Celebrating Strength—and Commitment to Horsecare

Celebrating Strength—and Commitment to Horsecare

News Riding Through Thick & Thin Riding Through Thick & Thin

Turn conditioning obstacles into opportunities with just a little more focus on revelry and elbow grease.

Let’s join Cynthia Foley, who points out in Benefits of Barn Work (Horse Journal) in a new battle cry in this quest for a better body image “I know I’m fit. I know I could weigh less, especially as I battle middle age, but I have strength and endurance. Have you ever seen a non-horse person try to gracefully put a saddle on a horse’s back, especially a Western saddle? It’s not pretty.”

Or as I like to say (borrowed from my friend’s daughter, cleaned up a bit for the sake of propriety)

Forget Skinny. Get strong! 

Melinda Celebrating Strength 1

And oddly enough, those barn chores we’re all going to do anyway offer up some strategies, if only we teach ourselves to take advantage of these little bits of strength training handed so graciously to us by our horses. When I started thinking about all the things we do every day for our horses that are physical, from the moment we arrive at the barn until the moment we leave, and then started thinking about the muscle groups involved (or that could be involved with a little focused effort, such as engaging the abs before every single thing we do) here’s a list of possible stable workout staples:

  1. Park and walk briskly to the horse pens (warm up)
  2. Gather, load, unload and hoist several flakes of hay per horse over the fence. (Abs, arms and shoulders.)
  3.  Pick stalls, shovel soiled shavings into a wheelbarrow, lift (engage your abs and use your legs!) and push said wheelbarrow to designated dumping spot. (Shoulders, arms, abs, back, quads, calves, glutes — and if you remember to take big deep steps that resemble as much as possible a walking lunge, psoas.)
  4. Lift, carry, dump, scrub and refill water buckets, two reps per horse. (Arms shoulders, lats, back, abs.)
  5. Put everything away, get the hay out of your hair, walk back to the car. (Cool down)
Melinda Celebrating Strength 2

Sound like a workout? It should. As you go about your barn chores today, think about the muscles you’re using in each one. Focus on these muscles, engage your core, and breathe out upon every exertion, and see what you can do to add a little extra conditioning mileage into every step.

This post was originally published on 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!

 

 

How do YOU see yourself?

How do YOU see yourself?

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

As I finish winding together the various parts of my new book about body image and riding, I can’t help  but wonder how the body image issues most women wrestle with in general may parallel how we imagine we look when we ride.

Consider, for example, the Dove “Real Beauty” advertising campaign in which researchers discovered the degree to which we underestimate our appeal. In fact, they discovered, women are their own worst critics — and only 4% of the women in the world actually do consider themselves “beautiful.”

The odds of feeling beautiful, it appears, are stacked against us. And the objective truth of how we really look  doesn’t  seem to enter into it at all. Take a look:

 

 

Taking it into the mainstream . . .

Ready for a revealing journaling exercise?  Pretend you’re walking into the room with the sketch artist. Open your journal and at the top of one page title it: How I see myself. Date it. Now, in short phrases or bullet points, describe yourself to that invisible sketch artist who lives in the pages of your journal. Now find a friend or family member you can trust to be objective (preferably one without an axe to grind) and explain this exercise.

Now , using exactly the same categories of information as your own bullet points, interview your chosen person and write down exactly how he or she would describe you as if you’d gone missing (maybe, for example, on an impromptu and unannounced dash to St. Somewhere on the advice of your favorite Jimmy Buffet song) and they were describing you to a sketch artist.

Now compare. What similarities and differences are most obvious? If you were reading these side-by-side lists that your best friend created, what would you say to her?

Stuck in Transition?

Stuck in Transition?

News The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

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.

Just Say WHOA

Just Say WHOA

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

 

One of the best books I’ve read lately is Cheryl Richardson’s The Art of Extreme Self Care.  Taking care of ourselves can be a creative challenge as well as a practical and logical one when life gets busy and demands on our time and attention exceed our available hours.

