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

On Finding Perspective

On Finding Perspective

Riding Through Thick & Thin

“ Once  you remove the fear of examining your own feelings about your body and the role you are playing in allowing those feelings to sabotage your joy, you’re on the right trail.”

~ Riding Through Thick & Thin

When it comes to perceptions about our own body, it’s no secret these are mighty influences on how we feel and how we think we look to others. And what’s even more important to consider is how we consciously and unconsciously may be allowing others to influence what we think of our own bodies.

Here’s the truth, though. We often don’t have a very clear idea at all of where we are on the scale of things. We may think we are much larger or much smaller than we actually are. We may be spending so much time and energy bemoaning what’s wrong with our body that we’re completely missing what’s right — or what could be right with a little focused effort. In order to get to our best ride — through life or on the back of a horse — we have to first get real about how we’re built, the shape we’re in, and what our thoughts about our body are really saying.

In a recent study, conducted by Refinery29,  80% of millennial women avoid activities because they’re self-conscious about their bodies. Of the three things causing women the greatest amount of anxiety, going to the beach was a solid frontrunner — thereby launching a resulting #takebackthebeach campaign.

While these women are taking back the beach, I invite you to remember back to the time when having a bikini body meant nothing to you.  When all you wanted from your body was to have fun, and participating in fitness activities carried the sole purpose of getting strong enough to enjoy your favorite activity was your only driver.

Now look at your body again right now through that lens. Ignore the lumps, bulges, and jiggles that normally strap you into the emotional roller coaster and just. Really. Look. For just this one moment, interrupt your current relationship to your body as well as your body’s relationship to the outside world, and objectively consider your body’s strengths. What activity have you put on the back burner because of body anxiety? What would you love to get strong enough to do? What is one step toward that goal you can take right now?

I want to hear from you. Tell me what it might take for you to to have more fun, do more of what you can do, and get strong enough to enjoy it even more. Share your thoughts on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

What the Truck?

What the Truck?

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

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Happy Trailering, Part 1

Happy Trailering, Part 1

The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses

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

 

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Happy Mother’s Day, Ya’ll!

Happy Mother’s Day, Ya’ll!

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And special props to the lead mare in all of us she’s the keeper of that special instinct we share that helps us:  Smell danger, even when all appears well. Detect any sort of dishonesty, even when delivered with sincerity that fools others. Stop at nothing to get our point across (sometimes just imagining the delivery of a well-timed kick to the ribs as punctuation honors the unflappable guidance our inner lead mare). Defend our young with the ferocity of a grizzly bear, no matter how stupid they’ve been (and then turn around and kick their butts ourselves to make sure they got the point). Forgive purely and completely, and then just go back to grazing. Never hold back on love, affection and commitment to raising our young with everything we know, everything we have and everything we have to give. If you doubt any of this, just find a mare with a young foal, a shady spot a respectful distance away, and pull up a lawn chair. (A cold beverage would be a nice touch.) Watch the interactions between mare and foal. Every flick of an ear, swish of a tail, shift in position means something. At first you may not see it. But keep watching. There is nothing more humbling and inspiring in the world of mothers than watching a mare and foal. It’s the perfect mothering textbook, in my opinion. Tenderness, boundaries, expectations, love, forgiveness, second chances, unflinching devotion, and an occasional swift kick when necessary. So here’s to us, Moms of the world. This is our day. Stop and honor the job we do and take a moment to thank our inner lead mare that shows us the way more often than any of us realize. And now, if you will excuse me, I have some grazing to do. I do believe my herd has arrived with sweet feed.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Time for Tea?

Time for Tea?

