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Posts Tagged ‘Midlife Horses’

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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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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TSB author Melinda Folse chooses horses INSTEAD.

TSB author Melinda Folse chooses horses INSTEAD.

 

QUICK! Take this short quiz:

Do you often hear yourself saying: “My best riding years are behind me,” or “I missed my chance to ride with so-and-so,” or “My life led me away from horses”?

2  When it comes to horses and riding, do you define yourself more by what you aren’t anymore, rather than what you are?

3  When it comes to having horses in your life, are you choosing the path of least resistance?

TSB author Melinda Folse, author of THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES, says that having horses in our lives, and riding well now, later, and everywhere in between, is by all means doable, whatever our circumstances. She says making strides to ensure our lives accommodate our love for horses is about changing the way we think.

 

Instead of:

“I wish I had been a working student for so-and-so when I had the chance” (and trust me, I’ve recited this one to myself far more than once!)

You think:

“I will audit a clinic with so-and-so next summer.”

 

Instead of:

“I should have pursued riding when I was young and athletic.”

You think:

“Learning to ride in middle age will be a concussion-free way to tone my body and keep me fit.”

 

Instead of:

“I should have bought my own horse before I became a father/mother.”

You think:

“It will be so much fun to teach my kids how to help with barn chores.”

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

Melinda Folse says, “Telling yourself that the time to have enjoyed horses is in your past is so often the ‘path of least resistance’…dare to choose a different trail, and the challenges will be far exceeded by your eventual rewards.”

We all have time for horses, if we clear our mental space with “Instead” Horsemanship. Go ahead and reframe your expectations to include a weekly dose of horse time. I mean, really—is there anything you’d rather be doing instead?

 

THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP NOW

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The Trafalgar Square Farm horses, enjoying the fields this past summer--we already miss those long days of sunshine and late evening rides!

The Trafalgar Square Farm horses, enjoying the fields this past summer–we already miss those long days of sunshine and late evening rides!

 

Sometimes, it feels good to just remember why we love horses. On this Friday, enjoy a few photos that capture why we all work so hard to have horses in our life and do right by them.

 

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–The TSB Staff

www.horseandriderbooks.com

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The legendary Stockyards Hotel in Fort Worth.

The legendary Stockyards Hotel in Fort Worth.

We arrived in Dallas/Ft. Worth today and had the distinct pleasure of checking out the Ft. Worth Stockyards and checking in to the legendary Stockyards Hotel, which once housed THE Bonnie and Clyde.

The Stockyards Hotel, open since 1907, is beautiful, well furnished, and we enjoyed both a belly-up to the bar astride saddles and a darned good steak at the H3 Ranch restaurant rather later in the evening. In the end, we discovered that not only does the hotel feature very large margaritas and unique taxidermy, but also paranormal activity!

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Yes, this hotel is supposedly HAUNTED. Luckily, according to my last-minute online research, “ghosts” have been experienced in the elevator, on the third floor, and in Room 218…the room just down the hall…but not in ours…

After a long day of travel we are off to TRY to sleep! Check in with us tomorrow here, on FB and Twitter, and follow horseandriderbooks on Instagram for more news and a report on any overnight paranormal experiences!

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“From time without beginning,” writes Douglas Puterbaugh in his chapter on FEAR in THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE, “man and horse have shared something in common: an ancient and deeply rooted emotion called fear.”

Interestingly, although mankind evolved as a predator and horse hung on in the role of prey, both rely on fear to save them via fight or flight. It is this natural and powerful response that can divide horse and rider, that can cause the horse to jig, shy, and bolt, and the rider to quake, tense, and fall off.

And while fluttering white ghostly figures and things that go “bump” will surely send many a horse (and rider) into a whirling, spinning, tizzy, it isn’t just Halloween that gets us spooked. We come face to face with outer and inner demons every day, and our fear response holds us back as we strive to achieve partnership and higher levels of performance with our horse.

How can we conquer our own anxieties and our own fears, so we can help instill a greater sense of confidence in our horse? Here are four tips from top riders and trainers for saying, “BOO!” right back:

1  Practice, Practice, Practice

“There’s a direct correlation between study and test performance,” says dressage trainer Douglas Puterbaugh in THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS OF DRESSAGE. “There’s a direct correlation between practice and performance in competition. The only way to perform at the best of your ability is to practice diligently…when you’ve practiced so thoroughly that your movements have become almost automatic, that old nervousness won’t the fear it once was.”

