Let’s Talk About Weight & Horses

Weight is a touchy subject for women, especially for horsewomen that don’t have a positive body image. How many of us have seen posts on forums asking whether or not a rider is too big for a horse? Far too often, at least in my opinion, multiple responses hold up the 20% golden rule that’s the end all be all of whether or not a rider should ride their horse.

For those that may not be familiar with the 20%, studies have shown that the maximum weight a horse – any horse regardless of build or size – should carry is 20% of their body weight. The studies indicate that when a horse carries more than 20% of their bodyweight, their heart rate increases and their muscles fatigue quicker.

 The average 15 hand horse will run around 1,000 pounds, which means the most weight they should carry is 200 pounds.

I ran Beavis on barrels at 185 pounds.

While this may be a good loose general rule of thumb, the problem is that most of these studies that have been done don’t take into account the differences in genetics, conformation, condition, or rider balance and fitness. In addition, there’s not uniformity in the horses and riders that they’re using to determine these results.

To make matters worse, some shows have even gone so far as to ask heavier riders to dismount based on the 20% rule. My fear is that if this taken to extreme, formal rules will be put into place on a larger scale – pun intended – based on studies that never took into account the individuality of horse and rider.

Using this 20% rule as the end all, be all is like saying people that weigh the same can lift the same amount of weight. Go to a weight lifting competition and you’ll see that’s simply not true. It’s not uncommon for smaller lifters to out-lift someone that weighs more than they do simply because they’re stronger.

Weight is not an indicator of strength or endurance but using this 20% rule as an end all be all makes it exactly that.

As a former trainer and instructor that’s ridden a large number of different breeds of horses, and as a competitor that’s been at every spectrum of the scale, I have a good feel of how weight impacts a horse and I know where the differences lie.

 While a rider’s fitness level does have an impact on how well a rider rides, my opinion is that a rider’s strength and balance are what is important. A rider can be strong and balanced but not necessarily fit according to traditional thinking. A balanced rider that is in time with their horse will have less impact on a horse’s back than a rider that’s fit but doesn’t have the best balance.

A rider’s build can also have an impact on how well they ride. If a rider is top heavy, they’re going to struggle more than a rider that carries more weight in their hips. With more weight up top, the physical impact on the horse’s back is going to be different than weight further down.

The same thing goes for horses and how they’re built. It’s common knowledge that a shorter back is stronger than a longer back. Two horses can weigh the same, but the shorter backed horse will be stronger.

My old horse Bluff weight 1200 pounds but he was also long backed.

Conformation and angles also play a role in a horse’s strength. In the barrel racing world, a horse with shorter cannon bones, a long hip angle, and lower hocks is more desired because they’re stronger making them faster coming off of a barrel.

A horse with a good shoulder angle can carry more weight more efficiently than a horse with an upright shoulder angle. Pair a good shoulder angle with correct angles in the pastern and hocks, and they’re even stronger.

Toad is a tough little horse right at 1,000 pounds.

Differences in the depth of the girth can also impact how well a horse carries weight. A deeper girth area allows for greater lung capacity so their endurance is better.

Conditioning also plays a role in how well a horse carries weight. It’s not only whether or not a horse has been worked, but the type of work they are being asked to do. For instance, a western pleasure show horse or hunter horse may be legged up perfectly to go compete in a class, but they may not be legged up enough to go run a barrel pattern competitively.  They need to be conditioned for the event they’re being asked to do in order to carry weight at an optimum level.

Over the years I’ve ridden several horses that I was either right at or a little over the 20% level. One Paso Arab cross mare that I rode weighed right at 900 pounds – 20% would be 180 pounds. There were several years I rode her weighing 185 and my saddle weighed 25 pounds. That mare carried me without any problem at all. We went on hilly trail rides and at the end of the day she had as much energy as she did at the start.

This Paso Arab mare carried me a lot of years at heavier weights and had no trouble.

I currently have two Quarter Horse geldings that both weigh right at 1,000 pounds. One is barely 14.2 and the other is right at 15 hands. I’ve ridden them both at 200 pounds and they carried me as easily at that weight as they do now, and they never tired any quicker than my black gelding that weighs 1250 pounds and is 16 hands.

