Planning For Your Show Day…

The farm didn’t get the business that was needed to keep it going so I put it back on the market for sale. So, it looks like there will be more changes in store for me this coming year. I like to think of it as Tiny House Living, horse style. Hey, if life gives you lemons you make the best dang lemon marguerita you can possibly make, right?

While change is never easy, I am looking forward to downsizing and having more time and money to focus on my own horses and compete more when things settle down. For years I’ve been a jack of all trades, going and doing so many things. I’d like to narrow my focus, be more selective about where and who I spend my time on, and just see where that leads. While selling the farm is the end of a dream in one sense, it’s freeing and the start of an ultimate dream in another. I’m looking forward to what the year will hold.

NBHA Barrel Race

NBHA Barrel Race

Since I’ve been thinking more about competing and the coming show season, I thought I’d share some tips for showing that I’ve learned first hand, sometimes the hard way, the last few years.

The first tip, and one that I think is probably the most important is in regards to food. Food has an impact on how you think, how you react, how well you focus and yet it’s one of the most under-rated elements of competition.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to help someone not be as nervous about showing and when food is mentioned they say, “Well, I don’t need to eat. I’m too nervous to eat.” People just don’t think it makes that much of a difference but it absolutely can mean the difference between a good run and a poor run. We plan our horse’s nutrition, especially if they’re in a high performance event. Why wouldn’t we do the same thing for ourselves?

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

The effects of food on the body can last longer than we realize. If you’re wanting to eat better for a show day, you’ll want to start at least a couple of days early. This will allow some extra time to get the bad food out of your system, and will allow your body to adjust to the better food.

I always eat turkey an hour to thirty minutes before I compete. The protein fuels my brain and muscles so I can think and react. Turkey is also a natural source of Tryptophan which has a calming effect on the body so it helps with nerves.

I also make sure I eat some source of protein every couple of hours the entire show day. This helps keep my sugar levels regulated so I can think clearly and not get nervous. If I’m the least bit nervous, my horse will feel it and will react, so the more clear my thinking and the calmer I am the better my horse will behave and perform.

Another thing that I do is load up on water a couple of days before a show. It’s easy to not drink enough during the show day. Dehydration can wreak havoc on your mind and your reaction time just like food. The more you load up on water the day before, the less likely you’ll be to get dehydrated if you’re not drinking as much as you should. A hydrated mind is a clear mind.

Because of the sugar levels in sports drinks, I try to drink mostly water. If I must have something besides water, I’ll drink Powerade Zero that has zero sugar. I’m not necessarily a big fan of the chemicals, but it does have some needed electrolytes. You can also carry lemon water, or some of the sugar-free drink flavorings. Just be sure to read the label to know what you’re ingesting.

Barrel racing in January

Barrel racing in January

Sleep is another thing that can really impact your performance in the saddle. Make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of shut-eye the night before. If you know you’re not going to be able to sleep because you’re thinking about showing too much, give yourself a couple of extra hours to allow for tossing and turning.

Another tip is to take some quiet time the day before and the day of your show. Take the time to just be still and think about what you need to do and what is important. Don’t let your head run wild with fear scenarios. Plan your day and your strategy, and remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. Connect with your goals.

This year has a lot of uncertainty and changes, but the one thing I can do is control is my own mindset, and how I prepare for when it’s finally time to step in the ring and do what I love to do best. The better mindset I have and the better I set myself up, the better chances I’ll have at enjoying my show day.

When it comes to competing, what are some of your fears? What do you think you do to contribute to those fears? How can you change your routine to lessen your fears? What is your strategy for the coming show year?

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Through Thick & Thin

It’s been a while since my last post and I have a LOT to share, so this will wind up being a combination of updates and a wonderful interview with equine writer Melinda Folse.

One encouraging bit of news is that so far through the holidays I have been able to maintain my weight loss, despite splurging quite a bit the weekend of Thanksgiving. This time last year I weighed 208 and so far I’ve managed to stay around 155 pounds.

Updated pic from today & wearing clothes that I used to bust out of! Lol! Scarf courtesy of @rusticnation ! #weightloss

A post shared by F.j. Thomas Author (@f_j_thomas) on

I started the morning off with the first bite of sweets for the first time since March – a piece of cheesecake. Actually, it was several pieces! Then I had chips and dip, followed by several yeast rolls, mashed potatoes, dressing, and of course the usual turkey. I basically filled the whole day with eating things I’ve not eaten since March.

