It’s the first real snow we’ve had in a while. I enjoy the down time and just watching the horses play in it.
Riding horses and writing are two things that are a very much a part of what makes me who I am. This past year, I took a break from writing while I did some soul searching. Prior to that, I had taken pretty much a complete break from riding since 2016. Honestly, I felt a bit lost not having something to shoot for in front of me, but sometimes that can be a good thing. Breaks can allow you to sit back and re-asses what you’re at, what you really want, and what it’s going to take to get there. Sometimes too, it can change who you are as you reflect on the things you want to discard and the things you want to keep. As I said in my post in Talking In The Barn, I don’t believe in things I once did, and believe in things I use to not believe in.
In order for me to get where I wanted to be, which was running, I had to get a barn built so I could get my horses in the dry and have some hay storage. I finally got that checked off the list around April of last year, along with the start of an arena.
My next goal was to start hauling and running barrels again because it was something that I just couldn’t shake. Fireman & Cool had some soundness issues, and I was still trying to work through those. Willie Bobby was the only option for a sound horse to run.
A lot of folks would have sold their horse and bought something sound and ready to go win on. For me, sometimes things aren’t all about winning. Sometimes it’s about the challenge to see what you can accomplish, and Lord knows I always love an underdog! At 20 years old and still GREEN at barrels, Willie was definitely an underdog. Add to that fact that he’s grade out who knows what, spooks a lot, is barefoot, and trimmed & ridden by his 50 something year old owner that hasn’t seen a can in 5 years. We make quite the underdog pair!
Sometime early July, we ran our first run – no exhibitions – at a little open show that had around 30 entries. We didn’t place, but I didn’t fall off, he didn’t spook, he handled the ground well and his pattern wasn’t too bad. The icing on the cake was that I had an absolute blast! We ran barrels and poles at that same show a couple of months later and had a lot of fun.
Later, we went on to run a night time exhibition at the rodeo, and made a few NBHA shows where we picked up a little money and points. In fact, we won a headstall for district year end, and qualified for the NBHA World. Not too bad for a 5 year break and being underdogs!
This coming year, I’d like to run a little more and that’s what we’re working on. Step by step.
Sitting was hard for me. When you can’t do something that you really do have a passion for, that you can’t go a day without thinking about, it takes the wind out of your sails. As the saying goes, there’s a season for everything. Sometimes that season of feeling like you’re doing nothing really is preparing you for something. Maybe it’s a time to reflect and find your orientation, maybe it’s a time to learn lessons you won’t learn any other way. For me, it was both.
I say all that to say this…..
Don’t feel bad if you’re having to sit right now. Use it to best of your advantage.
Don’t count yourself out just because you think you’re too old, too out of shape, or not talented enough to do something. Go do what you can with what you’ve got, one step at a time, and run your own race.
Life is too short to be afraid of going after those things you love and that give your life vibrancy!
So where are you at right now? Are you sitting or taking those steps?
The holidays are over and here we are at the start of a whole new year…
Over Thanksgiving and Christmas, I picked up and lost the same 6 pounds. The only difference between Thanksgiving and Christmas is it took me 2 days to gain that much for Thanksgiving, and Christmas it took 4 days — I’ll call that improvement!
I weigh daily because although the numbers can ruin my day – if I let it – being accountable to myself every day helps me stay on track, and it helps me see how my body responds to certain foods. Instead of focusing any weight gain, I try to focus on what I’ve learned.
Especially with everything else going on in the world right now, it’s easy to get down and beat yourself up when you don’t acheive a certain goal. It’s easy to look at my own holiday gains and lose motivation, and beat myself up. The negative talk in my head is pretty loud!
Or, I can choose to focus on other things…
- The fact that I’m stronger and healthier this year than I was last year.
- The fact that I’m not craving bad food as much as I used to. For a food addict, that’s an accomplishment!
- The fact that although I ate a lot of bad food, I found myself getting sick of it quicker than what I used to.