1250 pounds and 16 hands, 1000 pounds and 15 hands – they carry me equally!

By the same token, I have had some smaller horses that weighed right at the 1,000 pound mark that I was a lot more careful about riding. I could tell they struggled a little more carrying me. This mare below is one of them. When she was green, could buck me very easily – which she worked out of – but she also tired quicker than my other horses did.

To the riders out there that struggle with a positive body image, don’t get too hung up on the 20% rule that gets spouted everywhere. Instead, take a look at your balance and strength and look at your horse as an individual whole.

Ask yourself these questions –

  • How is your balance and timing?
  • How well does your saddle fit?
  • How is your horse built?
  • Is he short backed or long backed?
  • How is the rest of his conformation and muscle?
  • How well is he conditioned?
  • Does he tire when he’s worked? How long does he have to be worked before he does get tired?
  • Does he wring his head or have any behavioral issues that could be caused by being uncomfortable?

If you still have questions of whether or not you’re too big for a horse, find a professional that is experienced with plus size riders. They’ll not only be able to give you an unbiased opinion, but they’ll be able to help you with issues that can be unique to larger riders and smaller type horses.

Weight is just a number. It’s doesn’t tell the whole story, and it doesn’t tell how well you ride or how well your horse can carry you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Supporting Those That Struggle

With all the changes this year, it’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog….After getting the farm sold and doing some serious soul-searching, I’ve decided to keep it going if for no other reason than the fact that I’m passionate about horses and being healthy with them – inside and out-  and I enjoy sharing that with other people. It’s therapeutic in that it keeps me going and motivates me as well.

View from halfway up

Earlier this week, I shared some progress pics on the CWC Facebook page that I took during a swim break at the campground we’re staying in. A couple of months back, I purchased a bare piece of property and we have been staying in a fifth wheel camp trailer at a KOA Campground nearby while we slowly build. While most folks would consider that roughing it, one of the big perks is having a nice swimming pool to use!

Camper living

The post talked a bit about not only maintaining my weight loss, but more importantly it talked about my mental well-being. That although there were still some “bad” days, I’m never ever as low as I was before and that faith, changing how I ate, how I think, and having genuine honest supportive people had helped.

 

Not the same person!

I want to talk very candidly about the support part. 

This last year was rough with a lot of loss. Not only did I lose a fourteen year relationship and marriage but I also lost a family that I loved as my own. People think step parents don’t love or don’t grieve, but that’s just simply not true. I also lost friends and my own family through all of this.

In the midst of dealing with depression and a marriage that was falling apart, it was said by family to my ex that I was crazy and that I needed to get back on whatever it was that made me sane, and that I was going through a mid-life crisis. In the immediate throes of a separation argument, and a lowest point, I was told I was so crazy I didn’t know what day it was. (Gaslighting, anyone?) That same argument I was told that all those people who I thought were my friends were laughing at me and pitying me because I thought I was some twenty year old cowgirl. Narcissist and cheater were thrown out there too. Keep in mind this came from two people who said they loved me.

For someone with depression going through that with no support system, no family to turn to, and only a few good friends to confide in, that was an extremely hard time in my life. I don’t know what I would have done without my co-workers, my neighbor, and my best friend and “Superman” Austin Foust. Those were the people who wouldn’t let me forget they were there for me no matter what and I will never forget that as long as I live. God gave me those folks to get me through that dark time. I really believe it.

Any time you go through something like this you reflect on the past and try to figure out what happened, where it went wrong. Sometimes in doing so, things start to make perfect sense. For me, that’s exactly what happened. Only after I gained some distance was I able to clearly see the depth of the lies and their purpose, and the gross years of manipulation that had occurred and what I had let it do to me.

In looking back at comparison pictures, it’s clear to me that this was a downward spiral years in the making. This didn’t happen over night. These are not easy to look at, and most definitely not easy to share.

 

These pictures are close to ten years ago and they speak volumes. Yes, I was heavier but it’s not just about the weight. I was not healthy, physically or mentally either one. I couldn’t see it at the time, but now looking back I definitely can, especially when I look at comparison pictures.

