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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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

 

 

Tough Horses Make Good Horsemen

A few days will mark the one year anniversary of Cowgirls With Curves!

It’s been a great year and what started out as simple blog has turned into a wonderful journey for me too as not only a writer and horseman, but as a woman as well. I want to say a special “Thank You” to all the followers out there. You’ve been such an encouragement and you’ve shown me what this is really all about — encouraging other riders and making a difference.

I’ve spent the winter doing the bare minimum and packing on a few pounds. Bad news is that I put on 6 pounds of that 20 pounds I lost last year. The good news is I’m still 14 pounds lighter than this time last year – so I consider it a bit of a success!

With show season right around the corner, I’m starting to feel the itch of riding more and warmer days. I’ve always said there’s nothing like a colt or green horse to make me start working out. The last couple of years, I’ve not had to worry about that too much. This year is a little different!

Back in December, Willie Kamps came to farm to live. Willie is an interesting horse. He’d been ridden by a kid, and I believe even roped on. I hauled him some last year to a few barrel races and even a sorting. Although he was easy to put where you needed him when it came to tracking cows, he still had a few gaps.

For instance, we sat a friend’s helmet on a barrel when she was done riding. I went to go around that barrel a few minutes later, thinking nothing of it since we’d worked around it a few times already, and suddenly it became a fire-breathing dragon we couldn’t get within ten feet of!

Although he’s a bit calmer in the arena, he’s a completely different horse out in an open field by himself. He’s got a lot more energy and is constantly looking for things to spook and bolt at. You’d better have your heels down or you’ll easily be left behind!

I also have an off the track retire thoroughbred, Dynamic Host, that I’ll be re-schooling as well as an eventing prospect. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of similarities between he and Willie Kamps when it comes time to ride out in the field!

While some folks steer clear of horses like that, I tend to love a good challenge. I also see them as an incentive to get stronger, in addition to an opportunity to improve as a horseman. Becoming a better horseman is important to me.

Having two tough horses to ride and train and train – in two different disciplines – this year is most definitely enough of a reason to get me up a little earlier. I’m getting older and I don’t like to hit the ground — the best way to avoid hitting the ground is to get strong and balanced!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what inspires and encourages you. What is it that makes you want to get stronger? What is it that makes you want to become a better rider?

It Seems To Be Working

When I started Cowgirls With Curves earlier this year, I wasn’t exactly sure what direction it would take. All I knew was that I was passionate about sharing horses and encouraging others to pursue their dreams. Little did I know what kind of impact that it would have, and that it would be just as much of a journey for me as it has been for those that keep up with the blog.

The journey has led me to make quite a few changes and quite frankly they seem to be working.

I’ve stopped obsessing over weight and size.

Quite frankly, this is new territory for me because I don’t think there’s ever been a time in which I’ve either been on some kind of diet, or I’ve been feeling guilty because I’m not on one and I’ve gained weight.

Instead, I’ve been focusing on how I feel, whether or not I have energy, and if my mental status is in a good place.

I’ve stopped obsessing over what I eat and listening to what my body says.

I’ve learned that I don’t feel well at all when I eat grains, soy (in certain quantities)  dairy (with the exception of butter), sodas, and sweets. Instead of focusing on not having those things, I focus on real natural foods that I love that I can have that don’t have a detrimental effect on how I feel, and getting enough protein and fat in during the day.

I’ve started focusing more on real food.  

Instead of getting caught up in “calories in -vs- calories out”, and tracking every ounce of food I put in my mouth, I’ve been focusing on just eating real food that makes me feel good. I haven’t been listening to what all the doctors and fitness experts say, instead I’ve been listening to what my body says.

I’m eating a lot more protein.

I’ve learned that the typical meals of an egg for breakfast, and a lean protein at lunch and supper is not enough protein for me. I don’t have enough energy and my cravings are still there. However, if I have at least one serving of protein powder with 20g of protein, It’s a whole different story. My energy levels are much higher, and my cravings are minimal.

I’m eating more real fats like butter and olive oil.

Fats stabilize your blood sugar and they make you feel full and satisfied. When you’re full land satisfied with real food you don’t have any desire for junk!

I’m not limiting myself.