And interestingly, Cheryl herself struggles with the issue of constant re-balancing, remarking that sometimes when she finds herself at the office at 9:00 pm she has to stop and say “is this really what I need to be doing to take care of myself right now?”

And let’s face it. Sometimes it is. When taking a little extra time to get some situation at the office under control will allow you to be more peaceful, focused and productive going forward, it can be worth it to burn a little midnight oil. We’ve all been there.

And some of us have gotten so elated with the progress we make when things get quiet and we can hear ourselves think that we’ve stepped over the edge of situational effectiveness into the realm of habit. When it’s always better to stay late and arrive early and fill every morsel of free time with work in the name of “getting things under control.

This would be time (combining Richardson’s advice with horse vernacular) to just say, “WHOA!”

And here’s what’s funny about that. Once we set that intent — and that bell to go off in our heads when we veer too far off the course we’ve set for ourselves — it becomes easier and easier to monitor our choices and habits to create the solutions we need to stay happy and balanced in all the areas of our lives.

One thing I’d like to emphasize, too, is that it’s a process. A a constant re-balancing, reassessing and retooling. I’m finding out this is not a situation you solve once and that’s it. It takes vigilance. Determination. Patience. And self-scrutiny that borders on the obsessive.

Got any thoughts on that? Any tricks or tips for balancing priorities when one particularly demanding one tends to hog your time an attention? How do you know when it’s time to “Just say WHOA?”

What the Truck?

What the Truck?

News
Still digging out from my exciting weekend at AmerEquine Festival of the Horse at Will Rogers Memorial Complex in Fort Worth, Texas this past weekend, and I have some VERY cool stuff to tell you about in coming posts. But first, I wanted to follow up on a couple of loose ends from our trailering series. (Also, after spending the weekend sharing a booth space with a delightful representative of US Rider, I have some more info about that great program as well!) Thanks so much to all who have sent comments and trailering suggestions and tips. There has been some GREAT info coming in. Scroll back through Trailering Part I and Part II to check these out, and add your own comments or questions. I especially love the practice tips and suggestions–just the kind of info we all need! Thanks again for all who contributed–we appreciate you!!!? I’m very excited to have these tips (already printed them out and put them in my trailer folder), and I’m so happy to share it all with those of you learning or contemplating trailering. Keep those ideas and suggestions coming! Now, part of the trailering equation that can be perplexing is the issue of how much truck do you really need? One good friend who has hauled a lot of miles offers this advice: always get more truck than you think you need. This is good, but first you have to know what you think you need, right? I, of course, am not the one to ask about this. I drive a mini, which, kind of like a Jack Russell terrier, is only big on the inside. In fact, I like to park it backed up to the biggest rig at my barn just to make people laugh. This is going to backfire someday when one of the owners of this trailer comes to hook up. That’s why I leave the keys in it, by the way. Also not a good idea in some locations (so, kids, don’t try this at home.) Nevertheless, I ask you now for any wisdom you have gained in your experience shopping for, purchasing and deciding which truck is the right one for your needs. I know lots of people pull trailers with underpowered vehicles all the time and have never had a problem, but in the interest of safety and our endless search for the best-we-can-do-if-we’re-going-to-do-it-at-all solution, let us hear from you about what you have learned about choosing the right truck. (Send photos to my email and I’ll post them!) I look forward to learning and sharing this crucial 411!

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Happy Trailering, Part 2-Tight Spaces

Happy Trailering, Part 2-Tight Spaces

Midlife Horses Events News The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