- The fact that at the end of the celebration, I felt satiated and I was actually kind of relieved to get back to a healthy routine.
- The fact that although I might have picked up a few pounds, I’m still making progress from where I was in August and September!
I know I still have a ways to go to begin having a healthy relationship with food – believe me, I know that! But you know what? Although I’m not there YET, I’m on the journey of getting there and any improvement is progress and I’m getting there. I’m further than I was.
In regards to riding, I’ve not been able to ride as well because we’ve had a ton of rain and the pasture is too slick and deep to ride at this point. Just like with getting healthy and fit, I can either focus on the mud – which I can’t do anything about, or I can focus on things I can do something about. Instead of focusing on the things that kill motivation, I’ve decided to focus on those things I can do a little something about. I re-newed my NBHA membership which I haven’t done in 4 years. I’ve lined up the grader and builder for the new barn, and I’ve got the new fencing ready to go as well. Just those little things help keep me motivated and looking forward to the good things coming this year!
I’m learning every day it’s all in what you focus on that keeps you going. So what is your focus?
The pictures above were during one of the hardests times in my life – the aftermath of a tragedy followed by a divorce, selling a farm, and losing horses. At the same time, it was the first time in my life at the ripe old age of 47 that I could look in the mirror and be proud of what I saw.
You see, my whole entire life I have had an unhealthy relationship with food. I love to eat, but food has always been a coping mechanism for me. Simply put, I am a food addict. It took me a lot of years to realize that. Although I’ve always been active and strong for my size, I have always struggled with weight. At 5’3″, I stayed in the upper 180’s for several years, but the scale kept going up as high as 208.
As the scale went up, my health went down. Blood work, paired with a biopsy from a place of my face that wouldn’t go away for well over a year, and symptoms like joint pain, fatigue, depression, sores in my nose, all pointed to Lupus. The only option the doctors offered me back then was a rhuematoid med that had horrendous side effects and made me feel like I had the flu. That wasn’t good enough, and that’s when I slowly started on a journey to get better, which eventually led me to the first set of pictures.
I was able to stick to my regime for a long time…. basically eat clean (meat and veggies) and do kettlebells. I had finally figured out that the more simple it was, the more likely I was to maintain it. I didn’t count anything and my workouts were a max of 15 minutes. I felt great, my confidence went through the roof, and I started riding the best I’d ever ridden in my whole entire life.
Even when I was in my 20’s and thinner, I never thought I was thin enough. I also didn’t ride as confident…so what changed at 47? Mindset and strength. If you want to change your life, you change your thinking – and that’s what I did!
In the craziness of building the new place however, all of that fell by the wayside over time. The day to day living in the cramped space of a camper, and the stress of having to build a house weighed heavily. I found myself eating comfort food more than I should have, and not working out or riding. I just wanted to get on to the next phase and be in the house, and if I couldn’t do that food was the next best thing! Food made me feel better momentarily – although I always paid for it in the form of joint aches and fatigue, along with depression – which just made it worse. I didn’t have anywhere to spread out so that I could work out — most of the time there was too much mud! This went on for 3 years…and I was gradually headed back to being as heavy as I was before. But I told myself once I got in the house, I would find my way back.
We finally passed the final inspection and moved in this year at the end of July. At first, I wasn’t really consistent with eating and working out. Then in August I had extreme back pain – the worst I’d ever had! (Keep in mind I fractured my thoracic vertabrae in my early 20’s from a car wreck!) I could barely move, and the only way I could get any relief was to sit or lay down, and even then I still hurt.
Being in that much pain, and not able to do anything hit me pretty hard. I didn’t want to live like that. After about 2 weeks with no relief, I finally went to a chiropractor. On a side note, it was the same chiropractor that I used for my horses – Wells Chiro Healthcare. It took quite a few adjustments, but one thing he pointed out was how important nutrition is in how we feel. He also reminded me of what I had been a few years before, when I was strong and healthy. That was the kick I needed!
