Improving Confidence

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

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

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

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

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

Walking Lunge With A Forward Arm Raise

Walking Lunge With A Forward Arm Raise

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

Plank Position With Pull Up

Plank Position With Pull Up

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

Crunch With Weights

Crunch With Weights

Crunch & lift up

Crunch & lift up

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

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

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

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

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A Tough Cowgirl

Earlier this year, I found out about female Saddle Bronc rider, Kaila Mussell.

Photo by Filene Mussell

Photo by Filene Mussell

The fact that she rides Saddle Bronc is pretty impressive in itself, but the fact that she’s come back from a broken neck is a clear witness to the strength that she has on the inside. She’s a phenomenal athlete and I think she’s someone who exhibits the strength and toughness we all aspire to.

Photo by Bernie Hudyma

Photo by Bernie Hudyma

What was it that made you decide you wanted to try riding broncs?

I started off in rodeo, barrel racing at 11, and steer riding at 12.  I did well at both events, however I got more of a rush out of riding steers and wanted to stay in the roughstock events.  When I became too old to ride steers, my initial inclination was to ride bulls, however my dad convinced me otherwise. I’m glad he did, as at that point I knew of some women who have ridden bareback broncs and bulls, but didn’t know any women who rode saddle bronc in the modern style of saddle bronc riding.  It turned into a more prestegious goal for me then, becoming the first woman to do so.  At that time,  my brother also wanted to ride broncs, so we both went to some bronc riding schools together to learn.

 

Photo by Christopher Morris

Photo by Christopher Morris

How did you feel the first time you rode an actual bronc out of the chute?

That was so long ago, and I’m pretty sure that I blacked out.  When I was first learning that happened a lot, and even when I rode I couldn’t remember what happened.   Eight seconds happens pretty quick, however over time and practice that short time (8 seconds) slows down, and when everything is happening right, it feels like all your movements are in slow motion.

Photo by Patti Ouimette

Photo by Patti Ouimette

When you decided to actually compete the first time, how did you feel?   What were some of your thoughts & fears and how did you overcome those?

I was pretty nervous the first time I completed. I did, however grow up breaking colts since I was 10, so I already had alot of exposure to riding horses that bucked, and I already had rodeo experience, although not in saddle bronc.  Most of my thoughts would have been related  to not wanting to being a “failure” and get bucked off, not wanting to look like a “girl” out there, or scared that I wouldn’t be accepted because I was a girl.  I really wanted to be accepted and to show others that I was just as capable as other bronc riders.  Nowadays my attitude on all of these feelings has been completely turned around, however at that point in time that is definitely what I thought.

You broke your neck last year. Tell us a little about that.

I broke my neck on April 5, 2014 at a BCRA rodeo in  Barriere, BC.  I got bucked off and landed on my head and kind of rolled onto the right side of my neck and shoulder.  I felt a shooting pain down the my right arm, and what felt like a crunch, but I chalked it up to a concussion, because other than being pretty sore, that’s what it felt like.  I drove home that night, which was a couple of hours away and didn’t go to the hospital.  The next day I was talking to my brother who is a doctor (GP), and he convinced me that I should go get it checked out because I was supposed to be flying to Hawaii the next day for a family vacation.  I went to the hospital more so to eliminate anything being wrong with me, because I didn’t want to chance having high medical bills in another country.  I happened to be picking up a friend at the airport that day and decided to stop in at VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) which is the only spinal unit in BC.  I’m happy that I did.  They took the injury very seriously and put me on a backboard and in a neck brace.  Multiple x-rays, CT and MRI later I was told that I broke my neck in 2 places on the right side of C6, and that I wouldn’t be going anywhere.  I wore a brace for a couple of weeks until they realized my neck wasn’t healing properly.  Immediately thereafter I went in for surgery and ended up getting a fusion between C5-C7, and two of my disks replaced by part of my right hip bone.

Photo by Filene Mussell

Photo by Filene Mussell

When did you decide to start riding again after that and why? Was riding the first time after your injury different from what it was like before?

