The Arts of War

I got hurt doing Crossfit.  Not badly, but a pretty decent muscle pull.  “Personal training Crossfit” and “just doing classes Crossfit” are two majorly different things.  I didn’t realize at the time just how much care Trent (the trainer) was taking in creating my weekly torture sessions.  I was always challenged, but never felt like I could or would get hurt.  Classes are a whole ‘nother thing.  In class the coach watches for you, but not in the same way the trainer does during a PT session.  The coach at our new box was amazing, but didn’t realize something Trent did pretty early on:  I will not back off or give up.  If you ask me to do this thing, I will do it…the hell with what may….So I hurt myself in class, over facing my current state of fitness (or fitless, depending on how you look at it). I actually went to see my doctor, and she suggested yoga to fix my current muscle pain.  Nate and I have been really lucky, and we found a yoga studio that also does martial arts.  Nate has been wanting to start martial arts for years, and he always put it off because of money, job, school, life, etc.  But, sneaky wife that I am, he is now in martial arts (just for him!) and we are also doing yoga and Qigong.

Qigong is the grandmother of Tai Chi, and is a process of body placement and breath work to create stability in the body.  It’s amazing, and if you can get to a class, I highly recommend it.  I’m currently pursuing my masters in nutrition-which is the bastard cousin of Western Medicine.  While I have always believed that symptomatic treatment is a poor diagnosis, I am skeptical enough to always question the validity of energy work.  Regardless of my full embrace or lack there of in energy work, the concept of the body working as a complete system, including the electrical impulses that guide cells, makes perfect sense to me.

I think every equestrian has seen the meme of Stephen Colbert asking about when the horse decided it wanted to just dance.  I don’t know if the horse ever wanted to dance, and I understand that the airs are most likely for giggles when not in battle, but I found a deep connection between what I am asking Tricia to do in dressage and myself in Qigong this past week.  As Nate, I, & class were working on foot placement for balance and awareness, I couldn’t help but think that is exactly what Tricia and I had been doing the prior Wednesday.

Tricia and I have spent almost a year working on side to side balance and are now venturing into front back balance.  As her box is getting smaller, she is less willing to reach for the bit, and is not utilizing her neck properly.  I know somewhere in this that I must be blocking her energy.  We have worked so hard on creating a slow attainable balance, that I am now worried that the reason we lack power in this new piece is because of that.  I am trying to imagine how I want the energy to flow through her body, and how I want her to feel as she touches the earth.  This mind shift is new, and I worry about the fluffy-bunny aspect of it.  I chose my faith years ago, because I had been privy and blessed by too many miracles to be agnostic.  That being said, I have seen enough bunk science, that I feel blindly following anything can be a bad judgement call.

As I know this is a dreamy post, I am loving the aspect of the spiritual sides of these Arts of War.  Much passion would be required to fight for your family, or your kingdom.  The energy, the heart behind that would be critical.  The dire bond that would create with the souls that you touch amongst the field.  I am a terrible dancer, but I wonder if I would have been a decent warrior.  The fire that lives in my Tricia, that brave heart that sees the world and still stays sweet.  I am not so sure she always wants to dance with me, but I do not question that she would fight for me.

I have been frustrated with this “new” method.  There are days it seems very much like my “old” method.  But perhaps the above is what I have been missing most.  She may not want to dance, but she would fight.  She will have my back.  I have always seen her as my baby.  Perhaps it’s time to see her as my partner, my fellow in whatever may come.



My eldest nephew turned five this weekend.  He wanted a hurricane party!  Ala Ms. Frizzle and the magic school bus variety.  My sister-in-law’s people are from Nawlins, and they know how to throw a good hurricane party.  Despite the rain outside, it was a fun time for all the little ones inside.

My trainer calls that moment the horse decides to have a hissy fit Tricia’s own little hurricane.  I find them a mixture of amusing and full out pissed off.  You see, I bred and raised that little girl (she’s 17 now, but will always be my baby) and when she decides she just “can’t even” she does sassy shit that she knows will spin me up.  Sometimes I find this sass hilarious, as she really is the best horse world and her on sassy days is what some rider’s deal with every day.  Sometimes she will buck, or she will kick back at the whip.  She hates the whip!  It’s the ultimate offense.  You would think I had called her a shetland or something! But, confession time:  Sometimes it really pisses me off!