So I started back on what I had done before – eating meats and veggies, and exercising. Eventually, the pain got better. But you know what else got better? My attitude!
After about 3 weeks, I started tracking my progress through pics. Right before all this started, I had gained up to 188. It was less than I had weighed the last time I decided to make a change, but if I was going to get back to that place where I felt good, I had 35 pounds to lose. More importantly, I had a lot of strength to build back as well.
The first 8 pounds came off pretty easily, but then I plateaued. Even on the days that I was good and did kettlebells, I would either not lose or I’d gain. Two years into hot flashes at 51, soon to be 52, the weight not budging was to be expected, but I wasn’t going to give in.
The whole reason what I was doing before had worked was because it was simple. I don’t like tracking anything because the last thing I need is something else to keep up with. However, working in reporting and analytics, I knew I needed to start tracking what I was eating to see if I could tell a pattern. So I downloaded the Carb Tracker App, and chose the KETO setting. I figured if I couldn’t lose on that, then I really needed to make some big changes. It gave me my ideal Macro for the day – 22g of carbs, 135g of fat, 108g of protein, and 1731 calories. The ideal Macro for me is 5% carbs, 70% fat, and 25% protein. The app calculates all that for you, and tells you when you’re going over. So, in a sense it was still simple.
There have been some days that I’ve gone over my carb level and gained a pound, but there’s also been days I’ve went 15g over and still lost a pound and half in one day. I’m learning where my limits are, how my body handles food. One thing for certain, getting enough protein seems to be the key to keeping the scale moving in the right direction. The key is athletes don’t diet and exercise, they diet and train. As a rider, even an old one, I’m an athlete.
More importantly though is building strength. That part has seemed a bit slower! The good thing is I’m back to doing crunches with 20 pound weights, but presses and building strength in my legs is taking longer than what I’d like — but I will get there. I’ve done it once, I can do it again.
At 51, I’m on another journey to get back to that place where I actually felt good about myself, and doing it as naturally and as realistically as possible. I don’t want to take a bunch of pills, or buy a bunch of expensive supplements, or spend hours in the gym. I also don’t want to look like a 20 year old. I just want to ride the absolute best I can possibly ride, and be the healthiest, strongest and most confident that I can possibly be because I want to enjoy the years that I have left as much as I can — and it’s all up to me to get it done.
With Thanksgiving coming up, I’m going to enjoy it to the fullest. I’ve already ordered a couple of pies and rolls since I don’t eat those on a normal day. But the next day I plan to be right back to eating healthy for me. I also plan on getting some more riding in as well.
I plan on sharing my progress because if I can do it, anyone can! As the saying goes, sometimes you go through the darkness to show others the way. Life is worth being healthy inside and out!
Earlier this week I read a post by a disgruntled parent talking about how the trainer told her daughter who was already riding a nice big Thoroughbred, that if she wanted to suceed in Eventing, she would need to buy a different horse, and that she would never make it in Eventing because they would never give her a chance because of her race.
Now, do I agree with the trainer with the trainer’s approach and what the trainer said? Absolutely not. Do I deny the fact that there is prejudice in the show world? Again, absolutely not — But that’s not what this is about. On a side note, there’s always prejudices in the show ring — just try riding an Arab in Dressage, or bring a gaited horse to a cattle sorting and you’ll quickly see what I mean.
I have two very important – and potentially brutal – questions –
When I was growing up, most folks didn’t go out and buy a made horse. Most kids got whatever their parents could afford and they had to figure out. Did they get hurt? You bet, but you know what? They learned from it and ultimately became better horsemen because of it.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase, “If you want to win, you have to ride X.” Go look up the champion eventer Elisa Wallace and see what she’s riding. Go look up the history on Scamper that Charmayne James rode at the NFR, or Kristie Peterson and Bozo. Everyone knows the story of Seabiscuit, and the legendary slaughter sale horse Snowman. Those are just a few of the stories in the wonderful world of horses….so why are we telling kids, or adults that matter if they want to succeed they have to have a different horse?