First of all, thanks to all who responded to Trailering, Part 1! As I suspected, there are some great tips and kindred spirits out there, and I am so glad to provide a place and space to make those connections. Keep ’em coming! (And let’s keep these discussion threads going! A funny and unexpectedly related trailering incident happened this past week to my friend and Pilates instructor, Cassandra Thompson. As with many of us, Cassandra was bitten by the “horse bug” many years ago and has made one life transition after another until now this Manhattan Pilates instructor has uprooted her urban life and moved it (along with her 88-year-old father) all the way to Texas. And, having lived in Manhattan for so long, she’s only been driving a car for the past three years! Since coming to Texas (and logging lots of miles behind the wheel traveling between DFW Metroplex Pilates studios before she opened her own), she has bought Murphy, a handsome, charming, and true-to-his breed Connemara pony, a big black truck, and just a few weeks ago, a trailer. So last week, after the long-awaited-and-carefully-shopped-for trailer finally arrived (that’s a whole ‘nother story we’ll circle back to in a later post), she began the tentative process of learning to pull the thing. And, in the particularly harrowing morning she called me to relate, a backing incident that led to a close encounter with a tree (no real harm done . . . a little dab of paint and no one will ever know) made clear to her the need for lots of solitary practice (I think there was maybe a little too much fatherly advice flowing that only served to aggravate the situation) in a controlled, protected and obstacle free space to get the feel and timing of the whole backing and maneuvering skills likely required once you get to where you’re going with your trailer. So for today, I ask, beyond the great “put your hand at the bottom of the wheel and whichever direction your hand goes, so does the back end of the trailer” adage, what other tips, tricks, and experiences can you guys share to help create some good “back-that-thang-up” practice sessions for those learning to maneuver a trailer in tight spaces for the first time? What about turning in narrow city intersections without taking out the entire line of cars you’re supposed to be turning around? These are the issues that keep the trailerphobic among us up at night. We need practice ideas. And maybe some orange cones. Also, as if in answer to my question the other day, I got a link via email to an Equine Network E-zine called, of all things Hitch Up!? . . . an online magazine all about trailer safety, with tons of tips from nationally recognized trainers and clinicians. (Who knew?!!! Click here to subscribe!) Cassandra, by the way, will be one of the ones joining us next weekend as part of my panel discussion in the AmerEquine Festival of the Horse Expo at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth. (We’ll be on the John Justin arena seminar stage Friday 5:30-6:15 and Saturday 1:30-2:15, so please come and tell us about your horse! There will be chocolate, as long as the supply holds out . . . Just sayin’ . . .) Cassandra will be addressing the physical aspects of why riding and working with horses on a regular basis is not only good for our souls, but GREAT for our bodies, especially if we take the time to “set the stage” with core work that reaches deep to benefit all parts of our lives. Or, as she likes to say, “we get strong because we have to be!” The horse side of the Pilates equation is relatively new to Cassandra, and the connections she has made as a former dancer and Stotz Certified Pilates instructor with the physical demands of horsemanship has helped her find that “sweet spot” where passion meets profession.

My object with this appearance is to connect as many people as possible with different kinds of stories and experiences to celebrate (hence the chocolate) all the things that make having a horse in our lives one of the very best things we’ve ever done! I’ll also be in the Equine Network booth in the exhibit hall Friday through Sunday, so please come by and say hi!
Happy Trailering! I look forward to gathering and sharing more great trailering wisdom!

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Happy Trailering, Part 1

Happy Trailering, Part 1

The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

Is anyone but me getting desperate for a trailer? I love where I keep my horses, and I know everything is just as it should be right now, horse accommodation wise. But I’m feeling kind of arena locked and claustrophobic. If only I had a trailer (and, oh, wait, a big ol’ truck, because I drive a Mini), I could load up and go to the Grasslands — or even a few closer trails — for an afternoon in the great big, rail-less outdoors. And as good as I know this would be for my horses’ minds, I know it would be even better for mine. There’s just something magical about a trail ride for clearing everyone’s mind and recharging your soul. But do you know what worries me about having a trailer? Pulling it. Once before when I was on a serious trailer quest, and again while researching the Trailering chapter for The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, I ran across the same thing time and again. Everyone says how “easy” it is to pull a trailer. They think it’s comforting to tell me “you won’t even know it’s back there!” That, my friends, is precisely what I’m afraid of. For people who have grown up hauling horses, pulling a trailer (and backing it!) is second nature. They honestly don’t know what the big deal is. Or why I’m so wigged out. They scoff at my need for formal instruction (beyond the trailer salesman who offers to “take me out back and show me” how to pull a trailer.) Something tells me this is a skill that can’t be learned in one 30-minute session. I want rules, instruction, safety procedures and practice opportunities. But guess what? If a six-week trailer pulling course is out there (besides truck driver school) I sure haven’t found it. I understand and appreciate that those who have pulled trailers a lot are walking around with knowledge inside them they don’t even know is there. But when trouble shows up, they reach for it and it’s there to help them figure out what to do. On the other hand, if I’m pulling a trailer full of horses and get into trouble (blowout, bad weather, horrible high speed traffic, some jerk cuts me off or stops suddenly without warning) I’d reach for that instinct born of knowledge and experience and come up empty handed. And most likely, hysterical. So as I begin this “happy trailering” series of posts, I invite your participation and response. What are your trailering questions and concerns? What worries you most when you’re pulling a trailer? How did you learn (or how do you plan to learn) to pull a trailer? And for heaven’s sake, if you’re one of those folks who has hauled a lot, please share any insights, tips and wisdom you can put your finger on to help keep the rest of us from becoming road hazards! Here’s to Happy Trailering!