I may have a steak and baked potato with plenty of butter and salt. I don’t worry about the portion or limiting the butter or anything else – I just eat until I have my fill. I don’t want to end my meal still wanting anything because that’s when I wind up eating the things I shouldn’t eat.

I’m not beating myself up.

Weekends usually wind up being “cheat” time when I just have to have some cheese dip or pizza. If eat something that I shouldn’t, I don’t beat myself up about it – my body already does that for me if I eat enough of it.

The last meal is 4 hours before bedtime.

I’ve learned that if I eat a full meal in the evenings, I don’t sleep as well. I also have a tendency to get heartburn if I eat late. I try to eat a hearty lunch and then eat another snack with plenty of protein a couple of hours later. If I just absolutely have to have something, I’ll have a smaller serving of protein shake with almond milk.

I’m taking a probiotic.

With all the new research on probiotics and how it effects your mental health, and weight I decided to start taking a probiotic that has a prebiotic as well. While probiotics add good bacteria to your digestive tract, prebiotics feeds the beneficial bacteria you already have so you can digest your food more efficiently.

For years, even though I got plenty of sunshine and drank a lot of dairy I have been deficient in vitamin D and calcium. Even though I’ve always eaten plenty of spinach and red meat which I cooked in an iron skillet, I’ve always been border line anemic even with taking an iron supplement.

Obviously I’m not absorbing my food, which would explain why I need more protein than the usual recommended amounts. Think about it – if you’re not absorbing your food there’s no way to tell how much you’re not absorbing, so the recommended daily amount really can’t apply!

I make sure I get at least 7 hours of sleep – no exceptions!

Sleep is another thing that has a huge impact on how you feel and perform, how you deal with stress, and how well you eat. I recently read a study that said lack of sleep can be as detrimental as smoking! Since I’ve been focusing on things that make me feel better, I’ve made it a priority to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Those 7 hours are sacred and non-negotiable!

Progesterone cream is awesome!

On a side note, suspecting some hormonal issues I started using a progesterone cream that does not contain estrogen-like herbs. It definitely helps in the sleep department, not to mention it helps with my mental status!

I don’t work out – for now.

Short of stretching, pun intended, instead of focusing on getting the regular set of exercises in every day, I’ve been focusing more on just riding. I have five horses that really need to be ridden through the course of the week (after stalls are done), and I’ve taken on a client horse to bring along as a back up barrel prospect. If you think about it, with that many horses I have a gym sitting in my pasture – all I have to do is ride! Once winter comes, and the horses get a break, I’ll go back to getting in some short sessions of kettlebells but for now I’m using my horses as my gym equipment.

Client horses at a barrel race.

Client horses at a barrel race.

So where have all these changes gotten me?

 

For one, I’m happier and less stressed.

I’m not obsessing over what I can and can’t have, and because I don’t feel guilty about not meeting some standard that I think I’m supposed to meet.

I have more time – which also helps with stress!

Because I’m not having to get in a workout every morning I have more time to prep meals and write.

I feel better!

Although still not optimal, my energy levels are getting better, and I’m not struggling with depression as often. I’m starting to pay closer attention to how food impacts both of those things and that helps keep me motivated more than anything.

I’ve lost close to 20 pounds since the first of the year.

Since the first of the year, I’ve lost close to 20 pounds. To some, that might not be quick enough but it’s not the time or even the weight that matters. What matters is what I’m gaining through it all – a sense of self-control and happiness, and feeling better.

I have more self-control.

For the first time in my entire life I’m starting to have self-control when it comes to food. Even when I do eat junk, I’m not going overboard, and I’m able to say “No” to food that I  normally would have to have.

I don’t necessarily think it’s one thing that’s making the difference. For instance, I don’t think I can just eat more protein and lose the weight. I think it’s a combination of the mindset and the other changes together that’s making a difference.

Have you made changes that are working? What improvements have you seen?

Riding with my step-son.

Riding with my step-son.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Much Is Too Much?

Since starting Cowgirls With Curves, I’ve had an increase in followers on Twitter. Interestingly enough, most of them are fitness fanatics. Most of them post about the fastest way to get ripped, or the latest greatest diet supplement. Needless to say, people in my demographic are their biggest clients and I’m sure that’s what they’re counting on!

How much time at the gym did he spend to look like this???

