Sweetness? Or Sass?

Sweetness? Or Sass?

Women and Horses

Who among us hasn’t enjoyed an enthusiastic nuzzle from a horse we just know is expressing great affection? Or is he? Among many of the trainers and horse folks I’ve crossed paths with, one of the things they snicker about most is people (especially women) who let a horse get all up in their grill thinking it’s affection when in fact it’s just a horse’s way of expressing dominance. This horse, the aptly named “Precious,” (one of the Wildcatter Ranch’s trail string) elevates this kind of boundary invasion to an art form. “What?” You may ask. “No way! My horse really really loves me!” Well, that he may. And sometimes it is a nuzzle of true affection. And sometimes, it is the horse showing you that he has absolutely no respect for your boundaries and/or personal space. This is not a good thing. Disrespect of any kind from a horse, even if it starts small, can grow into something dangerous. How do you know when it’s disrespect and not affection? As with most things with horses, it just takes getting quiet for a moment and asking the irritating question my friend Kathy Taylor of HerdWise always asks in her Equine Assisted Learning sessions, “What do you think?” If you find that a horse, especially a new or unfamiliar horse, consistently gets inside what Clinton Anderson calls “your personal hula hoop,” it’s most likely a sign of disrespect. In fact, one of the very first exercises Clinton teaches in his Fundamentals series is to draw a circle around you (about 4-feet in diameter) in the dirt with the tip of a stick or even the heel of your boot. (Clinton’s famous “Handy Stick” just happens to be exactly the right length for this. Coincidence? I don’t think so!) Now get in the middle of it with your horse outside the circle. That’s your personal “hula hoop” of space. Stand there for a while, and every time this horse tries to come into the circle without being invited, chase him back out. Then ignore him. After he stands quietly outside the circle for a few minutes, walk to him and pet him. The rule is, if you want to get into his space and rub and pet on him and enjoy a good nuzzle, by all means, do so. You can go into his space and you can invite him into your space. But if he barges into your space without being invited, no matter how irresistibly soft his kisses, you need to push him back out and make the kissing your idea.

 

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

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

If you’ve always considered life as a journey, here’s news: It’s more of a patchwork quilt.

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“Most of us are taught to image our life as a journey, a linear movement from one moment to the next,” says Linda McDermott. “The implication is that we know where we’re going and move purposely toward a destination or goal. Many women, however,  experience their journeys as interrupted, distracted, even derailed by competing needs of others, including children, significant other, aging parents, unexpected career changes, etc.”

Often, Linda tells us, a more helpful image for women is a patchwork quilt.

“Some of the prettiest quilts are those with seemingly random “patches” all connected by a few common colors and threads,” Linda says. “This retreat is your opportunity to step  back, pull out some of your favorite colors, textures and threads, and see what else you might like to add as the next few “patches” of your life.”

I don’t know about you, but this whole concept makes me feel a whole lot better about my own checkered past — and I can’t wait to see what Linda’s journaling and guided meditation exercises will bring to my eager awareness about “the thing of beauty” my “big picture” is becoming with each patchy experience.  When take a moment to step back and think of your life without judgment — as just patches of time and experiences that are all just part of a unique work of art, it becomes much easier to imagine what other “patches” you might like to add.

Linda will be one of the key presenters at the upcoming Dust off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa in Graham Texas April 13-15. If you haven’t signed up already, there’s still time — click here to claim one of only 10 spots left for the weekend that will change the way you look at your life, your dreams and your part in filling in those remaining “squares” with ideas, experiences and accomplishments that are now just dreams still tucked away on your “someday” shelf.

Click here to order the book that started it all! (Free book included with retreat registration)

Want to know more about The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses? Click here to view book trailer!

 

Aren’t we worth it?

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After decades of paying for piano lessons, dance recitals, sports camps, summer camps, tuition, cars (and insurance!), prom dresses, and homecoming mums, isn’t it your turn?

Isn’t it about time to invest some of that hard earned money in  your own future? And if not now, when?

At Dust Off Your Dreams Retreats, we think midlife is the perfect time to say, “YES!” to those “someday” dreams for one reason and one reason only. You’re worth it — and so are your dreams.