The next day, I went right back to eating the usual protein and veggies. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, I was actually glad to get back to eating healthy. I figure I’ll allow three days a year – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and my birthday – to eat all the things I don’t the rest of the year.

Terry "Tab" Bouk win picture from Oklahoma

One of Tab’s winning horses

 

Another bit of news is that I’m in a relationship and Training business partnership with Terry “Tab” Bouk from Oklahoma. Tab was a race horse trainer for several decades breaking, riding, and racing Thoroughbreds, Quarters and Paints. He’s also had extensive experience working with other breeds and disciplines from Reining and barrels, to Eventing and Hunter. We recently decided to start Filson – Bouk Training & Horsemanship in east Tennessee. Not only are we training and giving riding lessons (and possibly doing clinics!), but we’re taking in boarding horses as well. I’m excited to see what the new year holds!

Now on to the interview…

…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 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

I’ve been following Melinda Folse on Twitter for quite a long time on Twitter, and have read her book, Riding Through Thick & Thin. Not only is she a fellow horse lover and cattle sorting enthusiast, she intimately knows the struggles of having a good self image as a rider and what it’s like to be short on time to stay fit and keep your horse ridden.

Melinda Folse is author of best-selling The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses (Trafalgar Square Books, 2011) and her newest release, Riding Through Thick and Thin (Trafalgar Square Books, 2015), as well as a variety of articles and posts that explore the many horse world metaphors that also gallop freely in the real world of women’s issues. From body image and aging to confidence, authenticity, and connection, Melinda’s work offers an open invitation to lighthearted introspection that just might lead to life-changing insight and unbridled joy.

Melinda Folse is author of best-selling The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses (Trafalgar Square Books, 2011) and her newest release, Riding Through Thick and Thin (Trafalgar Square Books, 2015), as well as a variety of articles and posts that explore the many horse world metaphors that also gallop freely in the real world of women’s issues. From body image and aging to confidence, authenticity, and connection, Melinda’s work offers an open invitation to lighthearted introspection that just might lead to life-changing insight and unbridled joy.

What is your daily life like? 

Whew. My daily life. Well, as a classic overachiever, over scheduler and overdo-er, there really is no such thing as a consistent daily schedule, but I’m working on it. Perpetually. I work full time as Communications Director for a large and very busy downtown Methodist church, so there’s never a dull moment there — and a hair-on-fire communications “emergency” about every 30 seconds. When I compare my day job to a robust and endless game of whack-a-mole, people really don’t know how to respond. But trust me. It’s fun, it’s a challenge, and it does keep me on my toes — and since it hasn’t killed me yet, it must have made me stronger, right? Before or after work — or whenever I can I try to sneak in some exercise and/or horse time (trying when I can to combine these two priorities), I enjoy time with my family, contribute to a few blogs, keep my social media fed, and if there’s any sliver of time left over I generally try to take a bath. And sleep as close to 8 hours as I can get. I’m getting too old to go without sleep, which really cramps my style because that’s how I used to make it all work!melinda-quote-hate-article

 

Do you own horses & do you ride?

Yes! I have two wonderful horses, Trace and Rio, and I am a part owner in a third, Sam. They’re quarter horses, mostly. Rio is a registered quarter horse from the Colonel Freckles cutting horse lineage, but cows terrify him so we don’t bother with any of that. Mostly he eats. He’s a true character in every sense of the word and often makes me laugh out loud in pure delight in dealing with him and his antics. Trace, I suspect, is more of a Quarab (Quarter/Arab cross) and ironically loves chasing cows and we really hope to get back to Ranch Sorting and riding the trails at the LBJ Grasslands one of these days. Trace has been my “project horse” that actually inspired my first solo book, and it has been very rewarding to redeem him with the help of an old trainer named Karl Black. Sam is a grade quarter horse from a ranch in Oklahoma and may well be the most level-headed of the three, but he’s been mostly a pasture ornament in recent years (and a big, handsome one at that!) so I’m working on getting him rideable again, although he’s getting older and I’m not really willing to push it too much if he’d prefer to keep his status quo.

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Do you write for a living? 

