been talking about. There is even a part about how the body forgets to use some muscles and overcompensates with others, leading to tightness and strain. I feel like they are talking about me!”
And me! How about you? What unmounted exercises have you discovered to help build core muscles memory? I don’t know about you, but when we hear how “long periods seated such as at a computer or in a car create imbalanced patterns across the hip joints from muscle and ligament tightness, and lack of use (weakness),” I have to raise my hand in a plea of guilty. I’ve considered replacing my desk chair with a balance ball, but I fear of getting bucked off. (Bad previous experience with one of these unpredictable creatures).
So what do these “imbalanced patterns” mean to our riding — and our life?
Bottom Line: Practice doesn’t always make perfect — perfect practice makes perfect!
According to Heather Sansom, the fitness writer for Dressage Today who wrote this great article, when we have these imbalances it makes us engage our core muscles incorrectly. (And all this time, I thought we just needed to engage our core when we ride. But noooooo . . .turns out we have to find and engage the right muscles in the right way. The plot thickens.)
Apparently there’s a lot more to strengthening our core than just “zipping it up” (although that’s certainly part of it!) Unless we learn to pinpoint and engage these sneaky little deep muscles in the correct way (Denise says she thinks they hide. I agree.), we’re just perpetuating the problems created by the imbalance: “The rider’s body has less chance of responding correctly when it comes to the ride with imbalances or pre-disposed tendency to incorrect muscle engagement,” Heather writes. She goes on to say that, “lack of correct engagement of stabilizers in the rider’s pelvis can result in issues such as difficulty with leg aids, a collapsing lower back, weakness in lateral movement and even an overactive low back resulting in back strain and pain.”
Ruh Roh. Denise is right about that, too. Now it’s getting personal.
And even worse, Heather’s article goes on to say, these imbalances and weaknesses also create gaps in your neuromuscular communication. She compares this to a cell phone that only gets an intermittent signal and you only hear every other word of the conversation. (Who remembers that Can you hear me now?” commercial for Verizon? Some days, it’s my life.) Depending on the conversation you’re having with your horse, such as “Please don’t kill me now,” you’re probably going to want every single word to come through loud and clear.
So what do you do?
The answer, surprisingly, is one you’ve seen before (especially if you’re a fan of Clinton Anderson and Downunder Horsemanship as I am): Groundwork. But this time, it’s groundwork for you, not your horse. (Here comes the equine snickering I told you about. After working my horses on the ground for so many miles, they are obviously enjoying this cosmic turn of the tables.) But, just as is is with training our horses, this groundwork pays off big in the long run:
“A rider interested in bringing maximum self-carriage to their ride, avoiding injury and prolonging their riding career should do some ground training,” Heather writes. “Riding is a sport that can be engaged in right in to senior years, and riders can improve their entire life. This means that a rider can be improving technically, at an age when their physical preparedness for sport is actually reducing due to the normal aging process which reduces suppleness in ligaments and causes muscle fibre atrophy. Riders over 40 should definitely be engaging in supplementary exercises to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the pelvis and spine, so that the riding itself does not actually wear your body down. Most riders want to be able to ride as long in life as they possibly can.”
Go check out Heather’s groundwork exercises for humans and let us know what you think — or if you have any others we ought to add to our mix. Let’s all go back to Rebecca’s Garanimal workout schedule and add these in–you be the judge of which workout energy level category they go in (walk, trot, canter, gallop), but wherever you put them in your own personal regimen, be sure to plug and play!
We’ll be revisiting this in the near future with some fun posts and activities inspired by my riding group’s work with Cassandra . . . stay tuned. And, as always, please chime in with the exercises and routines that help you most! Comment here, email me, or post your thoughts on this topic to our Facebook page, Twitter feed or YouTube channel. Misery — and obsession — loves company!
This slippery slope is a hot topic for all of us midlifers trying to have it all, do it all and be it all. And when you’re trying to work something as large as a horse into this delicate equation, its enough to keep us all preoccupied with finding the right answer. Perfect balance is out there. We can smell it. And sometimes, we may even touch it. But not for long. If you are one of the lucky ones to find this snipe, enjoy every precious second of it, by all means. But don’t get too comfortable.
