Get Right with Your Body Before Riding – Cultivate a Healthy Body and Mind

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William Shakespeare said, “Our bodies are our gardens, to which our wills are gardeners.”

When I first read that quote, I paused to let the words sink in. As I thought about our bodies being gardens, I thought of how many women (myself included) talk negatively to ourselves and proceed to grow weeds instead of flowers. And does the food we eat have a negative or positive impact on our bodies?

The word “wills” jumped out at me. What kind of gardeners are we if we let the weeds take over? What would our “gardens” look like if they were fed positive words and nourishing food?

What will you do so that you can ride your horse with a healthy mental, emotional, and physical body?

When you

  • Exercise your mind to be more positive you offer your horse a partner who is secure in their ability to lead
  • Exercise your body you offer your horse a better, more balanced rider
  • Exercise healthy eating habits you offer your horse a rider who is more likely within the 20% weight-carrying rule

Unfortunately, from babyhood to adulthood, the media (even in the horse world) has left women of all ages with body dissatisfaction and a mindset of shame, guilt, and low self-worth. How you view your body is influenced through media, families, peers, culture, and mindset.

All this hype of being perfect in appearance leads many to feel inadequate. We’re all different sizes and body types. Strive to be the best you can.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?

It starts in the mind, not in the mirror. Body image and self-esteem influence your comfort level around many aspects of your life, including riding your horse (or perhaps not riding your horse, because you feel bad about the weight your horse must carry).

The mental pictures you have of your body reflect your mental and emotional health, and so does the way you look at your body in the mirror—with love or judgment.

Ways to improve your mindset include:

  • Searching out and read books to help change your mental mindset
  • Finding someone to help you and hold you accountable
  • Keeping a gratitude journal
  • Spending more time with your horse in and out of the saddle

Exercise is a significant component of health. Exercise is not just about losing weight. Even if you don’t like training, it makes you feel better. The key is to find an activity you want to do. Whatever that activity is, you’ll benefit from 30 minutes or more a day of cardiovascular exercise to maintain or improve cardiovascular function.

Does riding your horse count as exercise? Yes! The heart rate goes up, and you can burn many calories. However, you must ride your horse to that level for it to count.

What about strength training? The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends two non-consecutive days a week. This includes targeting all the major muscle groups. For example, shoveling horse manure usually works the muscles in only one direction based on the right- or left-hand dominance.

Exercise makes you feel better and:

  • Lubricates your joints
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Controls your weight
  • Reduces the chances of diseases
  • Manages blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Improves mental health
  • Increases your ability to think and function on a higher level
  • Improves your sexual health, and more

What else can you do?

  1. The first step to change is to admit what’s not Then understand that your thoughts and actions, both past and present, make up the life you live.
  2. No judgment zone here! We all do the best that we can with the knowledge we have and the circumstances of our lives.
  3. Next, let go of emotional crutches. It isn’t easy, but it’s necessary to make change happen. Listen to your feelings. What are they telling you? Then, stop avoiding them with food, exercise, Netflix, or whatever it is that you use to silence them.
  4. Finally, step out of your comfort zone and get going.

This list is by no means the “be-all, end-all” of what you can do to make change happen. As someone who coaches health and wellness, I know that exercising good habits can be challenging. However, anything is possible with planning, preparation, and the mindset to change.

To take Shakespeare’s quote personally, what do you want your garden to look like? What are your “wills”?


See this article in the May/June 2022 online edition:

May/June 2022

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