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Ok, I admit it. The idea of having tea with my horse made me giggle. After all, the notion of viewing grooming your horse as a Japanese tea ceremony as proposed by Allan J. Hamilton, MD, in his book, Zen Mind, Zen Horse seemed a little over the top at first. After all, I come from a background of “just brush off the part where the saddle goes.” My understanding of grooming got a little more refined watching the folks at Downunder Horsemanship and Hacienda Tres Aguilas, as well as observing the grooming rituals of numerous friends who show. And when researching the Good Horsekeeping chapter of The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, I learned scads about what goes in the grooming box/cabinet and what tasks need to be tended to in taking care of a horse’s coat, hooves, mane and tail. That’s not to say I really do all that stuff, but I do try to brush the whole horse now. And pick his feet before and after I ride. And rinse them off with the hose on hot days after a sweaty ride. Some would call this progress, others would say it’s pampering. Welcome to the wide world of horse experts. But Hamilton’s suggestion takes this well-worn topic to a whole new level. As on of his book’s main tenets, Hamilton advises us to practice being present with our horse. Now, granted, this is not new advice, either, but he offers us here a whole new way to get there beyond “check your life baggage outside the barn door.” Hamilton says that the best way to beckon this sacred “in-the-moment” frame of mind is to create a grooming ritual that reconnects you with your horse. “Lay out your grooming tools and always do the same things in the same order,” he advises, taking time to “put all your love and affection for this animal into each stroke of the brush.” Check out Hamilton’s “tea ceremony” video that made
me want to try this:
After watching this video, I went out and gave it a try with Trace, my hypersensitive “why-are-you-touching-me?!?!” horse. He was big-eyed wary at first (probably assuming I was about to put that dreaded saddle on him), but in spite of himself, he began to relax. By the time we got to the soft finishing brush, his head was down, his eyes were closed, and when he heaved the biggest sigh I’ve ever heard from him, so did I. So put your snickers aside, go assemble your grooming tools, and give this “tea ceremony” thing a try. I can’t wait to hear what happens!

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Are You Sure?

Are You Sure?

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

If a riding instructor has ever told you to “look where you want the horse to go” I submit to you that it goes much deeper than that. When your mind is clear and certain of exactly what you want your horse to do, it makes an unbelievable difference in his willingness to do it. Why is that?

One of the many ways our horses push us to be better people is to demand (by ignoring our requests until we’re compelling enough to convince them we really do know exactly what we want) clear and decisive direction. I can always tell on the days I’m feeling a little bit mentally lazy or distracted that my horse, Rio, completely “forgets” how to do everything he knows how to do really well on his “good days.” (I guess what we realize by now whose “good days” we’re really talking about here) And, while it’s true that horses are entitled to their “better” and “not-so-great,” and “a little bit rusty” days, it is usually more a matter of our own clarity that determines how things will go. How do you find that clarity and authenticity? That’s one of the best things our horses force us to do. And like getting and staying in shape (the other thing they require of us that provides far-reaching benefits way beyond the saddle) building the clarity muscle is a matter of practice, determination and repetition. So leave your cell phone in the car, force the to-do -when-I-leave-here list from your mind, and when you’re with your horse, practice not only being in that moment just with him, but picture in your mind (with the greatest detail you can muster) exactly what it is you want him to do before you ask him. Don’t forget to come back and tell me what happened! Comment here or feel free to email me at mkfolse@gmail.com. If enough of you respond, I promise a future post that compiles these stories–because if you’ll really do this, I know there are going to be lots of stories we’re all going to want to hear! So let’s get out there, clear out the life cobwebs when you’re with your horse–and get sure!

