Find Your Spot

Find Your Spot

Riding Through Thick & Thin

As we begin to focus more on our rider biomechanics — that is, learning to ride in a more balanced connection with our horse — sooner or later we happen onto a moment when we feel this connection. We are moving as one with the horse, our energy is completely connected with his. I’m not a golfer but from what I hear this is akin to the perfect drive; people who enjoy this sport of immense frustration say that once you experience that feeling you’re hooked — it’s what keeps you coming back after the other times when you want to (or actually do) throw your clubs in the lake. I am a tennis player, so I can equate this “sweet spot” to the moment when everything comes together — footwork, body positioning, swing, speed and power — and that ball comes off the center of your strings and travels just exactly as you intend to the precise target you have chosen. It’s a beautiful thing. And once you experience it, you want more of it.

Riding a horse, which as Riding Through Thick and Thin expert source Susan Harris puts it, “is the only sport I know of where one species sits on top of another,” the challenge of riding well is finding that sweet spot of connection between our horse’s center of balance and our own. Sticking a tentative toe into the world of physics in a consult with Dr. Jacob Barandes of Harvard University Department of Physics, I learned that this has everything to do with not only where our body is on the back of the horse, but our own individual height and weight. Put simply, it’s an individual thing; we each have to find our own spot.

Riding Thick Thin Cover

This is not about how we look when we ride. This is beyond the old “ears, shoulders, hips, heels” body alignment. This is all about how you feel as you move forward with your horse at any gait. When you find it, you’ll know it. And once you find it, you’ll get better and better at finding it again. Eventually, it’s the only place you’ll ride — finding this spot will become as automatic to you as checking your cinch. This simple work of experimentation and tuning in to your horse and your own body can change the way you ride forever. Give it a try the next time you ride and let me know when you find your spot! Reach out to me on FacebookTwitter, my website or by email.

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

Accept All “Great Truths” Carefully

Accept All “Great Truths” Carefully

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

How do you know what you think you know on a given subject? In the horse world, sometimes the “great truths” handed down from our fellow equestrians, other disciplines, and preceding generations can be real — or the farthest thing from actual truth.

There’s an old saying I have always loved — and have experienced time and time again in interviewing all kinds of “horse people” for both The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horsesand Riding Through Thick and Thin: “Anytime you get three horse people together you will most likely find that they will not be able to agree on anything. However, when one of the three leaves the conversation, the other two will finally agree on one thing: the one who left was definitely wrong.”

I think the most important lesson to draw from this “great truth” is that while it’s important to consult the experts, to educate yourself and to listen to those who have “been there, done that” (do we really want to make all the mistakes ourselves?), it is equally if not more important to use the noggin and inner guidance you were born with to learn how to figure some things out for yourself.

Melinda Blog 4.22.16

How do you know you’re on the right track? You get quiet on the inside and learn how to really see what you’re seeing, hear what you’re hearing and feel what you’re feeling. With practice, this authentic, on-board guidance system we all are born with (but sometimes needs to be primed and rebooted, if you’re pardon the mix of mechanical and technological metaphor) will indeed help you listen, filter the advice, information and sometimes plain nonsense you encounter — and just know what you need and quite often, what your horse needs from you. Horses are great helpers for finding our authenticity — and discovering our own answers— but our part of the bargain is that we have to learn how to get quiet, use our innate gifts of observation and intuition, and teach ourselves to trust what comes. Give it a try and let me know what happens. I’d wager that every horse person alive has a story about this — I’d love to hear them! Please share them with me on Twitter, Facebook, my website, or email me at mkfolse@gmail.com

Melinda Blog 4.22.16 Final 2

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

The Seeds of Experience: Midlife Horses

The Seeds of Experience: Midlife Horses

The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

My first book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses opens with my going with my father to pick out a horse for his new place, a gentleman’s ranch inside the city limits where he could have his roses and keep the city life too. It was a compromise between my mom and dad that seemed to make sense for the next stage of their lives. I was devastated at the loss of the Hico ranch, but glad they found a place with stellar horse pens, fences and a barn with a studio where my dad could paint. Somewhere about that time the bottom fell out of my own life — a second divorce and career wobbliness that had me questioning who i was and what i was even supposed to be doing. Climbing on the back of a horse was the first step toward answering those questions. It changed my direction, my focus and my understanding of what I am meant to write about. This connection with horses, I discovered, touches literally everything important in life. By plumbing these experiences I would have new light to shed to help others who struggle, whether horseback or not.

And, as it turned out, this midlife awakening was not unusual, especially for women looking down the barrel of the second half of life. I am among the last of the Baby Boomers, the little girls who grew up in simpler times, many of whom had or always wanted a horse. Little girls who chose Breyers over Barbies were all grown up — and most of their children were grown, too — and many of them were circling back to horses to find new answers to some of their oldest questions.

Look back at your own empowering experiences and look for their seeds. You may be surprised where you find them, and the new reflections this retroactive mental search evokes.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

On Finding Perspective

On Finding Perspective

Riding Through Thick & Thin

“ Once  you remove the fear of examining your own feelings about your body and the role you are playing in allowing those feelings to sabotage your joy, you’re on the right trail.”