I know this is sacrilege. We are supposed to be happy, patient riders all the time, staying completely zen.  (Ah, yoga class…I look forward to ye!) They are, after all, beasts–horses don’t know any better (yeah, right!), and are simply unable to control their emotional outbursts (another crock of poo).   UGH!  This is why the equestrienne archetype does  look like the cool grey Ralph Lauren ads!  We all wander around with this unaffected ice queen image to look up to, when in reality sometimes horses are little shits that know how to get your goat as good as any person would! But, isn’t this normal in any working team?  I love my friends and family, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to stick my fingers in my ears and raspberry them on occasion!

We are currently working on saddle number four.  It fits Tricia great, but for me? It’s not the most comfortable saddle I have ever ridden in; for me it’s passable. As my hip flexors stretch, and her withers come up, it gets more comfortable.  But it also requires less actual seat space, which makes the saddle feel bigger than what I need.  What an odd problem right?  Go from riding in a 19.5 to a 17.5 and tell me what you feel?  Is this a plus-sized rider thing? Or is this a simple, “I’m getting better and learning how to use the saddle better” thing?  I was terrified to buy this saddle because this was the largest seat size I could get in the Wintec. I was steadily gaining weight after J’s death.  How was I supposed to take 2 inches off my saddle seat?  Now the problem is the opposite, and as recommended by another rider I have put the thigh blocks in.  I have never ridden with thigh blocks. I came up old school with flat Crosby’s and Miller’s.  My first dressage saddle was a flat Crosby!

Just like in yoga, it’s all about position.  We all want to be Charlotte, floating along and looking lovely.  Well, it takes time and dedication to get there, hips open, thighs back, happy hanging heel.  Relaxed back and shoulders.  Arms that can operate with that fluid independent swing from the shoulder with elastic elbows and light fingers. When it happens, it’s all zen and lovely and we float for that minute.  It’s hard, and we’ve succeeded. THIS is happiness! Then the horse decides to stick her ass out in Montana, and it all falls apart.

So our last few lessons have been for the betterment of me (greatly overdue, I’m sure the horse would say), and finding that sweet spot position.  We all learn technical purpose of the position: physical safety, communicative aids, and general feel.  But I was never taught that it is also your emotional Hurricane shelter.  When Tricia goes to “can’t even” I can find my position, stay soft and lovely and (as long as my 5’1 frame will allow) long legged, floaty heel, and just weather her storm.  The temper tantrum is no longer funny or piss-tacular, it’s just a moment in time.  Happy unaffected rider–one half of this team is no longer losing their shit! But the wild thing is, the horse settles down.  Yay!  I set proper and fair boundaries, and she adapts to deal with them!  ZEN!

Oh, I need this for people!  Deep breath, inner peace.  Boundaries. Maybe someday! Until then, I am so happy to be finding it in the ring with Tricia.  I know this will help our bond, and also give her a safe, confident place to be within our team.  The “can’t evens” are coming less, and she is already making strides for better balance.  It’s really been amazing.

Wine and Chocolate

I have four drafts sitting the trash.  I started them along the way, but couldn’t finish.  The New Year draft went exactly like this:  How do I even start?  Tricia colicked in November, right before Thanksgiving.  We made it to GA for Thanksgiving, and what was supposed to be a five people dinner morphed into a 25+infant dinner.  Not that I mind, that was the fun part.  December was not our friend.  I got a new job and got miserably ill in the first two weeks (never a good thing).  Christmas was devastating.  We lost our brother Christmas morning, and as I am writing this during lunch at said new job, I cannot go farther into it without absolutely losing it. So…amidst the first snow of the season in teen-degree weather we took our first lesson, and my first ride since 2016 last Saturday.

The ride was fantastic, Tricia was perfect in every way.  Because she is always, and she always knows what I need.  I was going to title this a “fat” post, but then decided that was just BS.  As you can read, the last few months have been that kind of soul-searching stressful that one feels any time a family grows a little smaller.  Sometimes I feel alien to the circumstances, as out of all of us, I knew J the least.  That is both my blessing and my curse.  I have been able to be strong when others are not, and that’s my blessing.  My heart is heavy for the loss of what I knew as a good man, and just having missed the ability to have known what a truly great man he was.

