Is horseback riding good exercise?

Is horseback riding good exercise?
For years we (my horse lovin' family and I) have cracked jokes about how horse owners don't need any exercise program- horse ownership is exercise enough!- and frankly, being a barn hand is definitely enough exercise. 

Or so it seems...

Here's the thing- I grew up riding and the amount of effort I had to put into the ride always depends on several variables: Are you casually trail riding or taking a few laps around the arena? or are you training for some level of competition? Are you riding Old Smokey, the 30 year old lesson horse, or Spike, who was just purchased by an inexperienced horse person from someone that swears he is kid safe- their kid just "doesn't like Spike" and they asked you to ride him because he has been dragon breathing with the whites of his eyes showing since he arrived?

In addition to these variables, my personal experience has been that riding and barn work isn't always enough. I was still gaining weight while working my ass off in the barn. I was strong in the best way, but I was getting a flabby belly. So, I took action and joined a CrossFit gym. Turns out CrossFit gyms are super expensive- but I loved it while it lasted and here is what I learned:

Even though barn work and riding will have you using muscles that most people don't even know they have, it's not enough to obtain your optimal fitness level. Why should you be striving for optimal health and fitness? Well, besides saving time and money on illness, it is how you best prepare yourself for situations you may find yourself in with horses. It's how you manage to mount under less than ideal circumstances. It's how you have the endurance to stay on in a bad situation (or the endurance to follow your mount the 5 miles back to the barn after sticking the landing of your unintentional dismount 🤷‍♀️). It's how you do your part to prepare for the next competition- we spend so much time worried about our horses' health and conditioning and we don't even THINK about our own conditioning... what kind of partnership is that?!

Your health and conditioning determines how you show up for your horse... and your FAMILY. You are nothing without your health and you may be thinking, "yeah, yeah- I'm young. I will be fine. I don't have time to workout or plan healthy meals." The truth is- you can't afford not to- especially if you have any less than ideal habits. Trust me- my 36 year old husband had a heart attack last week (he is doing well 😉 🙌). Needless to say, we have made big changes around our house- kicked some bad habits and established new ones. My health is now a priority in my life- no more putting it off with excuses about not having time or how the barn work is enough.

If you are done putting your health to the side and are ready to be the rider that your horse deserves, pop on over to my facebook group to learn more about how we are mixing things up and finding a healthy balance for life ❤

Restoration Part 4: Twice as Much as Before

Restoration Part 4: Twice as Much as Before
After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.                                         ~ Job 42:10

The last horse I owned, I was gifted. After high school, my equestrian team coach had purchased an MSU Arabian that the students referred to as a big dumb animal- no one had been able to stay on him. She asked me to work with and show him. It was amazing for me to get the experience but also have a horse and all the horse fun without the bills. Our first year showing, we qualified for nationals- and then I got pregnant. Two years later, he was gifted to me as a wedding present. I kept him for several years- even after we gave up our house. Eventually, I had to give him up to. 

I was working with horses everyday to make my living and I loved it. There was one horse that came to us in about 2013. He was a sweet 3 year old trotter that was so easy to love. Well behaved, gorgeous, sensible and fun. His name was Five Towns- but I called him Bruce. Our first race with Bruce was the 5th race and he drew the 5 post position- AND he won. We raced him quite successfully for a couple years and then he was sold. And I decided that one day, I would bring him home to retire with me.

Fast forward to August 2019 when I found Bruce's current trainer on Facebook and asked how he was doing and why he hadn't been racing. He had sustained an injury and was getting some much needed time off. I checked in again at Christmas time and waited to see him back racing in March of 2021- he didn't enter until the end of April...

The day finally came that we would get to see the mystery house. We had received the address the night before and google earthed it- but that was all. When I was at work that day, I couldn't get Bruce not racing out of my mind- so I messaged his trainer. I found out he didn't race because of another injury... and he told me that if I wanted him- I could have him!

Even though Bruce was in Saratoga, NY and I was in Michigan AND I didn't even have a house for my family, I immediately started making calls and finding him a ride home. Getting him home was filled with blessings- thanks to many amazing horse people, Bruce made the trip for $200 instead of the standard $1500 (but I didn't work all that out at once- it took 2 weeks to get him home).