Well yes and no. Right now my main paycheck comes from my Communications Director job, where I do write some and edit a lot, but my first love is and always will be my own writing projects. I started out in PR/Communications in the early 80s (And my, how times have changed! The fax machine was this wonderful new invention and hardly anyone had one!) I began freelancing full-time in the early 90s and wrote a lot of ad copy and articles for local trade and some regional magazines. Then I got offered the opportunity to help launch a national entrepreneurial magazine that was part of the Time Warner family called Millionaire Blueprints. It was a fabulous opportunity to grow and solidify my writing, research and interviewing skills and I lost all fear of calling celebrities and millionaires and asking them some of the strangest and most personal questions imaginable about how they took their million-dollar idea from concept to reality to success beyond their dreams. It was fascinating work. And then one of them, Gordon Weinberger, asked me if I’d consider writing his book. I told him I didn’t do books. I wrote articles. Not being one to take no for an answer, he asked if I’d consider writing 12 consecutive (and chronological) articles about his life and business success — and a principal he lived by and wanted to brand. That didn’t sound so scary so I said yes, and my first book, Infinite Persistence, was born. From there and with new confidence that I could, indeed, write books, I began a long process of writing the life story of my Taekwondo Grandmaster, Won Chik Park. As a second degree black belt and a longtime student of Grandmaster Park, I had heard bits and pieces of his amazing and inspiring story, but had never put it all together. I met with him weekly and heard more of his story, asked endless questions, drafted sections, made corrections and finally produced the finished manuscript of Grandmaster on Grandmaster Park’s 70th birthday, which, ironically, mirrors the opening scene of his book. Meanwhile, as I worked on Grandmaster, I began work as a staff writer for Clinton Anderson. A longtime Anderson devotee (I joked that he had been in my home every evening for several years via DVD so I had literally gone to school on his Method.) Part of my job with Clinton, in addition to writing articles for his No Worries Journal and writing up his dictated training tips (in his voice) for his weekly enews, was to help him finish a book he was under contract for with Trafalgar Square Books. Clinton had been in the States for 10 years at that point and was quite a sensation — very similar to the success stories I had scribed for Blueprints! So I followed him around, asked endless questions, provoked stories, wit, and wisdom from him as he went on about his work (think of a border collie yapping at his heels until he tossed me a story or a detail I was missing) I also got to work with legendary horse photographer Darrell Dodds to shoot the pictures for Clinton’s book, and Lessons Well Learned hit the presses. While I was traveling with Clinton’s team, I began to notice that so many of the faces of the participants and audiences of his clinics and Walkabout Tour stops were very much like mine. The stories I heard as I interviewed some of these women could have been mine. And the stories I read as so many of them sent in effusive thank yous wrapped in irresistible stories of countless middle-aged women finding their confidence, authenticity, and courage through learning to work with their horses. An idea began brewing for a book to capture this spirit and tune Clinton’s advice toward this huge segment of his audience. Clinton wasn’t too keen on the idea, but Trafalgar Square books was. By then I had moved on from Clinton’s operation and was elated to have a contract for The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses in hand to begin my solo journey into writing books. A couple of years after Midlife had found evergreen success and was ensconced as one of Trafalgar’s best sellers, the editors who by then had become friends came back to me with another idea. What about a book about body image and riding? What about something that talks not only to larger riders and offers up advice on how to ride better and care better for themselves and their horses, but what if it dug into the roots of bad body image — and provides some real insight on how to overcome it, even as we work to get healthy, fit, and strong enough to ride well at any size. A diet and exercise book? Not really, but maybe some of that. A “big is beautiful” book? Well, not exactly, but ironically self-acceptance is very often the first step toward gaining a self we find acceptable. This book, titled Riding Through Thick and Thin, was a rascal to wrestle down, but I’m really proud and excited of all we were able to pack into those pages!

 

How many books have you written? What are their titles and what are they about?

I have now written five books: Infinite Persistence, Grandmaster, Lessons Well Learned, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses, and Riding Through Thick & Thin. They seem to be about:

  • persistence (in general),
  • persistence (“never give up” when life hands you difficulty),
  • persistence (“success is often just around the corner, but the trouble is most people quit before they get to the corner”),
  • persistence (it’s never too late to live your dream), and . . .
  • persistence (reach for your goals regardless of real or imagined limitations).

(I think I’m seeing a career theme . . .)

