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On The Subject Of Weight

Posted by Avishay04, 29 April 2012 · 490 views

So I've been following a few of the threads on HC about a rider's weight/fitness and how that affects a horse. I couldn't find exactly who suggested it, but someone had made an offhand comment about how she would like to see someone look more towards the positive side of this issue, and share what it is that they are doing to help themselves (and their horses) become more fit. This is something that I've been actively engaged in myself, so I thought that I'd take that person's suggestion and share a little bit of what I've been doing.

First, a little background to give some context:

I turned 28 years old this past Friday. I've been riding since I was 4, though not consistently until I was 11. I played basketball from first grade until my junior year of high school, and I spent all of high school and most of college doing shotput, discus, javelin, and hammer, as well as competitive "Olympic" style weight lifting.

I know how to eat right for my body type/energy needs and how to exercise for maximum fitness. However, even when I was doing 300+ crunches and jogging 3-5 miles a day, plus spending time doing sprints, and weight room conditioning, I still had a spare tire. What I didn't know then was that I have a metabolic issue (diabetic, plus some other stuff) that makes weight loss very, very hard for me, and no mater what I do short of surgery, I'm always going to be paunchy around the middle.

To has made my weight struggles worse in recent years is my inability to exercise to the extent I had in the past. Over the last ten years I've had some major injuries - blown tendons in my left ankle, multiple tears in both my rotator cuffs, and permanent nerve damage in my back. As a result, most of my exercise is now less structured. I maintain two small facilities, and about 14-16 horses at any given time. My "home" facility is on five acres and I do most of the maintenance for the property, including mucking (lots, and LOTS of mucking!)

In short - I'm a tall, chunky, physical wreak of a human being. But I'm NOT lazy or inactive, quite the opposite.

But I love my horses, and I love to ride. I want to be the best rider I can be, as well as a good role model for my students. And not insignificantly, I want to look good on a horse and in my show clothes.

The tough part that I struggled with for about two weeks was this: to loose weight one needs to do two things:

1. Move more

2. Eat less

Weight loss isn't rocket science.

What I didn't really know when I started looking into preparing a plan for this new journey to a healthier me was just HOW MUCH LESS I should be eating. I'm not a big eater, and I generally favor the fruits and veggies since I was a vegetarian for 7 years and it just became habit. But I admit a severe weakness for pasta - hey, I'm Italian! - and baked goods (though I've always been careful to limit my sugar intake).

Still, it wasn't until I bought the official Biggest Loser diet book at a discount store and started thumbing through it that I stumbled upon just how few calories I really needed to eat in order to lose weight. According to the book, I should only be taking in about 1,700 calories, which is surprisingly hard to do. So far I've only been moderately successful for the past week, but I know that as I develop new habits, it will become less onerous.

Another shocker: you have to burn 3,500 calories to loose one pound.

For context - an hour walking trail ride only burns 275 calories. An hour of moderate intensity arena work (mostly trot stuff) burns about 700 calories. So for those of us who think that riding is enough to help us actually lose weight - you'd have to ride at a moderate pace for 5 hours to loose one pound. So while riding may help improve muscle tone and keep you active, you probably won't LOSE weight by riding.

What your barn chores burn:
- 1 hour of mucking pens/stalls = 653 calories
- 1 hour of general cleaning at a moderate pace = 378 calories
- 1 hour of gardening/landscaping (such as working on your pasture or fence lines) = 542 calories
-handwalking your horse for an hour at a moderate pace (roughly 3mph) = 378 calories.

(reference: http://www.prohealth.com/weightloss/tools/exercise/calculator1_2.cfm)

I also learned that in order to maximize fat burn, you need to maintain a minimum heart rate, which is 220 - your age. So in my case 220 - 28 = 192. To have a heart rate of 192, I'd have to be really pushing myself, and with my other physical issues, it will be up to my doctor and I just how much of that I can handle without over-stressing my back and ankle.

So with all of this info and a powerful motivation, I'm setting out to lose 40 lbs. Assuming a target of healthy weight loss (about 2 lbs a week) that should take me 5 months. And to keep me on target, I've decided to chronicle my journey towards a me that is going to look better in the saddle, feel better, and be the truly fit rider my horses deserve. Won't you join me?

Products For Horses And Riders - Are We Missing Something?

Posted by Avishay04, 16 April 2012 · 169 views

Recently, an acquaintance of mine who works at a tack store gave me several calendars containing a number of coupons that the store had leftover from a major manufacturer's promotion early this year. Also included was a reply card with the typical request for personal information. But at the bottom of the card was the question: "Do you or your horse have any unmet needs that you would like to see in your horse care products?"

