Posts Tagged ‘Fitness’


Coach Daniel Stewart is an enthusiastic force of positivity that makes you smile even when you’re in the middle of getting your riding butt kicked into gear. His mental and physical training techniques have helped boost equestrians from mediocre to masterful all over the globe. At TSB, we’ve been lucky to work with Coach Stewart on three books over the many years we’ve now known him, including his newest FIT & FOCUSED IN 52. Recently, we caught up with him at an airport in between flights to clinics, and he shared a little about his new book, as well as his feelings about clowns, gray hair, and ice cream.

TSB: Your new book FIT & FOCUSED IN 52 was published in December. It provides a calendar of tips for the rider’s mind and body, one each for every week of the year. What was your inspiration behind this concept and how do you think pairing fitness and focus can benefit riders?

CDS: The inspiration behind creating FF52 was my belief that success in riding—like in all sports—only occurs when we become both physically and mentally strong; when we match a strong leg and seat with strong focus and confidence. I’ve always thought that riding was a sport of distances (like 3-foot fences and 12-foot strides) but perhaps the most important distances of all are the 5 feet below our ears… and the 5 inches between them!


Coach Stewart with Olympian Boyd Martin, who says, “Everyone can benefit from becoming more confident, focused, and fit…and Daniel’s equestrian sport psychology and fitness programs are a great way to do it!”

TSB: You have been leading a number of high-quality “equestrian athlete camps” around the country. What do you feel these intensive settings bring to a rider’s ability to improve, compete, and succeed?

CDS: My four-day equestrian athlete camps held at the US Olympic Training Center are designed to give developing and young riders access to the same quality of instruction, coaching, and facilities as our high-performing teams receive. While I initially created these camps to help riders improve their success by teaching them how to improve their physical and mental fitness, I was delighted to find out that the riders were also creating amazing camaraderie with their newfound teammates—some of which appears like it might last a lifetime! 

TSB: You and your family and neighborhood were hit hard by Hurricane Irma in September. What is one lesson you learned from the experience, both during the storm and in its aftermath?

CDS: Believe it or not, I actually learned more from before the hurricane hit than I learned from the storm itself! In the days before Irma hit my home in Naples, Florida, my neighbors and I began knocking on doors to see if we could help others in any way. While were greeted with thanks and appreciation, the majority of homeowners actually asked if they could join our “team,” so we all began knocking on even more doors! Before Irma even hit, we had created an amazing community of neighbors working through the fantastic heat and humidity to install hurricane shutters, empty refrigerators, remove potted plants, and complete other such tasks that would help ensure our community was impacted as little as possible. In the end learned that living through something like Irma can really bring a huge sense of community…to a community!

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The scene after Irma at Coach Stewart’s home.

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

CDS: I suppose I’d want to bring along a Criollo horse because I understand that history has shown that they can be great swimmers. I recall reading a story about this breed of horse being thrown off of ships in the middle of the ocean (to try and save the ships from sinking) and many of the horses were able to swim great distances to the shores of islands. If I’m getting stuck on an island, I want to have a horse who can get me out of there. As for the book…I’d bring my own! (I wrote it but I haven’t actually had time to sit down and really read the finished copy yet!)

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

CDS: I’ve trekked through Ireland, but I never had the chance to trek from one bed-and-breakfast to another. I’ve heard about these kind of trips and would love to try one!

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

CDS: While attributes like loyalty are really important to me, the one quality I look for most in a friend is kindness—kindness to others, to their friends and family, to strangers, and just as importantly, to themselves! I feel that kindness is the root of most everything that is good. Without kindness, for example, all other qualities (such as loyalty) are really going to struggle.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

CDS: The quality I love most in a horse is when I know that they’re giving me 100 percent. It’s not important that their 100 percent be enough to succeed at everything they do… I just love knowing that they’re willing and able to give everything they can at everything they do.

TSB: What is your greatest fear?

CDS: Clowns. Mimes and clowns. My children have always known this… that’s why they’d always color pictures of clowns in elementary school art class and bring them home for me…


We’re with you, Coach Stewart…super-scary!

TSB: What is your greatest extravagance?

CDS: I’m definitely not a very extravagant guy. I drive a tiny car, only own one suit (the one I was married in), and count my pennies… but I did splurge on a nice, safe home for my family. Living in Florida means that we always have lots of friends and family spending vacation with us, so I insisted that we buy a home that had at least one guest room (two if you count my office when I get kicked out of it.)

TSB: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

CDS: I suppose I could say something like, “I’d like less gray hair or more money to travel the world,” but in reality I wouldn’t change a thing about myself. I love my wife, my life, and my family, and I love my friends and my career. If given the chance, I actually wouldn’t change a thing… it would just be greedy to ask for anything more than what I already have!

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

DS: Greek yogurt, berries, peanut butter, eggs, guacamole, olives, ice cream (my weakness!) and now some weird odor that we can’t get rid of because Hurricane Irma cut electricity to our fridge or a week…

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

CDS: Exercising with my children, date night movies with my wife… and ice cream.