“Balance,” points out our friend, Kathy Taylor, on her HerdWise blog, is a verb,”something you do, rather than a state of being.”
Comparing the work/life balance to a balance board (you know, one of those gizmos with a wheel in the middle and a board across the top on which you stand and try to keep your weight evenly distributed so that the board tilts neither right or left), Taylor stays, “The reality is that there are only very short moments in time when you’re NOT making some adjustment. One second you’re too much to the left, then too much to the right. You’re in constant motion.”
Well so much for getting everything in my life perfectly balanced, once and for all, then moving on to other, greater pursuits. As it turns out, staying reasonably balanced is the greater pursuit. But what’s reasonable? we ask.
Taylor adds that with awareness and constant practice, the ongoing corrections we make to our time and life imbalances will get smaller and more subtle as time goes on. “The more aware you are of when you need to adjust, the less you’ll have to do,” she adds. “And if you don’t practice making small adjustments that will keep you in the middle of the board, then you’ll be stuck making big corrections later that tend to make everyone unhappy.”
Taking this a bit further, I call on my favorite life coach Martha Beck, whose recent post, Balancing Act: The Dance of an Unbalanced Life on the same subject was still percolating when Kathy’s blog update showed up on our Facebook wall (does anybody think this is a coincidence? I think not!)
We’re nearing that time of year when we look at our life and make those resolutions to do better — or as I like to think of it, the Annual Life Reorganization Summit (the practice formerly known as New Year’s Resolutions). Sometimes annual resolutions to do better and be better stick, sometimes not, but I (and lots of other people, I think) subscribe to the theory that “you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
So Martha tells us (see, the Internet puts you on first name basis with everyone):
“I can tell you with absolute assurance that it is impossible for women to achieve the kind of balance recommended by many well-meaning self-help counselors. I didn’t say such balance is difficult to attain. I didn’t say it’s rare. It’s impossible. Our culture’s definition of what women should be is fundamentally, irreconcilably unbalanced. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the very imbalance of our culture is forcing women to find equilibrium in an entirely new way. ”
She goes on to say (and we already know this to be true. We learned it from our Midlife Horses) that once we “get” that the expectations we’ve been trying to fill are, in fact, impossible, we find the freedom to start living life “from the inside out.”
“You free yourself to ignore social pressures and begin creating a life that comes from your own deepest desires, hopes, and dreams,” she adds. This, Martha says, is the beginning of “learning to seek guidance by turning inward to the heart, rather than outward to social prescriptions.”
This is the kind of fulfillment our Midlife Horses show us (if you haven’t already seen it, check out our new video about this and hear from some of the women who are living this dream). I don’t know about you, but whatever I have to do to learn the “dance of imbalance” that gets me to the barn every day, I’ll do.
And granted, there may be some skinned knees and bumps and bruises to nurse as we practice this dance on our own individual balance boards (each of us has one as unique as we are, but rest assured, they’re all the same special kind of slippery), and I’m sure I’ll fall off completely from time to time.
But I’m taking Kathy and Martha at their wise word(s): Balance is a verb. Practice and constant adjustment on the fly makes it easier to stay nearer the coveted center. And above all, the pursuit of this balance is, in and of itself, “a dance of joyful disequilibrium to be celebrated and embraced” as we find new authenticity and satisfaction by living through our wobbles in a whole new way. (For more on this, check our Martha’s new book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, available December 27.)
What small adjustments bring you back to center when your life starts to feel wobbly? How does your horse help? What effect does your Midlife Horses have on your personal balancing act? How have you adjusted your personal priorities to work a horse into the mix? We get into this a bit in The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses (Chapter 3: Take the Reins).
