Saddle Up Your “Someday”

Saddle Up Your “Someday”

Riding Through Thick & Thin

“NO MATTER WHERE YOU GO… THERE YOU ARE.”

This quote actually comes to us from Confucius, the well known Chinese teacher, editor, politician and philosopher who lived between 551 and 479 B.C. It’s also a line from Buckaroo Banzai, the 1984 cult film starring Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, and Jeff Goldblum (Look it up over a bowl of popcorn!). That juxtaposition just makes me giggle. And unless I miss my guess, somewhere Confucius is having a solid chuckle over it as well.

So why do I bring this up? Because when it comes to our weight, body image, and riding our horses to our highest potential, it’s easy to gaze into some far-off future and imagine a leaner, lighter, stronger body—a body worth feeling good about.

“When I get this weight off I’ll show more…”

“When I get in better shape I’ll ride more trails…”

“Once I finally manage to get rid of these wobbly bits I’ll buy some nicer riding clothes…”

You know the thought pattern. We imagine how on that magical ‘someday’ we’ll do things differently and feel differently about the things we do.

 

‘Someday’ has arrived. Think about it. Isn’t today “the tomorrow you dreamed about yesterday?” I remember hearing this line—lifted and twisted slightly from a wonderful old country song recorded by Lefty Frizzell (written by Joe Johnson)—for the first time when I was in high school and just beginning my angst over a body that weighed more than the height/weight charts said it should. Looking back now I realize I was a very, very average size, but the disparity between the number on the scale and the number on the charts made me feel, to put it bluntly, huge. It hampered my riding. It dampened my joy. And worse of all, it kept me from trying events and experiences with my horse I probably would have really enjoyed.

The trouble with letting that slippery someday romp around in your imagination is that it can buck us off in the here and now. Feeling hopeless and captive to any number we allow to define us, we say, “Someday I’ll get a handle on this,” and then more than likely, “Pass the Cheetos.”

All this to say, what if today is the day you get on those scales and see that number for what it is? A number. It doesn’t define you. It doesn’t put you in any category. Above all, it doesn’t have to automatically propel you onto a cycle of self-contempt. What if we recognize this as Someday? Give stinkin’ thinkin’ the boot, let go of whatever provokes our numberphobia and saddle up and ride right on through it.

©Flickr/FiveFurlongs
©Flickr/FiveFurlongs

Ride those trails. Enter those shows. Go ahead and push yourself to ride better, learn all you can, try harder—and reach for those new heights you’ve reserved for your Someday self.

Let’s all agree that it’s time to look squarely into the face of that number that holds our todays and tomorrows captive and take away its power once and for all. Give yourself permission to view that number as information—not indictment—and begin the slow and steady climb toward freedom.

It’s strange how changing the way you look at a number can become the simple shift that can actually spur the change we’ve been seeking all along. Give it a try and let me know what happens. I’m pulling for you.

This post was originally published on horsenetwork.com

 

All Your Body Needs

All Your Body Needs

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

“How might you begin to reframe how you regard your physical being in kinder, gentler terms?”

—Riding Through Thick & Thin

Answering this question can be a new and different game changer in the battle against negative body image. When we start to really think about our body and all it does for us every day — all we can do because of countless split-second miracles firing one after another in rapid succession (and some simultaneously) — it is hard not to realize what we’re taking for granted.

So if you’ve ever caught yourself using words like “buffalo butt,” ” thunder thighs,” “candles,” “tree trunks,” “batwings,” ” muffin top,” ” boulder boobs,” “rollo,” “jelly belly” and other similar insults to your physique, you’ve got some apologizing to do to these fine body parts. To ride a horse takes strength, stamina, and flexibility. Caring for a horse requires even more than that.

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Tossing around bales of hay, unloading sacks of grain, carrying water buckets, mucking stalls, piloting a wheelbarrow loaded with manure and dumping it without mishap, yanking on a lunge line trying thwart a 1000-pound tantrum on the other end, moving fence panels, operating heavy machinery and oh so much more means that as a keeper of horses you are stronger than most and your body deserves not only good conditioning and care (maybe even as thoughtful care as you give your best horse), it also deserves a thank you every now and then — and some nice words used to describe it, even in the privacy of your own mirror.

