Saddle Up Your “Someday”

Saddle Up Your “Someday”

Riding Through Thick & Thin

“NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO… THERE YOU ARE.”

This quote actually comes to us from Confucius, the well known Chinese teacher, editor, politician and philosopher who lived between 551 and 479 B.C. It’s also a line from Buckaroo Banzai, the 1984 cult film starring Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, and Jeff Goldblum (Look it up over a bowl of popcorn!). That juxtaposition just makes me giggle. And unless I miss my guess, somewhere Confucius is having a solid chuckle over it as well.

So why do I bring this up? Because when it comes to our weight, body image, and riding our horses to our highest potential, it’s easy to gaze into some far-off future and imagine a leaner, lighter, stronger body—a body worth feeling good about.

“When I get this weight off I’ll show more…”

“When I get in better shape I’ll ride more trails…”

“Once I finally manage to get rid of these wobbly bits I’ll buy some nicer riding clothes…”

You know the thought pattern. We imagine how on that magical ‘someday’ we’ll do things differently and feel differently about the things we do.

 

‘Someday’ has arrived. Think about it. Isn’t today “the tomorrow you dreamed about yesterday?” I remember hearing this line—lifted and twisted slightly from a wonderful old country song recorded by Lefty Frizzell (written by Joe Johnson)—for the first time when I was in high school and just beginning my angst over a body that weighed more than the height/weight charts said it should. Looking back now I realize I was a very, very average size, but the disparity between the number on the scale and the number on the charts made me feel, to put it bluntly, huge. It hampered my riding. It dampened my joy. And worse of all, it kept me from trying events and experiences with my horse I probably would have really enjoyed.

The trouble with letting that slippery someday romp around in your imagination is that it can buck us off in the here and now. Feeling hopeless and captive to any number we allow to define us, we say, “Someday I’ll get a handle on this,” and then more than likely, “Pass the Cheetos.”

All this to say, what if today is the day you get on those scales and see that number for what it is? A number. It doesn’t define you. It doesn’t put you in any category. Above all, it doesn’t have to automatically propel you onto a cycle of self-contempt. What if we recognize this as Someday? Give stinkin’ thinkin’ the boot, let go of whatever provokes our numberphobia and saddle up and ride right on through it.

©Flickr/FiveFurlongs
©Flickr/FiveFurlongs

Ride those trails. Enter those shows. Go ahead and push yourself to ride better, learn all you can, try harder—and reach for those new heights you’ve reserved for your Someday self.

Let’s all agree that it’s time to look squarely into the face of that number that holds our todays and tomorrows captive and take away its power once and for all. Give yourself permission to view that number as information—not indictment—and begin the slow and steady climb toward freedom.

It’s strange how changing the way you look at a number can become the simple shift that can actually spur the change we’ve been seeking all along. Give it a try and let me know what happens. I’m pulling for you.

This post was originally published on horsenetwork.com

 

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

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

Educate Yourself — Beyond the 20% Rule

Educate Yourself — Beyond the 20% Rule

Riding Through Thick & Thin

So let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that you are over that 20% rule of thumb (that actually has nothing to to with thumbs at all). You know the one. We’re not supposed to weigh (including tack, which for a Western rider can be upwards of 30 pounds) more than 20% of our horse’s body weight.

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Now behold the larger riders winning world class events in reining, eventing, even polo. Not to mention the beefy cowboy bulldogers on 15.2-hand quarter horses. Or the ancient Greeks, arguably some of the greatest horsemen of all time, in full armor — or immense Vikings astride sturdy Icelandic ponies, charging into battle. Not one to argue with statistics — and being the very last one on earth to want any horse to be harmed — I still have to ask the obvious question:

What makes a horse able to carry a little more weight?