I’d love to know what works best for you! Comment here, post to our Facebook page, retweet your favorite rebalancing tip when you see this headline pop up on my Twitter feed, or talk to us via video comment on our YouTube channel. (I’d love to see some GloZell-style comments to these posts pop up on our channel — in format, not content . . . although I challenge you to watch this “tip” post and not laugh your butt off)
There’s something new bubbling up about this book that tickles me even more than its escalating holiday sales.
Beyond hearing from all sorts of people who have purchased several copies to give as gifts to their horse friends, what’s surprising and maybe even more gratifying is when I hear of people who aren’t middle-aged women or don’t have horses who read this book (usually either because they know me or someone else whose story is in the book) and exclaim, “This is a great book for anyone, whether or not you have, like, or want horses — and whether or not you’re a woman!
This puzzled me at first. I realize, of course, that getting a horse at this time of life does tend to upend everything you’ve come to count on as “normal,” and and the experience does cause you to look at many things in your life differently. Often, our emerging authenticity and “inner lead mare” authority (our horses are SO good at helping us find, regardless of whether we thought we wanted to look for it) does paves the way for different choices and a more engaged and joyful life. This, sisters, is the gift of Midlife Horses. (Click here to view the new trailer that will tell you more about this unique journey.)
But then one of of these non-horsey, non-middle-aged-woman readers explained to me that since the book touches on so many of the issues we all face in midlife (whether or not we have the horse thing going on), the book provides a framework, using horses as a metaphor, for examining these issues in the light of any dream or passion we’ve let slip to the wayside. As the last group of Boomers to cross the center threshold of our lives, it is important and natural to go back and revisit those things that once made our heart sing and see if there’s something there we’d like to do again while we still can.
I’d love to know more about how The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses is starting to reach beyond the barn and into the hearts of anyone who wants to dust off a dream and discover a new path to living more fully in the second half of life. Post a comment here, join us on Facebook, or tweet your thoughts when you see this topic pop up on my Twitter feed.
And above all, to anyone out there thinking about dusting off an old dream,
If you haven’t already had a peek at our new book trailer video (a draft version went out as a post update because I’m tech challenged and didn’t check the box that kept it private while we were still doing final editing) click here to watch the FINAL version of the Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses book trailer.
During the month of October, we focused on dreams—our dreams of horses and how and why we’re choosing this time of life to make those dreams come true. So this book trailer (nicknamed “Dream”) talks about who we are, why we ride, what pursuing our dreams of horses in the middles of our lives really means to us, and how this book brings together valuable insights unique to having horses at this time of life, offers the observations of those who’ve ridden this trail ahead of us, and provides the resources most of us have been looking for to find the answers that are right for us.
Over the next few days (and in keeping with the official start of the holiday season), I’ll also be unveiling the final version of four shorter videos that detail what most of us agree are the most unique and compelling gifts we receive when we decide to add a horse to Part Two of our lives.
About this blog . . . (what did you think I was talking about?!?!?!?) I have a confession to make. I’m an irregular blogger. No, wait. I’m a very regular blogger. Just an irregular poster.
But this time, there really are extenuating circumstances you should know about (and, in the immortal words of Roseanne Rosannadana, “It’s alllllllllways something!”). Over the past few weeks I have been on the road with the book, visiting retailers, participating in expos and gatherings, and talking to tons of people about Midlife Horses. I have also been pitching a blog tour, writing some articles that with any luck will get picked up by a variety of women’s magazines, fielding a bushel of book inquiries, and following up on a variety of ideas for sharing the message that compelled me to write The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses in the first place.
But that wasn’t the time consuming part.
As you may have noticed if you’ve visited my site, I’ve been hard at work once again with Bo Parker of ThinqDesign to make this website a better place to store the information and resources we’re generating and gathering, create a better interface and processes that will help us continue to strengthen our social media connections, and assemble the tools and systems we need to keep reaching out to others out there on the Midlife Horses trail.
And, while all that was going on, I’ve also been working with Joyce Elliott, Dog and Pony Show TX, who filmed, edited and produced our official book trailer and four small videos that highlight the Fun, Friendship, Fitness, and Fulfillment we tend to discover with the help of our midlife horses.
