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Posts Tagged ‘body positive’

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Screenshot from Bojack Horseman–Watch him on Netflix.

There are a lot of things these days that can making getting to the barn difficult, or even impossible. Hey, from experience, it even can happen when your barn is in your backyard! Work, kids, spouse, meals, extended family, friends, fitness, errands, household repairs and chores, appointments—you name it, they take time, and pretty soon the hours you planned to spend with your horse have dissolved into a few minutes at the beginning and end of your day.

But that old argument for quality versus quantity gets a nod here, because of course both your horse and you can benefit from a short visit—if, that is, that visit is one where you are fully present. And with text vibrating away in your pocket and the mental clocking ticking down in your head, therein lies the modern equestrian challenge: Quiet, focused, undisturbed, tech-free-time with you-know-who. (And don’t forget the carrots.)

In her latest book RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, horsewoman Melinda Folse explores the various traps we fall into as imperfect life and imperfect bodies sap the joy we once found beside or on a horse. Stress, feeling “overwhelmed” and out of control, and the unhappiness with “self” that often goes along with it, can play a big part in keeping us out of the saddle. Here’s one powerful exercise she provides, which she learned from licensed therapist Jill Valle, who was trained at The Mind Body Medical Institute at Harvard Medical School and has run a 15-year private practice, focusing on women and adolescents and body image issues.

The exercise is as easy as 5-3-1…

Any time you catch yourself feeling anxious, upset, or overwhelmed. Stop, take a deep breath, and then ask yourself:
• What are 5 things I see in the room or barn or arena around me?

• What are 3 things I hear?

• What is 1 thing I feel?

Valle says that using this exercise when we feel like the wheels are spinning too fast takes us out of our “loops,” returning us to the present moment by making us “observers.”

In RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, Melinda Folse admits she often feels “overwhelmed by my life’s magical roller coaster ride,” and so she gave 5-3-1 a try.

“At work I got a pop-up reminder that the farrier was coming later that afternoon, so I left my office early, picked up my daughter from school, and headed to the barn,” she writes. “On the way I got a business call deemed ‘extremely urgent’ that necessitated an evening ahead full of damage control. As I pondered this mess, my daughter informed me she had nothing to wear to an important event the next day (oops), and I looked down to discover my inspection sticker was expired on my car. Did I mention we were out of hay?

“Taking a deep breath, I pulled into the parking area near our barn and immediately went for 5-3-1:

5 things I saw around me? 1) Horses grazing in a turnout pen; 2) the barn manager welding something on his trailer; 3) a friend giving her horse a bath in the washrack; 4) another friend hand-grazing her horse; 5) kittens playing on the clubhouse lawn.

3 things I heard? 1) The buzz and popping of the welding equipment; 2) horses in the pen behind me running down the fence line; 3) a tractor coming back from raking the arena.

1 thing I felt? Warm sun beating through the windshield of my car.

“Did this exercise change any of my circumstances? Not at all. But somehow, everything suddenly felt more doable….The turning point toward calm control was Valle’s 5-3-1.”

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

 

You can find more easy, horse-life-changing exercises in RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free chapter or to order.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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Author Melinda Folse seeks ways to ensure we all find paths to empowerment and joyful living with horses.

Author Melinda Folse seeks ways to ensure we all find paths to empowerment and joyful, fulfilling lives with horses. Photo by Caroline Petty

 

TSB author Melinda Folse has counted on horses as a touchstone since she was a little girl.

“I’ve been hopelessly in love with horses all my life,” she says. “I inherited this mutant gene from my dad, who is similarly afflicted. What time I didn’t spend dreaming about, learning to draw, and reading about horses became, on and off in my early teens, early 20s and mid forties forward, actual ownership, riding, and having horses in my life in one way or another.”

Now Folse—a writer by trade—has several published books to her name, including LESSONS WELL LEARNED, which she cowrote with renowned horseman Clinton Anderson, and her own bestseller THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES. Her newest work brings her penchant for playful banter while digging into the heart of the matter to what for many is a tricky subject: body image. RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN finds us discussing not only the more commonly considered concepts of rider fitness and biomechanics but also that-whole-heckuva-lot that goes on in our heads and in our hearts when we catch sight of ourselves in the arena mirror. How many of us have asked ourselves, as Folse likes to say, “Does this horse make my butt look big?”

What led Folse to this topic?

“Three things, really,” she says. “First, my publisher Trafalgar Square Books said they wanted to do this book and would I be willing to write it. Second, I have personally struggled with my weight for most of my life. (Most of this, in retrospect, was in my head.) Third, and what is usually the most compelling reason for me to write what I write: I was curious.”

Has Folse seen a shift in the culture around body image and riding? Is there a difference between this cultural shift in the horse world and society in general?

“It’s no secret that obesity rates are skyrocketing,” she says, “and that trend is echoed in the horse world, as it is just about everywhere else. Two important distinctions for equestrians of all disciplines are that because we have another living being depending upon us to be smart, conscientious, and kind, there is an additional layer of responsibility that comes with true excess weight when we ride. The second thing is a bit wigglier and subjective. It’s hard to break through the layers of what we think and get to what really is. For riders, extremes of behavior range from giving up horses altogether to a dangerous dance with eating disorders to stay ‘show ring skinny.’”

"I wanted answers, to my questions and yours, when it comes to the complicated topic of 'body image.'"

“I wanted answers, to my questions and yours, when it comes to the complicated topic of ‘body image.'” Photo by Caroline Petty

Is this a topic we speak of openly in the horse communities, or is it considered taboo?