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What inspired you to write a book a book about motivating women to ride? 

I was so inspired by the many women I met on Clinton’s tours and rode with at clinics. They were just getting out there living their dream — on whatever level they could, and giddy as teenagers over every accomplishment. Talking about their horses, sharing their adventures, missteps, challenges and accomplishments clearly “put the light on in their eyes” as my friend and career coach Sam Horn likes to say. Horses have a way of bringing out the best in women, and I was so intrigued by this I couldn’t resist the opportunity to dig deeper and write about it. And the second book both challenged and inspired me to plumb my own experiences with body image and imagined limitations — and to see what I could find out there that could be helpful for women who were letting real or imagined limitations hold them back from enjoying their horses.

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What was the hardest part about writing the book, Riding Through Thick & Thin?

The hardest part, I think, was narrowing down the scope. This is such a complex topic that in researching it I literally had to explore every rabbit trail (which is why the trail ride became its overarching metaphor) and chase every idea down and around to arrive at how these threads could weave together into something useful, meaningful and relatable to both the plus-sized rider as well as anyone else who struggles with size, shape, proportion, or any other physical issue, real or imagined. What’s more, this book had to criss-cross disciplines, levels of riding, age and interests. It had to be, literally, for every body!

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How did writing your book change you? 

I think it was a journey of acceptance for me, releasing me from a lifetime of body image captivity even as I wrote in hopes of releasing my readers. Putting an unflinching researcher’s eye on how these limiting ideas develop, where they come from, how we inadvertently feed them and allow them to persist and grow, helped me understand the true dynamics of giving this debilitating kind of thinking the boot, once and for all. I think as I walked around with this information rolling around in my head it sort of began to infiltrate my own thinking more and more. As a result I think and feel differently about my body, my riding, and my goals and dreams for both! Particularly in the body mechanics section as I kitchen tested some of these ideas on my trusty steeds (who were spectacularly patient, by the way) I found a much stronger, more stable seat on my own horses and am actually enjoying my riding and feeling more connected in the saddle than ever before.

 

What are some of your favorite exercises to stay strong for riding?

Pilates for sure, for the core work that makes a HUGE difference in my posture alignment and riding “lighter” (even though I’m not!) and with better, more natural feeling balance. Yoga is another favorite because it emphasizes breathing and helps meld strength and flexibility, both of which help me to relax more as I ride, but still have the strength and stamina to be effective in the saddle — and in my barn chores! I love to incorporate my daily “steps” into groundwork with my horses, and even run a little bit beside my horses on occasion; this is not only good exercise for me, it is very good bonding with my boys!

 

What are some of your least favorite exercises?

Well I think weight training and “working out” for its own sake is pretty boring, but I know it’s a good thing to do just a couple of times a week to make sure all the muscle groups get solid and consistent strength work. I’d rather walk outside with my dogs or get my steps in doing groundwork with the horses, but when push comes to shove and I still have to get those steps, sometimes a treadmill or elliptical is a necessary evil.

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If you had to pick one thing to tell a new rider on how to become better, what would it be?

Get in shape and train — and feed — your body for the kind of work it’s going to need to do. Also find an instructor whose approach and manner resonates with you, and take your time getting your fundamentals solid before trying anything that is outside your comfort level. Several of the instructors I talked to mentioned how important it is to be able to do everything really well at a walk before attempting a trot; and likewise before trying faster speeds and more complicated maneuvers. Sure, you can sometimes do that stuff before you’re really technically ready, but it’s so much better and infinitely more fun when you build it on top of a solid foundation!

 

What is your biggest struggle as a rider?

Finding enough time and being consistent in my horsework — and being patient when those windows don’t open as often and for as long as I want them to! I also had quite a bit of fear off and on during this journey and riding through that was something of a struggle for quite a while.

 

How do you overcome those struggles?

In both cases I’ve had to learn to slow down, take a deep breath, and center myself mentally and physically in what I know for sure. One of the best things I learned from Clinton is the value of fifteen minutes of intentional work with a horse. Sure, two or three hours is ideal, but when you don’t have it, you don’t have it — and the temptation is to do nothing if you can’t do what you want and need to do. The best lesson (and I have to keep learning it) is a little focused time here and there is infinitely better than nothing — and it is the way out of both mental and physical bogs of all descriptions.