It’s all been quite an education for me, and, thanks to the combined talents of these two remarkably talented individuals, I’m very happy with the results (and I can’t wait to hear what you think!) Although I’m still loading content on the site (it’s always going to be a work in progress), it’s now close enough to re-launch. And I do love feedback, because the only real way to know how effective these online things are is hearing from the people who use them!
My dream and driving motivation behind all this scurrying around? To build this Midlife Horses community into a true gathering place for our stories, insights, resources and inspiration. To give us a place to hang out, compare notes, and gain the support we need to keep going. To emphasize the great cocktail napkin truth I posted on our Facebook Page a while back, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy; I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” It turns out there’s good company on this trail, and the more we can help and encourage each other (and make each other laugh till wine comes out of our noses), the more rewarding the whole thing’s going to be.
So here’s the thing. A lot of cool, thought provoking stuff has happened over the past two months, stuff I wanted to write about, examine, question, and share. More and more, I’m realizing that this book really is touching women’s lives and encouraging them to think differently about their own dreams and what they’re willing to do to rediscover their own kind of joy.
Because of the magical way this book’s own journey is unfolding, I think it’s important to keep these posts to their correct dates and chronology. But with my time and attention stretched thinner than Elastagirl ever since production cranked up on our book trailer video and website redesign and relaunch, I’ve been saving up these tidbits until I could figure out how to get them all into place without spamming your inbox, but still let you know about them so you can read them if you want to, and then archiving them properly, just in case any of us want to revisit them later.
I’ve flirted with a lot of solutions, but none of them seemed quite right. Most of these posts (especially the October ones) have been sitting around in some stage of completion for weeks. Now it seems November has given me the slip as well. We all know December has wings, and it touches down tomorrow!
So here’s what I’ve decided to do. As soon as I get October loaded, I’ll post an October Digest that will give you a snapshot of what these posts are about, along with a link to each full post in the archive. Then I’ll follow suit with November. Then, with any luck at all, there will still be enough December left to grab its coattails before it sails out of 2011 to the Great Big Archive in the sky.
Fair enough? If anybody has a better idea, I’ll be glad to hear it. In a perfect world, I’d send a weekly digest until I get caught up, but with the year end looming and a lot of time sensitive information hanging, that’s just not going to work. I want you to be able to get to all of it now, if you’re interested, and move along to the next topics (and I’ve got some great ones planned for the New Year!) if you’re not!
I also welcome any suggestions to what would make this blog and our Facebook community a place you’d like to visit regularly, contribute to often, and use as a resource as you share your own stories to help, inspire or amuse others. Selling books is a nice thing (and it does keep the electricity flowing to my computer), but my real purpose here is to build a community, so to that end, let’s talk about what else I can do to help make that happen!
In her 2009 Wall Street Journal article, “Having a Healthy Midlife Crisis,” writer Sue Shellenberger reports that as a whole new group enters midlife, we’re just not tackling these challenges they same way as generations past. Rather than the “dark interlude of regressive behavior” it was once thought to be, more often than not triggered by fear of death, this interval of our lives is now more about reexamining such things as past disappointments, (whether career, marriage, family or friends, and health), and finding new ways to greet this traditional time of head on and find creative ways to turn it to positive ends. Finding the strengths of where we are and discovering new ways to build upon them, today’s midlifers are reassessing their earlier—oft forgotten — dreams and goals and charting a new course.
This, I think, explains better than anything else the presence of so many women over 40 at all the Clinton Anderson tour stops, demos and clinics I attended during my time at Downunder Horsemanship. These women (and quite a few men) understood the connection that horses help us make with our “real you” and in recapturing our dreams of horses we most often recapture the essence of who we are and who we want to be going forward.
Blending Shellenberger’s tips for creating a positive midlife criasis with this knowledge of how horses can help us with this process, I give you a slightly horsier take on Shellberger’s four-point advice:
1. Plan a step by Step Transition
Recognizing that this is not a “quick fix” — or a pill you can take — but rather, a process to begin, start small and figure out the steps from where you are today to where you wnt to be. In Chapter 3 of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, “Take the Reins,” we examine the smart process for getting a little more equine energy in your life:
“Making the decision to reignite an old passion — in this case, adding horses to the middle of your life— can either be much more complicated or much easier than you think. It all depends on the decisions you make, and how you make them.”
