Is holiday havoc erupting between your eggnog and riding schedules? Give yourself a break! Here’s how to have your eggnog and hold your horses, too.

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

This bit of holiday mercy just in from our friend and trainer, Denise Barrows of Practical Equine Solutions who shares:

“This is a really good newsletter- right along the same lines as what we are doing/promoting.   While it is probably focused toward riders who are already knee deep in a fitness and riding program, it is also good for the not-so-serious riders to hear (I can relay it as, “See? there ARE times when you can take a break from regular riding and planning and stretching! Just not 51 weeks out of the year 🙂

I also appreciate the emphasis here on maintaining hip mobility. This seems to be an issue many of us struggle with. It’s nice to see that so many others are on the same page as we are!”

The fabulous resource Denise connects us with here is Go there and click on the blue box on the upper right portion of the home page (scroll down to the bottom for the free stuff, but there are some cool things to purchase on the way to the sign up box!) to sign up for their free monthly tips and articles — and then click around this great site to explore the many fitness ideas and opportunities there to fit a variety of needs and interests!

Meanwhile, Denise shares their November newsletter (couldn’t find the link for you, so here it is in all its glory!) that got our attention after our recent Pilates enlightenment.  Enjoy!

EquiFiTTip November 2011: Make the Most of Your Time

© Heather R. Sansom

Forward to a friend, subscription to monthly FiTTips is free.

It’s that busy festive time of year again when many riders find themselves torn: you really want to be at the barn, but there is that office party/social event/crammed holiday schedule and they just have not perfected cloning.

 It can be a time of year when fitting in ‘extra’s like your own fitness plan really fall by the wayside.

Relax.  The beauty of a yearly training plan is that it’s understood there are times of the year when optimal training cannot occur.  In fact, there are times when it shouldn’t- your body needs to recover.  I usually view the month of December as a maintenance only/alternative period of time.  There is no point in fighting it- you need to have the balance of being able to connect with friends and family, and enjoy the general hum and extravagant well-wishing of the major holiday season.

Before you get ready to put on the fuzzy slippers and pour yourself something that warms you, you really do need to know that recovery period does not mean it’s time to slack off completely.  The purpose of a recovery period in your usual training regimen is to help you loosen up a little; to let muscles recover from long periods of use in order to avoid strain, and to let your brain unwind so that you can bring creativity and freshness back to the ways you are thinking about your sport.  Letting yourself sink into a comfortable chair for the season, or run around with elevated blood pressure from shopping and socializing with no time for yourself, do not count as legitimate recovery.

Keep the end goal in mind: going into the New Year, picking up where you left off, having thought about your goals for the new year and ready to give it your best shot.

Total slacking or stressing for a month will not set you up to walk into this picture.

Recovery periods in an athlete training schedule are often referred to as ‘active recovery’.  When you think about the concept applied to your horse, it makes sense.  For example, in the off season (if you compete) you may take him out hacking, or play with gymnastics (if you are a dressage rider) or work on your dressage (if you are a hunter/jumper).  You will generally give your horse some work that is light to him, and a little different from his usual routine.  You’ll bring the fun back in.  If he is injured, you don’t leave him standing in a stall.  You keep him moving.  In some areas, riders just turn their horse out for the winter where he can stay exercised going through snow and up and down hills, but otherwise get a mental break and just be a horse to get re-energized.

You both need a period where your horse’s training is lighter.  This is a good season to do it, and there is a hybrid solution that can help normally busy riders, go through the busy holiday season and still be physically and mentally recovered and ready to pick up where you left off when your normal training seasons begins again.

You do not need to feel torn about not maintaining your training schedule, if you have planned to ride less, or make your rides shorter.   You do need to plan in short segments of activity for yourself to replace the lost riding time.  Luckily, it does not take nearly as long to go for a 20-minute walk as it does to head to the barn and back in an evening: you can fit in the walk AND the holiday party in on the same day.

Short bursts of intentional and fun physical activity will help keep you riding fit when you can’t ride as much or as long.  They will also help reduce stress, build proprioception and neuro-muscular vocabulary (increase your ability to move and follow your horse), and even help you avoid potential strain issues that could be caused by your riding and are typically prevalent in middle-aged and older riders.

It doesn’t really matter what activities you choose in your recovery period as a rider.  However, they should be selected to meet specific goals that help your riding, such as:


  1. Maintain bone density and improve ligament strength(impact activities).

Examples:   walking, jogging, kickboxing, aerobics, skiing, snowshoeing, training with weights or bodyweight/resistance tubing

  1. Maintain hip mobility (for following the horse’s motion).

Examples: walking (probably the best one), cross country skiing, snowshoeing, skating, yoga

  1. Build core strength.

Examples: core exercises, martial arts, swimming, dance (jazz, hip hop etc..) pilates, integrated training with exercise tubing

  1. Improve rhythm and connection.

Examples: dance- especially social dancing with a partner, aerobics or other music-driven group classes, ‘mirror’ motion games with a partner

  1. Maintain or build cardio-vascular stamina.

Examples: many of the activities above, as long as your heart rate is elevated for 15-20 minutes.  If you are an Eventer, your cardio training should be twice as long.  Using intervals of more intense activity are the most efficient way to train.  For example, walking on hills or walking the dog with intervals of faster or slower walking; or swimming lengths with fast/slow combinations that you can keep up. 