I was exhausted because I wasn’t getting enough sleep (not by my own accord), and my body was riddled with inflammation to the point that I had a place on my face that didn’t heal for over a year. I was miserable and you can see it!

There’s a saying that if you’re struggling and your people are just watching then maybe they’re not you’re people. That’s true. If you’re going through depression and/or health issues and the ones that say they love you are not being proactive to help you get healthy (not supporting you to get healthy!) then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate who your people are and how important your health is and do something about it.

Don’t be afraid to cut ties if that’s what it takes. Sometimes removing yourself from toxic people is the only way to get well if they’re not going to change their behavior. You can only control your behavior, you can’t control theirs.

If you love someone who is struggling with their physical health, and/or their mental health what they need most is your support.

Sometimes people don’t need to hear what you think they should do, or whether or not you think they’re making a mistake. Most often they just need support in the form of listening while they come to terms with what they’re dealing with. They don’t need judgement, they need a place to talk. They also need to know you’re true (and loyal) to them behind their back, not just to their face. They need to know you care by your genuineness.

Aside from mental support, sleep has more impact on health and mental well-being than anything else a person can do. If someone you love isn’t sleeping well, support them by encouraging them to get to bed earlier. Let them know their sleep is a priority to you too so that they don’t feel any pressure to stay up to get things done, or spend time with you. If you’re watching TV, turn the TV down so they can sleep, and make sure  you watch it in another room. Be considerate by being quiet.

If you truly love someone and want the best for them, you don’t want to be an enabler by rewarding them or showing them love with unhealthy food, especially if they have a health condition that’s impacted by food.Don’t set them up for failure by making it harder to eat healthy – They’re already struggling with that. 

Instead of showing you care by bringing home a gallon of ice cream, bring home something healthy that they enjoy. Take the time to find out what that is.

Instead of dangling temptation in front of them by eating that double burger with fries while they eat a salad, you could eat a salad as well. Sometimes when you care about someone, it means sacrificing a little bit yourself. In the end, not only will they benefit, but you will as well because they see your support and you will have had a healthier meal.

It’s true that we’re responsible for ourselves, and our own happiness and we shouldn’t let someone else dictate our happiness. However, if we’re struggling with getting healthy we have to put ourselves in a place of success and part of that success is having support.

If you care about someone who is struggling, what are the most important ways you can support them?

If you’re someone struggling with health issues, what changes can you make to make progress? 

 

 

 

Fuller Fillies

~ Fuller Fillies ~

A couple of weeks ago, Suzanne Wild, or “Suz” as I know her, contacted me about becoming a Brand Ambassador for her clothing company, Fuller Fillies in the UK. As I ride both english and western (and have a new eventing prospect!) and they specialize in Plus Size clothing, it seemed like the perfect fit – pun intended!

In talking with Suz, I was immediately drawn in by her energy, her fun sense of humor, and her British manner of telling it exactly like it is.(The Brits are a lot of fun, by the way!)

What I didn’t know until after reading her interview, is that she’s a woman with an indomitable spirit that just won’t quit even in the face of obstacles such as breast cancer. I think you’ll enjoy her interview and I think you’ll be captivated by her fun personality. I’m excited about her passion in designing plus size riding clothes that fit and I’m excited to see what the future holds. By the way, she would like to start a western line!

Meet Suz….

"Suz"

‘Suz & Coco resting’- After a 6am ride (before the sun got up) Coco and me had a ‘moment’.

Suz & Alfie

‘Suz & Alfie Ilkley’ -Me and Alfie enjoying the gorgeous Yorkshire Countryside…he’s trying to work out if he can climb that rock!

What was your life like before you started Fuller Fillies?

I have a varied work background; I studied Fashion at degree level in the 80’s then worked in Bridal Design. I was offered a job with British Telecom that was too much money to ignore and so went there and recorded all their Weather & Travel dial-ups for two years. This led me into a role in Public Relations and then into Recruiting for PR Companies and Design & Advertising Agencies – I made a LOT of money and saw that I could earn more if I understood about personality types and so I trained with the UK’s leading Psychometric Company. Many years later they poached me, as my own profile had been perfect for them and so I re-trained, this time as a Trainer in Psychometrics. I LOVED that job as I went into a different business every day and made recommendations on who to promote, who to employ…and who to sack! Fuller Fillies came out of the blue really, and on the back of another business we had – but ten years on, I wake up with nightmares that I have to work for someone else!