 

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Horse Shopping 101

Horse Shopping 101

The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve already done it. And, if you’re like me, you did it for all the wrong reasons. If you’re lucky, it will work out just fine. (Some would say it always does, regardless.) When I bought my horse, Trace, it was the beginning of an amazing journey I wouldn’t take for. But in terms of a wise horse purchase, it wasn’t. Even the purchase of Rio, my goofy little sorrel that makes me smile every single time I look at him, wasn’t quite according to the protocol I now understand as much more solid reasoning when it comes to buying a horse. Still, I love them both and will keep them as long as they’ll let me. This makes them either the luckiest or unluckiest horses on the planet, because of all the things I am, I am NOT a quitter. Usually to my own detriment. Nevertheless, because I do love a challenge (and enjoy having horse issues to research and write about), I keep these founts of learning around for my own education and humbling. So far, this plan seems to be working. But in the spirit of our grandmothers’ wisdom that advises “it’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one” (although I’ve done both with similar results, but that’s another story for another time . . . ), it IS just as easy to fall in love with a good horse as it is an . . .um . . . challenging one. So here’s a little journaling exercise that will help you wrap your mind around the perfect horse for you. Get a sheet of paper (or if you journal regularly, a fresh page) and answer the following questions to build a mental picture of the horse you want. Write as much as you can as fast as you can, the first thing that pops into your head with each question. 1. Mare or gelding? Why? 2. How old? Why? 3. What breed? Why? (If there are several you are drawn to, you can list more than one) 4. Color/size/physical characteristics (try not to fixate too much on looks, but we all have our favorites. Again, if there’s more than one you like, that’s OK. ) 5. Temperament and disposition. How does your horse behave when he’s learning something new? Surprised, Frightened? Frustrated? or Upset? Annoyed? Is he affectionate or all business? 6. What’s on his resume? Training method, level, intensity? Disciplines? Show record? Trail experience? Ranch work? Former owners? What does he like to do best? 7. What’s his story? Former owners, physical issues, past experience that shape who he is, what he likes and dislikes, and what might motivate him to do whatever it is you’d like to do with him. (Note, I always use “he” when I talk about fictitious horses. I don’t know why. Probably because both of mine happen to be geldings. I like mares just fine. Also, I was an English major and the “he” rule was beaten into me at an early age.) SO . . . now that you have thought all the way around and through your own definition of the perfect horse for you RIGHT NOW, here’s a little pre-shopping visualization for you. Imagine this horse you just described grazing in a pasture. (Sorry. Now you really do have to pick a breed and color.) You’re standing just inside the gate, just watching him. He lifts his head and looks at you, then turns and walks straight toward you. He stops right in front of you and you see soft, quiet eyes on you, waiting. You raise your hand and rub his face. He lowers his head. You put the halter on him and lead him back through the gate and into your life. Return to this list and visualization as often as you can. And don’t forget to come back here and tell us about the horse that shows up for you!

 

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com