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Why are these pictures special to me?
They all show — and remind me of — my deep connection with my horses. Whether on the ground (the bay horse, Trace) or in the saddle (the sorrel, Rio) spending time with these guys is one of my life’s great joys. I tell stories about both of these horses in both books, and they are both such teachers. They literally bring out the very best in me, and I wish that for everyone who loves horses.

 

What is something that most folks may not know, and would probably never guess about you?

I carry clown noses and finger puppets in the glove compartment of my Mini Cooper . . . just in case of emergency. I’ve yet to have to use them, but you never know . . .

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Any parting words of wisdom for riders?

Having horses is much the same as having children. You’re probably never going to have enough money, enough time, or exactly the right stuff. Just do what you can, with what you have, and try your best to make the most of every minute of it. Life is short. Enjoy your horse time for all it’s worth. And it’s worth a lot.


Melinda’s interview will also appear on my writing blog, Talking In The Barn. If you’d like to find out more about Melinda and her books, you can keep up with her at the links below –

Links:

www.melindafolse.com

The Smart Woman’s Guide to Midlife Horses

http://melindafolse.com/books/the-smart-womans-guide-to-midlife-horses/

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2dSSHuD

Riding Through Thick and Thin

http://melindafolse.com/books/riding-through-thick-andthin-book/

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2dZIZGx

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/Melinda-Folse-1662865860621143/

Twitter

https://twitter.com/MelindaFolse

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Improving Confidence

The last several months my confidence has improved tremendously, and with it my riding has steadily progressed as well. Not only have my times on the barrel pattern improved, but I’m riding more aggressively than ever.

While losing fifty pounds certainly does help to a certain extent, what has helped more than anything is getting stronger, not just in my core but all over. When you feel strong, you feel in control of not only your horse, but yourself as well and that builds confidence.

I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I didn’t spend hours at the gym. I have an extremely busy life between working two jobs, running a horse farm, writing books & marketing them, and writing blogs. I don’t have the time to spend an hour every day at the gym.I lift weights and only do a total of 4-5 exercises per workout. It only takes around 20-30 minutes at most to complete the exercises that I do. That’s realistic and achievable for someone that’s busy.

There are three exercises in particular that have helped me the most in becoming a better rider. I like these exercises because not only do you work multiple muscle groups, you also get a cardio workout as well.

The first is a walking lunge with a forward arm raise. Here I’m using 10 pound weights. This is a great exercise for riding because not only does it work your legs, but it also requires balance to execute the position, and it works your entire core to lift the weights.

Walking Lunge With A Forward Arm Raise

Walking Lunge With A Forward Arm Raise

The next exercise is a plank position with a pull up. Here I’m using a 20 pound weight. Let me say when I first started all this, it was all I could do to pull up a 10 pound weight! I’ve seen the most improvement in this exercise. It’s also an exercise that requires balance and complete core interaction while working your arms.

Plank Position With Pull Up

Plank Position With Pull Up

The next two exercise is a crunch with weights. I use ten pound weights. There’s two variations that I do. One is a regular crunch with the weights just above my head. The other is a crunch into a sit up where I lift the weights up above my head. Both of these exercises simultaneously work your core while you’re working your arms. Because you’re using your core to lift the weights, it’s almost like weight lifting for your core!

Crunch With Weights

Crunch With Weights

Crunch & lift up

Crunch & lift up

The last exercise is a twist in sit up position with weights. Here I’m using 10 pound weights. This is another great exercise that works your core. If you keep your feet just a couple of inches off the floor while you’re doing the exercise, you’ll also work on balance at the same time.

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In addition to these, I also do the usual weight lifting exercises such as over head press, bench press, bent over row, and squats.

There’s numerous articles on the multiple health benefits of lifting weights besides just building muscle. Weight lifting helps with bone density, and it helps release growth hormones. Look at the bodybuilding grandmother Ernestine Shepherd and you’ll see that’s true! She’s an 80-something grandma that can do more push ups than most twenty year olds and she didn’t start weights until she was in her fifties!

Do you struggle with confidence in your riding? What is it that keeps you from feeling confident in the saddle?

Making Changes…

It’s been a little while since my last blog post. I finally landed a second job waiting tables at an Italian restaurant three nights a week. It’s been a hectic schedule between working two jobs, keeping my horses ridden, and trying to get the farm sold. So far I’m managing, although I will say I do know I don’t want to wait tables as a second job for the rest of my life!