Coco Bum

‘Coco Bum’ – this picture is responsible for the Fuller Fillies Logo – and you can see why!

Alfie & Margaret

‘Alfie & Margaret’ -Safety First Always! Three year old Margaret rides Alfie in tandem with Chris

Do you own or have horses?

Indeed I do! Alfie is a coloured Clydesdale cross (what you would call ‘paint’) and is 16 years old. Coco is a shire cross and the same age – we’ve had both for 13 years so they are like our children (big hairy, smelly ones!) We don’t compete, mainly because I think it is extremely ‘fixed’ and I would end up arguing with judges (did I mention I’m a control freak?). We have them for pleasure and love to explore the countryside with them. Our adopted grandchildren also like to ride them, although at 5 and 3 they do look a little like a pea on a drum!

 

Fuller Fillies

Fuller Fillies

What is Fuller Fillies?

Fuller Fillies is an Equestrian Brand that designs and manufactures exclusively for Lady plus-sized riders. Our sizes start at UK 16 – which is a US 14-  and now goes up to a UK 26 (US 24). In a nutshell we make everything you need from top-to-toe! We make Breeches, Jodhpurs and Riding Tights, Show Jackets, every day jackets, shirts, gloves, Boots and Half-Chaps as well as accessories like Belts and Ties. Because we only make for plus-sizes, our clothing fits well and flatters!

Reuben (2)

Reuben –This is my Cousin’s daughter wearing our CheckMates and now discontinued Reuben Fleece. My family have the right genes to provide models….

  How did Fuller Fillies get started, and what inspired you to start the company?

Whilst I was working in Psychometric based Business Consultancy my Husband Chris was consulting in finance. The Company he worked for had an insolvency division and they kept being offered ‘acquired’ stock at low prices. One day they were offered some Equestrian stuff and we had just got Alfie and Coco, and a Pony Tica, so the call went through to Chris as the resident ‘expert’. We bought around £27,000 worth of stuff for £6000 and took it on the road for a week. It was a great holiday from Business Consultancy and we returned a profit of £16000 in three days. As a result, we established a clearinghouse and bought in lots of lines which we then sold via our website (our quickly built website…)

From day one, all I heard was “can you get this in a bigger size?” As a UK size 22 at the time, I knew there was precious little on the market and so began to research the worldwide market. Eighteen months later Fuller Fillies was born! It was a good move, as I cannot think of anything else I could have done that would have made sense of my career to that point!

What do you think makes Fuller Fillies unique from other companies, and what do you think are the company’s strong points? 

Firstly, there are no other brands that concentrate wholly on plus-sizes in either Equestrian or Country Wear markets. Most will make their standard sizes a little bigger, that really does not work, and results in the ridiculously shaped garments we see on the market.

Secondly, what I hear makes us unique is the instant access the consumer has to me! I hear this all the time – it is rare to find a Brand where you can speak to the Designer of the Collection. From day one, I was adamant that the consumer would be part of my design team and would be consulted at every stage – and that is exactly what happens! I think our main strength is that we know and understand who our customer is and so we can design for them without fear of being led down a fashion-conscious blind alley.

Musketeer

Musketeer -My Sister Joanne wearing the Musketeer Jacket and ShowPro Breeches with Huggy Half Chaps.

What have been some of the struggles that you have had as a business? How did you work through those?

Well, there have been several major hiccups that should have seen us finished – but I’m proud to say we weathered the storm and are still here!

Even before we launched we had a huge upset. We had partnered with the UK’s biggest Distributor to sell our Collection to the Trade (we didn’t sell direct until a few years ago). On the basis they would take half of everything we made, we put 12 lines into production…they subsequently went into receivership and we were left trying to find finance to the tune of £100,000! Luckily, Chris’s experience working with the banks put us in good stead and we marched onwards.

Our second major hiccup concerned our relationship with a US equestrian retailer giant; Due to the sheer volume of clothing we needed to carry ‘just in case they wanted it’ we had much of our stock in a Bonded Warehouse (this way we didn’t have to pay VAT and neither did the giant and eventually, the customer).

