Good horsemanship is built on solid basics…so is good business!
I'd like you to meet Patti Bartsch, Ph.D, a colleague and friend of mine. She has developed unique resources that help you to be the best you possible, for yourself, your horse and your horse business. Patti is the owner of Naturally Unbridled Holistic Life & Wellness Coaching for Equestrians. She is the author of two books including “7 Steps to a Naturally Unbridled Life” and “100 Days, 100 Ways to a Happier Healthier Life”. Dr. Bartsch also created a home-study program called “6 Weeks to Show Ring Success” where equestrians, regardless of whether or not they compete, can learn to become balanced and as healthy as a horse! She works with clients via telephone, Skype, and email. Visit her website at www.NaturallyUnbridled.com to take her free quiz and to download the “Heal Naturally” chapter from her latest book.
“Ridden hard and put away wet!” This timeless expression brings to mind an image of a horse that worked rigorously and was not properly cared for. You can envision the animal galloping along, doing her job, breathing heavily and working into a lather; then not getting the care that she needs and deserves: hair ruffled, breathing hard, exhausted. You know, kind of like many Equestrians who work hard to take care of their horses, their families, their homes, and their work and when it comes to caring for themselves… well, they’re “put away wet”.
Have you ever taken the time to consider what effects this behavior has on your life, your relationships, and the quality of your work? What would happen if you cared for your horses in this manner? They would certainly not look their best. Their performance would suffer. Perhaps they would misread cues from the rider. Maybe they would misjudge the distance to an obstacle. They likely wouldn’t feel well and they might start to pick up some bad habits to try to reduce their stress level. Cribbing and weaving come to mind – the horse’s version of wine and coffee. As an Equestrian, you know what it takes for a horse to perform to the best of her ability. She needs optimal feed, optimal rest, optimal work and optimal care. So do you.
Make comparisons between what you do to ensure your horses are in top condition to what you do in your own life. Your horses get top-quality feed and supplements? What do you eat in a typical day? Are you taking any vitamin or herbal supplements? Your horse has a regular exercise schedule. Aside from cleaning stalls and riding horses; what other exercise to you get and how often? If your horse has an injury, you care for it to the best of your ability, often hiring equine health professionals to support their healing. How long have you been dealing with those aches and pains? Have you been to the chiropractor lately? When was the last time that you had a massage? It’s really quite simple; apply the knowledge you have about keeping a horse in top physical, mental, and emotional health and apply those same concepts to yourself.
Eat like a horse! The area where most equestrians cut corners is in their nutrition. Fast food, processed food, and junk food comprise the average diet of many equine enthusiasts. Most of what they eat is beige, full of artificial ingredients, and lacks in everything but calories. Think of it like feeding your horses the brownest, coarsest hay you could find and topping it off with sugar cubes. It will fill them up and keep them alive (maybe) but they certainly could not perform to their potential. It’s just as easy to grab an apple, some baby carrots, and some nuts as it is to grab a bag of potato chips and some cookies. Raw, unsalted nuts are a tremendously healthy snack with a wide variety of nutrients and enough energy to keep you going. Consider making a switch from coffee and soft drinks to water which will actually provide you with more energy by both hydrating and detoxifying your cells. Making good nutrition choices will help you to perform at the top of your game so that both you and your horses will be in peak form.
Are you a candidate for “Monday Morning Sickness”? Draft horses often became ill on Monday mornings because they worked tirelessly all week and took Sunday off without proper adjustments to their management. Lots of equestrians would never have this issue because if they do take a day off, they spend it doing millions of other things and not actually resting. Beyond nutrition, rejuvenation is another area where Equestrians short-change themselves. Long hours, long days, long weeks and long seasons lead to short rest and recuperation for the equine enthusiast. Again, when you relate it to horses, it makes a lot of sense. When you ship horses a significant distance to a competition, do you ship them through the night and then compete the next day? No, you give them a day of rest and then at least a day of light work before they need to perform. Do you ask them to perform at their highest level every single day or do they have days where they are hand-walked or just work on fitness? You know that rest is important and not just for the horses. Your body rebuilds itself during deep sleep when hormones are produced to construct, repair and replace cells and tissues. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not repairing and eventually something will break. It is just as important to schedule rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation time into your life as it is riding lessons, farrier visits, and vet appointments. Rest and laughter are instrumental in maintaining optimal health.
Equestrians are some of the hardest working people I know. We are excellent multi-taskers and are never short on things to do. The time commitment to participate in equestrian sports is substantial, and when you combine that with the rigors of daily life, it can be a bit intense. Remember, the horse is only half of the equation. In order for the horse and rider team to perform to their highest potential, both partners must be in balance: body, mind, and spirit. Ask yourself: Are you as healthy as your horses? If you know what it takes to get a horse to be in ideal health, you can apply the same concepts to yourself. When you achieve optimal health in body, mind and spirit, all areas of your life improve. What will you do for yourself today? Be well… ride well.