And something else…. what exactly does it mean to succeed with horses? What exactly is winning? Are we riding to win or are we riding for something else? If we focus on what that trainer said, getting upset, and making a big deal of it then we’re focusing on winning. Is that really what we want to be teaching kids, or even adults that are learning about horses?
My thinking is that becoming a better horseman should be the focus and the goal, not the winning. If you become a better horseman, the winning will come as a result of that. When you focus on riding better and improving your horse, you automatically perform better under pressure. Titles are great, but they start to mean something when you’ve had to go through a lot of pain to get there.
One thing I love about horses and the horse industry is that horse don’t now how much they cost, and I love how the industry is rich with “rags to riches” tales of horses and people doing things other said they would never be able to do. I hope we pass that on to the next generation of riders.
So what is your focus as a parent or as a rider? What is the goal and what is the purpose and how do you get there?
Sweet stud horse for sale. Not broke but sometimes can be caught and sometimes will lead if you have food. He’s never bred. Need gone ASAP. Highest bid gets him. No papers.
Reality check. If you’re posting your horse for sale like the (actual) ad listed above, chances are really good that the first folks interested in your horse isn’t the Good Home Fairy, but kill buyers looking for a deal they can sell per pound. Saying this isn’t being a negative Nancy – it’s being realistic.
Yes, there are folks out there that look for projects to rehab – I’ve been one myself! However the truth of the matter is that usually the people qualified and looking for a project are usually looking for something they can make a little money off of. By the time you geld, spend money in feed for at least a couple of months while you train, you’re lucky if you break even, especially if they aren’t papered. Speaking of papers, no you can’t ride papers but the truth of the matter is that papered horses will bring more than grade the large majority of the time. Not only that, papered horses have more options in competing.
Horse rescues are shutting down due to support drying up during the pandemic, and there’s been a flood of horses for sale due to folks losing jobs and falling on hard times. Even before the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon to find good registered horses in the line up at the kill sale. If good horses can’t find homes even in good times, how is a horse without any experience going to find a decent home?
Although there are never any guarantees when you sell a horse, there are a few options and a few things you can do to help ensure your horse finds a soft landing, and you get the best price for your horse.
Having manners, a solid foundation helps in selling. If a horse knows the basics – tying well, solid trailer loading, lightness in the bit, knowing leads – they’ll have a better chance at finding a good home because they have more options. Horses that don’t have skills, especially stallions, have a much harder time finding a good home.
One simple thing you can do is take good pictures. You want to take a picture from an angle that showcases your horse’s conformation, and shows the angle of their legs and feet. You’ll also want to make sure they are groomed well. If your horse is used for competing or any certain events, you’ll want to include some action pictures and video as well. People are drawn to photos and videos on social media anyhow, so having pictures and videos will help you to get a cursory look at least. Also, using hashtags (#) in your wording will help bring more looks as well since people can search using hashtags in front of search terms. Examples are: #horseforsale, #AQHA, #trailhorse #barrelhorse #dressageprospect
If your horse is registered, you’ll want to take a good picture of the registration papers as well. Many people will search for specific bloodlines, and including that information up front will cut out a lot of uncessary questions. If your horse has a show record, you’ll want to include that information too.
If you have a trail horse you’re looking to sell, you can attract more buyers by also mentioning what events the horse may be a prospect for. That way trail riders and competitors will be interested in your horse. If you’re not sure what events they excel at, have a knowledgeable horse person evaluate your horse.
Networking and getting the word out to the right horse community is key to getting a horse sold. Groups that are often over looked when selling calm trail horses is 4H, Pony Clubs, and Therapy programs. Breed and discipline associations can also be a resource even if a horse isn’t registered. For instance, folks in the Arab association may know of someone that rides endurance that is looking for an Arab and registration papers aren’t a necessity.