The large retailer decided they would handle their own shipping and so dealt with the Bonded Warehouse directly – and ran up some huge invoices that the warehouse incorrectly assigned to us. When we refused to pay it, they froze all of our stock and the only way we could get it back was to pay US retailer’s invoices or go to court. We did the latter but settled before the court date – that cost us almost £30 000 and we had nothing to show for it. Needless to say, we moved our stock!

Then in 2014, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Whilst I thought I would be able to work through the treatment, it became evident that was not going to work – 2014 was my year of temporary retirement!

When I came back to work in January 2015 the business was about three months away from closure as no new lines had been designed, no advertising or promotion had been done…then one week later we were burgled and 80% of our stocks were taken!

In a way however, it was the best thing that could have happened because it allowed us to essentially start over. My chemo-fuddled brain really had to work hard to come up with new designs quickly but again, that worked well for me – I have never been one to feel sorry for myself!

I now have an assistant Sarah, who I involve in as much as is physically possible – after all, I’m 52 and it would be nice to retire properly one day.

 

Since Fuller Fillies is located in the UK, are there any difficulties in shipping to the US? What is the average shipping time? Can you provide rush delivery? How long does that normally take? 

Absolutely none; in fact we offer ‘next day’ delivery on anything (in-stock) ordered before 10am (UK time) Monday – Thursday AS STANDARD! Even the large US retailer we dealt with can’t offer that. I don’t think rush delivery is an option – we would have to offer it yesterday to be quicker 😉

Any order received across Friday and the weekend is processed on Monday so worse case scenario is a three-day wait. Our website will tell you if something is on back order (this is when we allow customers to order as the new stock is en-route) and of course, these are dispatched as soon as they come in.

Fitting Guide

Fitting Guide

Make sure you check the fitting guide

What is your return policy? What is the craziest reason you’ve had someone return an item they purchased? Any good stories?

We have stringent laws in the UK appertaining to purchases made online; the customer must notify us in writing if they wish to reject the products (for whatever reason) within 14 days of receipt. They then have another 14 days to get the item back to us (at their cost).

Although we don’t have to offer this outside of the UK, we do however; the cost of getting product back to us usually means that ladies simply re-sell the item on a Facebook group like ‘Fuller Fillies pre-loved’ or ‘English Plus-Sized Rider’. We are working to find a partner in the US to whom returns could be made cheaper; they would inspect the goods and advise…however; it isn’t always that simple.

We have found that quite a few customers will claim that a product is faulty because it doesn’t fit them (I think because, if it is faulty then the cost of return is ours to bear)! Truly, 99.9% of the time it transpires they didn’t consult our fitting guide on the home page.

Whenever the guide is consulted and we are happy to clarify anything that isn’t clear- it results in a perfect fitting garment and a happy customer. I know this to be the case and will stand by that absolutely!

The craziest thing is how many customers just order the biggest we do – regardless of their measurements! I think so many have been accustomed to HAVING to buy the biggest to be able to breathe/walk/ride in them that they just assume we will be the same; we’re not! We know plus-sizing and I would venture we are the Worldwide EXPERTS on the topic. Some ignore our advice at their peril…although I suspect many like to say, “I need a smaller size!”

 What are future goals for Fuller Fillies? 

We scaled down our sales to the Trade when the recession hit as stores stopped buying for stock and began to order the odd thing here and there for a customer who wanted them. We are now in a position to go back to the Trade and get it built up again. We can now offer discounts for bulkier orders (10 or more of an item) and have found that selling to the consumer has been the best advert for the Trade Stockist as ladies are going into their local store and asking them to stock us.

I would eventually like to develop a Western Range for the US and Canada because larger ‘Cowgals’ need clothing too! In addition, the US is a lot more welcoming on the topic of larger riders than the UK – I’m sure it’s something to do with great hulking Cowboys riding tiny little ‘saddlebred’ ponies.

Is there anything that we don’t know about Fuller Fillies that we don’t know? 

One example, if you create an account on our website BEFORE you shop, the website will not only adjust the shipping as you add to the basket AND let you shop in $USD (or $Canadian), but it will also take 20% off the sale price which is in respect of the UK VAT.

