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:

Language-Conversion-Body-Image

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

See Yourself As Your Horse Sees You

See Yourself As Your Horse Sees You

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

Something about being female — and most especially a female rider — sets up a different kind of self-scrutiny than whatever gets loaded into the male circuit board that allows plus-sized cowboys to hop onto quarter horses to cut, rope, rein their way to championship runs without even so much as a second thought about the watermelon-sized gut hanging over an over-cranked belt. We women, on the other hand, can worry ourselves sick over a little extra pudge — and God forbid — a muffin top. To go up a size in jeans is to admit failure or some personal shortcoming we can’t even name. And nowhere is this more true than in the show ring.

Why is this, I ask you? Or, possibly even more important, what can we do to get past it? How can we learn to think differently about our bodies, even if they aren’t the size or shape we want them to be? As long as we’re fit, strong and healthy, do our horses even care?

Jenni, whose story appears in full in Riding Through Thick & Thin is a perfect example, I think of both the kind of garbage we can take on about our bodies — and the exhilaration to be had in overcoming it. Jenni was born into a line of women, her grandmother, specifically, who truly believed “being skinny” was key to any success a woman should aspire to. “I was never tiny enough to meet her expectations,” Jenni writes, adding that some of the things that are conditioned in childhood often stick with us for life.

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After spending most of her childhood and teenage years believing she was “this obese monster who would never achieve anything,” Jenni met Mary, a friend at high school who rode horses. While Jenny really wanted to ride, she was afraid. Not of the riding or the horses, mind you, but that the extra 15 pounds she carried would be just too much. “ I was fearful of how I would look in breeches,” she says, “I was fearful the horse would stumble with me because I was so fat.”

Jenni says she remembers Mary, laughing at her, saying like, “Jenni, the horse weighs a ton. Literally. Get over yourself. You are not fat, and the horse will never care.”

The horse will never care.

“And he didn’t care,” Jenni says. “And you wanna know who else didn’t care? The instructor didn’t care. And all the girls at the barn felt funny in breeches. NOBODY cared how “fat” I was.”

Jenni says that while she may not be Olympic material, she turned out to be a pretty good rider. What’s even more important is that putting her focus on riding helped her break free of the hang-ups she had about her body, once and for all (Take that, Grams!)”

For all the Jenni and Grams stories out there (and believe me, in researching Riding Through Thick & Thin I met plenty of them), the names and details may change, but the body angst is shockingly similar.) In fact, part of why I wrote this book in the first place was to get to the bottom of exactly what drives this kind of body angst. Whether or not our self-criticism — or the criticism of others —has even a pinky toe in reality, we have to wonder what it is that makes us take it on. And how we can set ourselves free.

Spoiler Alert: the first step isn’t losing weight or exorcizing that muffin top. To break this cycle we must first learn to look at our bodies in the light of acceptance —without any judgment or plan for changing anything. Now allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling — without any need to shut it off or to fix it. See yourself — maybe for the first time in your life — with a big, open, kind, and loving heart.

I’d love to know what your horse doesn’t care about! Reach out to me on FacebookTwitter, on my website, or via email. I look forward to hearing from you.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Reading Your Horse—Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Reading Your Horse—Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

News The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

“If your horse seems to be struggling or uncomfortable or acting out, do some troubleshooting. Pain issues—most often in feet, teeth, and back—are responsible for 80% of horses’ behavioral problems. And often pain and discomfort are related to saddle fit.”

—Riding Through Thick & Thin

I was on the right track, sort of, then I swerved, changed horses and missed the boat completely. Despite this ridiculous mix of metaphor, this is a lesson so worth learning I repeat it to myself often. And if I forget, my horses tend to remind me.

My horse, Trace, is extremely sensitive. And smart. And athletic. So when he started bucking every single time I got on him, I tried one thing after another to make sure it wasn’t a pain issue (right track!).

I changed saddles—several times. Pads. Feed. Treated for ulcers. Floated his teeth. Cleaned his sheath (well I didn’t but the vet did). Consulted a holistic vet who “strength tested” and then had me treat an old leg injury with an herbal compound and wrap it daily for a month or so. Acupuncture, cold laser and some clicking instrument I still don’t understand by a chiropractor who made barn calls. Cranial sacral therapy. Animal communicators…

As you can see, I looked under every rock for the answer. Trace was so sweet and willing when I was on the ground—I had taught him everything in Clinton Anderson’s DVDs—but every time I got on it became nothing short of a wild west show. I do not like wild west shows in which I am a participant.

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So, deciding it wasn’t pain (here’s the swerve), I moved on to a series of trainers who tried first one thing and then another to “train” this strange and increasingly violent buck out of my little buckaroo. One after the other, they gave up. One blamed me and my lack of skill as a rider (he offered to “trade me something I could ride”). Another quit, deeming Trace “too dangerous  to work with,” and the others just shrugged and said I probably ought to get rid of him and get another horse (detour!).