“I think there’s plenty of both,” admits Folse. “People can be very unkind to plus-sized riders — sometimes to their faces, and more often when cloaked in the anonymity of blogs and forums and social media. I’ve read some true meanness from those who accuse overweight riders of animal cruelty — and some pushback with solidarity that is truly heartwarming from communities around the world documenting how smart strong fit riders of all sizes actually feel lighter and take better care of their horses than most ‘average-sized’ riders put together.”

Are women in the show ring more worried about how they look than how they ride? How significant is the pressure to conform to a certain “norm” when competing?

“Fat-shaming in the show ring, just like everywhere else, is reaching epidemic proportions,” Folse says. “And it is doing damage, both to young girls just starting out and older riders excited to be showing again or for the first time. Negative feedback comes from other competitors, spectators on the sidelines, and sometimes even from judges. A great recent Horse Illustrated article, ‘Body Shaming in the Show Ring,’ by  Patrice D. Bucciarelli encourages riders to continue showing in spite of negative feedback. I agree. The more we all just return to being fit, confident riders, the better off we’ll all be, including and especially our horses!”

So how does a rider know what is a healthy weight?

“The best answer is . . . it depends,” Folse explains. “It depends on your body type. Your bone density. Your fitness level. Your goals and dreams. When it comes to riding horses, the best answer my experts gave consistently across the board is that it’s not your weight but how you use it that matters most. That’s where we get into the fitness, balance, energy, and mindfulness components of riding well, along with the horse you’re riding and what kind of riding you’re trying to do. Navigating between real and imagined limitations — and finding the right solution tailored to your own needs and circumstances rather than some chart — is just part of what RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN is all about.”

How can someone make an honest assessment of where they are and what they need to do? What kind of “thinking” needs to change in order to start down a healthier path?

“I know this sounds counterintuitive,” Folse says, “but you do have to love your body right now, first, in order to move toward the one you want. Self-acceptance and self-compassion doesn’t mean letting yourself off the hook for making lifestyle changes that will ultimately pay off in the saddle. Horsekeeping in and of itself demands strength, stamina, and skill beyond the norm, and it’s time we appreciate our bodies for what they already do — even as we try to nudge them toward whatever goals we want to set, based on what we want to do next with our horses or in our life.”

So what’s the bottom line in RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN? Is it saying it’s okay to be heavy if you ride well? Or that overweight riders need to lose weight so they can ride better?

“I think the most important message — and the one I hope comes across to readers loud and clear — is that it’s not about weight at all,” says Folse. “It’s about being healthy, strong and fit — and riding with balance, energy, and mindfulness. It’s about making good thoughtful decisions about the horse you ride, the fit of your tack, and what you are choosing to do, at what level. It’s about being realistic and setting appropriate goals. It’s about moving forward with joy and confidence and feeling good about your body and what it can do — and finding the courage to break free of whatever has been holding you back from riding, working with, and enjoying your horses.

“The mindfulness piece of it is huge. We need to stop beating ourselves up for real or imagined weight issues, take an honest look at our individual circumstance, and find ways to be healthy fit and proactive — regardless of shape or size. Our focus needs to change to figuring out how to rediscover the joy we’re meant to have with our horses and in our lives.”

 

EQUUS-EXCERPT-TWITTER

You can read an exclusive excerpt from RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN in the March 2016 issue of EQUUS Magazine. The book is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to to download the FREE Body Image Self-Test from RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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I remember the first time I read the description of the ideal body for riding horses—it said something about long legs and a short waist, and may have specified “slender”—and how I immediately analyzed my own physical attributes to determine whether or not I qualified as perfectly formed for my chosen pursuit. I failed in some way, of course, because there are few women out there who would likely honestly report always being satisfied with their bodies.

“The list of what plagues women about their bodies is long—and quite enough to wear us out,” writes Melinda Folse in her brand new book RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN. “Chances are, if you’re a woman, there has been a time (for some of us, that would be ‘always’) in which you questioned your size, shape, body type, the length of your legs, or the thickness of your thighs. It might even be safe to say that most of us, at one time or another, have thought we’re too fat, too skinny (yes, I’ve heard they’re out there), too tall, too short, too muscular, too…oh, whatever else you can think of.”

That’s right: our state of dissatisfaction isn’t even just about weight, although that is perhaps the most common issue battled, inside and out. It’s about shape. It’s about proportion. It’s about not meeting an ideal, albeit an ideal that may not be worthy of the kind of sacrifices we’re willing to make to achieve it.

“Life is short. Life with horses is a gift we ought not waste over worries about our size, our shape, or how we look when we ride,” says Folse, who also wrote the bestseller THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES. “But honestly friends, once we have a solid assessment about who we are—and what can and can’t be changed—we can acquire an assortment of tools and develop strategies for making the most of what we have, taking advantage of opportunities that come our way, and reaching the potential that is unique to each one of us.”

RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN intends to do just that: empower riders everywhere to find ways to feel good about themselves in and out of the saddle. Less about losing weight or getting fit (although there are plenty of helpful ideas for both), Folse’s book taps neuroscience, mindfulness, and fitness realities to reveal why happiness in our bodies is not only possible—it may be far easier than we think.

RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

CLICK HERE to order now and save 30% in TSB’s 30th Anniversary Sitewide Sale! Sale ends tomorrow (December 3, 2015), so hurry!

 

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Don’t miss Melinda Folse’s “Life with Horses” blog on Equisearch.com: CLICK HERE to read her CENTERED RIDING “aha” moment!

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs for 30 years, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

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