Also, so long as you keep an order under the $200 mark, you don’t get charged any Stateside duties! This has been a well-kept secret by your Customs people and something we found out accidentally – add all of this together and you’ll find that in many cases you don’t pay any more than our UK X-Lovelies do…

Jo and Suz (1)

Jo & Suz – an informal shot taken after the other model didn’t turn up so I stepped in.

Any parting words of wisdom? 

Get to know our website; every scrap of information you need to know is on there! We are currently having it overhauled so very soon it will be even easier to find the info you want. In the meantime, if you don’t find the answers you need to order is absolute confidence then PLEASE use the ‘Contact’ function at the top and bottom of every page to send us a question! We’ll answer it with way more information (of the correct variety) than anyone on Facebook (unless it’s us!) Facebook is great but; nobody is interested in reading/listening  – they are all about their own opinions…so before you take someone’s word ask them what experience they have of buying from us directly – what did they buy – and when? You’ll be amazed how often the answers are, “Oh I haven’t ever made a purchase,” “Nothing’, and “Never”.

Here’s the links where Fuller Fillies can be found –

FACEBOOK –  https://www.facebook.com/FullerFillies/

WEBSITE  – http://www.fuller-fillies.co.uk/

TWITTER – @FullerFillies  LINK: @FullerFillies

PINTEREST – https://www.pinterest.com/fullerfillies

 

 

Enjoy The Journey

I just returned from the Tennessee NBHA State Finals in Franklin, Tennessee. Although I’m wore slap out, and we didn’t have the perfect runs, I had a wonderful time.

building

I can’t go any further without giving some extra kudos to our NBHA State Director, Kenny Lane. Putting on a show of any caliber is an extremely hard job as people like to complain, and there’s a large amount of money that comes out of your own pocket with the hopes that you’ll make at least some of it back. Even in the midst of catty comments made about needing some extra help covering the $500 a day air conditioning expense, Kenny was gracious and put on a terrific show that was well run and had plenty of added money and prizes. The ground held beautifully, the holding area set up was very efficient and safe, and the alleyway was long enough to get a horse stopped. The air was cranked up too so we were all cool, which was a real treat considering most of our shows are either outside or in an arena without air conditioning! Plus, my mom came to see me ride and she never would have lasted if it hadn’t been that cool. Good job Kenny!

My mom & me with Beavis in the barns

My mom & me with Beavis in the barns

My barrel horse, Fireman, has been going through some corrective shoeing since spring. I had hoped he would be ready by the State finals but unfortunately he wasn’t. I had another horse that I’d hoped would be a possibility as he has a ton of potential but by mid-summer it was evident that he wouldn’t be ready in time either.

So, in August I borrowed a Dash For Perks bred gelding that was a sale prospect from my farrier and friends, Joel and Nancy Sherlin of Athens, Tennessee. Having bought a couple of horses from them and having ridden with them a good bit, I knew anything they had would have a phenomenal foundation. Their horses are light and effortless to ride.

I started riding “Beavis” at the end of July. He’d been used for lessons on their farm and had been running a good pattern in their pen. The catch? He was only four and had never been hauled…anywhere!

My goals for the State finals suddenly changed! They went from having a good time and drawing a check to challenging myself even more as a rider and helping a horse get some seasoning so he’s more marketable. It wasn’t about winning anymore.

In the weeks that led up to the State finals, there were more times that I can count that I felt like a complete idiot riding Beavis. Having broke a lot of colts, and shown in everything from hunter and western pleasure to trail, I tend to be a pretty quiet rider most of the time but there were times I couldn’t even get Beavis to the first and second barrel-and it was MY fault for picking up too much or not using enough leg!

It wasn’t the horse – I needed to step it up as a rider. I begin to doubt if I was cut out for barrels, thought maybe I needed to quit barrels and just pursue those things that I’ve already done well at. There were plenty of crying, snotting, mental breakdowns right in the practice pen. There’s nothing like a tough to ride horse to make you doubt your ability, or to show you the truth.

Quite frankly, as I was hauling a green horse, I wasn’t sure what to expect as our trip didn’t start off well. Then again, every trip that’s memorable has to have a story to tell, right?

