Stuck in Transition?

Stuck in Transition?

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In anticipation of our new retreat programming — and all kinds of interesting ideas and options for fine-tuning your contentment we’ll be rolling out over the next six months — I’m starting a new series here on the subject of transition.

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on the subject of turning the times of change in our lives into opportunities for re-evaluating, re-ordering and re-directing our thoughts, feelings and actions toward the best possible experience of whatever new reality we may be facing. I’ve found a lot of great stuff and wonderful resources on the subject that I will be sharing here, and I invite active participation from all of you regarding your own struggles, triumphs and experiences with transitions.

To be clear, the transition I’m talking about can come in any shape or size. Apparently the process of letting go of the old and embracing the new is pretty much the same regardless of whether the change you’re dealing with is major or minor. From changes in work, relationships, health, housing, routine, or any number of other things, it doesn’t seem to matter whether they come suddenly and dramatically — such as an accident or a winning lottery ticket — or from a creeping state of circumstances that has finally evolved into a life changing decision.

I’ve written a lot about midlife here — that ultimate time of transition everyone faces to some degree or the other. In our many conversations over The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, we’ve agreed that midlife is more a state of mind than a specific age range. And after talking to hundreds of women about their midlife horses, I fully appreciate that for some, the sensation of midlife “crisis” comes in their thirties, and for others (lots of others, as a matter of fact) not until their seventies! Although these times and sensations of “crisis” that forces or inspires some type of transition most often occurs at the changing of our decades, they are also likely to appear any time we experience, as author Gail Sheehy once put it, the “predictable crises of adult life.”

So as we explore the subject and ideas around making good, smooth transitions (horsemanship pun intended), we’ll look at topics including:

Reorienting your approach to your new reality by finding the inner stillness that will help you reflect, reevaluate, and gain clarity on your own deepest priorities (we’ll have more great resources on this soon, but in the meantime, check out Deepak Chopra’s Primordial Sound Meditation for a great place to start!).

Evaluating obstacles, issues and resources — and creating strategies and solutions that offer comfort and security in the interim, with specific action steps for moving forward. (Denise Barrows points us toward an interview she heard recently on NPR with one of my favorite “Getting Things Done®” resources, David Allen. Check out the free interview excerpt here, or go to interviewer/producer David Freudberg’s HumanMedia site for more information or to purchase the entire interview!)

Practicing extreme self care (Get thee to the bookstore or e-book site of your choice and purchase Cheryl Richardson’s The Art of Extreme Self Care) to help you realign physically, mentally and emotionally to your new reality — and the highest possible standards of who you are and all you are meant to be.

Finding the support you need to explore your own feelings and find the confidence that will keep you focused and motivated to make choices and decisions that continually honor and reflect the true nature of your highest self. My personal go-to source on all the “finding your own way” sorts of topics is Oprah-renowned life coach Martha Beck, with a special nod to her newest book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.”

What interests you most on this subject? What in particular do you struggle with when you’re facing a transition? Where are your specific challenges in the above four areas? I’d love to hear from you here in the form of a comment, on our Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter communities, or via email to me at mkfolse@gmail.com.

Wobbly confrontation skills? Practice with a horse!

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One of the most popular sessions at last week’s Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat was the “fill your toolbox” session conducted by Denise Barrows of Practical Equine Solutions. Her assistant, you see pictured here, was a wise old horse they call General. And believe me, when those beautiful blue eyes look right through you like you’re not even there, you know you’re going to have to dig much deeper to get his attention. (He’s actually kind of an old fart about this, but that’s what made him so perfect for this exercise. It does help that he’s so handsome!)

Meet General and his co-educator, Denise Barrows. Can your "inner lead mare" move his feet?

So here’s the exercise: gather up your core conviction  (or as Deborah McCormick, PhD, explains in Chapter Two of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses) engage your “inner lead mare.” And calmly but with all the inner force you can muster, walk straight toward the horse, asking him to move out of your space. All you want here is to see the horse recognize and honor your “inner lead mare” — and respond by taking a step back. Eyes and ears on you and a single step is plenty good enough.