I have returned to riding, and also crossfit, with a full time job and finishing my masters. Those are fun things.  I am still a wife and a homeowner, and a fur-mom.  These are my normal stresses.  I stress out in un-obtuse ways, if you don’t count my ass.  After J’s service, I had anxiety attacks for three days.  Just small ones, but enough to know that I was coming down off the stress of part of the last few weeks. I was late to work one day.  I don’t think they noticed.  And I have binged.  Oh, have I binged.  I have eaten things that I would have never eaten in good conscious.    Nope–not a spelling error.  Had I been alert, had I not wanted to sink into the quiet calm of disjointing my mind and unconsciously consuming in an effort to push out all the clamoring and fighting for my energy and time and soul,  and not try to feed that beast that everyone needs me to be, I would have done better, been better.  What is so damning about it, is that being fat is its own kind of stress.  The kind that comes when pants you bought weeks before don’t fit the right way when they come out of the dryer.  Or that stupid sock or purse collection you have because that’s all that “fits” when shopping at the mall.  Simply, I create my own hurricane.  Seeking the silence of the eye, only makes the storm wider, more fierce.

My awesome husband is off galavanting the US to make sure you have satellites for communications (cell phones, facebook, etc) and that the folks on the ISS get what they need.  He was dancing between NYC and Boston and will be in DC tonight.  I will be glad to have him home.  Since he was gone, I decided to take myself out to dinner.  Yes, because it’s fun and easy to eat out, but also because if I came home there is a metric ton of stuff I have to do.  I would never have gotten 75% of my assignment reading done (Food Safety, and germy things.  Makes my heart flutter!).  I ordered wine with dinner, not an oddity in VA as the whole state is slog full of wineries.  And finished off with chocolate cake.

And it hit me.  I  AM the girl drinking wine and eating chocolate cake.  I AM the girl drinking one (large-ish, it is VA afterall) glass of wine, and eating ONE slice of cake.  I can be this girl.  This girl of ones.  And I can eat the cake and drink the wine (on occasion), because I am worth it.  I am worth the moment of savoring the wine, experiencing the dark sweetness of the chocolate.  I am so much more than the box of mac’n’cheese (which makes me break out, and completely sucks!) eaten somewhere between TV commercials.  I can be this girl.  Having this moment.  Because this girl, in this moment doesn’t want to be the girl that gets lost in hours of disjointed-mind-tv-slogging-bingeing.  These are my moments.  Good time spent studying, with single simple pleasures…left at the restaurant…never to tempt me in my own house.  Because then I don’t have a craptacular day at work (these have also been occurring), and eat the WHOLE damn chocolate cake.

This is so important because I am worth it.  My time is precious.  I have purpose.  When life chews us up, its sooo important to remember these things.  To not create our own hurricanes.  To be our own moments.  To be our own strength.  Because we are worth it.  We have always been worth it, and will always be worth it.  That is true peace, not the eye of the storm.

Balance (sorry it’s a long one!)

So, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is-warning, this is a long one.

So the first picture is roughly five years ago, so summer of 2011?  We were at a stock show, and I did show western, but had been riding in the hunt saddle because it fit me better than the stock saddle did.  The second image is from a dressage show in October of 2015 (she took first place!).  Like I said before, still not “skinny”, but we are work in progress.

I have had one of those eclectic horse experiences.  My family moved all over the US and what is popular in one corner of the country is bunk in another.  I have ridden western pleasure, western performance (team penning, barrel racing), HUS, hunters, dressage, and even a little bit of saddleseat. I bought the dressage saddle because the stock saddle fit so badly (very small seat) and I felt unbalanced in the hunt saddle–ie, not enough seat to suck all of me in. Also, upon our first foray in NoVA, dressage was the thing at the barn where I boarded and my WP got dirty looks. This was also not a first, and because the horse is amazing, switching to lower level dressage was not going to harm any of our WP training.  Despite the screaming naysayers, lots of this riding thing we do is the same.

I was at my heaviest in 2011.  My whole body balance was terrible, not just in the saddle.  It is a very frustrating and depressing feeling to be trapped in your own body.  It’s not the same as just disliking how you look. Girls are taught to competitively hate their bodies from a young age(1).  The girls in my family were taught that our whole self worth was directly correlated to the look of our bodies.  My gram once told me that it was good that I was smart, because I would never be pretty enough to be married.  (Yeah, thanks Gram.) This is not a pity party, this is to create some comprehension.  I was over my body not being perfect.  After a while you hit a certain point where it all becomes static, and you realize that you have to love you before you can truly love anyone else.  (Does this mean I am never insecure in my body?  Hell, no.  It drives my husband crazy when I complain about my appearance.  It just means that sometimes I have to recognize my priorities again.) The time leading up to that picture was stressful.  In the two years prior somewhere I broke, and my body paid the price for it (hello, disordered stress eating!). I was trapped and stuck in a cycle of continuous dieting and medication circus that went nowhere. I was tired.  I was depressed. And my stupid body couldn’t do the things it did before, and I was wrong. I felt wrong in my own skin.  I kept telling my trainers that my balance was off.  That I felt like I was sitting incorrectly.  I couldn’t get myself right in the saddle, even in the new saddle. My barnmates just thought I was a crappy rider, and I certainly felt like one. The blessing and the curse happened spring of 2013, Tricia contracted Lyme Disease.  Now we were both trapped in our bodies.

