Friday, May 31, 2013

Riding-It's a Sport!

We riders often complain about the lack of respect our sport gets from the general public.  I have heard similar complaints from cheerleaders, dancers and other sports.  Personally, I don't care what the general public thinks, riding is a sport. What everyone else thinks about it is irrelevant.   The concern here is how we, as rider, treat it.  As a whole I believe we tend to pay lip service to the sport idea, but so not treat ourselves as athletes. Our horses don't give a flip if we are skinny but I guarantee you, they want us fit.  Last summer and fall I was eating healthy and working out, my mare was clearly working better and benefiting from my stamina and strength.  Eventers get this, they realize that they must be fit to do what they do and keep themselves and their horses sound.  The rest of us often slide because our horses will pick up the slack, but that's means we are settling for  less than our best. We are the dance partner, fifty percent of the puzzle! How can they balance, use themselves, stay comfortable and give you their best if you are not doing the same.
As  instructors and trainers, ignoring this aspect of riding is a disservice to our horses but it is also  missed opportunity to encourage a healthy lifestyle among our biggest demographic, teenage girls.  Here is something that is immensely popular with a group of individuals that struggle daily with self-esteem and body image, often hearing messages that "skinnier is better"  Here is a chance to encourage exercise and healthy eating, not to be skinny, but to be more effective. Core strength, stamina, flexibility and energy come from working out and eating right. Modeling that, encouraging that, and teaching that is part of our job!
I'm not a exercise trainer or a nutritionist but I don't have to be. There are some principles of health that are basic- exercise, eat fresh vegetables, limit fat and sugar, drink water.Our goal is not to try to get a certain "body type" that they look for in the equitation- it's the judges job to learn what an "good" rider rides like. They either know their job or they don't and you have no control over that.  You do have control over your fitness and that will help you be a good rider.  This makes you safer, more comfortable and a much better partner for your horse regardless of whether you are doing Maclay Finals or a thirty minute trail ride.
Time for me to "walk the walk"...for at least thirty minutes a day!  I mentioned that last summer I was living a healthy lifestyle. Over the last few months I have slacked off.  That's okay, it happens. What is not okay is to give up.  I am rededication myself to healthful living and encouraging you to do the same. For my students (old and new) I am issuing a "Mountain Dell Health Challenge"  I have made up a chart of several steps that I will be taking to improve my strength, energy and stamina.  I encourage students to do the same. Each activity has a minimum number of days that it should be accomplished.  Meet that minimum on each activity in a week and you will earn a point. Earn four point and get a free lesson.  Participants must be taking regular lessons.  This program is on the honor system so you will keep your log and when you have four weeks worth of logs, bring them to me and we will schedule your lesson.  I will be posting my log in the barn and would love to post student logs, but only if they want me to.

Here is the link to the log (or it can be accessed of my websites "News" page

This challenge starts June 1 and will be running through August 31.  GOOD LUCK!

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