The first hiccup was that as soon as we reached the interstate, one lane was shut down and we had to take a detour. Then we barely made it to the next county before we had a blow out… and my husband broke Joel’s lug nuts on the tire and then hit himself in the jaw with the wrench! That story will be around for YEARS!

"Team Blowout"!

“Team Blowout”!

We stayed in the Sherlin's trailer known as "The Double OO". It's famous!

We stayed in the Sherlin’s trailer known as “The Double OO”. It’s famous!

As if that wasn’t bad enough, when we pulled Beavis out of the trailer his nose was four times bigger than it should have been, and he was swollen clear up to between his jaws. We suspected he’d been stung by a wasp in the trailer. Fortunately, a few hours later he was back to normal.

The State show was Beavis’ fourth show, his first long over night trip, and his very first indoor pen. I’ve taken a lot of young and seasoned horses on their first trip to an indoor and had many that couldn’t make a full lap around the pen. On his very first trip into the arena, Beavis didn’t hesitate or spook, and did whatever I asked him to do. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction.

The pattern at the State finals. Ground was awesome!

The pattern at the State finals. Ground was awesome!

Although our runs weren’t perfect, with the exception of the last Sweepstakes run, we made every barrel, improved our time every go, and he ran harder than we ever have so far. Our very last Sweepstakes run was a disaster but it was completely my fault and wound up being a learning opportunity in the end.

At the end of the weekend, instead of choosing to focus on our slow times, wide turns, or that last disastrous Sweepstakes run, I chose to focus on the positives and the lessons learned. I had ridden a young green horse that had never even seen an indoor arena that ran down the alley way without any hesitation and did exactly whatever I asked. He’d worked well, ran hard, and had been an absolute dream to haul and because of that he was going to make an awesome youth horse some day. That’s what mattered.

I also learned the value of eating well. You see, prior to every run but the last one, I had made it a priority to eat a good source of protein to make sure I was focused and thinking clearly – and it worked! The last run I didn’t do that because I didn’t want to take the time. As a result, I wasn’t focused and paying attention and it most definitely effected my ride.

Another lesson I was reminded of was the value of close friends and good times. I won’t ever forget that this race was the first time my mom ever saw me ride, let alone run, and all the memories of the weekend.

Beavis was hungry!

Beavis was hungry!

It’s hard to imagine as I look out the window at Beavis grazing with my mares, that just a few weeks ago I was ready to shut the door on barrel racing and instead focus on something I’m already decent at. I’ve shed a lot of tears, and still have a ton of work to do to improve but I know in the long run Beavis will make me a better rider and he’ll make an even better youth horse for it.

Beavis did say he was wore out!

Beavis did say he was wore out!

 

 

Just A Few Minutes

Is your horse getting enough time from you?

With working and taking care of family, sometimes spending time with your horses takes a back seat. Sometimes you feel as though you’re lucky just to get them fed and turned out all in one piece. The thought of catching, grooming, saddling and riding is just too daunting a task.

Toad tied out at a barrel race.

Toad tied out at a barrel race. This is one horse that I’ve done these exercises on a lot!

Fortunately, there are things you can implement into your daily routine that will help you and your horse stay tuned up even though you may not get a chance to ride. The best part is that it only takes a couple of minutes every day to see a big difference in how your horse responds.

Most likely you have the same routine every time you feed and/or turn out your horse. You do the same thing every time you do your chores. The good news is that horses learn by repetition and you can use your routine to make a difference in your horse and not spend that much time.

For instance, every time you go to feed your horse you can ask them to move over or do a side pass before you give them their feed. This only takes a couple of seconds to do, but when it’s done every day the benefits add up.

Another exercise that I implement into my daily routine is moving my horse’s hips and shoulders over while they’re eating. I’m not quite sure why, but there’s something about working with a horse while they’re eating that helps them to learn quicker. Again, it only takes a few seconds to do but  you’ll see a huge improvement in the lightness of your horse.

If your horse is grumpy while they’re eating, then you definitely want to spend the time working on your horse while they’re eating. Not only is it a chance to bond with your horse, but it’s also an opportunity to address respect issues that may not come up any other time.