After an amazing afternoon finding out that Bruce was mine and coming home, we went to see the mystery house. The house itself was small, but frankly, exactly right for us. The barn area was overgrown and the fences weren't safe for horses. The garage was a good size.... and it was over 10 acres. After all of the houses that we had seen, it was very apparent that this one was for us.

So we made an offer- and because this house wasn't even on the market, there was no bidding war- it was just ours. We closed on the house on June 15th and allowed the seller to stay in the house 30 days after close. During those 30 days, my husband completely rewired the electrical in the barn. My grandfather drove his tractor over and brush hogged the pastures. My dad loaned us the machinery needed to more easily clean out the barn and move fence posts. My daughters weed whipped and helped to run fence lines. Friends came to help move doors and completely transform the barn area.

And once we moved in- with nothing major needing to be done in the house or garage, I get to enjoy the view from my kitchen and patio:

We still haven't even explored half of our property. As I write this (and anytime I sit and look at this view), I can't help but to get a tear in my eye and become overwhelmed with gratitude. I swear we were given more than double what we lost just over 10 years ago. Every single one of my heart's desires have been granted to me. I was given this gift and you can be sure I will be using it to serve others.

Since moving in 2 weeks ago today, we have all started to settle in and while it still feels surreal at times, it is home ❤ Our four dogs are more at home and comfortable than I have ever seen them. Bruce is living it up and loving life.

To see more of our journey as it happens (and get a tour of Bruce's new home, make sure you join my Facebook Group: Heart-Centered & Intentional Horsewomen

Restoration Part 3: Almost There

Restoration Part 3: Almost There
In October of 2020, after years of reducing debt and building our credit, we finally applied for a mortgage. It took months to get all the paperwork together... And then a back log of processing before we could actually start house shopping in January.

If you know any one that has been house shopping in the last 7 months you probably have an idea of how crazy the market has been. First, there was NOTHING on the market that met our long list of requirements to accommodate our 4 dogs and our 2 daughters, plus my husbands want list of a basement suitable to become a theater + a shop/ work space for his Home Improvement business- and of course, enough land to accommodate my future horses.

We saw A LOT of houses. Houses that I never would have thought to see- if there was more than 5 acres, we were going to see it. We saw houses that would have me commuting over an hour BOTH ways. It was ridiculous, but always so hopeful. By month 4 of the house hunt, I was done. I had seen enough. We put offers in on several houses but they were going for $20,000+ over asking price. Our offers were declined for all kinds of reasons- we offered too little, we wouldn't give the seller enough time to move, we wanted too many concessions, and (my personal favorite) we offered too much 😳

We were just shy of the 6 month mark when we were told that we offered too much for a small house on the bare minimum of acreage we could make work. I had already declared that if we didn't get that house I was going to be done. I didn't want to resubmit all of the mortgage info just to keep getting my hopes up for nothing. House hunting was exhausting. Turns out, that offer not being accepted was the best thing that could have happened.

When our realtor called to let us know that we didn't get the house, she said something interesting and unheard of happened. The listing agent called to say our offer was declined, but she had a friend that was considering selling her house on more land that my better suit our needs. If we were at all interested, she would talk to her friend. Obviously, we jumped at the opportunity. We took the pressure to find the right house completely off for a couple weeks while we waited to see this mystery property which, just so happened to be in the neighborhood that both my husband and I grew up in...

If you would like to get Part 4 (and future blogs) sent to your inbox, click here.

Restoration Part 2: Half-way There

Restoration Part 2: Half-way There
I can't express the amount of gratitude that was felt throughout our family when we were all able to spend time together again.

From living on our own to years of living with family- it was not always easy. In fact, some days it was horrible and unbearable. Other days, I was able to remind myself that though I didn't choose to live this way, it was a BLESSING. Through all the time that we spent living in less than ideal situations, I will forever cherish the time that we spent with family members that opened their homes to us.