How much time at the gym did he spend to look like this???

One of the things I’ve noticed is how much time they spend in the gym. It’s never 15-20 minutes. It’s at least an hour, often more, 5-6 days a week. They dedicate their whole life to looking good, eating healthy and working out. That’s fine if that’s what you love.

The problem is that we tend to hold those folks up as a standard, and all too often we’re made to feel guilty if we don’t put that same hour in at the gym. Think about it. How many articles have you read that have said if you’re not spending a minimum of thirty minutes a day working out you’re wasting your time?

No one dies saying they wished they’d worked more. I have a sneaking suspicion that no one dies saying they wished they’re worked out more either. On a side note, I can imagine them saying they wished they’d ridden a few more horses!

This looks like a fun way to stay active!

This looks like a fun way to stay active!

I work in the healthcare industry and I’m surrounded by “healthy” people who live in the suburbs and fill their lives with yoga, gyms and kid’s soccer games. More than once I’ve gotten little looks when I say I’m taking the elevator because I get enough walking in every morning.

But seriously, we have nine horses and I spend a full hour every morning cleaning stalls, dumping feed, and bringing horses in – seven days week. I’m going non-stop. While they are just getting up casually drinking their coffee from their Keurig and worrying about what are going to wear for the day, I’m already out dumping a load of manure!

Then when they come home and worry about cooking dinner or what soccer game to go to next, I’m saddling a horse to ride or giving a riding lesson right up until time to go to bed because it’s the only time I have to get my riding in. My morning starts at 4am most of the time.

Naturally, when I go to work, the last thing I want to do is walk up the stairs! I also don’t want to get up an hour earlier just to get a workout in. I used to, but not any more.

While I do think it’s important to build strength, especially as riders, I think it’s also important to keep a happy balance. I think you also have to consider what are you getting in return for what it’s costing you. Is it worth it?

If that hour at the gym is really a sanity break for you, then yes it’s absolutely worth it. My guess is that’s a healthy habit that will stand a good chance of lasting a long time and that’s great!

On the flip side, if you’re stressed just making it to the gym because you’re so cramped on time, or you’re working out instead of getting a recommended amount of sleep, or it’s taking you away from important activities then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what you’re doing. That hour may be causing more harm than good in some ways. If you’re overwhelmed by getting in that hour or even thirty minutes a day of exercise, then maybe it’s time to try something different.

Spending 10-15 minutes a day on core exercises or kettlebells really can offer some benefits, and you’ll see a definite improvement in your riding. That 10-15 minutes doesn’t even have to be all at one time – it can be broken up into different quick sessions throughout the day.

A few weeks back, I ran across this article on PopSugar. It talks about how instead of exercising in the traditional sense, you can find other ways to get active and healthy. If you’re like me and already getting that hour of barn chores in every morning you’re already half way there!

If you’re spending that hour in the gym every day, do it because you look forward to it, not because you feel you have to.

How many of you have felt stressed getting your exercise routine in every day? How did you deal with that stress and did you make any changes?

One of our afternoon rides. THIS is what's important.

One of our afternoon rides. THIS is what’s important.

Find YOUR Journey

I always try to give a shoutout to those folks that I believe have something special. Zakk Tompkins, owner of On The Edge rodeo apparel is one of those folks. I recently interviewed Zakk for my author blog, Talking In The Barn, and I was quite surprised at how open he was about his struggle with depression. I really believe this young man has a big purpose in life to help others and be a voice that’s not often heard but is all to real. If you get a chance, please check out the interview and his blog, Be Remembered Be Bold.

Cowgirls are known for blazing their own trail but sometimes when it comes to our daily lives we have a tendency to think we should follow the crowd, or listen to the conventional wisdom at the time. If you don’t believe that, just visit a barrel racing forum the first three months of the year – there’s a least two posts a week asking what the best diet or diet supplement is, or what the best exercise is to lose weight. Most of the times, those posts receive more responses than the actual horse posts that the sites are designed for in the first place – that says volumes about our head space!

We’re told by physicians, fitness gurus, and supplement companies what we should be eating and how we should be working out. Yet at the same time it’s interesting that they all often contradict each other, and even more interesting is the fact that recommendations are constantly changing. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the drugs that were originally touted to be harmless and then later have a warning label of horrible side effects.