2  Scare Yourself…a Little

“If you are trying to build your self-confidence,” writes USEA Hall-of-Famer Denny Emerson in HOW GOOD RIDERS GET GOOD, “don’t hurt yourself, and don’t scare yourself—too much. You have to scare yourself a little to give yourself something to build on, but only a little. Keep doing the slightly scary thing until you have had so much success that you know success is inevitable. Then make whatever it is that you are trying to do a little harder…You can be timid, or shy, or indecisive, or reticent. You can be burdened by any one of many afflictions that result from a lack of self-confidence, and you can improve every one of them if you can figure out a way to scare yourself just a little bit. Too big a scare, and you will find your self-confidence in pieces on the ground.”

3  Employ “Thought Stopping”

“When you find yourself visualizing imminent disaster,” says Olympic coach, dressage rider, and popular motivational speaker Jane Savoie in IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE RIBBONS, “break your pattern by doing some ‘thought stopping’ right away. As soon as the alarming picture pops into your head, use an action word to quiet your mind and erase it. Your action word might be something like: ‘Clear,’ ‘Focus,’ ‘Stop!’ ‘Relax,’ or ‘Breathe.’ Replace the negative thought with a positive one. This is an important step, because if you don’t fill your mind with a positive thought, the negative picture will creep right back in.”

4 Create Safe Habits

“Learn what you need to do to be safe on the ground and in the saddle, and then do those things the same way every time you work with your horse until they are as automatic as the safety habits you use when driving a car,” says Melinda Folse, author of the bestselling THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES. “Even experienced horse handlers can unwittingly grow careless over the years, so it never hurts to take a good look at your habits to make sure you are doing everything you can to keep yourself safe to ride another day.”

Melinda gives us a few ideas of the kind of “safe habits” we all should employ on and around horses:

-Teach your horse to respect your space.

– Pay attention to where you’re standing.

-Wear a helmet.

-Practice the one-rein stop and the emergency dismount.

“Fear is a conquerable thing,” Melinda reminds us—and indeed, all the featured authors remind us in their respective books, “and being safe around horses is something we can be proactive about.”

So don’t stay scared. Get busy!

And Happy Happy Halloween!

Be sure to see what Buck Brannaman says about fear in yesterday’s post CLICK HERE

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If you are planning your weekend of horses, music, and magic at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, TX June 1–3, 2012, be sure to make time to visit two of our bestselling authors! Melinda Folse, author of THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES, and Kayla Starnes, author of TEAM ROPING 101 will both be on hand, talking horses and signing their books.

Melinda Folse and THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES can be found at Booth #532/530, where she’ll also be talking about her new blog for DiscoverHorses.com. Melinda will be giving presentations over the weekend–she’s invited a few of the women featured in her book to stop by and share more of their stories from very different perspectives on the “Midlife Horse Adventure.” Discussion will open up for audience questions and encouragement (possibly in the form of chocolate!) in order to build and emphasize awareness of the wonderful the community we all share when we love and ride horses.

Kayla Starnes will be in the USTRC booth with her book TEAM ROPING 101. The public is invited to try roping a Hot Heels in the booth all three days, and  an instructor will be on hand to guide novices and answer questions.

Highlights of the three-day equine exposition and music festival include:

• More than 100 clinics, demonstrations and seminars in many disciplines in four venues led by expert presenters such as Craig Cameron and Gina Miles.

• Five major Coliseum shows starring 12-time Grammy-winner Emmylou Harris and five-time Grammy-winner Marty Stuart.

• A Texas-sized Xtreme Marketplace in the Amon G. Carter Building offering everything from tack, equine health products and ranch equipment to apparel, accessories, art, and home furnishings.

Kick off your summer with our TSB authors at the AmerEquine Festival of the Horse June 1-3 in Fort Worth, Texas! And don’t forget, THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES and TEAM ROPING 101 are both available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

Blog Bonus!!! Enter coupon code TSBBLOG15 at checkout and receive 15% off your entire order!!

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