At one point stepping forward was impossible for her, nevermind trotting or cantering.  I thought I had lost her, that she was off to be retired at home far away from me.  I railed myself for keeping her-should have sold her-she would have been better off with someone else, someone more capable-maybe she wouldn’t have gotten sick.  The two years between 2013 and 2015 were big ones for both of us.  We were both learning new balance and new ways to move forward.  I was recapturing some of the rider I used to be, and she was getting stronger.  Even with all of the trials over those two years, horse-wise they were a win.

Balance is essential for your health(2). There are 300 muscles that hold you up every day, and tending to those muscles can drastically improve brain function, heart function, and GI function.  Cognitive decline is less in people that have good balance.  As riders we seem to know this.  How can you feel your horse’s balance if you cannot get a handle on your own?  This is what I meant by feeling off or wrong or incorrect.  My balance was off, so my feel was off.  Can a saddle help with this?  Sure.  But will it fix you?  Nope. That muscle strength is something you have to do for yourself.  So go take a walk or a jog if you’re feeling ambitious.  Walking a minimum of 30 minutes each day can drastically improve health and wellbeing(3).

The purpose of all this information?  We are on to the third saddle.  This weekend I had to purchase a Wintec WIDE.  The saddle snob in me is still reeling.  I am trading my Stubben for a Wintec.  Lesigh! The Stubbens (the hunt and the dressage) were too wide when I started this journey.  Both have the largest tree width offered in Stubbens “normal” range of saddles.  Tricia has built up enough topline to fill them out.  I bought the dressage saddle because I needed a 19.5 seat to accommodate me.  This time, the saddle truly is for the horse.

Our past two lessons have been really amazing for me in building confidence in my riding or my ability to get in touch with the rider I used to be.  My trainer has commented on how I can keep my dressage leg, despite being in an AP.  And that I have a feel for the horse and her balance.  These moments help me remember that I can and that I am no longer trapped.  When things are frustrating, those moments help me to remember that I can get where I want to go.  I have the experience, and more importantly, the ability.

So do you.

  1. Ross CC. Why do Women Hate Their Bodies. World of Psychology. via psychcentral. Accessed Nov. 1, 2016
  2. Sousa, Raquel Ferreira de, Gazzola, Juliana Maria, Ganança, Maurício Malavasi, & Paulino, Célia Aparecida. (2011). Correlation between the body balance and functional capacity from elderly with chronic vestibular disorders. Brazilian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology, 77(6), 791-798.
  3. Walking your Steps. Harvard Men’s Healthwatch. via Accessed Nov 1, 2016

These precious moments…

It’s Monday, and I am in my final week of this quarter.  I am behind, and exhausted.  We had a hard weekend.  My very fit, very healthy, very young brother-in-law was hospitalized and diagnosed with advanced stage cancer.  This is not the post I had planned for today.  The hubby and I spent Saturday hunting down an Eleventh Doctor costume for an event we going to attend on  Sunday.  Yes, we are geeks.  No we will not be returning it.  We are geeks, we will find somewhere else to be geeks. But I had hoped to post silly pictures of adults not adulting, at a dress up tea party in Winchester, VA.

Saturday night, he was disgruntled at the time it took to pin down all the pieces and how we ended up in Mananas. Like, whoever wants to go to Manassas? Though they have stepped up the mall quite a bit.  I think I will cherish the silliness of it forever.  It’s the calm before the storm we did not know was coming.  That makes it slightly more precious.  In all the world, I would have never expected my sister-in-law’s teary voice to convey upon us such a mortalizing moment. My birth family lives rather intensely. (Horses, right?That’s just the tip of that iceberg!)  This is not my first brush with cancer.  This is not my first brush with cancer this year.

