Monday, August 27, 2012

Rider Fitness: Week 1 - Accountability Challenge

Today is the official start of the 5 Week Accountability Challenge! The challenge is open to anyone - get all the details here on what's involved!

Time to send me your 5-week diet and exercise plan as well as your reward for yourself. My email is SarahERune "at" or you can post in the comments. Remember, make it challenging (it's called a challenge for a reason!) but also something you can realistically do for 5 weeks. No sense in setting yourself up for failure and guilt.

ryan gosling hey girl - Hey girl you can do this

Week 1 Bonus Challenge
Your extra mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do a type of exercise that you don't do regularly at least once this week. You can add this to your exercise plan, or sub it for a workout. Youtube has tons of random workout videos. Local exercise establishments often do a "free" sample workout (I recently tried out Kenpo karate from a self defense studio). Here's some ideas:
  • Swimming
  • Zumba
  • Roller Blading
  • Yoga
  • CoreFit
  • Martial Arts
  • Hula Hoop
  • Cartwheels/Handstands
  • Monkeybars at the playground
  • Dancing

Okay, here is my plan so you can help keep me accountable.

Diet:  Follow South Beach Diet, Phase 2, for at least 6 days a week.
Exercise:  In addition to riding, exercise at least 4 days week for at least 15 minutes.
Reward:  A Jimmy Wofford book.

From a lifetime of dieting with both successes and setbacks, I have a few strategies I plan on using to help me follow this plan for a solid 5 weeks. I plan on weighing myself several times a week, as this helps keep me focused. I'll be writing all food and exercise down in my journal, and planning out my food 2 days in advance wherever possible. I am creating a list of "allowed" fast food meals, because convenience (and lack of time for cooking every night) has been my downfall in the past, especially when driving home hungry after a ride. Healthy take-out restaurants are getting programmed into my phone.

GOOD LUCK to everyone who is joining me on this challenge!  And when you're tempted to grab that doughnut from the office break-room, just think of...

Eventing Armband
Fancy Bookmark*
*Note: actual bookmarks will attempt to be fancier than the clipart pictured.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Schooling at Castle Rock

Yesterday we trailered down to the road to the beautiful Castle Rock Farms in Moorpark for a schooling, courtesy of Lisa Hall Eventing. While Lisa was hospitalized recently from a riding injury, Laurie helped out with training. I'm lucky to be reaping the benefits of my trainer's kindness. =)

It's a lovely facility, and one of the rings has some cross country elements such as banks, water, and ditches. That is where we played on Saturday.

Photo from:

This was Bohemian's first time at this facility, and he was a rockstar. He was calm and willing, but clearly having fun too. We had a tiny bit of hesitation of going into the water the first time, but soon were able to trot and canter through and up and down the small banks into the pond. We did a small ditch, and of course jumped around the jumps - including very interesting looking ones different from what we have at our facility. I was very proud of my horse and happy with the whole outing.

Afterwards I delivered my entries for the September 16th Meadows of Moorpark derby. We are going to do two jumping divisions (intro BN and easy BN), but no dressage.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rider Fitness: Accountability Challenge

It's nice to discover you're not the only equestrienne who wants to look and feel healthier. Birds of a feather...misery loves company...or some such. Thanks to everyone who commented on my rider fitness post where I decided to come clean with my need to get more fit and drop some flab. To all who are in the same boat, I have devised a plan. I welcome you to join me.

Allow me to present the 5 Week Accountability Challenge. Here is how it will work:

(A) Pick or create a diet and exercise plan that you will follow for 5 weeks.
(B) Select a reward you will give yourself should you complete all 5 weeks of staying "on plan."
(C) There will also be a weekly bonus challenge that I will think up.
(D) Email the plan and reward to me, or post it in comments if you're okay sharing with others. Keep me updated at least once per week. Also you are holding me accountable as well.

The challenge officially starts this coming Monday August 27th. So grab that last doughnut and savor every morsel while you think about a system you can follow for 5 weeks.

All people who follow their diet and exercise plan for all 5 weeks and who complete all 5 of the weekly bonus challenges will receive a prize:
That's right, an eventing medical armband. I'll even print the USEA medical insert on your choice of colored paper. If  you're not an eventer or don't want an armband, I will print you a custom bookmark for your horsie reading. Consider it the cherry on top of your own reward (though I'm sure you're quivering with delight at the thought of having this fancy plastic to strap to your arm.)