Try this simple language conversion chart on for size:

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And no, I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to be improving our “wobbly bits” in terms of fitness and health, but ironically, the shortest path to making any changes or improvements we seek is accepting and loving the body we have RIGHT NOW. Once you’ve mended this important internal fence, then making gradual lifestyle changes in terms of fitness and nutrition will likely move you toward your goal on a surer and swifter course than all those name-calling-and-crash-diet strategies you’ve tried in the past.

Give it a try. Aren’t you worth it?

As always, I’d love for you to share your thoughts on FacebookTwitter, or via email.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Find Your Spot

Find Your Spot

Riding Through Thick & Thin

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

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

Riding Thick Thin Cover

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

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Educate Yourself — Beyond the 20% Rule

Educate Yourself — Beyond the 20% Rule

Riding Through Thick & Thin

So let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that you are over that 20% rule of thumb (that actually has nothing to to with thumbs at all). You know the one. We’re not supposed to weigh (including tack, which for a Western rider can be upwards of 30 pounds) more than 20% of our horse’s body weight.

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Now behold the larger riders winning world class events in reining, eventing, even polo. Not to mention the beefy cowboy bulldogers on 15.2-hand quarter horses. Or the ancient Greeks, arguably some of the greatest horsemen of all time, in full armor — or immense Vikings astride sturdy Icelandic ponies, charging into battle. Not one to argue with statistics — and being the very last one on earth to want any horse to be harmed — I still have to ask the obvious question:

What makes a horse able to carry a little more weight?

Polling several key experts, including Dr. Joyce Harman, DVM, who happens to be both saddle fitter and equine vet, the consensus seems to be that what riders need to know when they and their tack top the 20% mark is this: we must take into consideration the horse’s basic build (broad back, sturdy legs, and sound feet), his level of fitness for the job you’re asking him to do (treat him like the athlete he is with specific conditioning regimens, good nutrition and health care, body work including stretches, massage, and chiropractic as needed with careful attention to any soreness or injury), your own level of fitness (see above and do the same for yourself!), and how well you are able to use your own energy to lighten the load (become a student of body mechanics, balance and breathing). Studies using pressure sensitive electronic magic also show that a 250-pound rider with good rider biomechanics can actually feel lighter to a horse than a floppy 120-pounder!

Now if all this education and effort this sounds like a whole lot of trouble, it is. And there is nothing we can do as equestrians of any size that can make a bigger difference in how we ride. Once we begin to educate ourselves on these three important areas, we begin to see our partnership and connection with our horses in a whole new light. Give it some thought and let me hear from you if you’d like to have some good additional resources for this invaluable information (beyond Riding Through Thick and Thin, of course!) — not only are our horses worth this time and effort; so are we!

Melinda Digital

You can reach out to me on Facebook, Twitter, MelindaFolse.com, or email me at mkfolse@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Get Ready to be Surprised

Get Ready to be Surprised

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

Once we start digging for “truths” it may surprise you what you think of yourself and your riding, and what you think OTHERS think of your riding. And above all, what all these “thinks” are doing to your self-image and the quality of your experience with horses.

In just one of the embarrassing stories I tell on myself in Riding Through Thick and Thin (and believe me, there are many), I relate an experience of riding in an arena at a friend’s ranch in preparation for a clinic the next day. To say that I was apprehensive about this clinic might be the understatement of the decade. I saddled up, entered the arena, and began some slow circles on the sillier of my two horses.

Melinda Digital

Another friend joined me and began circling with us, then she cued her horse into a lope. Without thinking about it too much, I followed suit. We were laughing and talking as we rode and I gave little thought to what I was doing in my effort to just keep up. Quite simply I was lost in the moment. All clinic anxiety dissipated, I was in the zone of joy.

Later, over dinner, my clinic-phobia returned and I voiced my concerns — half joking, half not. The friend hosting us for the weekend looked at me, not bothering to conceal her surprise. “I can’t even believe you’re saying that,” she said. “When I saw you two down at the other end of the arena chasing each other around like puppies i have to admit I felt envious — and a little bit insecure. You’re a much better rider than you think you are.”