Along those same lines, different disciplines and breed groups will tolerate certain things that other groups will not. For instance, most trail riders don’t want a spooky horse. However, some english disciplines are more concerned with quality of movement and are willing to work with a little spookiness.
If you need to find a home for your horse, there are options other than selling. Leasing to a Therapy or lesson program, or doing a care lease with a signed contract is one option that can work. Some trainers will also sell horses on consignment. This is a good option if you’re looking to find a better home for your horse.
Honesty really is the best option. If you’re not completely honest about your horse, then it won’t be long before the horse will be on the sale trail again and the new buyer may dump him at the nearest sale. It’s better to divulge too much than not enough. That way a buyer knows exactly what they’re getting into.
So, how are you right now, truthfully?
What has helped and why do you think that it has helped? What are you struggling with?
Here’s where I’m at right now……
I’ll be honest, even before COVID-19 came along, I was struggling! Between this 3 year marathon house build, and not doing any riding, it has taken a toll on my psyche and my waistline. I’ve gained not quite 30 pounds back and it’s taken a LOT of effort to not get thoroughly discouraged in life in general. I’m exhausted! Folks complain about this show / rodeo season being cancelled, but mine has been cancelled for the last 3 years! It’s coming on 4 years since the last time I ran and that can get a horse girl down.
Then when you add worrying about your health, your finances and then read all the conspiracy and end times stuff floating around out there right now, you really do feel like jumping off into the deep end, especially when you’re someone with a vivid imagination and writer brain that thinks WAY too much! By the way, the jury is still out on the conspiracy theories – I can’t help it, I’m researching.
Honestly though, how do you get in a good place mentally in the middle of all this craziness, when you really can not do any of the things that bring you joy and that make you feel healthy inside and out?
I think the answer to that is different for everyone, and you have to make an effort and a decision to feel better, be better. For me personally, in a nutshell it has come down to faith, and focusing on the future to get me through right now.
Let’s talk about faith a little bit…This is one of those times where rubber has met the road in regards to faith. I’ve been through some very dark trying times that have made me question my faith and made me want to wash my hands of the church community. But you know what? I’ve always made it through – with God’s help. Always. He’s always had favor on me even during the times I most definitely didn’t deserve it. So why wouldn’t He do the same now? If He’s done it before, I have faith that He’ll do it again. Letting go and taking that mindset has given me some rest. It’s not my job to fix everything or save everyone, or even save myself. That’s God’s job so I’m letting Him do it. Besides, there’s not a lot I can do about it anyhow.
We’re on the downhill side of the house and coming up on a deadline, which I’ll be honest I have worried over. Ask my boyfriend, he’ll tell ya I’ve had quite a few meltdowns over these last 3 years! (He’s been a trooper through it all really and has done such a great job.) Then I look back at where we’ve come from…
And I get this big sense of pride and hope of what’s to come. I imagine what it’s going to be like when we finally get to move in. No more taking cold showers in 20 degree weather, riding out storms rocking back and forth, finding ice on top of the dog bowl in the kitchen, or making trips to town to do laundry at the toilet chained down laundromat! We’ll have a home that we can enjoy that will have room for what we need that will feel safe. I also remember how fortunate we are to have a place that’s ours to call home and put the horses. There’s a lot of folks that don’t have that so I’m thankful.
The last two years we have gotten record relentless rains. Having 4 horses and a donkey out on a bare lot without a barn has been a big source of stress. Between wading through knee deep mud daily to dump hay with a pair of rubber boots that have a hole, and battling multiple rounds of scratches in every single one of them, it’s been a real source of stress. It’s also been a proving ground and motivator for me.
If nothing else, I’ve proven to myself that I’m not a fair weather horse owner. I’ve hung in there even when I’m not getting anything tangible from owning them. It’s also made me learn and figure out things I wouldn’t have if they had been in a better environment. If they had nicer turn out and and barn, I would have kept doing what I had always done with Fireman especially, and Cool. I wouldn’t have figured out what they need nutritionally to be sound, and I wouldn’t have figured out what they needed in a trim either. I’ve learned that works in a barn doesn’t necessarily work in other environments. What works in certain parts of the year may not work in others as well.