Now, for the accountability part. I promise to reply to every comment and email I receive so we can hold each other accountable for sticking to our plans. Post or email as often as you like, but at least once per week to check in and let me know how it's going with your plan.

Remember, pick or create a plan that you can actually stick to for 5 weeks. It can be as simple as "no soda" or as complex as an Atkins/Eat.Stop.Eat/Paleo combo. With this particular challenge, the reward comes not from dropping lbs or going down a breeches size, but is for sticking to your plan: you're rewarding behavior, not results. We are establishing healthy habits here.

Why 5 weeks, you ask? Because 4 sounded short and 6 sounded long.

PS - I bought the medical armbands in bulk and sell them for $6 each, so even if you don't get through the challenge but you want an armband, let me know and I'd be happy to sell you some. Free shipping.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Rider Fitness

Readers, I have a confession. The only photos I post on this blog or on my facebook page or anywhere have been carefully screened by yours truly so that I am presented in as flattering a way as possible. To get a more realistic idea of what I look like, take those photos and mentally add 10 pounds (9 lbs of fat, 1 lb of dirt I always seem to get covered in at the barn).

Having bounced between overweight to "could stand to lose a few" throughout my life, fitness and physique have always been a hot topic for me. I've been on diets and exercise programs galore. But I've always felt generally healthy and fit, and prided myself on my horse riding muscles (you know, like when your husband playfully slaps your derriere then goes "ouch" and shakes his hand).

I've decided that I'm not satisfied with my current level of physical fitness, nor with my appearance. I'd like to increase my strength and stamina, look better in breeches, and improve my body alignment/posture especially in my hips. If anyone would like to join me, I'd love to have a fellow equestrian motivation buddy! I'm ruminating on exactly how I'm going to reach my goals, but I'll report back next week on this topic. In the meantime, I'm gonna go refill my water... 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

2nd show - Mission Accomplished

I've got a silly grin on my face, and I think it's gonna take a few days to wear off. Our 2nd show went absolutely FABULOUS!!!

Goal #1 for Bohemian and I to have a good time - check! Goal #2 for me to *not* fall off - check!

We did 3 cross-rail classes, then we had to leave before we could try our hand at the 2' division, so that Laurie could take another gal from the barn to her dressage show. We did a non-judged schooling round, a hunter round (which we got disqualified from because I had splint boots on Hemie - oops!), and an equitation round (I didn't place, but I was competing against 8-year-olds on their push button warmbloods =P ). Our first ribbon still eludes us, but I'm in no hurry.

Okay, here's the photos:
Lovely facility, nestled in the Santa Paula valley just east of Ventura.

Clearly I need to work on my facial expression while jumping. But Hemie looks great!

One of the Strad Farms chipmunks!

I know I am biased but...OMG my husband and my horse look SO GOOD! Like male models! <3
Now for the exciting video...of crossrails. I'm sure it will be up there on your YouTube list with the Rolex and Olympics vids. Woo.  ;)  You can watch below, or there's a link. If you go to YouTube, click the "cog" on the bottom of the video towards the right, and increase quality to maximum. Video was taken with good resolution. =]

Or visit:

I don't care that these jumps were tiny - I'm so proud of us. We got through 3 rounds (we didn't do any warm-up jumping before the schooling round, as the jumps were not set up yet in the warm-up ring!). We had no refusals, no meltdowns, minimal squirming and stickiness, and each round improved upon the last. Hemie was totally calm the entire time, including lots of standing around and waiting.

Thank you so much to J.D. for taking the amazing photos and for all your help and support today! Thanks to my amazing husband, Rick, for coming out to watch and for taking the video. Thanks to Laurie, our amazing trainer, and thanks to Laura for being a super fun show partner - you and Pascal looked great! Also thanks to Mike Levy and Steve Cross for putting on a good show (each one improves greatly over the last). The facility's website is:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Last Minute Entry for 2nd Show

Tomorrow Hemie and I are headed back to Stradivarius Farms in Santa Paula - the scene of the crime of our 1st show - to give it another go and hopefully have a blast. Its kinda last minute, as other gals from the barn are going to a dressage show at a different facility, and since Laurie can't be in two places at once I just assumed that I wasn't going to be able to participate tomorrow.