A few years back, like the majority of women in their 30-40’s, I was on a common low-grade anti-depressant for a few years. I wasn’t sleeping well, I was tired, and basically had some depression. I work in the health care field but am holistic thinking by nature. I wasn’t too keen on taking medication but I had to do something and there were no alternatives. The doctors just said I needed to exercise more  – I was already getting an hour’s worth of barn chores in the morning.

One New Year I started off with a bang to get in shape. I joined the gym and went on a diet that included veggies, lean protein, and low-fat dairy – I ate a lot of greek yogurt.

Not long after I started the diet, I developed bronchitis along with a sinus infection. Even with antibiotics and enough Mucinex to kill a horse, I just could not get any better. I was sick for at least two months.

I knew dairy could cause thicker mucous and sinus issues. I also knew that most physicians will tell you that’s hogwash but since everything else had failed to work, I decided to try eliminating dairy. A week later, I was already feeling much better and the bronchitis was gone.

That’s when I first decided to cut back on dairy, against conventional medical wisdom as it supplies calcium and vitamin D. Since making that change, I’ve not had the sinus problems that I’ve had before. Any time I do have sinus trouble, it’s always after I’ve gone on a cheese and ice cream binge!

Around this period of time, I developed a bump and then a sore on my face that wouldn’t go away for over a year. A biopsy and blood work showed inflammation but that was it – the doctor was stumped. After doing some research, I asked my physician about Lupus. Based on the biopsy, blood work, and some joint pain that I was having he said that was a possibility and sent me to a rheumatoid specialist who promptly offered medication as the only solution. The medication made me feel like I had the flu, not to mention it had some horrendous long-term side effects.

Not having any alternatives to the medication, I started doing my own research. One of the things that I found was that the anti-depressant I was on could cause inflammation and auto-immune type symptoms. I also learned that certain foods like gluten and dairy could do the same. Armed with that information, I started on a journey of experimentation to see how my body would react.

Long story short, after going off all the medication, and cutting way back on gluten and dairy, the place on my face went away. By experimentation and paying close attention to how my body reacts to food, I learned that dairy and gluten both affect my breathing, cause joint pain, and causes my skin to develop inflamed bumps.

Did you know tomatoes can cause heart burn & cause Rosacea to flare up?

Did you know tomatoes can cause heart burn & cause Rosacea to flare up?

The ironic thing is that foods that the health industry tell you to eat (whole wheat, non-fat dairy) make me sick. The other irony is that conventional medicine had missed that fact.

I tell you this long story to say this —  don’t be afraid to find your own journey when it comes to food and exercise.

In finding your journey when it comes to nutrition and exercise, there’s a few things to consider.

  • How does you body react to certain foods? Start paying attention to even the very small changes that you see in your body and your thinking when you eat certain foods. Sometimes the changes are extremely small and aren’t noticeable until you start keeping track.
  • What nutrition packed foods do you truly love that also makes you feel better? If you can’t enjoy the food you’re eating, you’re not going to be able to keep up that way of eating for long. Face it – we love to eat! Find foods that bring you joy that are also packed with nutrition. For instance, I absolutely love mushrooms and red bell peppers. Instead of always eating bland salads that I don’t enjoy, I’ll brown some mushrooms and peppers in garlic and olive oil… I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
  • What does the bigger picture look like? Finding happiness in life is all about balance. If you feel like your food or exercise is taking a toll on other important areas of your life then it’s time to re-evaluate. It’s ok to compromise and adjust if you have to – it’s YOUR journey, not someone else’s so don’t compare and don’t feel guilty if you’re not putting a million hours into running on the treadmill!
  • What type of exercise do you enjoy? The more you truly enjoy an activity the more likely you’ll continue doing it. If you don’t enjoy any other form of exercise other than riding, then ride! You can always bump it up and make it more challenging by riding bareback, cantering for longer periods of time, or staying in two point. At least do something and make sure it’s something you enjoy.

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I spent a lot of years listening to the “experts” and it got me nowhere. Just because the medical and fitness experts say you should eat a certain food, take a certain supplement. or work out a certain way doesn’t mean that it will work for YOU. We are all different and you can’t compare. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. In the end, this is your life and your journey and you only get to take one 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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