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

CDS: Instead of a famous person, I’d actually prefer to have a conversation with my all-time favorite horse, Gem Twist, so that I could ask him, “Why did you always buck so much between fences?”

Gem Twist from Unrelenting-horseandriderbooks

Greg Best on Gem Twist at the Seoul Olympics, 1988. Photo by PhelpsSports from UNRELENTING by George H. Morris. 

TSB: What is your motto?

CDS: (1) Be happy in your happy place. (2) Do what you love and love what you do. (3) Everything will be alright in the end; if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.

(You really think I only have one favorite motto? You know I could go on for days!)


Coach Daniel Stewart’s new book FIT & FOCUSED IN 52 is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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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Many riders have neck and shoulder tension, which derives from the body’s reaction of “turning on” the trapezius muscle (see illustration above) in their daily lives. When there is a neuromuscular “highway” to an unproductive area such as the trapezius, there will be an almost automatic physical reaction, collecting tension in that area, regardless of what the rider is trying to do. Shoving tense shoulders back during a ride only makes the problem worse: Exertion used to “fight” a tense muscle area creates additional tension.

The answer is not to fight the muscles that are involuntarily tense, but to reduce tension with a) extensive stretching, and b) to learn to use the muscle’s “off” switch, which is found by training the body to make better use of other areas.

Believe it or not, stretching your neck muscles makes a difference. Stretching your neck actually stretches the elevator scapula as well as the trapezius muscles, in addition to neck muscles. If you carry tension in your shoulders and neck, this exercise is especially important, but if you are relaxed and supple, doing quick neck stretches on a regular basis can just be part of healthy spine maintenance.

Holding your arms down to keep your shoulders down, tilt your head from side to side, bringing your ear toward your shoulder with a deep breath each time.


neck stretch


You can also tuck your head forward as if looking under your armpit on each side.

Do not roll your head back because this compresses your neck vertebrae. If you have a lot of tension in your neck and shoulders, you can help release it by taking a free hand and squeezing your trapezius muscle or pushing down on it gently as you lean into the stretch. Do not hold the stretch very long before switching to the other side. These stretches should be done slowly and rhythmically.

A rider with shoulder tension can make a habit of doing this stretch, holding it longer, at the end of the day. When doing a deep neck stretch (any stretch can be turned into a “deep” one by holding it longer), it is important to use your hand to help raise your head afterward, since a deep stretch in the neck muscles will stretch the fibers and you can strain something by trying to lift the weight of your head using the same muscles that you just elongated.

For more from Certified Fitness Trainer and Riding Coach Heather Sansom, check out her bestselling book FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS!, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.



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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MYTH: “If you don’t have a ‘rider’s body,’ you’ll never ride well, no matter what you do.”

TRUTH: Regardless of how you’re built, riding well takes work and dedication.

This is one of the big myths Melinda Folse, author of the bestselling SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES, makes sure she busts well and good in her new book RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN. Most of us remember a time or place, in the barn or in a lesson, when someone said something (maybe about us…maybe about someone else) like, “She has the perfect body for riding,” or “She’ll always have trouble looking graceful on horseback with her figure.” And no doubt we tucked it away and remembered it, every time we tried to zip up our chaps or pulled on our breeches thereafter.

But the truth actually matters here, so it’s time we’re convinced of it, so let’s let Melinda do the convincing. Here’s what she says in RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN:


body-silhouette-standing-woman-1Yes, riding well does come more easily to some than others, but the biomechanics of riding well are much more important than being “built to ride.” Consider these statements:

“You’re built to ride. You’re going to be a natural!”

“Oh, honey, you’re just not built to ride. You can take some lessons and enjoy riding for fun, but you’ll never be a serious rider.”

Statements like these can put your mind in a dark realm of self-doubt before you ever set foot in a stirrup.

The Greater Truth we need to have a firm grasp on here is a rider with a “perfect rider’s build,” can actually feel heavier to a horse than a stubby, stocky rider who knows how to distribute her weight and balance. Without exception, every single expert I spoke with while researching my book RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN agreed that it’s not so much how you’re built or how much you weigh as it is how you use the body weight you have that determines whether—and how well—you can ride. Or, as Susan Harris likes to put it, “It’s not what you have, but how you use it that counts.”

And, while it is true that some physical features are an advantage in riding, not having these features is by no means a deal-breaker when it comes to riding well. Harris says that if you’re a larger rider—either with a naturally large “frame” or someone with a smaller frame who has put on some weight—you have options.

“The important thing,” she emphasizes, “is to be as fit as you can be in your core.”

Harris is a firm believer that with solid core strength and a willingness to work on your riding skills, riding—and riding well—is a very achievable goal for anyone. The key, she says, is recognizing that happiness in this pursuit is part balance, part saddle fit, part educating yourself about what kind of horse will make a good choice for you, and part finding the kinds of personal adjustments (across the board) that will bring you the freedom and enjoyment you crave in your experiences with horses.