To get the most out of your exercise time as a mental break and for proprioception, it is best NOT to multi-task.  Proprioception, or the finetuned control you need as an athlete and a rider, needs to be constantly honed.  Stay focused on what you are doing so that you can give it 100% even if it’s only for 5-10 minutes. 

If you have a busy family holiday season in addition to your riding and other commitments, 5 minutes may be all you have at a time.  

Have fun, and Happy Riding and Training! 

© Heather R. Sansom

Equifitt training draws on multiple sport and fitness disciplines to help riders of all ages and types balance their bodies and reach their riding and fitness goals.  Heather is a certified personal trainer and Level 1 Centered Riding® Instructor.  Equifitt offers online eCoaching, clinics, personal rider programs, and Centered Riding® instruction.

Equestrian Fitness Training

“Balanced Training for Better Riding”

Happy Trails!

A guy who loves your horse? Priceless.

News The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

Couldn’t resist taking a quick shot of the pair of socks that expresses all too well how most of us feel about our midlife horses. But I couldn’t resist the urge to add another item to this list.

Right here in the throes of the holiday shopping frenzy, I have to take this opportunity to tell any guys out there looking for the perfect gift for the woman in your life, there is absolutely nothing more endearing to those of us on the Midlife Horses trail than a man who loves our horse (and especially, a man who loves our horse book–see one prime example  below). And one who supports us as we pursue this passion, even if it means letting us have our barn time at the expense of the  attention June Cleaver would most likely have focused elsewhere — perhaps on the dustbunnies rolling across your dining room floor (the ones she steps over on her way out the door on her way to the aforementioned barn).

So, first, the obvious plug for The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses as the perfect holiday gift for any woman on your list  who either has horses now, loves horses and is contemplating Midlife Horses, or is simply looking for something to help her find the authenticity she needs to chart her own course for the second half of life.

Going back for a moment to our experience at the Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering last month (our official opening weekend of Gift Season, it turned out), I noticed another midlife horse phenomenon. It seems that while some of the women I meet  who are getting into their Midlife Horses in a big way  now that the kids are out of the house have husbands (or significant others) who are cowboys, ranchers or equine competitors — and now they want to claim a piece of that action, too. And they want to do it on their own terms. Just as many others, however, seem to have men in their lives who do not share this interest, but are supportive (or at least tolerant) of this passion because of  how happy it makes us.

So here’s what’s really priceless: Having a man in your life who truly understands and supports your passion for Midlife Horses (not to mention the creation of a book that takes the obsession to a whole new level). He’s the guy who doesn’t ride, doesn’t really want a horse, but nevertheless, one who will go with us to the barn when it’s dark and cold, frets with us over our horse problems (and does what he can to help us solve them), listens to all our plans and dreams, celebrates even our smallest victories with us (even if he has no idea what you’re talking about), consoles us in our less-than-victorious moments (sometimes these also require ice packs), reads the paper in the car on a pretty Sunday afternoon while we ride, holds our horse while we go to the bathroom during a clinic (and takes photos we can use for a book and articles–or just our own review– during the same below freezing 3-day clinic), goes “horse camping” with us (and all the extra hauling that entails) and meets us with a cold beer and a hot steak when we get back from getting lost on the trail. He’s they guy who slips your horse a potato chip when you’re not looking and saves all his restaurant peppermints as horse treats.(Be prepared, though. Your horses will like him a lot better than they like you. They can be bought.)

So guys, if you’re looking for a gift to give that will win her heart forever (besides my book, of course) I’ll let you in on a BIG secret. There is nothing sexier to us than a guy who loves your horse. These are the guys who get it. Rather than feeling threatened or jealous or annoyed at the time we spend away from the home fires (and it is important to try to keep a balance; see chapter 3), these are the guys who understand how much happier and settled we are when we spend a chunk of our time with our Midlife Horses. Often, they are also the first ones to send us to the barn when we get irritable. (I’m not sure my horses appreciate this hand-off, but I do always come back home much happier–and probably nicer.)

So if the woman in your life has the “horse thing” in her blood, the very best thing you can do for yourself and your relationship with her is to support it with all your might. You will be amazed at the difference this gift will make in the time she does spend with you — and in the way she feels about you — from now on.

Here he is, wearing the Rio shirt sporting the slogan, “How’s that midlife thing workin’ for Ya?”(Free to anyone who comments on my blog!) looking snazzy in his hat and all secret service in his new shades. For three solid days he hauled books, fetched food, sat with me and watched people, and encouraged every man who walked by to show his support for the horsewoman in his life by giving her this book for Christmas. 


Yep, priceless.


Happy Trails!

Midlife Horses Book Trailer Video, Ready at Last!

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

If you haven’t already had a peek at our new book trailer video (a draft version went out as a post update because I’m tech challenged and didn’t check the box that kept it private while we were still doing final editing) click here to watch the FINAL version of the Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses book trailer.

During the month of October, we focused on dreams—our dreams of horses and how and why we’re choosing this time of life to make those dreams come true. So this book trailer (nicknamed “Dream”) talks about who we are, why we ride, what pursuing our dreams of horses in the middles of our lives really means to us, and how this book brings together valuable insights unique to having horses at this time of life, offers the observations of those who’ve ridden this trail ahead of us, and provides the resources most of us have been looking for to find the answers that are right for us.

Over the next few days (and in keeping with the official start of the holiday season), I’ll also be unveiling the final version of four shorter videos that detail what most of us agree are the most unique and compelling gifts we receive when we decide to add a horse to Part Two of our lives.

Happy Trails!