This is my first brush with someone so young.  He is not just our compatriot, he is our younger brother.

Most likely needless to say, my diet accountability ditched me somewhere along 495. Probably the same place where my lady-like composure flew out the window and my past career in construction showed back up very verbally. I am a stress eater.  The higher the stress, the deeper the Ben & Jerry’s.  It seems funny, but it’s not.  Trips up 495 are going to become a common thing in the next few months and I have to find proper nutrition for the road ahead.  Though my sister-in-law needs this more right now, it is very true that you cannot pour from an empty cup.  Part of my exhaustion is due to the amount of carbs I ate yesterday.  That was obvious after I rode and felt loads better…or maybe that’s just the magic of the ponies.

I cannot promise, but I believe that I will write twice this week.  I really want to tackle the changes in balance I experienced as I gained and lost weight.  I also have exciting, though expensive news regarding Trisha.  She is excelling in her work, mostly because she is an amazing horse.  But this means that her withers and shoulders are growing, and my wide saddle does not fit any longer. I need a wider wide saddle.

Somewhere along 66 or 495 as we wound our way up to Baltimore this weekend,while we talked about family and life, and wild tragedies,  my husband said “all of this is precious.”  Every single breath is precious.  Every moment.  When you hug your family, or kiss your horse, remember that each second is something special. Seize it and hold it close. Be grateful for our blessings.

Outta the shell

Hello World.

Odd that even in writing a blog, the hardest part is where to start.  I am plus-sized, I always have been, as far back as I can remember.  God didn’t create these hips and these ta-tas to be a size 0. I am a plus-sized rider, and while I have been kicking around starting a blog the title of this menagerie came through a conversation I had with a friend a few months back. I have recently relocated back to NoVA from coastal GA. My husband and I seem to yo-yo between the two areas.  I have was having some issues with the presentation of my trainers new program, and was nervous about approaching her about it (that was dumb, because she’s awesome.) During this mini-crisis, I asked my friend about other trainers in the area and who she recommended.  My friend really has a finger on the pulse of what’s-what in the horse industry in NoVA.  She recommends this woman, and I check out the lady’s website.  Her barn is amazing, the pictures are fantastic, and her references and working student experiences makes any girl who read Horse Crazy mags in the 90’s sparkle with anticipation.

My heart immediately plummets.  This woman would never let me on the property, much less on the back of a horse.  So I told my friend that I would look into it, but one of the things I love about my trainer is that she doesn’t demean me for the RWF- riding while fat.  Because in our sport, it’s almost a crime.  Frankly, I am 36 now, and I have zero patience to give trying to fight someone else’s negativity.

I have been planning on writing a blog for several reasons, but the main is accountability.  I have been on a health journey for well over a year now.  It’s been filled with the normal highs and lows, and lots of research and frustration.  I am down 30 lbs from my heaviest, and the direction that journey has pushed me towards includes getting my masters in nutrition. I stayed away from doing so for years-who is going to listen to a fat nutritionist?-but I got over myself (and others, please note above). I am harping this statement accountability because this is not another body positivity blog.  I do not like being fat, and I do not like being sick.  And I was sick, things like “diabetic” and “depressed” floated around in my medical file. There are enough places you can go to get your “I am fabulous” fix.  The very first place should be in your own heart and mind.  I can tell you from experience, you will never get anywhere until you get the fact you’re really kind of special in your own heart and mind. I am still kinda wonderful, even if I don’t want to be fat.  Even if I don’t want to be unhealthy. Calories-in/Calories-out is a MYTH.  So is macro-nutrient restriction.  I am living proof of this.

But, I will broach the body positivity universe this once.  Please think about yourself.  It has taken hundreds of thousands of humans to make you.  You are the culmination of years of love, dedication, and sex.  So don’t ever think you are deficient in the sexy qualifier–you were born that way.  It’s biological.  Your body is a gen n of your family line, by now it’s already built to be a pretty fine system.  If you are finding yourself in a situation, as I was, where your finely honed system is going haywire, don’t hate your body.  It’s the holder of your soul for this space and time, and if it’s misbehaving, there is a reason.  I felt trapped in my body, and I am pretty sure my body felt overwhelmed by me.  We are communicating better now, but there is still a long way to go.  You are welcome to come with me.


Post-script:  I never did visit the farm that my friend suggested.  Who knows?  Maybe they would have been great.  I worked everything out with my trainer, and pony is doing awesome!