While I have a more extensive blog post planned for later this month, in the meantime I thought I would share an update on my physical progress, and a few quick tips on what has helped me so far. The next blog post, I’ll share some of my favorite exercises, and talk about how some of them relate directly to riding.

Dance night!

Dance night!

When I started the CWC blog a year and a half ago, it was the start of a journey for me. My weight had ballooned up to 208, and no matter what I did or how much weight I lost I was tired, achy, and miserable.

The first step I took was changing my internal dialogue. Instead of criticizing myself all the time, I started to try find positive things I liked. Being kinder to myself mentally was very hard at first, but as time went on it got better.

The next step for me was attempting to just eat real food, and limit the junk, and then also limit dairy. I didn’t count calories, carbs or anything else. I just ate natural foods most of the time.

I usually fluctuated twenty or pounds anyhow, and by eating naturally, over the course of time I managed to drop off that twenty pounds and keep it off. However, there were many days I still felt tired and achy and my mental health wasn’t the best either.

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

Willie Bobby & I at the barrel race

This past March, I decided to make even more changes. I started eating protein and vegetables. Again, I didn’t count calories or anything else. I kept it extremely simple – I could have anything I wanted as long as it was protein or veggies.

I also started lifting weights, and just like with my food I kept it simple. Just three or four exercises a few times a week and no more than fifteen to twenty minutes. I knew it wasn’t realistic to expect myself to keep up more than that.

This pic below was taken several weeks back, but this week my scales said 155. I haven’t been this thin since my EARLY twenties!

Two different girls, two different mindsets!

Two different girls, two different mindsets!

I’ve not strayed from the meat and veggies since I started in March. I haven’t had any bread, sweets, or pasta even once. The interesting thing is that I don’t want any! For the first time in my life I finally have control over what I eat. There’s no bingeing or medicating with food!

One thing that has helped me has been the wise words of a good friend of mine that’s a Personal Trainer and veteran from Colorado, Scot Heminger – “Think of yourself as an athlete. Athletes don’t diet and exercise. They fuel their bodies and train to get better.” That mindset has made a huge difference because I don’t look at eating and exercise as deprivation and punishment, I look at them as a way to get BETTER.

Another difference I’ve seen has been my mental health. I no longer have the mood swings or the depression that I had before. Granted, I did make a big life change in getting divorced and surrounding myself with positive people, but I do think the change in diet has had an impact on my mental health.

Not only have I gained control over my appetite, and have a healthier outlook, I’ve also experienced a big increase in energy. My joints and my body also don’t ache like they did before. Because of all that, I feel like doing a lot more  – and it’s wonderful!

While all these side effects are great, the one side effect that is probably the best is my improved confidence. I walk taller and feel better about myself, and I feel strong! That confidence has found it’s way into my riding as well. I’m running barrels more aggressively than I ever have my entire life and I’m clocking a little faster every time I run.

NBHA Barrel Race

NBHA Barrel Race

I’m still a work in progress, but if I didn’t lose another pound I would be completely satisfied with where I’m at. I’m happy, and what I’m doing is realistically maintainable. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that where I am now started by simply loving myself a little more and making a few simple changes. It’s true what they say – change the mind and the body will follow. I think I’m living proof of that — and you can be too!

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Settle…

Hanging with Oscar for the fourth.... he might be an ass, but he tells me I'm great! LOL

Hanging with Oscar for the fourth…. he might be an ass, but he tells me I’m great! LOL

This is going to be another one of those pretty personal posts in the hopes that it can help someone else that’s out there going through the same thing.

I’ve been slowly wading back into the dating world, even putting a profile on Farmers Only a few weeks back. While I’ve always struggled with body image all my life anyhow, the whole dating thing will definitely take its toll and make you doubt the rest of you, especially if you’re like me and have some extraneous baggage that a lot of guys can’t deal with! Most guys aren’t like the Chris Ledoux song, Tougher Than The Rest….

 

There’s been days of self doubt, ups and downs, frustration, and tears. There’s also been a whole lot of self reflection, and a lot of lessons learned, thanks in part to my dear friend, Austin Foust.