First off, that's good business. Finding out what your customers really want or need not only shows you care about your customers and thus helps to increase brand loyalty, but it also shows that when it comes to product development, the manufacturer knows how to get out in front of consumer trends.

There are a LOT of products on the market for horses and riders. Open any catalog or magazine, or visit any one of the big online retailers specializing in equestrian products, and chances are you'll be nearly overwhelmed by the selection - which is where those reviews often available on retailer's websites can come in handy. Whether you prefer to shop according to price, or brand name/perception of quality, those reviews can help you decide if the product you're looking at is as good a deal as it seems. Though ometimes, even with all the selection, you just can't seem to find the one thing you're looking for that has all the right features, ingredients, sizes, etc. your horse needs.

So to take a cue from the information card - what products do you wish someone would make? What need do you or your horse have that isn't being met?

A True Tale Of Easter In The Er

Posted by Avishay04, 02 April 2012 · 719 views

On the day before Easter, 2008, I headed down to the barn. It was a warm and bright Southern California spring afternoon, and I was looking forward to putting the 11th ride on my rising 4 y/o gelding, Avishay. He was one of the easiest horses I'd ever started, partly because of his sweet nature, and partly because I'd had him since he was only 4 months old, and I'd been able to take my time with his early training and ground work.

Everything was going well, until about 15 minutes into the ride, two ground squirrels rolled into the arena, engaged in an epic squirrelly battle to the death. Blinded to the outside world by the ferocity of their fight, the squirrels tumbled, screeching and scratching into Shay's legs. Terrified, Shay launched forward and bucked like a rodeo bronc the 120 feet to the opposite end of the arena, with me just doing my best to stay on. By the time the bucking stopped I was able to execute a one-rein stop. Unfortunately, when I did so, I didn't realize that I'd torn my right groin muscle during the bucking, and turned him to the left, I simply didn't have enough grip in my right leg to stay on through the initial quick turn into the stop. I flew off, skidding through the dirt like a skipped stone skids along a lake surface.

It took me several long moments to sort myself out, and by the time I made it into a sitting position, my barn owner had come running over to check on me. I made it to my feet, and took off my helmet - it was trashed, and it looked like someone had taken a cheese grater to my forearm. My lower right back and right groin were all one big throbbing pain. But I brushed myself off, put my ruined helmet back on my head, and begged my barn owner to help me remount and lead me around a bit so that I wouldn't loose my nerve. He was against it, but finally relented, and I climbed awkwardly back on from the fence (there was no way I could make it from the mounting block) and walked around for about five minutes before my body was just screaming for me to get off. By that time a few other people had come over to see what had happened, and I waived off a few offers to drive me home or drive me to the hospital. My barn owner offered to put Shay away for me, and I somehow managed to drive home.

My barn owner had called ahead to my house, letting my mom know what had happened. She tried several times to convince me to go to the ER, but as anyone who has ever had a head injury can attest - you become unreasonably stubborn, and I kept refusing, insisting that with some painkillers and a few days' rest, I'd be fine. But after a very uncomfortable night, I woke up bright and early that Easter Morning, not for church, but for a trip to the ER.

The staff at a hospital on a major holiday is decidedly the "B-Team". I arrived around 8 AM, hobbled up to the counter, and handed over my insurance information, before limping my way over to the nearest chair. My mom hovered at my elbow, waiting for me to fall over so she could catch me (and probably squish her, seeing as she's a good 8" shorter than I am)As soon as I levered my aching body into the chair, the lady at the counter called my name. Thinking that it was going to be the shortest wait in my inglorious history of ER visits, I promptly began the struggle back to my feet. Back at the counter, the lady looked at my 23 year old self and asked, "Our database says that the only person with your name is 84. There must be some mistake. Have you ever been treated here before?" When I answered in the negative, the petite gal in scrubs on the other side of the counter giggled, "Good, 'cause you sure don't look like an octogenarian!" as she ran though my information, adding me to the system while my mom filled out paperwork (my writing hand was too swollen for my already horrible handwriting to be even remotely legible, even to people used to reading doctor's notes). Then the receptionist said that I only had a few people ahead of me, and that the wait should only be about 30 min long. Relieved, I went back to my seat and watched Goonies on the TV - a favorite movie of mine, which I remember finding oddly comforting at the time.

By the time my dad had found a parking spot he liked and joined us in the lobby, I couldn't take it anymore. "Please," I told him, "Find someone to give me some drugs." He tried, but was unsuccessful, "They want to see you first," he informed me.