Sometimes its fabulous to be wrong. =)

We've had very positive rides since our first show 4 weeks ago, including a fabulous first real XC school the following weekend. He hasn't had any meltdowns, and now gets straight and un-stuck much faster. In other words, his issues are showing up much less dramatically, and less frequently as well.

My goal for our 2nd show is the same as the one for our 1st: for both Hemie and I to both have a good time.

In my heart of hearts, an additional goal of mine is to not fall off.  ;]

So how can my trainer be in two places at once, you ask? Well, that's not all that clear right now, actually. She's hauling myself and another gal to Strad, then leaving to attend the dressage tests (possibly warm up) of the other gals, then heading back. Dressage tests are assigned specific ride times, but hunter/jumper shows just go in class order and it depends on the number of riders, so there is really no way to time it. Laurie said to me today that hopefully she'll make it back in time to be there for me, but that she was confident I would do okay on my own without her if not.

I'm not quite as confident. Not confident at all really.

Oh well, no sense in worrying about it too much. Either she's back in time or she isn't - either I'll feel confident in that moment or I wont. If not, I won't risk jeopardizing my goal of having a fun time. Should Laurie not make it back and should I not feel confident enough to enter without her (we're talking cross-rails here), I'll wait for her to get back and then we'll just play in the warm up arena. That's the Plan B.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Advice from a Bunny

For those who haven't yet checked out Horse Nation, the time has come. It's a compilation of entertaining horse-related randomness, mostly humorous in nature. Leslie Wylie is the HN editor-in-chief, and her Southern sarcasm is all over the site. I'm pretty sure she gets paid to scour the internet for every funny horse-related news story, YouTube video, meme, etc, that's out there. Her personal blog was one of my favs, though it unfortunately has gone dark since HN premiered.

Anyway, in a recently-debuted monthly column on HN called Fit to Ride: Ask a Rabbit, yours truly submitted a question for cute little Pi to consider, and she graciously used my question for her first response post!
Pi, the advice-giving bunny of Horse Nation's Fit to Ride column.
Photo from
I asked how riders should change their diet and exercise before and during a show to keep their energy up and ensure their well-being. 

In a nutshell, cute bunny recommends:

In regards to exercise, for one week before the show you should continue to exercise but do a "lighter" than normal version of your workout, and also to cut out your workout all together for 1-2 days before a show, in order to let your body heal itself from the stresses of exercise.

As to diet, bunny recommends that for the week before the show and during the show, that we graze all day on many snacks and mini-meals instead of a more typical 3-meal-a-day routine. This promotes a better metabolism and ongoing energy rather than highs and lows. Pi lists some great whole foods to have at shows to achieve this.

Now, this advice makes perfectly good sense to me. But as I look back on what I normally do before shows, I realize that I pretty much to the opposite. Oftentimes I will:

  • Not reduce my exercise the week of the show, with the idea that I want my stamina as high as possible.
  • Spend more energy than normal the day or two before the show, usually putting in an extra ride or two, and doing errands, packing, and running around like a crazy person preparing. Kinda defeats the purpose of a day or two of rest.
  • The week of a show I don't change my normal diet routine at all. In fact, if anything, I probably eat less-healthy-than-normal by having more take-out and fast-food in between all the errands and packing and extra rides after work. 
  • For the show cooler, I typically stock up on Cliff bars and breakfast shakes and call it a day (for one-day shows). For overnight shows I put in much more effort, cooking veggies, hard-boiled eggs, pesto pasta salad, and white bean muffins, etc. 
  • On show days, breakfast is normally on-the-go, and I do snack a bit in lieu of an actual lunch, but I'll have large dinners with friends and fellow riders. Mexican food never tastes as good as it does after a long day of cross country!  

Interesting to think about how my habits directly contradict sound, rational advice from a cute bunny. Good thing I asked the question, huh?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Catch Up Post with Videos (XC school!!!)

Oh my, oh my! It's been almost two weeks since my last post - what a blog slacker I've been! Just the normal excuses: 10+ hour days at work, house shopping, et cetera. So here's a catch-up post to bring us up to speed and back on track.