Here are a few #Hoofpicks to take to the barn with you (you know, some ideas that help clean out the mud, muck, debris, and “poo” in our heads when it comes to how we think we look and how we think that defines what we can do with our horses):

1 Educate yourself on what makes a horse able carry to a little more weight. Using the rule-of-thumb (that actually has nothing to do with thumbs) as your starting point, remember to take into consideration the horse’s build, his level of fitness for the job you’re asking him to do, your level of fitness, and how well you are able to use your own energy to lighten his load.

2 Learn how to “find your spot.” This is not about how you look when you’re trying to get in balance and connect with your horse’s movement and energy. This is about how you feel. When you find it, you’ll know it.

3 Think, listen, and respond to your horse based on your own observations and feel—over the directives or expectations of others. Proper form can be taught, but finding the feel is something you have to do on your own. Listen to your instructors, but listen to your own body and the response of your horse even more.

4 Care for your horse’s body just as you’re learning to care for your own. Taking time to educate yourself and find reliable bodywork practitioners will help you keep your horse’s muscles and frame in good shape for the long haul. Learn to incorporate habits and routines such as stretches, core work, massage, chiropractic, and craniosacral therapy will keep your horse healthy and better able to perform.

riding-thr-thickthin-lgFor more positive, proactive ways to find your way past the perils of poor body image, check out RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN by Melinda Folse. Happiness in our bodies is not only possible—it may be far easier than we think.

CLICK HERE to see more. Now through December 14, 2016, you can get 20% off plus FREE SHIPPING at www.horseandriderbooks.com.


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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Even when you are already fit and an active rider, tension can gather in specific muscles in your body, ultimately affecting your horse.

Even when you are already fit and an active rider, tension can gather in specific muscles in your body, ultimately affecting your horse.

Are you out of breath after a long trot session? Are your muscles sore the day after a lesson? Are there some days you’re just too tired to clean the barn, never mind get on your horse? Certified fitness trainer and riding coach Heather Sansom (founder of Equifitt.com) has developed a new fitness training program that caters to the unique needs of the equestrian. Even better, it doesn’t require huge scheduling sacrifices: just 30 minutes, 3 times a week, for 9 weeks!

Even if you are already a fit person and ride regularly, in all likelihood you have issues with balance, symmetry, and straightness on occasion, and perhaps deal with tense muscles in certain areas of your body. All of this is communicated to your horse, of course, and translates into compromised performance, or even discomfort on his end. Luckily, Heather Sansom’s FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! program is intended to help anyone who rides horses—regardless of fitness, preferred discipline, ability, age, or experience level, you can improve your partnership with your horse while helping your own body be the healthiest it can be with specialized retraining.

“Making muscle areas that carry tension more supple and relaxed is only half the equation in achieving a more consistently neutral upper body,” says Heather in her book. “First, it involves training the muscles that have become weak and less toned as a result of infrequent stimulus; then it’s about teaching the brain to trigger tonality in different muscles, instead of the ones that carry tension.

“One way to think about the retraining is to liken it to teaching vocabulary. To get the brain to use other ‘words’ (pathways to different muscles), it has to learn them. Otherwise, the brain always resorts to the ‘words’ (muscles) it knows best, especially when under tension. Increasing your neuromuscular vocabulary of response involves activities that also build strength. By building strength through exercises targeting the balancing muscles, you are also wiring or widening the pathway of response to that area. By practicing new muscle-engagement patterns on the ground, you increase the probability of your body using those new patterns automatically while you are busy focusing on riding tasks.”


Heather Sansom's FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! program is designed to work for any rider who wants to improve her riding and her partnership with her horse.

Heather Sansom’s FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! program is designed to work for any rider who wants to improve her riding and her partnership with her horse.


Find out how you can improve your riding while making your horse happier and more comfortable when you’re in the saddle in FIT TO RIDE IN 9 WEEKS! 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 company 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!


RT3 Here


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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TSB author Melinda Folse delves into the four “F Words” of Midlife Horsemanship—Fun, Friendship, Fitness, and Fulfillment—in her bestselling book THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES (available in print, Kindle, and ePub formats). Melinda’s book is the ultimate source of self-help for the dreamer who always wanted a horse but never had a chance to have one, or the grown-up-girl who used to ride but gave it up for career and family….only to find herself back in the saddle once the kids go to college.

Now, you can hear a little bit from Melinda and other midlife horsewomen about why they’ve made horses part of their focus now that their Life, Part Two, has begun. Check out these short videos highlighting the four “F Words” of Midlife Horsemanship—what is it YOU’RE looking for?

Get your copy of THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES from the TSB online bookstore where shipping in the US is always FREE, and where you can get 15% off your entire order now through the holidays!





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