Whaaaaaaaaat????

As it turns out, sometimes we have no idea of how others see us. Not that it matters, except as a reality check for how we see ourselves. We are so often our own worst critic that for the sake of our self-concept it is important to learn to take an occasional step outside our own awareness and try to see ourselves through the lens of an impartial observer.

If you don’t have an honest — if shocked — friend to offer up some observational insight, it might be worth it to ask for this kind of feedback from someone you can trust to keep it real. It is only through honest self assessment that we can begin to see things as they really are — and not as our hated imagination would have us believe.

Give it a try and let me know what happens. I can’t wait to hear your stories of amazement that will help bury my own . . . and how we can all learn this lesson together!

Reach out to me here, on Facebook, Twitter, MelindaFolse.com, or email me at mkfolse@gmail.com.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Measure with the right stick (or tape).

Measure with the right stick (or tape).

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

Most of us have grown up with an idea of the “ideal rider’s body.” Whether that for you is a size or a number on the scale, maybe it’s time to re-examine your measuring device. Health and fitness experts — and even doctors agree that the better questions to ask include:

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– How do you feel?

– Are you healthy?

– Do you have enough energy to do what you want and need to do?

– Are you strong, effective and safe in the barn and the saddle?

– Is your horse happy and healthy?

In a recent media brouhaha over this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover girl, Ashley Graham, I listened to the back and forth, between retired 70’s supermodel Cheryl Tiegs telling E! News she wasn’t happy with Sports Illustrated‘s annual Swimsuit Issue featuring “full-figured women.” The former S.I. cover girl said that a woman’s “waist should be smaller than 35 [inches],” and while she the found Graham’s face “beautiful,” she didn’t think it was “healthy in the long run” to put a curvier model on the magazine’s cover. And then came Graham’s rebuttal: “There are too many people thinking they can look at a girl my size and say that we are unhealthy,” Graham noted. “You can’t, only my doctor can!”

Tiegs later apologized, saying the media distorted what she was trying to say: “I was not equating beauty to weight or size, but unfortunately that is what the media reported in headlines,” Tiegs wrote in an open letter to Graham in the Huffington Post. “I was trying to express my concern over media images and the lack of education in America about healthy choices, thus the reference to the 35-inch waist as a guideline to health.” Citing Dr. Oz, Centers for Disease Control, Harvard University, and the American Diabetes Association, Tiegs is not wrong. Just maybe a little bit misguided in that blanket assumption.

In Riding Through Thick &Thin, we offer up all kinds of ways to incorporate “the holy trinity of fitness” into the day-to-day lifestyle of riders who are pressed for time in a way that would actually benefit anyone else as well. Making sure to do something (a little or a lot depending on how much time you can make available) every day — and to have a selection of activities you enjoy — in the three areas of:

Riding Thick Thin Cover

Stamina (walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, etc.),

Strength (resistance training with weights, bands, barre, core work)

Flexibility (stretching, Yoga, pilates, etc.)

With our daily commitment to the “holy trinity of fitness” we unlock the secret of sneaking up on overall fitness that, when paired with good nutrition, keeps us healthier at any size. It also nukes the “I don’t have time to exercise” excuse for even the busiest superhero.

And, while it’s true that if you commit to getting and staying strong, fit, and healthy, your waist may likely be (or start moving toward) that 35-and-under ideal, to say that’s the marker is just plain short sighted.

So toss out those measuring tapes and size 6 jeans, ignore the haters, whether their concern for your health is true or false, and put your attention on what you’re doing every day to protect your health by getting fit in these three important ways.

Tell me about your fitness routine. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, melindafolse.com, or email me at mkfolse@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Teach Your Fitbit™ to Ride!

Teach Your Fitbit™ to Ride!

Riding Through Thick & Thin

If you, like me, have joined the Fitbit™ craze and are challenging yourself daily to get those 10,000 steps (and are mystified at how MANY steps it takes to hit that mark consistently!), you may also be wondering how to calculate those steps — and the workout settings to use when you’re riding.