Trail Rides
To build Hemie's confidence in different settings, we've been going on at least one trail ride a week. We have one main trail "loop" that takes about 25 minutes. We've done it a few times in both directions, and have even incorporated controlled trot and canter sets. Hemie is very willing to stretch out, but also very respectful when I ask him to come back. <3 Such a sweet boy.
Canter hill through the lemon groves.

Trot track on the top hill.

XC Schooling
August 5th (only 1 week after our first show) Hemie and I did our first official cross country schooling. It went FABULOUS!!! I was so pleased - most importantly, we both had fun. As a bonus, he learned a lot and the experience helped us grow together as a pair (building trust, improving communication, etc). Here's some video (thanks, hubbykins!).

 Look out for special moments:
1:25 - Giant Log!
1:28 - First down bank.
2:02 - Drifting issue (getting better addressed at 2:28)
3:00 - Getting stuck issue (it gets worked on at 3:30)
4:13 - First ditch.
4:27 - Hemie stepping hind leg down into ditch. =P

Can you tell that Hemie really thinks we should canter rather than trot all the jumps? I'm still balancing trying to get him to trot but not getting in his way right before the jump.

Also, here's some photos:

My fabulous trainer, Laurie Canty, riding her horse Elton in this shot.

Warm-up jump.

Our first solid jump. We walked over it. Good confidence-builder. ;)

Hemie is becoming a pro with water.
Flat Lesson 
A week later, we had our first real flat lesson. It still was in a jump saddle, but the lesson took place in the dressage arena and focused on connection, straightness in his hips, and rhythm. Hemie was surprisingly happy and willing (he normally perks up when we jump - but was fine without). Laurie gave me a light-bulb moment: Hemie shied away from something, and I instantly moved him back towards that area with leg, but Hemie resisted. So Laurie had me immediately turn and then repeat the school of moving off the leg about 10 meters away. That separated the concept of moving off the leg from the scary object. After working on the school a few times, it was much more useful in getting him back towards the shy-point.

Saddle Check
After the flat lesson we checked the fit of the jump saddle. Up to this point, I've been using a regular pad plus a sheepskin half-pad as my saddle is wide and Hemie was skinny. Well, he's not as skinny anymore, and I've been feeling that my saddle was no longer fitting well. We took out the half-pad and its setting better on him. He has surprisingly large shoulder blades. We also tried on my dressage saddle, and it seems to fit him very well right now. He still needs to gain some weight, so both saddles will need to be reevaluated again once he's at his goal physique. But for now, no sheepskin, and the saddles are okay.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Show Follow Up

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who shared encouraging words and sent me happy healing vibes - much, much appreciated. 

Last night I had my first lesson following the show. Hemie was a good boy - very willing and sweet. Laurie instructed me to engage him more actively sooner after I get on (normally I spend several minutes just cruising around, getting myself all situated). We also worked on keeping his hips to the right when tracking right, since he tends to bulge left. I focused a lot on keeping my lower leg more engaged, and I think its improving. We also worked on my recuperation after fences - I tend to take too long to sit up and actively ride after landing.

After the lesson, I briefly chatted with Laurie about the show, to see how her thoughts had settled a few days afterwards. I was surprised to find out that she did not think Hemie's freak out was due to jumping fences he hadn't inspected first (at home we allowed him to circle and get a big 'ol eyeful of jumps before asking him to go over). She thought he just got overwhelmed by the whole situation - lots of people, lots of horses, feeling "on the spot" perhaps. She said that the real issue was not his squiggly fences, but the stalling out and getting stuck in between them. Most importantly, she confirmed that the base issue is his confidence level.

She suggested we go on more trail rides (something I had already thought of, but glad she suggested as well), and we have a schooling planned for this Sunday at the Meadows. More exposure and confidently getting him through these situations will help him. Meanwhile, I'm gonna be doing homework on confidence-building in OTTBs - other suggestions, anyone?

Here's some more photos from Saturday. Just look at the backdrop - I love Ventura County.

Myself riding in the hunter ring.

Laurie riding in the jumper ring.

Thanks to J.D. for the photos (and thanks to hubbie for yesterday's photos)!