So what is the price of getting your life unstuck, launching your “someday” dreams and setting your course for a bold new ride into Part Two of your life? The Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat  is, on purpose, a high-end experience that packs months (and for some of us, years!) of insights and revelations and action-producing experiences into a single weekend. We’ve designed it carefully — and placed it the venue we believe will make the critical difference in how you absorb and put to use the information presented and every insight gained —  to become that sweet spot in your life  you will look back on as the “moment of clarity” that made the difference you’ve been longing for all your life.

And, when you break it down, we’ve packed an incredible amount of value into this half-price pilot weekend — and yet,  even when we go to full price next fall, we’ll still be offering added value with prices closely aligned to other equine assisted retreats out there. So I guess the bottom line here is, yes, it is expensive — AND worth every penny and more in terms of what you’ll get out of it.  To do this thing right is costly, and everyone involved is taking a risk to provide both the content and the venue we know will create the priceless experience that will infuse new life into the cherished old dreams of every participant.

Do I need to say it again? You are worth it. And so are your dreams. Register today for the weekend that will empower you to turn those “someday” dreams to exhilarating reality for Part Two of your life.

Get all the details and sign up at www.dustoffyourdreamsretreats.com. The registration deadline is coming fast and space is limited (only 12 spots left!), so grab a friend (it’s an even better rate if you bring a friend) and sign up today. For more information or to sign up by phone with your credit card (we use PayPal on the site, but you do not need a PayPal account to use this secure payment service; just click on the credit card icons and follow the prompts), please feel free to give us a call at 1-888-773-8187.

 

Click on the order button to buy this book now! (Free book included with retreat registration)

 Want to know more about The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses? Click here to view book trailer!

This retreat captures the magic of putting a horse in the middle of your life.

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Here’s a little background on the Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat you won’t find on its website.

The premise is built on what we on the Midlife Horses journey already know happens when you put a horse in the middle of your life. We know very well how the issues that get called front and center — and all the wonderful breakthroughs that happen with the help of our equine teachers — lead to opening doors to a whole new, unstuck sort of life and awareness. So I and a few like-minded friends began to wonder, what if we could distill this Midlife Horses experience somehow and make its most valuable lessons and insights available to other women—the ones who won’t be traveling the midlife horse trail for whatever reason—and offer the same kinds of breakthrough thinking that will help them change Part Two of their lives in many of the same ways our horses have changed ours? What if we could open these mystical doors for them in a single weekend?

The presenters  for this event will help bring to light the primary facets of the Midlife Horses journey, along with specific tools, resources, and strategies you can use to transform this weekend of insight into the concrete first steps of your own journey to making your midlife dreams a reality. And, although this special weekend of experiences calls upon the wisdom of horses, no riding or horse experience is required.

Picture this. At the top of the bluff there sits s a glass-walled pavilion that offers up a panoramic view of the surrounding Texas terrain. This is where the meditations and Pilates will be. There is also a fire pit right there for our after-dinner gathering on Saturday night. And I’ve heard talk of S’mores. I’m just sayin’  . . . I really don’t think it can get much better than this as a place to attach new wings to our midlife dreams. (And for those so inclined, there will also be opportunity to test my theory that 14-Hands cabernet is the perfect s’more pairing.)

The Dust Off Your Dreams Women’t Retreat is a perfect storm of the right people, the right ideas and the right intent coming together to produce the amazing, life-changing content and setting that has become the brain trust now known as the Dust off Your Dreams Retreat at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa. We’ve set the half-price pilot for this program for April 1 3-15 (Register by March 15 to get this special rate!), and we welcome all women age 35-65 (horse crazy or not!) to come join the fun and life-changing introspection that this pivotal weekend in a spectacular setting promises each and everyone in attendance.

Get all the details and sign up at www.dustoffyourdreamsretreats.com. The registration deadline is coming fast and space is limited, so grab a friend (it’s an even better rate if you bring a friend) and sign up today. For more information or to sign up by phone with your credit card (we use PayPal on the site, but you do not need a PayPal account to use this secure payment service; just click on the credit card icons and follow the prompts), please feel free to give us a call at 1-888-773-8187.

Click on the order button to buy this book now! (Free book included with retreat registration)

 Want to know more about The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses? Click here to view book trailer!

So what is a “perfect storm” retreat? Aren’t those terms contradictory?

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I realize that calling the creation of the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat concept a “perfect storm” may sound like a huge contradiction in terms, but in reality, that’s exactly what it was. A congruent, if unsuspecting, collection of  sincere people, perfect elements, and collective intent, all falling into place at exactly the same time to create something so fresh, new, and potentially transformative for midlife women . . . well, what would you call it?