To say I was discouraged, my confidence shattered and worst of all, truly afraid to get back on that horse, were all understatements. But my gut told me this was a horse worth sticking with (right track!). When we worked and played and learned together on the ground, this was the partnership with a horse people yearned for. I trusted him completely…unless I was on his back.

“You don’t ride your dogs and you still enjoy them,” one friend said, trying to console me. This solution didn’t feel quite right either.

Then came Karl, an old-fashioned trainer with a definite idea of what was wrong. “Take him to the chiropractor,” he said. “He’s in pain.”

I was skeptical and didn’t want to get my hopes up again as I ran up yet another bill—and likely, down another blind alley.

“See this?” Karl said, poking a finger into Trace’s neck up near his poll. Trace’s head shot straight up and his eyes grew white rims. “He’s out [of alignment] right there. See that?” He said, running his hand down Trace’s spine and pressing lightly on either side as he did with thumb and forefinger. The muscles of Trace’s back visibly tensed up. “All this is related to that mess up there in his neck.”

Then, watching Trace move around the round pen, Karl pointed out several things, from how he carried his head to the slight pause before his back right leg landed.

Karl, you see, makes his living reading the signs.

But how, if we’re not Karl, and aside from decades of experience of our own, can we learn to read the signs our horse might be in pain?

First, I think simple awareness of this great truth of horsemanship is huge. If 80% of behavior problems are caused by pain, why wouldn’t we start there?

 

For this we need to have some resources at the ready—a vet, an equine dentist, and yes, a chiropractor (and if either of these folks will be sedating your horse they really should also be vets). Equine massage therapists and cranial sacral therapists can be tremendously helpful if they know what they’re doing. And although saddle fitters who aren’t trying to sell you a saddle are few and far between, I’ve run across some extremely thorough resources in Dr. Joyce Harman, DVM and Susan Harris. Dr. Harman’s books and DVDs on Pain Free Saddle Fit (she has one for English and one for Western) are extremely helpful in assessing how your saddle fits and in evaluating one you’re considering buying. Harris’s DVD and articles on her website are fabulous for understanding how a horse moves and how to assess the movement of your own horse.

When choosing horse care professionals be sure to get references from people you trust who have used these folks before. Other good sources are your vet, trainer, or farrier. But don’t just take their word for it. Read up, ask questions, educate yourself all you can on learning how to listen to what your horse’s behavior might be telling you.

Having a little knowledge—and your own custom-built “A-Team” at the ready—goes a long way toward your own readiness to read the signs your horse is giving you that he’s not comfortable and needs some help from his human. Best of all, this awareness and having a plan will help you nip pain-related behavior problems in the bud and take the short path back to your happy trail!

This post was previously published on horsenetwork.com

Accept All “Great Truths” Carefully

Accept All “Great Truths” Carefully

Riding Through Thick & Thin The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses Women and Horses

How do you know what you think you know on a given subject? In the horse world, sometimes the “great truths” handed down from our fellow equestrians, other disciplines, and preceding generations can be real — or the farthest thing from actual truth.

There’s an old saying I have always loved — and have experienced time and time again in interviewing all kinds of “horse people” for both The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horsesand Riding Through Thick and Thin: “Anytime you get three horse people together you will most likely find that they will not be able to agree on anything. However, when one of the three leaves the conversation, the other two will finally agree on one thing: the one who left was definitely wrong.”

I think the most important lesson to draw from this “great truth” is that while it’s important to consult the experts, to educate yourself and to listen to those who have “been there, done that” (do we really want to make all the mistakes ourselves?), it is equally if not more important to use the noggin and inner guidance you were born with to learn how to figure some things out for yourself.

Melinda Blog 4.22.16

How do you know you’re on the right track? You get quiet on the inside and learn how to really see what you’re seeing, hear what you’re hearing and feel what you’re feeling. With practice, this authentic, on-board guidance system we all are born with (but sometimes needs to be primed and rebooted, if you’re pardon the mix of mechanical and technological metaphor) will indeed help you listen, filter the advice, information and sometimes plain nonsense you encounter — and just know what you need and quite often, what your horse needs from you. Horses are great helpers for finding our authenticity — and discovering our own answers— but our part of the bargain is that we have to learn how to get quiet, use our innate gifts of observation and intuition, and teach ourselves to trust what comes. Give it a try and let me know what happens. I’d wager that every horse person alive has a story about this — I’d love to hear them! Please share them with me on Twitter, Facebook, my website, or email me at mkfolse@gmail.com

Melinda Blog 4.22.16 Final 2

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

A Horse by Any Other Name?