Now I do admit that I giggled a little the first time my wrist buzzed with the 10,000-step woohoo . . . during a long trot on Trace. I patted him and thanked him and gladly took credit for HIS steps, thinking that perhaps I was working hard enough to merit at least partial credit.

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So when I found this great post by Susan Friedland Smith on her wonderful Saddle Seeks Horse blog, I was at once disappointed and encouraged by her bit of delving that helps clarify how we can use our Fitbits, ride our horses, and still get an accurate picture of how we’re doing when it comes to our fitness seeking goals.

I do encourage you to read the whole post (and a big shout out to Susan for doing this work for all of us!) but the upshot is that when we put the thing in workout mode, we can more easily see that a vigorous ride burns as many calories (and uses as many muscles, if not more!) than many popular gym workouts (Susan compares a vigorous, but fairly routine riding lesson to the calorie burn in her spin class).

The bigger issue with using Fitbit when riding is the step count. The challenge is figuring out how to subtract the right number of steps for the duration of a ride, and then go back to regular human step counting for the rest of our day. Susan says that she discovered that if we select “Workout” (which is technically horseback riding) and then the category of “Driving” from the drop down list on the exercise menu of various workouts, it gives a pretty accurate assessment of calorie burn during a ride. For the record, I do agree with Susan that a few minor coding tweaks would make Fitbit sales skyrocket in the horse world (are you listening, Fitbit execs???): “If the developers had foresight enough to know that equestrians would want to use a Fitbit for horseback riding to track fitness data, why not make a few coding tweaks so that when horseback riding is entered, it will deduct the step count during the timeframe in which the exercise took place?”

Melinda on Horse

I also agree that none of these concerns or adjustments take away the the practical fun of using my Fitbit to keep myself moving toward my overall fitness goals. With this technology and Susan’s advice, (assuming we can remember to do it) we can tweak our settings, tap a button at the beginnings and ends of our rides, and actually get to count our rides as part of our exercise regimen. By being able to gauge the intensity of each ride as part of our “workout” (And understanding that we do need to do make sure to do other work to balance the riding muscle groups to prevent imbalance and overuse injuries), we can now give ourselves credit (and kiss our horses) for what is likely a major contributor to our overall fitness regimen.

As we all learn more about this great tracking device and discover more ways to tweak and use its features in ways that apply specifically to riding and barn chores, let’s share them here and start a groundswell that just might get the attention of those Fitbit and bring about the programming we need most!

Comment here, email me, or add your comment to FacebookTwitter, or my website, and tell us how you use your Fitbit to track your progress toward your riding fitness goals!

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This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Once Upon A Time, A Horse

Once Upon A Time, A Horse

Women and Horses

I came across a list of the TOP 100 HORSE MOVIES the other day (Equine Info Exchange™), and first I thought, Hmmm, who gets to write this list? And then I wondered (aside from, “Are there really 100? Where are they?), “What influences these choices? Is it the story? The humans? The horses? Or is it something silly and random — like the color of the horse? (Black Beauty + Black Stallion = any black horse makes a good story?)

I know I have my own favorite horse stories, and I’m sure you have yours, too. Mine started with a single book — the story that began my love affair with equine fiction.

I fell hard for My Friend Flicka in juniorhigh, and not much has come close since. This 1941 novel by Mary O’Hara about Ken McLaughlin, the son of a Wyoming rancher, and his horse, Flicka, awakened in me a fascination with the horse-human relationship. The idea that a horse could be a friend — with the closeness, communication and connection Ken formed with Flicka (against spectacular odds, I might add) — has inspired exploration even today into how this kind of relationship really does heal humans — and horses — from all kinds of ills. Drs. Tom, Deborah, and Adele Von Rust McCormick can tell you much more about the underpinnings of this kind of connection in their books, Horse Sense and the Human Heart and Horses and the Mystical Path.

Flicka

While the horse-human connection portrayed in My Friend Flicka may have been passed off by many as a magical and farfetched idea when it was written, the truth beneath it is well documented by early Greek and Celtic horsemanship, as well as by the US Cavalry and more modern students such as Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Monty Roberts, Linda Kohanov and many others. In my work with Clinton Anderson as a staff writer, and on his book, Lessons Well Learned, I got a front-row seat to horses and human learning from and connecting with one another. And then, as one of the many women-of-a-certain-age exploring this connection and all horses can add to the middles of our lives, I turned what I learned on this exploration into my own book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses. My Friend Flicka, you see, was as much about growing up and gaining self-assurance through a relationship with a horse as it was about the horse itself.