This is where little bitty Denise showed the retreat participants how to “get as big as you need to” (and keep at it as long as you have to) to get the result you want. General, who oddly enough is not a therapy horse at all, but “just” one of the 20-something horses in the Wildcatter’s trail string refused to move until each woman got frustrated enough to dig deep enough in her core to find that inner lead mare who, in some cases, made her debut in that afternoon light of awareness (even though she’s been there all along, just waiting to be called!).

This was a fascinating thing to watch, and, judging from an email we received from one of our participants on Wednesday after the retreat, works as well on snarky supervisors in the workplace as it does on obstinate old horses in a dusty roundpen:

“I got to use some of my newfound “horse sense/confidence” already this week! Yesterday I had [a difficult meeting with my supervisor] (details and participant identity omitted for the obvious reason)  . . .She is very stubborn and non-flexible, a lot like Precious. . . I knew she would be rigid to [the change I was suggesting] and have some ridiculous excuse as to why.

So [just like Denise taught us in the calm courage exercise], I did my research and “scoped” out the situation before going in  . . .then, even though she caught me a little off-guard, I was still able to use my body language and just tell her that this is what needs to happen…She kind of huffed and puffed a little…. stomped her foot a couple of times… swatted a few flies, then agreed to [make the requested change] and get back to me next week. I walked away feeling good about [the confrontation] and knowing that it will be okay.”

Do you know how to summon your inner lead mare? Test your ability to project your energy from your core by practicing it with a horse (any horse will do!) . . . and even if this doesn’t work as well as you’d like at first, the more you practice, the quicker and easier it is to get her to come when you call her (and stay happily grazing in the background until the next time you need her! [If you’re curious about this exercise, check out Chapter Two of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses and my interviews with Deborah McCormick of The Institute of Conscious Awareness at Tres Aguilas Ranch just outside San Antonio, Texas (I also highly recommend their retreats as a next step for anyone wanting to go deeper in these concepts and explore specific issues and goals), as well as the McCormicks’ two books, Horse Sense and the Human Heart and Horses and the Mystical Path)

Try it and share what happens! Comment here, on our Facebook community, Twitter, show us on YouTube (believe me, I wish the camera had been running when I tried this at my first retreat — it had to be hysterical the way that horse looked at me and ignored me like I wasn’t even there. But it got better. And it would have been fun to see the progression!) I can’t wait to see how practicing this exercise with a horse impacts your interactions and effectiveness in other areas of your life.

Click on the order button to buy this book now!

Last call! Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s retreat registration closes at midnight tonight with only four spots left to fill!

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If you’ve been sitting on the fence, thinking the Dust Off Your dreams Retreat sounds really good, but for whatever reason you haven’t signed up yet, stop reading right now and click here to register before it’s too late — registration closes at midnight tonight! (But the retreat’s still a month away!)
After our onsite dry run last week on our slate of activities for the Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat April 13-15 at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa in Graham Texas, this dynamic team of presenters was simply giddy. We knew what we wanted this thing to be, and I think for the first time we all fully realized how well it has all come together — and what a fantastically cool thing we’re offering women at this pivotal time of life — and how much truly usable life-and-awareness changing insight people are  going to get out of it.
That is, of course, if they’ll just find some way to stop their busy-ness for just a few days, grab a friend and come! I know, this is easy to say  — and I’m the worst saw sharpener you’ll even meet (remember that old Steven Covey analogy about the guy too busy sawing with the dull saw to stop and sharpen it?)
And, believe me, I KNOW it can be difficult, especially when we’re busy attending to the day-to-day urgencies of our life, to make time for self-renewal. To really believe our dreams are worth this kind of investment. But they are. And so are you.
It’s hard to imagine the difference just a brief weekend focusing on what brings you joy and how to get more of it into your life can make. But trust us. This is a weekend that could make an incredible and joyful difference in how you approach the “patchwork squares” still waiting to be filled for Part Two of your life.
So this is it. Last call for the April 2012 Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat. We built it — y’all come!
And if you’re interested but for whatever good reason are not able to attend this one, I’d still love to hear from you. Maybe you’re not quite ready to drag those old dreams back into daylight. Maybe the issue is time, maybe it’s money, maybe it’s a schedule conflict — or maybe it’s that laundry basket of feral Dachsund puppoes in your utility room. Whatever the reason, if this retreat concept is something that interests you, please let us know.
We’ll be doing more Dust Off Your Dreams events of all shapes and sizes around these topics, and we’d love some input and feedback from like-minded women. If you’d like to be on our email list for future programs and events (and to receive our free e-book of inspirations!) click here to go to our home page (scroll over to the box just to the right of the video) and enter your email address!
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!

