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ManyBraveFools-horseandriderbooks

Switching trainers, moving from one barn to another, trying a new hairdresser…isn’t it amazing how all these things make us feel a sharp pang of guilt, like we are somehow being unfaithful? I mean, rarely is there a contract involved or even promises of fidelity, and yet…

Susan Conley’s new memoir MANY BRAVE FOOLS chronicles her discovery of riding and horses at the age of 42, and how her new passion helped her recover from years living in a codependent relationship with an addict. (Of course, horses introduced her to an addiction of her own.) In this excerpt, Conley shares the story of the first time she had a lesson barn affair and how ultimately, just like in her human relationships, her horse-life relationships were all about chemistry.

***

I had been riding exclusively at my first barn for one year and seven months when I decided to try a different stable, one that was on my side of town, for a private lesson.

I felt like I was having an affair.

Hermes was a strong, well-built cob. He had been brought in from the field just before my lesson, and he took a moment at the open door of the covered arena, every time we passed, to call for the friends he’d left behind. He was not in the least bit interested in me, and I wasn’t managing to engage his attention. He grudgingly trotted when I asked him to, and he refused to listen to my request for the canter at all, so the instructor waved a longe whip at him.

I got distracted by her whip. Hermes leaped to the left. I slid off to the right.

“You fell?” The instructor was incredulous.

You lashed the fucking whip at him, I thought. “Yeah, well,” I said.

I had landed in a damp patch on the ground. Let’s just say it was an aromatic bus ride home.

A couple of weeks later: same (new) barn, same horse, a group lesson this time, outside riding ring. A different instructor was busily chatting with some of her colleagues, leaving the riders to make their own decisions regarding rein changes and whatnot. I was once again trying to get Hermes to canter for me. The line of riders had halted at the M marker and would individually pick up canter between C and M before heading toward the fence, which was set up at B. (I could change barns but that crazy riding alphabet seemed to be following me.) We came around the corner and Hermes was motorbiking it, cutting it sharp/sharper/ sharpest. I leaned on the outside stirrup, off-effing-balance, and started to feel the saddle slip and slip…I went down. I fell softly onto the sand, and stood right back up.

No biggie. Except that the instructor came over, shaking her head, gesturing at the saddle, now completely over on Hermes’s offside.

“See that?” She put her hands on her hips and gestured at my horse and his gear, all askew. Everyone else, waiting for their turn to jump, stared.

Yes, I saw it. Cow. “Yeah,” I said.

LessonBarnPinterest-horseandriderbooksShe proceeded to lecture me on proper lesson preparation as she released the girth and righted the saddle. I was so pissed off my anger practically vaulted me off the ground and back in the tack. I was beneath her notice until we started to jump. She raised the rails on the fence to over two feet.

“Hermes—” She hadn’t even bothered to ask my name. “—you don’t have to do this.”

“I can do it,” I responded.

We trotted. Hermes still wouldn’t canter, not until we were a few strides away from the jump, anyway, but we took it perfectly.

Showed you, I thought. I certainly wouldn’t be coming back to this place anymore. Falls three and four were the height of ignominy; though the new barn was nominally closer to home, the affair was over. I went back to where I’d started.

I didn’t fall for Kilternan, my initial lesson barn, at first sight. Sure, I liked it right away, primarily because the place was laid back, the staff didn’t mind me hanging around (sometimes for a full hour before my lesson), and nobody passed comment, even though I was dressed like a complete fool for the first few weeks, wearing jeans and those silly boots and a borrowed helmet. I did strive to get my look increasingly right: jodhpurs, paddock boots, new headgear. I toughened up, abandoned the myriad layers and woolly scarf I initially swathed myself in, riding in just a T-shirt.

Horse owners asked me to do things like mind their mounts while they ran to get a hoof pick or hold their offside stirrup while they got on. I was becoming known, even if it was for being the crazy woman who took two busses all the way from the other side of town, a million miles away.

In the case of this love affair, distance was not an issue. I was learning that if a place gave off the right vibe, then I should be careful not to muck it up. There was a world of chemistry between horse and rider, rider and instructor, between the riders within a group lesson, and indeed, between the horses and the instructors. I wouldn’t ride Maverick when Angela was teaching the lesson. He adored her and always tried to show off, bucking more than usual, pelting for the perimeter after a jump, desperate to go fast, to show his favorite person what he was made of. When Emily was instructing us, Dancer would do everything in his power to stand by her. Once, we were waiting in the middle of the arena watching others take their turns over a jump, and when he heard Emily’s voice behind him, he turned a full one-hundred-and-eighty degrees to face her.

