Celebrating Strength—and Commitment to Horsecare

Celebrating Strength—and Commitment to Horsecare

News Riding Through Thick & Thin Riding Through Thick & Thin

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
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?

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

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?

There’s Always A Way, Or An Excuse

There’s Always A Way, Or An Excuse

Riding Through Thick & Thin The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

“If you want it enough, there’s always a way; if you don’t, there’s always an excuse.”

Ian Francis, by way of Clinton Anderson

While this quote comes to us originally from legendary Aussie Horseman Ian Francis, I heard it delivered again last Monday by none other than Ian’s most famous protegee, Clinton Anderson, as he completed filming my friend Lisa Ramsey’s amazing against-all-odds progress in her riding goals. The show will air first on Clinton’s Downunder Horsemanship show on?Fox Sports?in June. (I’ll give you a heads-up when we get a date! You won’t want to miss this one!)
Fort Worth Police Officer Lisa Ramsey discusses her riding goals with Clinton Anderson for upcoming Downunder Horsemanship show on Fox Sports.

You may remember Lisa’s story from The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses. Nine years ago Lisa, a Fort Worth Police Officer, was shot in the line of duty and paralyzed from the chest down. Then, six long years after that bullet confined Lisa to a wheelchair, she found freedom in an unexpected place: on the back of a horse. At first, it was slow go. For Lisa, balance is tough, even sitting up in the chair. When she began her weekly rides at All Star Equestrian in Mansfield, she required four sidewalkers to physically hold her in place on the horse. She could only go in straight lines, and every stop was a struggle not to topple over. But Lisa’s determination and a lifelong love of horses wouldn’t take no for an answer. Slowly, her balance improved. After a time, she began to negotiate turns. And then, when they asked her if she’d like to compete in the Fort Worth Stock Show’s annual Chisholm Challenge, she didn’t hesitate. She won her first belt buckle that year and another one every year since. When I first met Lisa, she had just begun therapeutic riding at All Star. I had just helped Clinton complete his second book, Lessons Well Learned, and was staying on for a while to write, among many other projects, articles to help grow his newly revamped No Worries Journal quarterly magazine. After just one conversation with Lisa, I knew this was a story that needed to be told. Clinton agreed. Lisa’s courage and determination in the face of obstacles we can’t even imagine sets the bar high for anyone who has ever been tempted to whine or make excuses for not doing something they want to do. No goal is too large or too small, Lisa will be the first to tell you; you just have to have them. And, every time you reach one, it’s time to set another (after the happy dance, of course!). Lisa now rides with just two sidewalkers, each with only a protective hand lightly resting on her foot. Lisa’s next goal? You’ll just have to watch the show to find out! But meanwhile, take a look back at what you’ve accomplished on your own horsemanship journey. Celebrate where you are now because you wanted it enough to find a way. Now look forward. What’s next for you? Are you going to find a way?

 

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Put On Your Big Girl Panties