While I was healing from a broken neck I was faced with all sorts of thoughts and decisions about what my future would be.  After weighing all the facts, talking to my surgeon and hearing everyone elses often unwanted “opinions” on what I should do with my life, I dug deep down and realized that my passion for bronc riding was still there.  At minimum I wanted to come back to riding if only to end on my own terms.  I waited a full year after my injury to completely heal to ride again.  My first ride back was on a “practice” bronc, a day prior to Williams Lake, BC Indoor Rodeo where I was to be competing for the first time after breaking my neck.  The bronc “Starbucks”, was a horse I was familiar with and I had ridden a few times in the past.  I managed to get her rode, but it wasn’t pretty and got off on the pickup man.  It definitely was a huge relief to get that one out of the way, as I came away without injury!  From there, the major fear was gone, and I was back to the swing of things.

How was it different?

The main difference with coming back riding after such a major injury, was that I appreciated the opportunity of being able to ride again.  I’ve noticed this year that I’ve had a lot more fun, not taken things as seriously as I have in the past, and enjoyed the whole journey of riding broncs in all aspects of the experience both outside and inside the arena.   I also managed to win the year-end season leader saddle for the BCRA (BC Rodeo Association) in the saddle bronc.  So overall, my comeback has been amazing!

How do you stay mentally tough?

I think pretty positive on a regular basis.  When I don’t, I remind myself why I’m doing this, focus and look at the bigger picture.  I read inspirational/self-help books, say positive affirmations to myself and post them around me.  As well, journaling has been a huge help in focusing on my goals, seeing where my mindset is, noticing things that may have helped in the past that can help me now, and/or seeing how far I have come and being able to acknowledge this.

What is that motivates you to keep going?

This is a really hard thing to describe what motivates me, as only a small amount of this can be put into words.  Motivation is more of a feeling, a passion that can’t be described.  I’m driven to do it, in part because I love the sport, the lifestyle, the challenge, the adrenaline and excitement of the sport.  To a large part these days I am motivated by seeing how much I inspire others to pursue their dreams by doing what I do.

Photo by Thomas Camus

Photo by Thomas Camus

What is your fitness routine to stay in shape to ride?

My fitness routine varies throughout the year depending on my work and rodeo schedule.  On a regular basis I strength train (primarily core training) 3 days a week  (30-40 mins), do cardio (primarily jogging) 3 days a week (4 miles), and yoga (1 hour) 1-2 days a week as well.  This may be alternated with other physical activities such as hiking, biking, MMA training or otherwise.

As for eating, I have had a lot of structured strict diets over the years.  I now find that its easier to eat well on a regular basis and stay active than to go to extremes.  I really don’t deny myself any foods, however less healthy alternatives I eat in moderation.  On a daily basis I do eat a high amount of protein, stick to whole, unprocessed foods,  and eat small amounts throughout the day rather than eating large meals.  Mind you, when you are on the road, it is sometimes hard to eat well or regularly.  I try to always pack lots of water and healthy snacks in case this happens.

Photo by Kat Nair

Photo by Kat Nair

Any words of wisdom for anyone that wants to ride broncs, or anyone that wants to rodeo in general?

Set clear goals of what you want.  Be willing to learn and put in the time and effort into what you do.  The skills for your chosen event in rodeo will not come overnight, but with hard work and dedication it will all come together.  Strive to constantly learn and improve.

What’s mandatory to be able to rodeo?

Mental and physical toughness, love of traveling, getting dirty,and performing under pressure, aside from investing a lot of money.  Nothing in life is easy,  but when things come together, it is all worth the effort.  Rodeoing is a lot like gambling, the only thing you are in complete control of is your effort in your ride or run.

If you’d like to keep up with Kaila, you can keep up on her social media accounts –

https://www.facebook.com/saddlebroncgirl/

https://instagram.com/kailamussell/

https://twitter.com/kaila_mussell

What Makes You Confident?

First of all, I want to say “Thank You” to everyone that helped spread the word about Cowgirls With Curves! The response since launching has been overwhelming, which confirmed what I already knew first hand! Let me just say, it’s fulfilling to talk to other women with the same issues and feel like you’re making a difference. So, I can’t say THANK YOU enough!

