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

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.

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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:

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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

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!

 

 

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

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