That kind of chemistry took time to build, and I knew you didn’t just throw it away. 

***

MANY BRAVE FOOLS is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Watch the book trailer:

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, 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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It’s no secret that if the traditional Barbie doll was a real woman, she would be 5’9” and weigh 120 pounds, with approximate measurements of 38″-18″-34″.

The average woman’s measurements, on the other hand, are about 41″-34″-43″.

In the US, most little girls grow up with more than one Barbie doll, and again, it is no secret that playing with legs and hair that long kind of make you think your legs and hair should be that long, too.

When’s the last time you pulled on your riding breeches, looked in the mirror, and liked what you saw? When’s the last time you didn’t worry about a back fat wrinkle when wearing your show shirt? The very real horse-loving “us” is made up of a vast worldwide riding population, majority women, and majority complete with legs we wish were longer, butts we wish were smaller, thighs we wish were thinner, waists we wish were slimmer. Be brave for a moment and take this quick quiz from Melinda Folse’s RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN:

1  Consider each of the following characteristics and beside each one, note Very Dissatisfied, Mostly Dissatisfied, Mostly Satisfied, or Very Satisfied when you consider the characteristic in conjunction with your own body, and in particular with your body as that of a horsewoman.

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2  Now how do you think your body causes you to ride? How do you think you look when you ride, and how you feel about your own body as you ride? After each of the following, note how often thoughts like these cross your mind: Never, Sometimes, or Often.
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3  Now consider the thought: I feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or self-conscious about my body . . .
and follow it with each one of the statements below. Then note how often you feel that thought cross your mind: Never, Sometimes, or Often.

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You might find after taking the quiz above that you harbor a whole lot of anxiety, disgust, despondency, anger, frustration, envy, shame, or self-consciousness when it comes to your body. And you might even admit that it gets in the way of your being able to truly enjoy your time with horses.

Well, guess what, ladies? Most of us don’t look anything like the traditional thin, blonde, white Barbie doll. This is why in 2016, Mattel—the company that makes Barbie—is making the biggest change ever in the toy’s 57-year history.

“Faced with changes in beauty ideals, shifting demographics and ongoing criticism of Barbie’s impossible proportions, Mattel decided to remake the iconic blonde,” says the January 28, 2016 story at Time.com. (Read TIME’s Cover Story on Barbie and Body Image in America by CLICKING HERE)

And if finally, after 57 years, Barbie can learn to be true to the real short/tall/big/small/curvy/skinny/imperfect us, then can’t we go ahead and do ourselves the same favor?

In RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN, rider, writer, and imperfect horsewoman Melinda Folse gives us the tools we need to give bad body image the boot. It’s a great place to start making sure we all get the most from every ride, from here on out.

 

CLICK HERE for more information about RIDING THROUGH THICK & THIN

heartwhatyousee copy

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business located 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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Are you ready to live YOUR dream? A three-day women's retreat--with horses!--could be just what you need to start Your Life: Part Two.

TSB author Melinda Folse says that just about the time we blow out that midlife birthday candle, a little classic questioning begins:

What about all those things I always thought I would get to do “someday”?

Is it my turn yet? Is it “someday” now?

If not now, when? And if now, how?

Melinda, author of THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES, says that at midlife, “someday” is ours to name, and whatever old dreams that may have gathered dust on the back shelves of busy lives need only a breath of fresh clarity to find new and meaningful expression. With this in mind, and with the knowledge that horses can provide the link from the “here and now” to what’s just around the bend, as well as provide a healthy base from which friendship and kinship can blossom, Melinda has organized a fabulous new three-day women’s retreat at the luxurious Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa in Graham, Texas. This long weekend, April 13 thru the 15, offers a special opportunity to pull those dusty dreams of yours off the shelf and take another look. It will help spur new decisions to bring the unbridled joy of living your dream, whatever it may be, in what you’ll come to think of as Your Life: Part Two.

Make plans now to join a limited number of women invited to a pivotal weekend of renewing, reconnecting with, and revitalizing your goals for continued self-growth and limitless self-confidence. The Dust Off Your Dreams Retreat features a series of mini workshops, including:

Building self-awareness, confidence, and courage through equine-assisted learning (no horse experience required!)

Gaining clarity and direction through guided journaling, meditation, and centering exercises.

Increasing body awareness, strength, and flexibility through Pilates.

Improving your relationships in business and with friends and family through horses.