One of the hot topics among us real size cowgirls is confidence – How do we get it? That’s something we struggle with in and out of the saddle.

I’ll confess, I’m probably more confident in the saddle than I am out of it, mainly just because I like working horses so much! That doesn’t mean however, that I’ve not had times that I’ve had to work for it, and I still do when it comes to barrel racing especially. The one thing that has always made a difference in my riding confidence has been working out and getting strong – notice I didn’t say losing weight. It’s strength that makes the difference.

I’ve always said there’s nothing like having a colt to break, or a young horse to start back in the spring to make a person get strong. Ride a few fresh young horses and you’ll see what I mean!

Where that came from, for me, was that each winter I took a break from everything. No riding, no working out. Then when spring rolled around, I’d get back to riding.

Each year, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed it’s taken me longer to get back to feeling normal and in sync with my horse. With each passing year I’ve had to work harder at it – and if I’ve had a young horse I’ve had to put even more effort.

Most of the time, I’ve done the usual core work like planks and crunches to get my balance back. While that helped tremendously, I’ve found something that works even better!

This year instead of taking the whole winter off, I started working out in early November doing Kettlebell exercises. The difference that it has made in my riding has been amazing, especially considering I was only doing three exercises at 20 reps each. In fact, it made such a difference I made the fastest run I’ve made so far on my horse, and I felt good about it and in control the whole entire time. I’ve been trying to make that silly run for three years!

I took pretty much the whole month of December off, and then didn’t throw a leg over one until the end of January. Even having that much time off and my horse absolutely full of it, I felt like I hadn’t taken any time off at all. To me, that said a lot about the exercises that I’d been doing.

Kettlebellsworkouts.com is the website that I used to find Kettlebell exercises. They have a list of 52 exercises with videos and they periodically will do a Kettlebell Challenge to keep you motivated. I’ve shared the three exercises that I’ve started out with. Since I’m not a personal trainer, I’ve listed the links for each exercise with the proper instructions.

I already had 10 pound dumbbells and two 20 pound weights on hand so that’s what I use instead of a Kettlebell. Since I use different weights for different exercises, this works out well. At some point I might cave in and buy a couple of actual Kettlebells but for the moment, I’ll use the money for my feed bill and entry fees!

The Kettlebell Plank Row is one exercise that I can honestly say is the absolute hardest I’ve ever done! It’s also an exercise that I feel makes a huge difference in how you ride since you’re engaging your core at a high level the entire time.

The Kettlebell Walking Lunge is one that I do with a little variation. Instead of keeping the Kettlebell overhead, I’ll hold the weights out in front of me and raise them overhead which engages the core even more.

The Kettlebell Swing is a great exercise to get your heart rate up very quickly so it’s a great option to use for not only strength but cardio as well. I do this exercise with more weight than I do the other two exercises simply because I’m stronger in that position.

A word of caution on the Kettlebell exercises – the Kettlebell Turkish Getup is a whole lot harder than it looks! I let a teenage student and her two little brothers try it with a 5 pound weight. It was all they could do to get up. So if you want a hard challenge, try it.

Because these exercises elevate your heart rate while working several body parts and engaging the core the whole entire time, you really do get more bang for your buck. Because of that, you can save on time since you don’t have to do as many exercises to work the same amount of muscles.

There’s something about being strong and being in control of your body when riding that has an effect on your mindset and confidence. When you’re strong, you don’t feel out of control or over-powered.

You may be at a point where you’re thinking, “I can’t do these type of exercises!” It doesn’t matter what you can do – what matters is that you start somewhere. If you can do one rep, do one. Then the next day try two reps. Just start at the level you’re at – YOU CAN DO IT.

How confident are you when it comes to riding? Why do you think your confidence level is at the level that it’s at? What is one thing you can do today to improve your confidence?

Let me know how you guys are doing out there! Drop me a line, visit the Cowgirls With Curves facebook page!

FT SMITH TRIAL RUN