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

There’s Always A Way, Or An Excuse

There’s Always A Way, Or An Excuse

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

“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

Put On Your Big Girl Panties

Put On Your Big Girl Panties

Midlife Riding Through Thick & Thin The Smart Woman's Guide to Midlife Horses Women and Horses
One of the things we face as horse owners of any age, and especially those of us who have spent decades telling everyone around us to “be careful, now”–is the realization of what can happen if we come off a horse. We know we don’t bounce as well as we once did. And grown-up responsibilities and commitments constantly run through the backs of our minds. Under the circumstances, it’s easy to let fear and apprehension (our own and the cautionary words of others) talk us back out of the saddle. But if you love the feeling of riding, and know in your heart that what you get out of the experience is far better than sitting back and wishing, you must learn to minimize risk and maximize joy. Is it a matter of putting on your big girl panties to force yourself through fear? Do you just need that 30 seconds of insane courage to put apprehension in its place? Should you listen to those who advise you to do something every day that scares you to death?? Well, maybe. Sometimes, insane courage is part of the personal courage equation, but you also have to be smart about it. Fear exists for a reason. So do riding helmets. One of the best ways to feel safe in the saddle is by knowing you’ve done all you can to minimize risk. Yes, you definitely wear the aforementioned helmet. But even more important than wearing protective gear is incorporating safe habits into your routines until they become second nature. And you educate yourself (and your horse) on the basics of horsemanship. So, how do you put all this together? I’ve learned that you can’t bluff a horse, so pretending not to be afraid when you are doesn’t serve any purpose. But once you have the safety and education pieces in place, you can call up those 30 seconds of insane courage. It’s called putting on your big girl panties. With well-earned confidence in place, you know that whatever happens when you’re in the saddle, you can handle it, so you swing your leg over with a “Just Do It” attitude that would make St. Nike proud. Here’s a quick story to illustrate. When we were shooting some video to promote The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, I got on Trace for some footage of me riding him, since my issues with this challenging horse were a major thematic element of the book. I didn’t feel nervous or unsure when I got on him, but he immediately started what I call his “agitated quick-step” that is a precursor to the leap-forward-kick-up “angry dolphin.” (Isn’t it sad that I have names for all his antics? Why I keep this horse is a story for another day). Suddenly, I felt my confidence I had slipping away. And the cameras were rolling. (I’ll put this up on YouTube when it’s ready, so stay tuned if you want a giggle.) “Sit heavy, sit back and push him forward,” Denise called out to me from across the arena. I did. Sure enough, he began walking more normally. But the tension remained in both of us. I tried to breathe deep and relax my hips and legs. It felt better, but still not good. “Still looks like you’re walking on eggshells,” Joyce, the videographer and producer, observed. “It’s OK, though,” she added as she unplugged herself from the camera. “I think we have enough of you riding Rio.” I dismounted and she started packing up her equipment. Then something strange happened. “No, we’re not doing this today,” I said to no one in particular as I turned Trace around to face the middle of the arena. Without any of my usual preamble or the mounting block I use to get on him in a “kinder, gentler way,” I climbed back on Trace. His head went straight up. I felt the familiar hump rising in his back. I squeezed him forward. “You’re going to do this today and you’re going to do it right,” I told him. To my great relief–and more than a little surprise–he did. The smile you see in the video as I reach forward to pat him after a very nice canter is one of those moments with far-reaching implications. Finding my big girl panties at the end of a long, hard fight through fear and uncertainty was a feeling of victory like no other.

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com

Are You Ready To Shed?

Are You Ready To Shed?

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

So first, what happens when we shed? We cast off what we no longer need to protect us. I think this applies equally well to horsehair, clutter, and that wobbly layer of winter sponginess that, for me, usually comes from too much warm, squishy comfort food.

Oddly, this is the time of year when one type of shedding inevitably leads to another. Looking for my shorts and walking shoes (at the insistence of a twirling Golden retriever who has finally guilted me into a walk) led me to pull the winter stuff from my closet and start making decisions about what I really want to keep enough to warrant the effort of packing it away.

Then, once on the trail, the very act of exposing my wobbly bits to the bright light of day evoked a vow to make sure I schedule SOME kind of real exercise into every day. And to stop and buy some of the fresh fruits and veggies I see “cropping up” in those farmers markets I’ve been driving past.

The best shedding metaphor, however, came (as most insights do) from the horses. Watching them in the pasture, each in various stages of molting, I’m in reminded of the serious jolt of joy we all get in every spring uncovering. As the winter woollies come off our horses, don’t we all get excited to see that sleek shininess that lies beneath the fluff? Doesn’t it fill us with anticipation of summer rides, sunny days and that intoxicating aromatherapy blend of horse sweat, green grass and fly spray?

As Rio pranced away from me this morning (all itchy spots well-scratched), he left the last remains of his winter coat behind (stuck mostly to me and the sorrel haze covering the ground around me), he had a new lightness I hope is contagious. Yes, we’re both still fat and sassy from too many bad weather days in a row, but I couldn’t help but notice how much the gleam of his coppery coat looked a brand new penny.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to finish cleaning out that closet, get more serious with my hit-or-miss exercise routines, and eat more vegetables. For one thing, I’m curious about what might be under my winter layer (I’ve been doing a LOT of Pilates this winter!); for another, its only when you shed what keeps you comfortable that you uncover your own shininess. Our sunny days ahead are filled with the promise of that new penny out there. Let’s vow to enjoy single one of them! Happy Shedding!!!

This post was originally published by Equisearch.com