Kick The Bucket!

Kick The Bucket!

Midlife Women and Horses

I don’t know about you, but now that I am definitely well into middle-age, I find myself thinking about that “bucket list” that seems more like something I used to hear my parents say they were checking off. Then I came across an article in Horse and Rider called “44 horsey things to do before you die.” Before I die? Whoa! I’m just getting the legal pad out to make my bucket list!

horse-buckets

And then something shifted. As I read through this list, I realized that while they were all worthy entries, many of them didn’t fit me as a rider. With one hand reining in my escalating anxiety and the other gripping my pen, I began my own list―but instead of listing all the horsey things to do before I die, I decided to list the horsey things I’ve already been able to do. When I considered that just ten years ago I barely allowed myself to dream of owning a horse, the memories began to unfold of all that has happened and changed in my life since that 1000-lb lesson in abundance (as in be very careful what you wish for) arrived in my life. Because of this added horsepower, everything around me and within me opened up in ways “awe inspiring” doesn’t begin to touch.

So as I made my retroactive horsey bucket list, my bucket overflowed with gratitude for all the people, experiences and hard-earned wisdom these generous and wise teachers have brought into my life. So much has happened because of that single moment when I said “yes!” to a horse. And in reflecting on all that has happened, I can’t help but wonder what else may add itself to my list as I continue to follow where these horsey things lead. I like this a lot better than thinking about dying.

Seven of my horsey experience favorites — and their life takeaways include:

Open yourself to unexpected beauty. “Horse camping” on the 35,000 acre LBJ Grasslands — where a two-hour ride turned into an 8-our odyssey, but I didn’t care because of the surreal “pinch me I must be dreaming” beauty of this experience. Takeaway: If you open yourself to new experiences, you never know what unforeseen beauty may await

Be willing to do something badly. Ranch sorting — where my horse had a much better idea of what to do than I did, but we managed to live through the experience and even sort a few cows. There was also a reining clinic that was both an ugly and wonderful opportunity to push some edges I didn’t even know I had. Takeaway: You don’t have to be good at something for it to be fun; being willing to suck a little bit means you get to try something new. People can be surprisingly kind and helpful to someone who is trying to learn.

Get bucked off and then get back on. This is where the big girl panties come in handy — and where pain is relative to the experience, and working through it has its own surprises. Takeaway: The reward of the ride is greater than the pain of hitting the ground every once in a while.

Experience an exceptional pairing of physical and mental fatigue— where physical fatigue was only exceeded by mind blowing information overload. Takeaway: I’m stronger than I thought I was, more capable than I realized, and my innate curiosity and thirst for learning is a gift that keeps on giving.

Immerse yourself in learning. Working for and traveling with Clinton Anderson and the Downunder Horsemanship team, ask all the questions I wanted to, and then shape the answers into training tips, articles, newsletters and a book, Clinton Anderson’s Lessons Well Learned was the horsey learning experience of a lifetime. Ditto the time I spent with the Drs. McCormick at Hacienda Tres Aguilas and the Institute for Conscious Awareness. Takeaway: Opportunities come along — and may be fleeting — but if you can manage to grab them and give them all you’ve got, the doors they may open are unimaginable.

Share what you’ve learned. Pitching and writing “The Smart Women’s Guide to Midlife Horses” based on my observations, conversations and experiences, both while working with Downunder Horsemanship and with my own experiences, struggles and insights with my own two midlife horses. “Riding Through Thick and Thin” was an opportunity to draw from a lifetime of body insecurity and self-help study, delve deeper and meld with expert advice from the horse and rider arenas to create a new toolkit for riders and non-riders alike that could be a body image game changer, in and out of the saddle. Takeaway: Everything you experience holds a gift, both for you and for those you are able to share it with.

Melinda Bucket Blog

Find the right help. In retraining a horse that everyone else had long since given up on — where painstakingly slow, steady and deliberate progress yielded results beyond what anyone could have imagined. Takeaway: Listen to your heart, show up, slow down and move forward one step at a time to scale impossible mountains and discover unspeakable beauty where you least expected it.

How about you? Is a horse on your bucket list? Has a horse already supplied more joy than any bucket list can hold? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out to me here, on Twitter, Facebook or my website.

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

There’s Always A Way, Or An Excuse

There’s Always A Way, Or An Excuse

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“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

Trust your heart and ignore the naysayers: “Buck” director Cindy Meehl on following your midlife passion

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When Cindy Meehl, the 52-year-old first time director of the award-winning documentary “Buck,” first came up with this idea, it was the beginning of a  midlife dream we can all get our hearts around. Cindy, an artist and a housewife, had never made a film of any kind before — in fact, she didn’t know the first thing about documentaries. Except that Buck Brannaman’s story needed to be one.

Cindy describes this  pivotal decision in her recent interview with freelance writer and horse enthusiast Jennifer B. Calder: ” I didn’t go into it because I wanted to see my name in lights or make the great American film,” Cindy says. “I went into it knowing what this message was about and knowing if something moved me this much, to where I had that passion in my heart, then I should really think about it.” And I didn’t tell anyone—it was just this little thing, a little voice in my head, ‘”this should be a film; this should be a film…”

Cindy Meehl’s dream became major motion picture “BUCK,” Winner of U.S. Documentary Audience Award–Sundance Film Festival 2011

So how in the world would you go about making a documentary when you don’t know the first thing about film making? Cindy is a big believer that the right people come together at the right time to do the right thing if given half the chance. (I actually experienced this phenomenon while writing The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses!) “Where your mind goes, energy flows,” is Cindy’s favorite descriptive quote of this process. I couldn’t agree more.