Put On Your Big Girl Panties

Midlife Riding Through Thick & Thin The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses Women and Horses
One of the things we face as horse owners of any age, and especially those of us who have spent decades telling everyone around us to “be careful, now”–is the realization of what can happen if we come off a horse. We know we don’t bounce as well as we once did. And grown-up responsibilities and commitments constantly run through the backs of our minds. Under the circumstances, it’s easy to let fear and apprehension (our own and the cautionary words of others) talk us back out of the saddle. But if you love the feeling of riding, and know in your heart that what you get out of the experience is far better than sitting back and wishing, you must learn to minimize risk and maximize joy. Is it a matter of putting on your big girl panties to force yourself through fear? Do you just need that 30 seconds of insane courage to put apprehension in its place? Should you listen to those who advise you to do something every day that scares you to death?? Well, maybe. Sometimes, insane courage is part of the personal courage equation, but you also have to be smart about it. Fear exists for a reason. So do riding helmets. One of the best ways to feel safe in the saddle is by knowing you’ve done all you can to minimize risk. Yes, you definitely wear the aforementioned helmet. But even more important than wearing protective gear is incorporating safe habits into your routines until they become second nature. And you educate yourself (and your horse) on the basics of horsemanship. So, how do you put all this together? I’ve learned that you can’t bluff a horse, so pretending not to be afraid when you are doesn’t serve any purpose. But once you have the safety and education pieces in place, you can call up those 30 seconds of insane courage. It’s called putting on your big girl panties. With well-earned confidence in place, you know that whatever happens when you’re in the saddle, you can handle it, so you swing your leg over with a “Just Do It” attitude that would make St. Nike proud. Here’s a quick story to illustrate. When we were shooting some video to promote The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, I got on Trace for some footage of me riding him, since my issues with this challenging horse were a major thematic element of the book. I didn’t feel nervous or unsure when I got on him, but he immediately started what I call his “agitated quick-step” that is a precursor to the leap-forward-kick-up “angry dolphin.” (Isn’t it sad that I have names for all his antics? Why I keep this horse is a story for another day). Suddenly, I felt my confidence I had slipping away. And the cameras were rolling. (I’ll put this up on YouTube when it’s ready, so stay tuned if you want a giggle.) “Sit heavy, sit back and push him forward,” Denise called out to me from across the arena. I did. Sure enough, he began walking more normally. But the tension remained in both of us. I tried to breathe deep and relax my hips and legs. It felt better, but still not good. “Still looks like you’re walking on eggshells,” Joyce, the videographer and producer, observed. “It’s OK, though,” she added as she unplugged herself from the camera. “I think we have enough of you riding Rio.” I dismounted and she started packing up her equipment. Then something strange happened. “No, we’re not doing this today,” I said to no one in particular as I turned Trace around to face the middle of the arena. Without any of my usual preamble or the mounting block I use to get on him in a “kinder, gentler way,” I climbed back on Trace. His head went straight up. I felt the familiar hump rising in his back. I squeezed him forward. “You’re going to do this today and you’re going to do it right,” I told him. To my great relief–and more than a little surprise–he did. The smile you see in the video as I reach forward to pat him after a very nice canter is one of those moments with far-reaching implications. Finding my big girl panties at the end of a long, hard fight through fear and uncertainty was a feeling of victory like no other.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Are You Ready To Shed?

Are You Ready To Shed?

Riding Through Thick & Thin The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses Women and Horses

So first, what happens when we shed? We cast off what we no longer need to protect us. I think this applies equally well to horsehair, clutter, and that wobbly layer of winter sponginess that, for me, usually comes from too much warm, squishy comfort food.

Oddly, this is the time of year when one type of shedding inevitably leads to another. Looking for my shorts and walking shoes (at the insistence of a twirling Golden retriever who has finally guilted me into a walk) led me to pull the winter stuff from my closet and start making decisions about what I really want to keep enough to warrant the effort of packing it away.

Then, once on the trail, the very act of exposing my wobbly bits to the bright light of day evoked a vow to make sure I schedule SOME kind of real exercise into every day. And to stop and buy some of the fresh fruits and veggies I see “cropping up” in those farmers markets I’ve been driving past.

The best shedding metaphor, however, came (as most insights do) from the horses. Watching them in the pasture, each in various stages of molting, I’m in reminded of the serious jolt of joy we all get in every spring uncovering. As the winter woollies come off our horses, don’t we all get excited to see that sleek shininess that lies beneath the fluff? Doesn’t it fill us with anticipation of summer rides, sunny days and that intoxicating aromatherapy blend of horse sweat, green grass and fly spray?

As Rio pranced away from me this morning (all itchy spots well-scratched), he left the last remains of his winter coat behind (stuck mostly to me and the sorrel haze covering the ground around me), he had a new lightness I hope is contagious. Yes, we’re both still fat and sassy from too many bad weather days in a row, but I couldn’t help but notice how much the gleam of his coppery coat looked a brand new penny.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to finish cleaning out that closet, get more serious with my hit-or-miss exercise routines, and eat more vegetables. For one thing, I’m curious about what might be under my winter layer (I’ve been doing a LOT of Pilates this winter!); for another, its only when you shed what keeps you comfortable that you uncover your own shininess. Our sunny days ahead are filled with the promise of that new penny out there. Let’s vow to enjoy single one of them! Happy Shedding!!!

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com