My Friend Flicka was the first in a trilogy, followed by Thunderhead in 1943 and Green Grass of Wyoming in 1946. There was a popular 1943 film version featuring a young Roddy McDowall, followed by two other film adaptations, Thunderhead, Son of Flicka in 1945, and Green Grass of Wyoming in 1948, not to mention a TV series I didn’t catch until much later it its lengthy reruns. In 2006, Hollywood tried again with this great story — and even with Ken’s part played by a girl and Tim McGraw as the dad — nothing, I’m afraid, could compete with my own vivid imaginings.

As I read I could almost hear that horse nicker when she saw Ken coming down the path, see the softness of her flax main and he brushed it, and feel Ken’s angst in trying to please his father — and never quite measuring up. I knew the intimate details of the McLaughlin household, the breathtaking beauty of their ranch, and all the quirks of every family member as if they were my own. Even today, Mary O’Hara still (from the grave, no less!) still has me in the palm of her hand with this story — and my mental images formed by her words are as fresh and strong right now as they were the first time I read them. This story also brought about my first experience of the deep anxiety of never wanting a story to end, and no matter how many times I re-read that tattered paperback, turning the last page still brought a rush of sadness and yearning for more.

“I hope there are a hundred more books like this,” my 11-year-old self said, of course with the follow-up, “I want to have a horse just like Flicka someday.” And today, having made this soul-level connection with not one but two horses (yes, both somewhat like Flicka, each in a different way — but don’t tell them), it is the rare and wonderful experience I imagined it to be — and so much more.

What is your most compelling horse story? When did your connection with your dream horse begin? Where did it take you? I want to hear from you. Let’s share our stories and start our own list of favorite horse books and movies. Let me hear from you on TwitterFacebook, or at MelindaFolse.com. I never realized until writing this post the power of these early attractions — and how they influenced my thoughts, perceptions, focus and interest.

And of course, there are a couple more where this one came from. Stay tuned.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Seeds of Experience: Riding Through Thick & Thin

Seeds of Experience: Riding Through Thick & Thin

Riding Through Thick & Thin

Writers often like to ponder (sometimes as a procrastination device!) both the unsuspecting origins of whatever we’re working on at the time AND sifting through current experiences for hints of what may be next. The truth is we can look all we want to — we usually have no idea what is currently shaping our future work; part of the mystery we all live with is how projects unfold — and from where. You just never know which ones will surprise you by working out well — and which certain “home runs” end up dragging, dejected, back into the dugout to lick their strike-out wounds. Realizing that there is a finite number of books each of us can write in our lifetime, we have to ask as we begin each one, why should this be one of them?

Melinda Nose

After I finished and lived with The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, which was one of those unexpected out-of-the park experiences that still mystifies me, I really didn’t know what I would be writing about next. Then a call from my publisher piqued my curiosity about whether I would be able to come up with a way to write about body image and riding horses in such a way as to help people think, feel, and behave differently around how riders feel about their own bodies — and how that affects the way the ride.

Riding Thick Thin Cover

Fast forward a few years to the release of my new book, Riding Through Thick & Thin. This was a topic I was familiar enough with to write about, having struggled with the same 20-30 pounds for most of my life — and a ridiculous amount of self doubt that rode along with it. In remembering those rides — as a young teen, as a 20-something, and as now as a 50-something — I know firsthand how this special connection with a horse evokes empowerment and freedom that can drown self-doubt in a sea of exhilaration. As I delved into my research, talked to experts and women of all kinds, shapes and sizes, something else became apparent. This topic transcends horses and riding into a much bigger arena — however, the horse world offers up to may solid metaphors to ignore.

So with that in mind, I invite you to ride along with me for a while on this journey, whether you’re a rider, like horses, or are just curious about how getting #bodypositive will help you banish your own self doubts and rediscover the joy of whatever thrills you!

Riding Don't Let

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com