Monday, January 9, 2012

My Mantra for 2012: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Did I mention this comes in a t-shirt?
I'll be wearing mine at every show in 2012!
This was originally a posted on Horse Junkies United, a fabulous blog that I'm privileged to contribute to.  If you like, you can read it over there and check out other posts you might find of interest.  Heck, you might even decide you'd like to contribute as well!

Ugh. Call me Princess Grumpy Pants, but I’m not a fan the whole New Year holiday. Maybe it’s because I can never seem to stay up late enough, or maybe it’s because making New Year’s resolutions just feels like making another To-Do list. I can tell you about my to-do lists – they get longer and longer and every day it seems as though there are more items and less of them are getting crossed off.

I am a fan of order, however, and I need to at least create the impression (for myself) that my life possesses some. Thus, although I don’t like them, I make To-Do lists. I have them for the house, for my job, for the kids, and for the horses.

I get that life is pretty much chaotic and trying to impose order on it is pretty much like spitting into the wind, but hey, it’s a nice enough delusion and it’s working okay so far. My lists are things I have to do, things I would like to do if life goes according to plan, and things I would like to do if things go really well (like I won the lottery.)

So here’s 2012′s Equine To-Do List:

1) Keep both of my girls (daughter’s pony and my mare, both 16 this year) sound, healthy, and happy.

After losing almost a year when Sugar was injured and on the IR list, this since been my #1 priority. Obviously there are things beyond my control that could factor in here, but I can make sure they get the proper care and nutrition. I can make sure we warm them up and cool them down properly. Assuming finances hold up, we can provide them with the supplements that make them more comfortable and if necessary, any injections they may need. Same goes for chiropractic, acupuncture, and professional equine massage. My daughter and I can also continue to stretch and massage them using the techniques our therapist showed us after each ride.

Part of keeping them sound means keeping them fit. They won’t be jumping much over the winter, but that doesn’t mean we can keep them fit by doing trot and canter interval sets (in the two point, so both equine and human athletes are working!) hill work when the weather and ground permits, lateral work, transitions and lots of cavaletti work. We try to alternate ring work with work outside on the trails when weather and footing allows, so neither horse nor human gets bored. There are a number of good books on this topic; on that I like is called Equine Fitness.

2) I gotta get my fat chunky dimply (sigh) butt back in shape.

It’s been almost 4 months since my lawn dart incident, and although my neck/head/back aren’t 100% yet, I’m able to get back to working out. Problem is, I had been on kind of roll before getting injured, and now the motivation is gone and, well, now I AM kind of roll. A Pillsbury roll. As I’ve said before, this isn’t a desire to look better in those ridiculous tight and revealing breeches we wear, it’s a desire to be a better rider and partner to my horse. When I’m fitter, when I actually HAVE what could be (loosely) called a core and leg strength, I’m more balanced and stable, which translates into a more balanced and stable horse, and a more effective and confident rider.

My Fitness Plan looks somewhat like this: Get kids to school and resist temptation to flop on couch, latte in hand, and blog/watch equestrian videos/fart around on Facebook. Instead, venture into basement and alternate interval training on treadmill with weights, yoga and Pilates. During weeks that I am not traveling for business, I need to discipline myself and head off to the Y at lunch at least 2x a week to get in some additional workout time, mostly weights, rowing machine, and core work. (Sad fact: I’m breaking a sweat just writing this stuff down.) Added to this will be 4-5 nights of riding per week (on non-travel weeks).

My Fitness Plan should also include something about stepping away from the chocolate/cheese/wine fridge, but let’s face it, that just ain’t gonna happen. I’d rather run the entire length of the New Jersey Turnpike than do this. And I do not like running. If I am running, you can be sure somebody heavily armed and dangerous is chasing me.

3) Back to Basics!!

After my fall, I did a LOT of soul-searching, and came up with this: Although I may be decent enough rider and can get away with stuff 80% of the time, I need a more solid foundation in order to be as effective a rider as I want to be. Riding is risky, and as a professional, a partner, and a Mom, I am responsible to and for others. Yes, there’s risk, but I need to take steps in order to know that I’ve minimized it as much as possible.