Austin has been my rock through this whole divorce ordeal. He’s been the one person to check on me every single day to make sure I’m ok. He’s been the one I’ve called when I’ve been crying so hard I can’t even speak. He’s been the one to pull me back off the ledge and give me hope. He’s also been the one to remind me time and time again that I’m enough on my own. Sorry ladies – he’s gay!

My best bud Austin Foust

My best bud Austin Foust and our hike at Bald River Falls.

Austin has been my biggest cheerleader, and he’s reminded me of things that I knew but I just needed to hear. We all need a friend like that. They helps us get stronger.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to not settle and don’t lower your standards. Again, do not settle and don’t lower your standards!  

It’s amazing how we sometimes lower our standards on certain things when we want something so badly, or we think we don’t deserve better. Sometimes we accept not being treated as important, or less than we deserve. Other times, we say something really isn’t a big deal when in fact it is. In the end, we won’t be happy if we’re not made to feel important or we accept something that we really don’t want. So, why settle in either case?

Another lesson is that people make time for who and what they want in their life. If they want you in their life, they’ll come get you.  It’s pretty simple. If they want to talk to you, they will. If not, don’t waste your energy chasing them down – you’re worth more than that!

The next lesson goes hand in hand with the last one – actions speak louder than words. Someone can say all day long they want you in their life, but if they don’t make time for you – even just a text or call – then their actions don’t back up what they’re saying. On a side note, why would you want someone in your life that you can’t take at their word?

You deserve better and you are enough. Just because someone doesn’t make you a priority doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, or that you deserve less. It just means they can’t recognize a good thing when it’s in front of them. Save your time and energy for people that recognize and appreciate the fact that you do deserve better and that you are enough.

Follow your heart. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, find a way to go do it. Life is too short to wish you’d done things differently. Don’t be afraid to start over or follow that dream.

I’m definitely preaching to myself on this one! I’ve always wanted to live out west as that’s where my heart has always been.

Spend time focusing on yourself and find joy where you can. If there’s something you love to do, go do it and have fun no matter how small.

Silly nerdy selfie from the barrel race!

Silly nerdy selfie from the barrel race!

 

In the end, life is too short to spend our energy chasing after people that don’t deserve us, or not following our dreams. Get out there and live while you can and love yourself in the process — You’re worth it!

Bald River Falls Hike June 2016

Bald River Falls Hike June 2016

 

 

 

It’s A Journey…

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines the term journey as the act of traveling from one place to another.

That’s exactly what I’ve been doing these last few months. I’ve been traveling from one place, or mindset, to another. It’s not always been an easy trip at times, but I know in the end I’ll wind up where I’m supposed to be.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in my life right now with trying to get the farm sold, and move on as a single woman with as many horses as I’ll have. I get asked at least a few times every week, “What are you going to do with your horses?” My response always is, “Ya know what? I really don’t know!”

farm pic

The truth is, at this point time I really don’t know, but that’s ok. I have peace that’s settled on me. Deep down, I believe that things happen for a reason and things work out like they’re supposed to. We’re not always in control, and that’s ok.

A good friend has a saying that stress is like sitting in a rocking chair. You can rock all you want but you won’t get anywhere. That’s so true. If you can’t do anything about it, why stress over it? We all know what stress does to the body.  Do what you can do, and do the right thing and leave the rest in God’s hands. Really, if you think about it, that’s all we can do anyhow!

The one thing I can do is enjoy the journey that I’m on right now. I’ll be honest, sometimes actually enjoying it is a little tough, especially when you just want it to be over! I’m one of those types that just likes to keep my head down and plowing on until I’m through to the other side. The problem with being that way is that there’s always going to be some obstacle that I want to just get through. Life becomes a series of obstacles you’re trying to get through instead of a journey that you’re supposed to enjoy. I’ve got to learn to enjoy the journey, or the trip from here to wherever it is that I end up.

I’m learning more and more to enjoy the little things, no matter how small. The sound of the whippoorwill as I’m working on this blog post, or the feel of my horse’s sweaty back as I ride through the field. The old me would tune out the distraction of an incessant whiporwhil because I need to get a blog post done. The old me would have opted to ride in a saddle because I needed to tune on my horse. Not any more.

These days I’m much more full of life. It’s because I’m learning to enjoy the moment and the journey instead of just keeping my head down until the next great moment. The old me that’s full of life and adventure is coming out by leaps and bounds as a result. I like to say I’m getting my groove back, cowgirl style! I think that’s true. There’s a happiness that was lost before.