~ Riding Through Thick & Thin

When it comes to perceptions about our own body, it’s no secret these are mighty influences on how we feel and how we think we look to others. And what’s even more important to consider is how we consciously and unconsciously may be allowing others to influence what we think of our own bodies.

Here’s the truth, though. We often don’t have a very clear idea at all of where we are on the scale of things. We may think we are much larger or much smaller than we actually are. We may be spending so much time and energy bemoaning what’s wrong with our body that we’re completely missing what’s right — or what could be right with a little focused effort. In order to get to our best ride — through life or on the back of a horse — we have to first get real about how we’re built, the shape we’re in, and what our thoughts about our body are really saying.

In a recent study, conducted by Refinery29,  80% of millennial women avoid activities because they’re self-conscious about their bodies. Of the three things causing women the greatest amount of anxiety, going to the beach was a solid frontrunner — thereby launching a resulting #takebackthebeach campaign.

While these women are taking back the beach, I invite you to remember back to the time when having a bikini body meant nothing to you.  When all you wanted from your body was to have fun, and participating in fitness activities carried the sole purpose of getting strong enough to enjoy your favorite activity was your only driver.

Now look at your body again right now through that lens. Ignore the lumps, bulges, and jiggles that normally strap you into the emotional roller coaster and just. Really. Look. For just this one moment, interrupt your current relationship to your body as well as your body’s relationship to the outside world, and objectively consider your body’s strengths. What activity have you put on the back burner because of body anxiety? What would you love to get strong enough to do? What is one step toward that goal you can take right now?

I want to hear from you. Tell me what it might take for you to to have more fun, do more of what you can do, and get strong enough to enjoy it even more. Share your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

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

Time for Tea?

Time for Tea?

News
Ok, I admit it. The idea of having tea with my horse made me giggle. After all, the notion of viewing grooming your horse as a Japanese tea ceremony as proposed by Allan J. Hamilton, MD, in his book, Zen Mind, Zen Horse seemed a little over the top at first. After all, I come from a background of “just brush off the part where the saddle goes.” My understanding of grooming got a little more refined watching the folks at Downunder Horsemanship and Hacienda Tres Aguilas, as well as observing the grooming rituals of numerous friends who show. And when researching the Good Horsekeeping chapter of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, I learned scads about what goes in the grooming box/cabinet and what tasks need to be tended to in taking care of a horse’s coat, hooves, mane and tail. That’s not to say I really do all that stuff, but I do try to brush the whole horse now. And pick his feet before and after I ride. And rinse them off with the hose on hot days after a sweaty ride. Some would call this progress, others would say it’s pampering. Welcome to the wide world of horse experts. But Hamilton’s suggestion takes this well-worn topic to a whole new level. As on of his book’s main tenets, Hamilton advises us to practice being present with our horse. Now, granted, this is not new advice, either, but he offers us here a whole new way to get there beyond “check your life baggage outside the barn door.” Hamilton says that the best way to beckon this sacred “in-the-moment” frame of mind is to create a grooming ritual that reconnects you with your horse. “Lay out your grooming tools and always do the same things in the same order,” he advises, taking time to “put all your love and affection for this animal into each stroke of the brush.” Check out Hamilton’s “tea ceremony” video that made
me want to try this:
After watching this video, I went out and gave it a try with Trace, my hypersensitive “why-are-you-touching-me?!?!” horse. He was big-eyed wary at first (probably assuming I was about to put that dreaded saddle on him), but in spite of himself, he began to relax. By the time we got to the soft finishing brush, his head was down, his eyes were closed, and when he heaved the biggest sigh I’ve ever heard from him, so did I. So put your snickers aside, go assemble your grooming tools, and give this “tea ceremony” thing a try. I can’t wait to hear what happens!

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Are You Sure?

Are You Sure?

The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses Women and Horses

If a riding instructor has ever told you to “look where you want the horse to go” I submit to you that it goes much deeper than that. When your mind is clear and certain of exactly what you want your horse to do, it makes an unbelievable difference in his willingness to do it. Why is that?

One of the many ways our horses push us to be better people is to demand (by ignoring our requests until we’re compelling enough to convince them we really do know exactly what we want) clear and decisive direction. I can always tell on the days I’m feeling a little bit mentally lazy or distracted that my horse, Rio, completely “forgets” how to do everything he knows how to do really well on his “good days.” (I guess what we realize by now whose “good days” we’re really talking about here) And, while it’s true that horses are entitled to their “better” and “not-so-great,” and “a little bit rusty” days, it is usually more a matter of our own clarity that determines how things will go. How do you find that clarity and authenticity? That’s one of the best things our horses force us to do. And like getting and staying in shape (the other thing they require of us that provides far-reaching benefits way beyond the saddle) building the clarity muscle is a matter of practice, determination and repetition. So leave your cell phone in the car, force the to-do -when-I-leave-here list from your mind, and when you’re with your horse, practice not only being in that moment just with him, but picture in your mind (with the greatest detail you can muster) exactly what it is you want him to do before you ask him. Don’t forget to come back and tell me what happened! Comment here or feel free to email me at mkfolse@gmail.com. If enough of you respond, I promise a future post that compiles these stories–because if you’ll really do this, I know there are going to be lots of stories we’re all going to want to hear! So let’s get out there, clear out the life cobwebs when you’re with your horse–and get sure!

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

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

Midlife News Projects The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses Women and Horses

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!