Horses are all about pressure. Wait. So are people. Come learn the difference this understanding can make in both worlds.

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Are you getting the results you are looking for in dealing with people? Do you get frustrated — and more insistent (and sometimes even angry) when you meet with resistance? Do you tend to back off  (or lower your expectations) when people ignore or resist your requests or boundaries?

One of the lessons from horses that has impressed me most lately is the concept of pressure. With horses, of course, we’re talking about physical pressure — using body language to make something move that isn’t moving. (This reminds me of the old adage about duct tape and WD-40, but that’s another story for another time)

But with people, the pressure we’re talking about isn’t quite as obvious. We humans tend to deal in emotional pressure: the feelings that get exchanged in a confrontation, for example.  When we watch the dynamics of physical pressure demonstrated in the interactions of horses, and then relate it back to the emotional pressure at play in human interactions, it can be quite the lightbulb moment. At least it was for me.

Kathy Taylor, CEO of HerdWise, one of our Horseplay presenters at the upcoming Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat put the whole pressure thing into perspective for me with a little chart — a few simple rules that seem to apply across the board to horses and people alike. And, after playing with this idea in several personal and business scenarios over the past couple of weeks, I think I’m going to have it laminated and keep it in my sock. Seriously. It works.

“Horses are all about relationship,” Kathy explains. “Their pecking order in the herd depends on whether or not they can use their body language (or pressure) to move the feet of the other horses. It’s just as simple as that. Horses demonstrate this concept for us physically; and, because horses  mirror us,  once you are aware of this dynamic it’s easy to see that people relate to one another in exactly the same way. The difference is that instead of kicking and biting and laying back our ears, we humans use emotion to create the pressure that we hope will influence the behavior of another. (Well, most people anyway. Some also kick and bite. Trust me on this.)

So here’s the cheat sheet:

If you ask and someone complies, you stop asking (release the pressure)

If you ask and they ignore you, you ask a little louder or in a more direct way (increase the pressure)

If you ask and they resist, you keep the pressure the same.

This last one is much harder than it sounds.

“Sometimes the tough part is recognizing the difference between ignoring and resisting,” Kathy says. “And, while it’s human nature to want to  increase the pressure when someone resists, that only escalates the emotions at play between you toward anger and fear, which are both ultimately destructive to the relationship. If you can manage to step back from your own emotions when you meet with resistance and just keep the pressure (and the boundary) exactly the same, it will change the nature of your interaction.”

“Does it make people any more likely to do what you want them to?” I couldn’t help but ask.

This is where Kathy laughs at my desire for the golden lasso. I hate confrontation more than spiders.

“Sometimes yes, and sometimes no,” she says. “But it does keep the confrontation from escalating into conflict that does more harm than good to the relationship.”

Want to know more about what horses can teach us about improving relationships as we move more in the direction of our goals and dreams?  Want to hear Kathy’s story of how she combined what she loves with what she always wanted to do to create an award-winning business venture? 

Join us for the Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa in Graham, Texas March 13-15. But hurry — registration ends March 15 (Yep, that’s this coming Thursday, but the retreat’s still more than a month away.) and there are 10 spots left. Call us at 1-888-773-8187, email mkfolse@gmail.com, or register online today to claim one of the remaining spots for the weekend that could change Part Two of your life!

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!

Where is your moment of midlife clarity hiding? Oh . . .it’s probably somewhere among all the things you used to love.

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For some of us, clarity on our midlife dream can be gradual. For others, like Wildcatter Ranch Owner and General Manager Anne Street Skipper, clarity comes in a single moment.

“I remember it very well,” she told me one day as we talked through the idea and concepts behind the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreats. “It was just before my 20th high school reunion. I was going through some old photos and scrapbooks, and suddenly I realized “that girl” I used to be was gone and I had no idea where she went. ‘What happened to that girl?’ I wondered ‘And what happened to all those things she wanted to do  . . . someday?” That was the beginning, I think, of a serious change in direction for me.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Ten years later, the doors of the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa opened for business, bringing together Anne’s love for the theatre (Anne’s a career actress); her love and desire to do something good for the Graham, Texas community where she was born and raised (Anne’s a direct descendant of one of Graham’s founding families); and her love for the hospitality industry (in addition to a bachelor’s degree in humanities and religion, Anne holds special certifications in hospitality management and tourism from Penn State, Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, and Texas Travel Industry Association).

So how did Anne get from that single moment of clarity to the dazzling expression of her Wildcatter dream?

Come to the Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat April 13-15 a the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa and find out!

We’ll start Friday evening with a panel discussion in which each presenter will share the moment of clarity that changed the course of her life. Then on Saturday, we’ll enter a series of carefully designed mini workshops to help you rediscover the dreams of “that girl” you used to be. Calling upon the wisdom of horses, the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat will help you re-examine all those things you’ve always loved and wanted to do . . .”someday,” clarify your dream through the lens of where you are now, identify and remove obstacles, and craft your first concrete action steps toward its most joyful (and realistic) expression of all you meant to be.

The retreat is all-inclusive (except alcohol, but it is available if you’re so inclined), including legendary Wildcatter accommodations and amenities, award winning cuisine, and a Saturday night dinner, campfire (with s’mores!) and music by Elizabeth Wills to create an experience you’ll never forget.

For more information about this event or to sign up now for the April 13-15 Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat, visit us online at www.dustoffyourdreamsretreats.com or call 1-888-773-8187. (Only 10 spots left and registration deadline is March 15!)

What are you waiting for? Those dreams don’t dust themselves, you know — and like Anne, when you go back and re-examine all the things you used to love in the light of where you are now, you may be amazed at the unexpected joy you could call into Part Two of your life. Register today and make one of those last remaining spots in the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreats your first step toward your moment of clarity!

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 I am today, that I shall be tomorrow.’ The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds.”

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This quote underscores what I believe to be the critical difference between Dust Off Your Dreams and other women’s retreats: the action plan we’ll help you develop from all this introspection and insight.

While there are a lot of retreats that call upon the wisdom of horses to reveal and explore the things that may be holding you back from your dreams, the Dust off Your Dreams Retreat then takes it all a crucial step further. By placing its focus on how to use and apply this information, this retreat will help you clarify your dream — and then take decisive action. (And, as they say, “Goals are nothing more than dreams with a plan and a timetable.”)

The “so what?” edge this retreat is designed to offer will equip its participants to leave the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat with a plan and a mental toolbox stocked with specific strategies and action steps for moving forward on their freshly clarified dream.

Sometimes, it turns out, what blocks us most from our dreams is the fuzzy, more generalized picture we have of them. To shape our dreams to fit the realities of our lives takes courage, confidence and commitment (and often, the kind of gentle nudging we’ll be providing in our discussions, journaling and meditation exercises).  In fact, we’ve built our mission around Anne’s favorite quote:

“Up to a point a man’s life is shaped by environment, heredity and movement and changes in the world about him; then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say, ‘this I am today, that I shall be tomorrow.’ The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds.” –Louis L’Amour

Now I’m sure Louis, being the cowboy sort, had no idea how well this wisdom would also apply to women — and the special opportunity midlife gives us to reinvent our lives to be “the sort of thing (we) wish it to be” for our own Second Act. Somewhere, I hope Louis is smiling at his unsung brilliance in the art of inspiring women. There’s something just right about this quote being at the center of what we’re doing in the heart of the Old West to help midlife women round up stray dreams and push them toward their own north star.

For more information or to sign up (only 10 spots left!) for the Dust off Your Dreams Retreat April 13-15 at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa in Graham, Texas (less than an hour’s drive west of DFW International Airport), go to www.dustoffyourdreamsretreats.com or call 1-888-773-8187.

Click here to order the book that started it all!

 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!

 

 

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

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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!