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So what is it that you’re stressing over? What is it that you just wished would hurry up and pass? Instead of stressing, or just keeping your head down and getting through it, what you can do to enjoy where you’re at right now?

Top of Cherohala Skyway

Here’s the Bald River Falls I’ve been spending time at…

 

Finding Yourself Again…

I’m going to warn you – this blog post is going to be pretty personal, but my hopes in sharing this is that it might help someone else. We can be standing next to someone and not have a clue what’s going through their mind or what hell they’re dealing with. Sometimes those people are utterly alone, as I was.

Work in progress...

Work in progress…

When I started the CWC blog a little over a year ago, it started out as a way to reach out and inspire other riders that were struggling with confidence. The blog wound up being a journey for me personally as well, and it’s a journey that’s taken quite an unexpected turn the last couple of months.

While this blog was a way to urge other riders to get out there and do what they love, it was also an opportunity for me to do some self reflection as well. That self reflection this last year, has led to me making some drastic and life changing decisions.

I won’t go into any major details at this time, but two years ago my family endured a tragedy that changed all of our lives forever. While that tragedy didn’t necessarily cause the subsequent events, it certainly brought issues to light that needed to be dealt with.

This last year after the event was particularly rough, and quite frankly I sank to the absolute lowest Ievel of depression I’ve ever experienced. While I functioned normally in that I kept the horses up, did well at my job, and presented a picture that everything was ok to the rest of the world, the truth is that it wasn’t.

There were weekends where I went back to bed and cried all day after morning chores because I felt so alone and hopeless. There were many, many days I felt like life just wasn’t worth it any more, that if I ceased to exist it wouldn’t be a big deal to anyone. What really was the point of living?

I imagined ways to die. My favorite was waiting until a subzero night, making it look like I hit my head, and freezing to death. Guns and hanging were too painful, pills you wouldn’t really know you were going to die. Call it silly, but I didn’t like the idea of falling asleep out of your mind and somehow realizing in the dream that you’re dead.  Plus, life insurance wouldn’t pay if you committed suicide and I didn’t want my horses being suddenly homeless. Freezing to death would look like an accident, and on some level you’d know you were dying as you fell asleep.

I am a Christian, and it was during those darkest hours of depression that I begged God to feel His presence and to change me and my thinking. All I got was silence. I felt abandoned even by God at that point.

I had never sank that low, and had never felt that abandoned by God and my spouse but I knew that I didn’t want to stay there. So, I started fighting to bring myself out of it anyway that I could.

The first way was to find joy in every little thing no matter how small. I also started making myself more of a priority – my health, my happiness, and my career especially as a writer and as a horseman. If I could focus on those things and have something to work towards, I knew I could keep moving forward – and I did!

I finally came to a point of reality with my marriage as well, and I knew I couldn’t stay in a relationship that had slowly been contributing to my sinking that low. I knew it was time to get out, and that’s where I’m at now.

DYNAMICHOST

While taking that first step was most definitely a terrifying one, especially after thirteen years of marriage, I also felt a great sense of relief in the midst of such uncertainty. Because of that, I knew deep in my heart that I made the right decision. I also started to realize that sometimes God gives us silence, and doesn’t answer our prayers, because we have to become miserable enough to move from where we’re at.

NEW PROGRESS

The divorce papers will be filed early next week, the farm is up for sale, and I’m trying to figure out what in the world I’m going to do with seven horses on short notice. There are good days, and there are still days that I cry – a lot – but the difference is that I can see I’m moving in the right direction and I feel a sense of joy, hope and purpose again.

I’m also finding my true self again, and doing things that I love to do. I’ve been eating healthier and it’s not the struggle that it always was before because I’m not medicating myself with food. I’m working out and lifting weights. I feel stronger than I have in years, and I’m riding a LOT better as well!

Won some money at the barrel race after a year off!

Won some money at the barrel race after a year off!

I’m also getting out and going to local places that I’ve always wanted to go, such as Bald River Falls in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. I plan on seeing a lot of trails this year.

Bald River Falls Hike

Bald River Falls Hike

I know that this year is not going to be an easy journey, but every day I’m finding how strong I can be. Life is gift that is too precious to be wasted in sorrow. So get out there and find the things you love and go after them with everything you’ve got!