Until my trainer is heads to Wellie-World (Wellington, FL) in February, we are working on basics. Lots of no stirrup work, two point work, and balance work over cavaletti and gymnastics. I’m also taking longe line lessons with our assistant trainer, and plan to continue those all winter as she’s staying home. While I’d like to say I’m planning to make February my No Stirrups month, I’d be feeding you a muck tub full of horse crap. I know myself too well. Let’s just say I AM committing (feel free to hold me to this!) to at least one ride a week without stirrups.

I have to say, the Back to Basics work I’ve been doing so far has made a noticeable difference in my balance and position over fences, as well as the effectiveness of my aids. Makes my horse a lot happier, too. Here’s hoping this carries on through the spring and into the show season - my goal is to jump 3’3″ in shows this year!

4) Continuing Education!

One thing I really admire about the greats is that they are always looking to build on their knowledge. I love reading Jimmy Wofford’s column in Practical Horseman when he talks about what he’s reading – usually means I’m scouring Amazon a few seconds later.

In addition to reading, I’ll be watching a lot of good riding on Equestrian, FEItv, and USEF Network. One of the ways I learn is by watching, and I’ve noticed that I tend to have good lessons after I’ve spent some quality time watching the greats ride.

If finances hold I’d love to attend a couple of clinics. If I can’t manage to ride in any, hopefully I’ll be able to audit a few. This weekend I’m auditing a Joe Fargis clinic, which has been a fabulous experience.

5) No FEAR, Baby!!

I need to address one of my biggest challenges, which is getting past all the negative voices in my head. You know, the ones that cause you to doubt yourself, change your plan and your ride, and screw up? The ones that say, “You’re going to fall/hurt yourself/hurt your horse” as your galloping up to a fence? I’ve purchased a few books on this topic, and am looking into some therapists and hypnotists in my area, as those may be avenues worth taking if time and, oh yeah, finances, allow.

In the meantime, I’ve borrowed a saying coined in 1939 by the British government. The phrase, “Keep Calm and Carry On” was originally placed on posters and intended to raise the morale of the British populace during WWII. It helped the British then, and it helps me now. The other day during a lesson I botched a distance badly, and instead of letting it fluster me, I said to myself “Keep Calm and Carry On” (out loud, as it turns out, since my trainer cracked up.)

So that’s my plan. Here’s to 2012! Happy trails, all!


  1. Love the post, there is a girl on Etsy who does a Print with a horse on it thata says "Keep Calm and Canter On." I love it!

    I just wanted to add that I always do a No Stirrup month now in the winter to bring my balance back to "center". My trainer is usually pretty brutal to me during lessons but on the days I hack I bring my Horse, Carlos, back to basics as well. Lots of proper walk work, mindful transitions, lateral work at the walk and slow trot. It is wonderful.

  2. I actually got a tattoo of "Keep Calm and Canter On" on the inside of my right wrist, so I can look down and remind myself mid-course :)

  3. Amen Sistah! I just finished a Stressless Riding clinic given by a psychologist eventer... and it was awesome! I do love your writing... I think its my favorite blog.

  4. Dear Unknown -- You are clearly FAR braver than I!!! That's a fabulous idea, but I'll keep looking for the kind you apply with water! LOL Thoug knowing me, if I looked down I'd land on the ground...

    Dear L -- Does the Etsy lady have that in a temporary tatoo?? LOL

    Suzanne - thanks for the kind words-- you know how to make a gal's day! Wish I'd been at that clinic with you!

  5. Please add another item to the list: LAUGH!!! and HAVE FUN!!!!
    Never leave FUN off any to-do list. After all what is the point of life is not to enjoy living it, or at least have that as a goal.
    Like I always say (to my kids great annoyance I am sure); "you find what you look for in life."

    My son would get very tense before playing baseball, all the advice and instructions would tense him all up. I hated seeing him overthinking it, and enjoying it less, so I started to stop him as he walked away and say; "hey, guess what you get to do today? PLAY BASEBALL!!!!!"" (heard that in some movie....)

    Btw, as a joke I once yelled at woman clearly struggling as she ran up a hill, "you can stop, they are no longer chasing you!!" It is now a joke the kids make all the time.

  6. Is it bad that I no longer make to-do lists because I seek to avoid the inevitable feeling of failure I'll get when I find them several weeks later under a pile of something else, and realize I didn't do any of it yet and it's now too late?

    Regardless... these are good goals. My goal for this year is simple: "Jump More, Worry Less."

  7. Ahh, you would really like these: