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We’re celebrating moms this weekend. Thank you to eventer, trainer, horseman, and author of IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN Tik Maynard for this original essay.

 

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Tik and his mother Jen. Photo courtesy of Rick Maynard.

Mum

My mother walks into the bank, where she has banked since she was six years old. She waits in line, shuffling her feet. She studies the patrons, alert for gossip. The teller is frowning at a young girl who keeps repeating, “I don’t think so,” and then scrolls through her phone.

My mother huffs at cars that drive too fast, puffs at cars that drive too slow. She can’t teach riding, like my dad and I do, because she doesn’t “understand why they just don’t get it.” And if you are not a Democrat (in Canada a Green or NDP, or maybe a Liberal, if it is a year to vote strategically), you don’t have a prayer.

After ten minutes Mum walks up to the counter. The teller wears wire-rimmed glasses and is nearing retirement. She takes a deep breath then looks up at my mother. As Mum opens her mouth to say something, the teller speaks first. “Piss off,” she hisses.

My mother rocks back. Her eyes widen. And then she laughs. The teller smiles. They giggle. She feels honored that she is the kind of woman who can take a joke.

Mum will give it, but she can take it too. She loves that kind of thing. My mother teaches me to not take myself too seriously.

***

TikandMum3

Photo courtesy of Rick Maynard.

When I’m home in Canada we play Scrabble. Mum usually wins, which is frustrating because I want to win more than she does. She just likes getting a lot of points—the 50-point bonus for using all seven letters in her hand, or putting an X or a J on a triple-letter score. She is an expert at the small words: ZUZ, QAT, XI, XU, QI, KA, ZA, AA.

I lay down “LIB” across, which adds an “L” to “AB” to make ”LAB.”

“Great words, Tik!”

“Thanks, Mum.”

She does the math. “You’re only 85 points behind,” she says sincerely.

“Thanks, Mum.”

My mother reminds me to keep enjoying things for their own sake.

***

I wonder who else banters. It drives my dad crazy. It pushes my wife to the edge. But my mother and I can’t get enough of it.

“You shouldn’t talk on the phone while you drive.”

“It’s legal in Florida.”

“Legality is not the same as intelligence.”

“Are you calling me stupid? Because stupidly is mostly genetic.”

Scanned Documents

Photo courtesy of Rick Maynard.

“If you are going 60 miles an hour and look down at your phone for two seconds, that is like going the length of a football field without looking up.”

“Did you know 80 percent of statistics are made up on the spot?”

My mother looks at me.

“Mum, I’m just saying, did you do the math on that?”

“We can figure it out right now…”

“And have you ever compared the reaction times of someone in their thirties to some in their eighties?”

“I was born in 1946.”

“So you haven’t?”

It’s like eating potato chips. We can’t stop.

***

My wife Sinead and I have a little joke where we like to give each other backhanded compliments.  We decided to let my mum in on the game this year and sent her a gift with this written on the card:

What some might call stubborn and overbearing
we see as strong-willed and filled with love. 
Happy Mother’s Day, from Tik, Sinead, and Brooks

***

My mother taught me to appreciate stories and literature. She taught me the names of constellations and how to grow tomatoes and that science is a method and not a discipline.

She taught me to question authority. (Entirely by example.)

My mother made me realize that we are all paradoxes. We are all hypocritical. She taught me that loving someone and understanding someone are not the same thing. My mother drives me crazy.

My mother taught me to love strong women.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Photo by Patricia Dileo.

***

You don’t have to be from a different generation to be a strong woman. Take Sinead, for example. This will be her second Mother’s Day as a mother. Our son Brooks, about 20 months old, asked me to write a few words for him:

 

“Mummy” 

I watch Mummy make me breakfast. I watch her make me lunch. I watch her make me dinner. When my diaper needs to be changed she can make that happen too: She says “Oh, Daddy. Your turn for a bit…”

Sometimes I cry, but when I see Mummy, I know it will be okay.

Mummy teaches me things: “Dogs go ‘Woof-woof.’ Cows go ‘Moooo.’ Auntie Meg goes ‘Ca-caw, Ca-caw.’”

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Brooks and Sinead. Photo by Patricia Dileo.

Mummy reads me books like Giraffes Can’t Dance. She makes a joke about Daddy, but I think he is a good dancer. “Well, he is enthusiastic,” Mummy says. I don’t understand most of the book, but I point at the things I recognize and make noises.

When Mummy sits with me on the couch I feel like a prince. Sitting with Mummy is special; not everyone gets to sit with Mummy.

Mummy rides horses. I see her with them, and she is focused and calm. It is difficult to be focused and calm.

I like hugging Mummy. Mostly I just hug her legs, but when she picks me up and hugs me that is the best.

I love you Mummy.

***

In the Middle Are the Horsemen

 

Tik’s memoir IN THE MIDDLE ARE THE HORSEMEN is available from the TSB online bookstore. 

CLICK HERE to read a free excerpt or to order.

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

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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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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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