Would you like to dodge that naggy, saggy middle-aged body? Like everything else, the answer lies deep inside you. Literally. Come learn how to find it!

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I think we’ve all heard about core strength for quite some time now. And, if you’re like me, your brain just sort of glazes over when you hear any pair of words that gets thrown so much.

But it turns out the secret  to to solving most of our physical midlife woes (including that belly thing — where the heck did THAT come from?) lies in finding (not easy) and working correctly (deceptively easy at first) those tiny, deep muscles groups that can make all the difference in the world in how you stand, how you sit, how you move, and of course, how you ride.

As we delve into the mental, emotional and maybe even spiritual aspects of taking action on our midlife dreams at the Dust Off Your Dreams Women’s Retreat, we’ll also take a turn in the barrel with the physical, featuring some Pilates work that will turn this amazing light bulb on for you as it has for so many others.  Once you find these little powerhouse muscles, learn what they do and learn how to work them, you’ll be able to add just a few minutes here and a few minutes there (Just dedicate TV commercials for a week to the few simple Pilates exercises you’ll learn and you’ll be AMAZED at the results you you’ll see and feel!)

To lead us in this adventure, I’ve invited Cassandra Thompson of ABSolute Pilates to present a mini workshop in our Saturday line-up of activities. Cassandra is a former dancer and  a Stott Certified Pilates Instructor from New York City (I know. But she did buy a horse as soon as she got to Texas. Just recently, she got a pick-up truck. She’s coming around.)

Pulling together the threads of her life experiences: import/export business, entrepreneur, dancer, part-time Pilates instructor, and last but not least, a hip replacement, Cassandra is another woman beckoning to us from the other side of the decision to follow a midlife dream. After loading up her New York life and moving it all to Texas, she opened her own Pilates studio ( inspired by the experience in rehabbing that hip, she now devotes much of her business to helping others learn how to work through physical challenges). After buying her horse, Murphy, Cassandra began to put the pieces together of how the physical challenges of midlife horsemanship can be solved with Pilates.

“I find Pilates fascinating, and the more I teach, the more amazed I get,” Cassandra says. “It is not just a series of exercises — it is a philosophy, it is bio-dynamics, it is restructuring and correcting your body and the way in which you move.”

Click here to read my recent post about these muscles and what they do (and why we should care!)

“In Pilates, we learn how to change from moving from peripherals (arm and leg) to moving from our core. These exercises are very subtle AND very powerful in how they change our internal structure. Pilates corrects issues coming from past injuries and also works to prevent future ones. As the old saying goes, “the more you learn about Pilates, the harder it gets!”  Also Pilates is sneaky — the easier the exercise looks, probably the harder it is.

Are you ready to sneak up on your core issues? Join us for the Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort And Spa in Graham, Texas April 13-15 for the weekend that could quite easily change the way you think (and act!) in Part Two of your life.

But HURRY! Registration ends at midnight tonight! (But the retreat’s still a month away) To register — or for more information about this retreat, its dedicated team of presenters, its spectacular venue, or the book that started it all, please call us at 1-888-773-8187, email me, or visit us online at www.dustoffyourdreamsretreats.com.

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“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!

 

 

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

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Click on the cover to order now!

I’ve heard (but I can’t remember where) that the E-reader was the most received gift this holiday season. And yes, great competition now abounds to the tried-and-true Kindle (now with its new Fire incarnation), and these puppies are all getting more affordable, easier to use and, offering us the options of searchable content and a way to bookmark and clip the ideas, thoughts and sections we want to remember from what we read, may just keep the margins of print books free of scrawled notes that mean little to anyone but us (Does anyone beside me read non-fiction with a pencil in one hand and a highlighter in the other?)

So what does this cultural phenomenon have to do with The Smart Guide to Midlife Horses? Everything, apparently. Here’s what our publisher had to say that made me do the holiday happy dance:

“Melinda Folse’s bestseller THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES is surely ushering in a new generation of horse-related books. Her book’s appeal to the readers of ebooks—considered by some to be the future of book publishing—is apparent as sales in digital format have skyrocketed! We are thrilled that the book’s message and content translates so well across multiple platforms, print and digital. Melinda’s book is one of the first of its kind to offer great educational content, along with great stories and a few laughs, in a format suitable for the midlife woman on the move.”

So, speaking from one cultural phenomenon (Boomer women and their Midlife Horses) to another (the proliferation of e-readers) all I have to say is WooHoooooooo! And of course, thank you to all who purchased my book this year — in its print or digital format (I’ve heard several people say they bought it both ways because it’s faster to find specific information and resources with the searchable feature of the e-book, but they still prefer the print version to sit and read).

If you’d like to purchase The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses for your new Kindle, click here. Got a different E-reader? No worries, as our friend Clinton Anderson would say. Click here to purchase The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses in other e-book formats.

And speaking of Clinton, while you’re there, be sure to check out Clinton Anderson’s Lessons Well Learned, also now available in e-book formats! Getting to co-write this book with Clinton was one of the best assignments a horse crazy aspiring author could ever hope for — and Clinton’s stories and experiences with horses and people are as fascinating and enlightening as they are entertaining!

So . . . now what? As this fabulous year draws to a close, I’m catching my breath a bit, getting more content loaded on my newly revamped website, and planning a 2012 blog calendar filled with tips, resources, ideas and insights to help make 2012 your Year of the (Midlife) Horse.

Want to come along? Subscribe to this blog (comments always welcome!), shoot me an email, join our Facebook community, give us a Tweet, or share on our YouTube channel when something interesting happens or occurs to you on the Midlife Horses trail. Above all, please feel free to share your victories, challenges, questions and observations with the diverse online community we’re gathering here. It’s your life, Part Two! With Horsepower!

Happy New Year!

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

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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!