This life-changing weekend at the fabulous Wildcatter Ranch Resort and Spa will bring:

Clarity regarding which dreams are really yours, and which dreams you really want to pursue.

Confidence to remove the obstacles that keep getting in the way.

Concrete action steps to shape your first steps to making your dream come true.

Courage to declare that “someday” has finally arrived in your life.

Space is limited and the deadline to register is coming up! Visit www.dustoffyourdreamsretreats.com for more information on the retreat and to register.

And order your copy of Melinda’s bestselling book THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

HERE’S WHAT THE NEW YORK TIMES HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE WILDCATTER IN THE FEBRUARY 18, 2012, TRAVEL SECTION:

“There’s a reason why guests fly in from Britain and the Netherlands to holiday at Wildcatter Ranch, 90 miles northwest of Fort Worth: It’s a cowboy-hat-wearing, yee-haw-worthy adventure. With 35 horses and more than 20 miles of trails, riding is the choice activity, though skeet shooting, spa treatments and A.T.V. trips — with stops for canoeing and archery — can also be scheduled. ‘And I’m not opposed to free help in the barn,’ Jay Brewer, the barn manager and a former bullfighter, said with a laugh. Horseback rides take guests through the property’s 1,500 acres, where riders spot armadillos and turkeys. Guests retire to cabins with tasteful Western décor, kick off muddy boots on the back porch and sink into rocking chairs to watch the sunset. Tip: The Buffalo and the Butterfield Stage cabins are the best rooms to book for log-framed or converted wagon beds.”

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A decade ago, if we were asked to name the single universal hurdle that most people must clear in order to have horses in their life, we might have said, “Money.” I think that is changing.

Make no mistake, riding horses, buying horses, and caring for horses is still an expensive hobby/habit/obsession/passion…but these days, I find those who wish for a few hours in the barn or on the trail are inhibited less by their bank account and more by depleted time stores. With all that we do, with all that we have, with globalization, world travel, smashed glass ceilings, and working parents, we have little time for much else outside the daily to-dos. And perhaps even more than money, horses require time.

So how do we put on the brakes in the middle of heavy traffic? How do we cut speed when we’re surrounded by others traveling a million-miles-an-hour? In her bestselling, you-CAN-get-there-from-here-book THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES, author and midlife horsewoman (against the modern-day-working-mom odds) Melinda Folse provides valuable ideas for making room and making time for horses…in a crowded life where there’s NEVER enough time. (You can order your copy of Melinda’s book from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always free—CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW.)

Try this exercise from THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES and get started “clearing your own trail” today…so you can be riding tomorrow:

1  Track your time use in a journal for a full week. At the end of the week, group your entries into the following categories:

WORK

SLEEP

HOME (household tasks and errands)

PEOPLE (family and friends)

PERSONAL MAINTENANCE (bathing, dressing, personal appointments, and tasks)

SELF (activities that renew you mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually)

Tally the total time spent each week in each category. These numbers reveal where your priorities are right now. Is this a life of balance and joy? What adjustments do you need to make? What do you wish your priorities were?

3  Now reorder your priorities to reflect the “horsey” life you want to lead in terms of how you spend your time. Use this new list as your guide as you start to enforce your new set of priorities by saying “No,” scheduling less, and canceling engagements until you reach a balance of time and choice that reflects your personal values and who you want to become.

Find more fun, easy-to-implement advice on finding horses again, or for the very first time, in THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES by Melinda Folse.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW.

And check out the great videos about how horses can bring fun, fulfillment, fitness, and friendship into your life by clicking on the Vodpod Featured Videos widget on the right side of this page.

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THE SMART WOMAN'S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES by Melinda Folse is featured in the October issue of HORSE & RIDER Magazine.

TSB author Melinda Folse has provided the ultimate guide for women who have found themselves in “midlife,” with empty nests, and dusty (horsey) dreams sitting high up on a shelf behind the (possibly ex) husband’s power tools. Her book THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES is an intelligent, funny, honest look at all that it means to turn (somewhere around) 40 and realize you haven’t done half the things you’ve always wanted to…and how there’s no reason why galloping across an open meadow, with the wind in your face, the sun at your back, and a horse’s mane whipping before you, can’t be part of the SECOND half of your life.

Six self-discovery exercises from Melinda’s book are featured in the October issue of HORSE & RIDER Magazine, due on sale everywhere September 27. Pick up a copy and check it out!

And order your copy of THE SMART WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MIDLIFE HORSES from the TSB bookstore today, where shipping in the US is always FREE.

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