So what idea, dream, or impulse do you have that deserves your passion? What changes are you willing to make — and what risks are you prepared to take to follow a certainty that something MUST be done and you are the right one to do it?

 

 

Got boundary issues? Ask Precious!

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One of our equine co-facilitators (yes, that’s a fancy name for “horse friends”) at the recent Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat was a handsome little horse they astutely call “Precious.” Precious is a popular member of the Wildcatter trail string, and once we conducted a practice session with him, we knew he was the perfect one to illustrate the whole boundary issue exercise.

When Precious — cute, sweet, and gentle as he is — got all up in our grill(s) as he is in the photo, not one single one of us (myself included, I’m reluctant to admit) pushed him away.   Because he seemed so friendly and interested in us, he nuzzled and pushed into our personal space, quite uninvited.

And we let him. And once we let him, it was nearly impossible to shake him loose.

Is there anyone or anything like that in your life?

While it’s fairly obvious to even the mildest of us that we need to protect our space from the mean-spirited or ill-intentioned (things, events or people), the real challenge can come from those well-meaning busy-bodies who come on all friendly, sweet and harmless — and before we know it are all up in our business, wrecking our confidence and putting us in a position of defensive vulnerability that is as irritating as it is debilitating. What’s worse is that it’s hard — if not downright impossible — to take our power back once it’ s been sucked away from us through these velvety soft nostrils.

But how do you differentiate true interest and support from nosiness and impending boundary violation? How do you cultivate discernment that accepts genuine kindness and support without developing a “prickly pear” personality that repels anyone who tries to get close?

Looping back to the answer-question that always comes from spending time with horses, “What do you think?” It is only in geting in touch with the profound observations of our “inner lead mare” that we can pick up on the subtleties of interaction that tend to provide the most reliable clues.

Any thoughts on this subject out there? Anyone, like me, who unintentionally invites these well-meaning boundary crushers — and then has to figure out how to disengage to avoid drowning in self-doubt? (Do you ever feel like you MUST have a “Tell me what to do” sign stuck on you somewhere?)

This issue, like so many others women, in particular (but some men, too), face, especially at transitional times of life, is very often brought to light in the horse world (and in barns of all sizes, shapes and disciplines worldwide, apparently) where none of us has all the answers, “experts” are everywhere, and horses have a special way of leveling the playing field.

Weigh in, everyone! How do you cope with a well-meaning busybody? How do you listen without letting unsolicited advice crack your confidence? How to you shield yourself from the negative opinions of others without getting sucked into their vortex?

I can’t wait to hear what you have to say. There’s wisdom in numbers, and from what I’m hearing and seeing, this is an issue we could all benefit from romping around in together. Comment here, on our Facebook page, Twitter or YouTube (free t-shirt to the first person who talks to me via YouTube video!). We’re a community created to pull for one another on this Midlife Horses trail . . . it’s time to unite against whatever or whoever is being “Precious” in your life!

 

 

Dream Dusting Preliminary Report

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I know  you’ve all been waiting on the edge of your seats to find out how last weekend’s first Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat went at the Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa.

Wellllllll . . . .

If it could have been any better, I couldn’t imagine it. A spectacular setting that turned out to be everything I hoped it would be and more. Leaders and participants whose interactions and explorations created just the right atmosphere of mutual support, spirit of adventure and quiet introspection that, by the final Sunday morning exercise, managed to coax even the most elusive dreams out of the shadows. (Sometimes, it turns out, the dream may be only to have a dream. Good enough!)

Even the questionable weather held off (except for providing us with an apropos dust-blowing-in-your-eyes corral metaphor that, while irritating at the time (literally!), just  bounced happily over to join the growing pile of life-changing metaphors gathering by the fire where we enjoyed our apres-dinner s’mores. (Bet you never thought you’d see “apres dinner” and “s’more” in the same sentence, now did you? Oddly, even this is a metaphor for the diversity of dreams in this group.)

Precious examines the thoughts of guest, DD Holmes, who describes the weekend as "inspiring, with new ideas and ways of successful thinking." "

Yes, this was a pilot group. Not horse people (or pilots, for that matter, although I do think we may have nudged a couple of latent horse dreamers back toward the saddle), and a good enough range of ages and interests to get a solid idea of how well our content and leadership team would gel. Even more important than that, we really got a good, up-close-and-in-person opportunity to see if this event will truly create insight pathways for women in transition to help them discover what’s next in their lives — and take decisive first action steps toward it.

I’ll be posting more (much more!) on the topics and insights dancing naked around the fire with us last wekend. (Oh, get your mind out of the gutter — the only things stripped away this weekend were the obstacles, excuses, fear, doubt, worry, anxiety, insecurities and judgment that keep us from getting more of what we really, really love back into our lives.)

Meanwhile, a question emerges. Do you know what your dream is? If I stopped you in the hallway (and you had only a few seconds to spare) could you state your dream in one quick sentence? Try it! And if you’re brave, send it to me here as a comment, via email to mkfolse@gmail.com , or post it on our Facebook page or Twitter.

One thing we learned for sure this weekend is that there is power in this midlife community that’s out there pulling for you. Gather it close and open your eyes to the marvelous resources all around you, just waiting to be invited to help Dust Off Your Dream!

Click on the order button to buy this book now!

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!

 

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!