Turn out time is an excellent opportunity to get your horse moving their shoulders and hips. Instead of pushing your horse over like you did during feed time, you can work on getting your horse to move without having to touch them. You can also work on flexing and getting your horse to give side to side through their face. With time, you can get your horse extremely light and that will most certainly translate to under saddle.

When you’re leading your horse in our out, instead of just going straight to the pasture or barn, take a couple of minutes to move the hips or shoulders.Ask them to move the shoulders and then quit – make sure you quit on a good note.

It only takes a minute or two, five at most, to implement these exercises into your daily routine. Not only will your horse get some much-needed interaction, but because you’re doing it every day and it’s repetitive, your horse will catch on quickly and improve.

Done with our ride.

Done with our ride.

Junk In, Junk Out

We’ve all heard the sayings, “You are what you eat”, and “Junk in, junk out.”

 For most of my life, I’ve taken that saying with a grain of salt, pun intended. However, over the last few years I’m beginning to think there’s a lot more truth to those sayings than we realize.

 After a bout of unanswered questions about my health – that’s another blog post in itself – I started paying very close attention to how my body reacted to certain foods. Now, I’m not talking just gaining or losing weight. I’m talking about how food effects my breathing, my sinus levels, and even my mental status for the day.

After doing some experimentation, I learned that dairy and breads cause me to wheeze – that’s in addition to sinus and stomach issues. I also learned that cokes and sweets cause me to become depressed, and soy will send me into an emotional roller coaster during certain times of the month. In contrast, turkey and other meat cause me to focus and think more clearly.

The same thing could be said about our thought life. When we think negative things, the impact is negative.Those negative thoughts impact our happiness, our confidence, and ultimately our performance and whether or not we pursue dreams.

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Recently, I read a great article on thinking like an athlete. The article stated that the main reason athletes are successful is that they see themselves as just that – an athlete.

The article went on to say that when you see yourself as an athlete and get into that mindset, regardless of what your body is like, you start thinking differently in other areas of your life. You start taking training more seriously. What you eat and the amount of sleep you get become more important. Instead of those seeing those things as a means to lose weight, they suddenly become a way for you to train better and be a better athlete.

How many times have you been asked what you do with your horses or what discipline you ride? Probably too many times to count. Your answer has probably been, “I just run barrels” or “I just do a little western pleasure.” That’s the wrong answer!

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Today, you might not be running down the alley way at the NFR or doing a sliding stop at the finals at Congress. I get that you don’t want to blow yourself out of proportion, come across arrogant, or give the appearance that you’re competing at a level that you’re not – yet! However, if you keep thinking like you always have, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten.

Think about it for a moment…

Do you spend any less money on your horse than a serious competitor? You feed the best feed, supplements and hay. You keep a routine shoeing schedule so your horse can perform well. You take your horse to the vet every time they need it. You make sure your horse is in a safe, happy environment and kept on a schedule.

Do you spend any less time on your horse than a serious competitor? I know a lot of girls that compete locally and not nationally that ride their horses every single day. I also know girls that ride every free minute they can in the midst of working full time to pay the feed bill and mortgage, working second and third jobs, and taking care of families. Is the fact that they don’t get to ride as much any less worthy?

There’s things that you’re probably already doing that aren’t that much different than someone rides and competes on a higher level. Don’t cut yourself short in your thinking!

If you think you’re “junk”, then junk is exactly what you’re going to reap.

What do you think Charmayne James or Congress champion Karen Evans Mundy thought of themselves when they were working up through the ranks? Did they think they were just a barrel racer or just a hunter rider? No! They thought of themselves as champions that just hadn’t gotten there yet. All they had to do was work a little harder and ride a little better – that’s all.

So my question to you is this… If you knew for a fact that you would be running down the alleyway at the NFR, or riding the rail at Congress in two years how would that change your thinking TODAY? Would it make you see yourself differently? Would you have a new purpose every time you rode or worked out?

If you’re like me, you’ve beat yourself up for far too long thinking you’re not good enough and you’re just a barrel racer, etc. That thinking hasn’t gotten either of us very far, has it?

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Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It’s time to do something different. It’s time to think different and see what results we get!

In the end, it really doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks. It only matters what you think about yourself.

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