Because of these hard times, I’ve learned so much and I’ve wound up with horses that have healthier feet that will come back stronger than they ever would have before. I’ve also changed my philosophy on horse keeping and that will benefit when we finally have a barn.
While I’ve gained some weight and gotten soft, the good thing is I know for a fact I can – and will – get back to where I was as a rider when we left off. My last few runs with Fireman were the absolute best they had ever been in my whole entire life – and I was 47 at the time. I know what I need to do and what it takes, which is strength and mindset. I also know that I’ll be hungry for it! That keeps me going as well.
One thing about it, even after all this my heart still skips a beat when I watch the horses play and run. There’s just something about them that can’t be explained that has always had that effect on me. I just love horses, no matter what. My ass, well he makes me laugh! I make it point though to get some joy out of them daily and that helps as well.
If you’re struggling financially to keep your horses fed, Fleet Of Angels and the ASPCA both have mentioned that they have assistant programs for folks that need help right now.
One of my previous blog posts from a few years ago also has some tips on how to cut your feed costs. Being on an extreme budget with building the house and dealing with hoof issues, here’s a couple of things I’ve learned since that post –
- While they are more expensive, feed balancers are less expensive to feed in the long run. The better the balancer, the less you have to add. You can use a feed conversion tool to figure out how many mg of nutrients are in the feed.
- Beet pulp can definitely help cut your feed bill. That said, I have seen an increase in thrush in all of mine even when it’s dry.
- If you have hoof issues, Pete Ramey is a good resource to research to use a guide. He keeps cost in mind.
So, what’s behind YOUR smile? What are you struggling with? What seems to help?
You CAN and WILL get through this!!
I normally love chatting about horses. There’s something about sharing that love of an animal and lifestyle that makes it feel like connecting with good family. I’m a life long student of horses and self proclaimed horse geek. Pair that with being a “fixer”, I love to help where I can and have a heart for what many may see as the “less fortunate” in the horse world.
Lately however, I had to step away from the horse groups, especially on Facebook because of all the judgemental comments that seem to crop up any time someone asks for help or had an issue they were trying to fix themselves.
One comment that seemed to crop up often was that if they couldn’t afford a vet they didn’t need a horse. The same sentiment was also shared in hoof groups as well about muddy footing.
While I do believe that you need to be able to keep one fed decently, and not necessarily in show shape, I have to wonder about the comments about affording a vet bill. I mean just exactly what kind of vet bill are we talking about? Money for x-rays? Money for surgery? Where do you draw the limit?
I’ll be honest, building back from scratch and living in a camper for last 2 and half years, there’s no way I would have the finances for colic surgery. Only one of mine would be worth that much anyhow, but does that mean I shouldn’t own a horse?
I also don’t have the ideal set up right now in my paddock and there’s a lot of mud with the relentless rain. My horses also have very little shelter (but have done fine). So does that also mean I shouldn’t own a horse? I mean really, I’m two for two here! By the way, my horses stay if good shape if you’re picking up the phone to call animal control.
So really, what IS the deciding factor of whether or not a person should own a horse?
Before you step up to judge and answer that off your high horse, I give you the story of Snowman. Harry de Leyer purchased Snowball off of a kill truck with literally his last $80. His last $80!
He didn’t have money for a vet, or for feed, or really enough room and resources for another horse. If that was today, and he had asked the best way to treat a wound, or dry up a foot issue he would have been told he didn’t have the finances so he shouldn’t own a horse! Yet the pair went on to make jumping history.
The world needs a little more kindness and a little more help. Just because something isn’t ideal doesn’t mean an animal is in a neglectful or abusive situation, or that their owner shouldn’t have them. Maybe instead of jumping on the judgemental bandwagon, we need to see how we can help. You never know, that person not in the ideal situation might just be the next Harry and Snowball!