So take these first few baby steps slowly and deliberately and, for maybe the first time in your life, enjoy doing your homework. This not a race (because most of the time we don’t know where the finish line is!), and a plan and a direction is plenty good enough to get you unstuck and moving in a healthier direction without a lot of all-or-nothing drama.
2. Integrate old passions
“Go back to your core” and remember what it was that used to make your heart sing. Oftentimes the intervening years when you just thought you were drifting farther and farther away from these things, you were actually honing a new set of skills that will allow you to reignite these passions in a new way. In Chapter 2 of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, “Wy Horses? Why Now?” we explore the reason rediscovering this old dream is especially beneficial to us at this time of life:
“The mystical and magical connection between humans and horses is well documented and woven through civilizations and cultures and generations. But perhaps the most pronounced and profound examples of this connection are the relationships that develop between women and horses.”
What makes your eyes well up with tears at the very sight of it? What is that thing for you that , when you revisit it after a long absence, feels like coming home, or, as my brother once said after returning to tennis after a long layoff, “makes you remember who you are?” For me if was the sight of a galloping horse that turned me to mush. For you it may be ballet. Or opera, or a hot game of tiddly winks. Whatever it is, listen to your emotions. They’re tellilng you what you need to put pack into your life.
3. Assert Yourself
Realize, first, that these transitions aren’t always smoothes and even if they appear as a bed of roses, there WILL be some thorns to contend with. You’ll likely contend with the skepticism of family and friends — and sometimes even outright resistance — as those around you grapple with what they see as change in their definition of who you are as you move back to your own true center. Ignore this. It’s time to own up to your own dissatisfaction and chart a new course. Also in Chapter 3 of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses we grapple a bit with the resistance you may get when you try to add something as large as a horse to an already full life. This resistance may come from well-meaning family and freinds, or if may come from the obligations and commitments that already occupy all your available time (and disposable income). Here’s where we get to the nitty-gritty of melding the “real you” with your dream of owning or at least spending time with horses.
“It can be done, but it takes some mental restructuring and flexibility, a new set of rules based on our core values and what experts call “self management.”
In a series of exercises including “Find your Soul Values,” “Build Your ‘no’ Muscle,” and “Start Clearing Your Own Trail,” and “Recapture Your Day,” you’ll discover by tapping into your own answers and life experiences how to best align yourself to take your best shot at reawakening the real you using the dreams of your youth and the wisdom you’ve gained since.
4. Honor Your Creative Side
If all this sounds like WAY too much work to pack into an already overstuffed schedule, consider this. Working hard on something you’re really interested in almost never feels like work at all. Making the decision and taking action to give something you have always been interest in a permanent place in your life may well be the most energizing thing you have ever done.
“Maybe you still have your old jumping saddle stashed under a pile of outgrown kids’ clothes. Maybe you ‘ve always pictured yourself galloping on a horse across an open field with the wind in your hair. Maybe the elegant dance of dressage keeps your riveted . . .”
Maybe your happy trail has nothing to do with horses. (Although I can’t imagine why not!) The point is, whatever your midlife happy trail may look like, engage your creativity to make it a trail you can enjoy however you can at this time of life. With a computer, the internet and satellite TV, you can partake of many wonderful pastimes without ever leaving the comfort of home.
So whichever path you choose to for your midlife “crisis” (Do we really have to keep using that word? Can’t we call it “adventure” instead?), here’s to healthy solutions for your grandest ride yet! Let us hear your stories of midlife reinvention and returning to the dreams of your youth from the superior vantage point of a completely different lens! Post your story here as a comment, share it on our Facebook page, or give us the 140-character version on Twitter! Or, if you’d prefer to let me write your story, just drop me an email and we’ll see who else you might inspire!