My youngest and I spent several months (maybe close to a year) living with my grandparents- that time I will never forget and I am so grateful that we had the opportunity. We have lived with my dad the longest- again, a blessing.
My dad has always worked a lot and as an adult, I was busy with my own life- we didn't see each other much. I am beyond grateful to have had some extra years with my dad. Bonus: my little sister moved in with dad too so we have had several years to grow together ❤

The last 4-5 years we have been super grateful to live together and being close to family. However, the roof over our head has left something to be desired. Dad and I found a great duplex about 7 years ago that boasted 3,000 square feet (1,500 main floor and 1,500 basement) just in the nick of time. It seemed great- a little outdated, but otherwise perfect location, great yard, and plenty of space. 

Over a few months, the basement (which I had claimed as my own) started to smell more mildewy- and then the basement flooded during the first snow melt since our move. That lead to closing off one of the basement rooms that never properly dried out. We constantly ran dehumidifiers and air purifiers to no avail. So, we have coped with it. And now, every rain we get a flood that starts in the bathroom and moves into the main living area. To say that the basement bathroom is in rough shape may be an understatement considering the number of times it has flooded.

Since that first flood, I have not had a proper bedroom (and rarely a dry bathroom). When I talk about how freaking excited I am for our new house, you can't truly understand my level of excitement without understanding that we (myself, my husband, and our youngest) basically have been living in a studio apartment that floods regularly with 4 dogs. It's been frustrating, embarrassing, disgusting, crazy, and somehow, still a blessing.

We have been able to prepare for our family's full restoration. We have saved some money, taken some trips, had great house parties to celebrate our girls and the people we love. Through it all, the struggles have been worth it. I never thought that was possible. And maybe that isn't 100% true- because none of us would choose to go through some of our tribulations again, but if it wasn't for the darkness, we wouldn't truly enjoy and be grateful for the light.

If  you want to know more about how I have been able to make it through all of the curve balls life has thrown at me, jump into my Facebook Group.

Restoration Part 1: Rock Bottom

Restoration Part 1: Rock Bottom
At this time, ten years ago, I was in the middle of the worst part of my life. Without going into detail of what actually happened, I want to share where I was mentally and emotionally.

Ten years ago I was feeling very alone. I was married, but my husband was living about eleven hours away and it wasn't a separation that either of us wanted or chose. I was heartbroken. I was left to raise our youngest (she was three), manage the household, go to work, and continue my degree program. It was exhausting and more painful than anything I had ever experienced. I didn't show up as the best mother, employee or student during that time, but I did the best I could with what I had- as everyone always does.

Needless to say, it didn't take long for my husband and I to realize that we had been taking each other for granted to some extent- because we were both miserable and struggling apart.

I was never one to express my emotions before we were separated so under all of the emotional pressure of being separated from my husband, on my own with our daughter, work, and school- I reached and exceeded my emotional capacity. 

Most people in my life wouldn't have even known how miserable I was or that I was battling rage regularly- the most frequent witness to my outbursts was my beautiful little girl. I wasn't proud of my actions and I knew that it wasn't right for me to act that way, but I honestly didn't know that I had another option. 

Within about four months we decided that the best thing we could do was to get rid of our home to take so many tasks off of my plate. That helped free up some time and money, but it didn't make me feel better.

There were days I struggled to get out of bed to be a functional human let alone a good mother, employee or student. I cried myself to sleep regularly, experienced nightmares, struggled with insomnia and often had breakdowns that I recognize now were panic attacks. This was pretty consistent for about three years.
I journaled, read scriptures, and prayed.
I still dealt with anger, rage, and outbursts. I also felt intense heartache. Honestly though, I didn't recognize all of the other emotions I was dealing with- I didn't know I needed to.

What I know now that every emotion that we experienced deserves to be acknowledged and accepted- that is the only way to move past the emotion and all of the horrible side effects that go along with it.

Ten years ago, my world crumbled. My family lost the material life that we built and even our time together for several years. Since then, we have dreamed of restoration. Restoration of our family all being under one roof. Restoration of our material things and more. While we all hated those years, and none of us would want to live through it again, we all learned that no matter how bad things get- restoration is possible.

If my struggle with anger, rage, and emotions in general resonates with you, I highly recommend you check out my Facebook group and Guide 1: The Adventure from Outbursts to Peace.
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