Curious? Here’s what’s in store for 20 lucky participants in the specially priced Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat pilot April 13-15 at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa. Register by March 15 to reserve your spot and you’ll always be welcome back at the pilot price as a special thank you for your participation and feedback.

First, calling upon The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses as text, we’ll sprinkle a variety of focused journaling exercises in and around the retreat sessions and activities to help you pinpoint the specifics of your dream and develop awareness of the path that will take you in that direction.

Anne Street Skipper, owner and general manager of The Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa provides not only a spectacular venue for this event, but a living, breathing role model for “finding that girl I used to be and bringing her back to life” (more about Anne’s story in a coming post!);

Kathy Taylor, CEO of HerdWise will show us how horse play can reveal key aspects of our interactions with other people — and any obstacles that may be holding us back (Tips from Kathy and her horses, Roxy and Flo, about the effective use of pressure in business and personal confrontations coming soon — watch this space!)

Denise Barrows, CEO of Practical Equine Solutions will show retreat participants through a series of exercises what things like setting boundaries, cultivating calm courage and overcoming fear one small step at a time looks like in dealing with horses — and how we can translate these concepts to our human interactions; (look for some of Denise’s special insights gained from working with women and their Midlife Horses in coming posts)

Cassandra Thompson, CEO of ABSolute Pilates, a former dancer and New York City Stott certified Pilates Instructor will provide us with tools for increasing our body awareness along with simple core strengthening exercises to help us overcome (or manage) physical limitations and correct any imbalances we may have developed somewhere along the way.  (You’ve already met Cassandra in this blog — just wait until you hear what she’s been up to lately!)

Then, through a series of guided meditations and journaling led by my good friend (and my horse’s new love interest — we’ll circle back to this later, too), The Rev. Linda McDermott, Senior Associate Minister of First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth, Texas will, help us find the inner stillness that leads to clarity and context for those dreams we’d still like to pursue.

Finally, we’ll translate all these insights into real tools and strategies you can use to set realistic goals, remove (or work around) any obstacles in your way, and take your first concrete steps toward living your dreams to the highest extent possible in Part Two of your life.

And wait, as they say in the infomercials, there’s more!

To amp up the fun, lightness and soaring of spirits for this pivotal weekend, singer/songwriter Elizabeth Wills and all million angels will be on hand to sing us through it all with the goosebump inducing melodies and thought-provoking lyrical reflections known to follow her her wherever she goes. (If you haven’t seen my book trailer videos — or even if you have—check them out again. That’s Elizabeth singing “It’s a Beautiful Life” in the Background. Learn more about Elizabeth and her inspiring music in coming posts. My guess is there will be more new music from Elizabeth that comes from this weekend. I’ll keep you posted on that, too!

Get all the details and sign up at www.dustoffyourdreamsretreats.com. The registration deadline is coming fast and space is limited, so grab a friend (it’s an even better rate if you bring a friend) and sign up today. For more information or to sign up by phone with your credit card (we use PayPal on the site, but you do not need a PayPal account to use this secure payment service; just click on the credit card icons and follow the prompts), please feel free to give us a call at 1-888-773-8187.

 

Click on the order button to buy this book now! (Free book included with retreat registration)

Want to know more about The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses? Click here to view book trailer!

 

 

What challenges you?

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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 get a standing ovation at the PBR exhibition featuring All Star Equestrian's therapeutic riding program.

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.

Look for Lisa's remarkable story on Clinton Anderson's Downunder Horsemanship on Fox Sports, airing in March!

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!”

Happy Trails!

What does a horse say? Sometimes, it turns out, it’s the horse doing the whispering.

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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.

Happy Trails!

 

Did you get an E-reader this holiday season? Midlife horse owners embrace searchable horse info!

Book info News The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses
Click on the cover to order now!

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!

Happy New Year!

Dressage Today advises groundwork for people to improve effectiveness and protect against injury. I can hear my horse snickering now.

Book info Midlife News The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses Women and Horses
It's the perfect holiday gift for anyone you know contemplating Midlife Horses! Click on the cover to order now!

This great tip and resource just in from Denise Barrows of Practical Equine solutions:

“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.”

Weigh in!

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!

Happy Trails!