A Horse by Any Other Name?

News

I’ve always been fascinated by how people name their horses. Do you choose a name that reflects a personality trait? A physical characteristic? A favorite character or personality? An ironic name? A laudatory predictor?

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And, unless you raise a horse from scratch, you may pretty much get stuck with someone else’s quirk. Superstition dictates that we not change a horse’s name. Unless we get a horse whose name doesn’t really fit him. Or if, like me, you come by horse whose name, you later realize, was changed by the person who sold him to you — or a previous owner — are you then obligated to change the name back to the original? Or is that changing it, thus evoking the wrath of the bad luck fairy.

So let’s hear from you. What’s your horse’s name? How was he/she named and by whom? Did you change it or bow to superstition? If your horse is registered, were you happy with the choices proffered by your papers, or did you go with the “barn name” so you could call him whatever you want to? Are you looking for the right horse name? Take a look at this post from Five Star Ranch for some prompts, guidelines and interesting associations. Reach out to me here, on Twitter, Facebook ,or on my website.

No pressure, but whatever you choose, remember that you could be saddling future owners with your cleverness!

Horse Name

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

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

Celebrating Strength—and Commitment to Horsecare

Celebrating Strength—and Commitment to Horsecare

News Riding Through Thick & Thin

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

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

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

Forget Skinny. Get strong! 

Melinda Celebrating Strength 1

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

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

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

This post was originally published on Equisearch.com
photo from http://blackmtnranch.com/
Stuck in Transition?

Stuck in Transition?

News The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

In anticipation of our new retreat programming — and all kinds of interesting ideas and options for fine-tuning your contentment we’ll be rolling out over the next six months — I’m starting a new series here on the subject of transition.

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on the subject of turning the times of change in our lives into opportunities for re-evaluating, re-ordering and re-directing our thoughts, feelings and actions toward the best possible experience of whatever new reality we may be facing. I’ve found a lot of great stuff and wonderful resources on the subject that I will be sharing here, and I invite active participation from all of you regarding your own struggles, triumphs and experiences with transitions.

To be clear, the transition I’m talking about can come in any shape or size. Apparently the process of letting go of the old and embracing the new is pretty much the same regardless of whether the change you’re dealing with is major or minor. From changes in work, relationships, health, housing, routine, or any number of other things, it doesn’t seem to matter whether they come suddenly and dramatically — such as an accident or a winning lottery ticket — or from a creeping state of circumstances that has finally evolved into a life changing decision.

I’ve written a lot about midlife here — that ultimate time of transition everyone faces to some degree or the other. In our many conversations over The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, we’ve agreed that midlife is more a state of mind than a specific age range. And after talking to hundreds of women about their midlife horses, I fully appreciate that for some, the sensation of midlife “crisis” comes in their thirties, and for others (lots of others, as a matter of fact) not until their seventies! Although these times and sensations of “crisis” that forces or inspires some type of transition most often occurs at the changing of our decades, they are also likely to appear any time we experience, as author Gail Sheehy once put it, the “predictable crises of adult life.”

So as we explore the subject and ideas around making good, smooth transitions (horsemanship pun intended), we’ll look at topics including:

Reorienting your approach to your new reality by finding the inner stillness that will help you reflect, reevaluate, and gain clarity on your own deepest priorities (we’ll have more great resources on this soon, but in the meantime, check out Deepak Chopra’s Primordial Sound Meditation for a great place to start!).

Evaluating obstacles, issues and resources — and creating strategies and solutions that offer comfort and security in the interim, with specific action steps for moving forward. (Denise Barrows points us toward an interview she heard recently on NPR with one of my favorite “Getting Things Done®” resources, David Allen. Check out the free interview excerpt here, or go to interviewer/producer David Freudberg’s HumanMedia site for more information or to purchase the entire interview!)

Practicing extreme self care (Get thee to the bookstore or e-book site of your choice and purchase Cheryl Richardson’s The Art of Extreme Self Care) to help you realign physically, mentally and emotionally to your new reality — and the highest possible standards of who you are and all you are meant to be.

Finding the support you need to explore your own feelings and find the confidence that will keep you focused and motivated to make choices and decisions that continually honor and reflect the true nature of your highest self. My personal go-to source on all the “finding your own way” sorts of topics is Oprah-renowned life coach Martha Beck, with a special nod to her newest book Finding Your Way in a Wild New World.”

What interests you most on this subject? What in particular do you struggle with when you’re facing a transition? Where are your specific challenges in the above four areas? I’d love to hear from you here in the form of a comment, on our Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter communities, or via email to me at mkfolse@gmail.com.

Just Say WHOA

Just Say WHOA

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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