Polling several key experts, including Dr. Joyce Harman, DVM, who happens to be both saddle fitter and equine vet, the consensus seems to be that what riders need to know when they and their tack top the 20% mark is this: we must take into consideration the horse’s basic build (broad back, sturdy legs, and sound feet), his level of fitness for the job you’re asking him to do (treat him like the athlete he is with specific conditioning regimens, good nutrition and health care, body work including stretches, massage, and chiropractic as needed with careful attention to any soreness or injury), your own level of fitness (see above and do the same for yourself!), and how well you are able to use your own energy to lighten the load (become a student of body mechanics, balance and breathing). Studies using pressure sensitive electronic magic also show that a 250-pound rider with good rider biomechanics can actually feel lighter to a horse than a floppy 120-pounder!

Now if all this education and effort this sounds like a whole lot of trouble, it is. And there is nothing we can do as equestrians of any size that can make a bigger difference in how we ride. Once we begin to educate ourselves on these three important areas, we begin to see our partnership and connection with our horses in a whole new light. Give it some thought and let me hear from you if you’d like to have some good additional resources for this invaluable information (beyond Riding Through Thick and Thin, of course!) — not only are our horses worth this time and effort; so are we!

Melinda Digital

You can reach out to 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

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.

Melinda Digital

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

Teach Your Fitbit™ to Ride!

Teach Your Fitbit™ to Ride!

Riding Through Thick & Thin

If you, like me, have joined the Fitbit™ craze and are challenging yourself daily to get those 10,000 steps (and are mystified at how MANY steps it takes to hit that mark consistently!), you may also be wondering how to calculate those steps — and the workout settings to use when you’re riding.

Now I do admit that I giggled a little the first time my wrist buzzed with the 10,000-step woohoo . . . during a long trot on Trace. I patted him and thanked him and gladly took credit for HIS steps, thinking that perhaps I was working hard enough to merit at least partial credit.

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So when I found this great post by Susan Friedland Smith on her wonderful Saddle Seeks Horse blog, I was at once disappointed and encouraged by her bit of delving that helps clarify how we can use our Fitbits, ride our horses, and still get an accurate picture of how we’re doing when it comes to our fitness seeking goals.

I do encourage you to read the whole post (and a big shout out to Susan for doing this work for all of us!) but the upshot is that when we put the thing in workout mode, we can more easily see that a vigorous ride burns as many calories (and uses as many muscles, if not more!) than many popular gym workouts (Susan compares a vigorous, but fairly routine riding lesson to the calorie burn in her spin class).

The bigger issue with using Fitbit when riding is the step count. The challenge is figuring out how to subtract the right number of steps for the duration of a ride, and then go back to regular human step counting for the rest of our day. Susan says that she discovered that if we select “Workout” (which is technically horseback riding) and then the category of “Driving” from the drop down list on the exercise menu of various workouts, it gives a pretty accurate assessment of calorie burn during a ride. For the record, I do agree with Susan that a few minor coding tweaks would make Fitbit sales skyrocket in the horse world (are you listening, Fitbit execs???): “If the developers had foresight enough to know that equestrians would want to use a Fitbit for horseback riding to track fitness data, why not make a few coding tweaks so that when horseback riding is entered, it will deduct the step count during the timeframe in which the exercise took place?”

Melinda on Horse

I also agree that none of these concerns or adjustments take away the the practical fun of using my Fitbit to keep myself moving toward my overall fitness goals. With this technology and Susan’s advice, (assuming we can remember to do it) we can tweak our settings, tap a button at the beginnings and ends of our rides, and actually get to count our rides as part of our exercise regimen. By being able to gauge the intensity of each ride as part of our “workout” (And understanding that we do need to do make sure to do other work to balance the riding muscle groups to prevent imbalance and overuse injuries), we can now give ourselves credit (and kiss our horses) for what is likely a major contributor to our overall fitness regimen.

As we all learn more about this great tracking device and discover more ways to tweak and use its features in ways that apply specifically to riding and barn chores, let’s share them here and start a groundswell that just might get the attention of those Fitbit and bring about the programming we need most!

Comment here, email me, or add your comment to FacebookTwitter, or my website, and tell us how you use your Fitbit to track your progress toward your riding fitness goals!

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This post was originally published by Equisearch.com