Nearly 45 min later I was ushered into a small room with a jaded nurse. She asked me for all the same information that the receptionist had already been given, took my blood pressure, and directed me to walk down the Hallway Of Pain(TM). This was, at least as I remember it (you'll recall I had a head injury) - the single longest hallway in America. Using the wall for support, I shuffled and moaned down the HOP like a zombie from Shawn of the Dead, comical in my brightly patterned pajamas. My mom asked me if I wanted a wheel chair - hoping I'd say yes and give her the opportunity to inflict payback on me for the time she sprained her ankle and wasn't coordinated enough to manage crutches (My dad and I pushed her, popped wheelies, spun her, and generally did our best to make her motion sick). Of course I declined her generous offer. Still determined to get retribution, my mom walked after me, practically singing, "C'mon! Hop, skip, jump! Dance! You can make it!"

Once in the room, I was told the doctor would be in to see me soon, but first they would have to determine where I was hurt, and to what extent, and take some x-rays. A rather rotund nurse came in shortly after, and when she looked on her clipboard and saw that my accident was horse related, she proceeded to tell me stories about the devil pony she'd had as a child. When she showed me the "pain scale" I quickly pointed to the one right before "DEAD". "Please ma'm," I said, feeling like Oliver Twist, "Can I have some pain meds?"

She nodded and bobbed out of the room, never to return. On her heels came the doctor. He looked me over while I showed him where I was hurt and described the extent of my injuries. When I asked the doctor for pain meds, he only smiled and said, "I need x-rays first." It was then that I decided that this particular hospital was filled with people who seemed to enjoy watching me suffer. I whimpered, and at the evil doctor's prompting, I began the epic trek back down the Hallway of Pain, while my mom wandered off to get a cup of coffee.

Once there, I was greeted by rather plucky guy who looked like a Korean Harry Potter (seriously, he had the exact same hairstyle as Daniel Radcliff did in the movies, and I kept wondering if it was intentionally so). He helped me get on the table, which was ice cold and strongly resembled a morgue slab, and gently tortured me into several excruciating positions as he darted back and forth to the control room, taking at least a dozen x-rays. I've absorbed enough radiation over the years that I'm fairly certain I'm now sterile. That wouldn't have been much in the way of a noteworthy event if it weren't for the fact that Harry, er, the tech, flirted with me the entire time. I tried to be nice and flirt back, but it's very difficult to come up with witty things to say to a guy when you're doubled over in pain and lying in your pajamas on a steel table. Once I was released from the x-ray morgue and the flirty tech, I began my third trip down the H.O.P. to the room I'd been assigned.

By the time I'd arrived, my mom was sipping coffee and talking to a robust, dark skinned man in a suit. He immediately began attacking me with questions - the same questions I'd already answered multiple times already. "I'm not lying!" I bust out. "The answers haven't changed. And doesn't anyone in this hospital TALK to each other? And why won't anyone give me some freaking pain meds?!" I was still standing, because it was too daunting to try and climb back up onto the table.

The suited man smiled, "I'm sorry, this should be the last time. Your doctor is already looking at your x-rays. I'm just here to deal with your insurance. I'm sure they'll give you something for the pain soon."

I felt like strangling someone. Fighting my urge to commit homicide (I'd only fall over trying and end up on a 72 hour hold in the psych ward, anyway), I finished this latest interview, and the suit left. After a few minutes the doctor came in - it was beginning to look like a soap opera set with all of the people coming and going. I think I may have said as much at the time. The doctor informed me that luckily, nothing was broken, and then proceeded to poke, prod, and pull on me, stoutly ignoring my less than ladylike language. I had some good sided lacerations that thankfully didn't require stitches, some nerve damage to my back (which, unfortunately ended up being permanent), a torn right groin muscle (I still can't canter without stirrups because of that one), and a mild concussion (my 7th - don't worry, only 3 of them were horse related, and I was wearing a helmet for two of them).

"Great," I said. "Now how about something stronger than the couple of Advil I took at 6 AM? Or some kind of treatment in general?"

"I can write you a prescription for some Vicodin," devil doctor said. "But we can't fill it here. You'll need to go to CVS or Wallgreens or wherever you usually fill your prescriptions."

If I could have found the strength, I would have pummeled him, the good for nothing *******. My mom thanked him and he made some stupid comment about how it was his pleasure, and I began retracing my steps down the Hallway of Pain once more. As I dragged my living-dead carcass down the corridor, my mom once again asked me if I wanted a wheelchair. Irritated, hurting, and cussing under my breath, I glared daggers at her and simply limped onward. My dearest mother only chirped up, "You know, the only reason I'm torturing you is because you made me spend my Easter holiday in the emergency room, you're more stubborn than that spotted mule you trained, and you're ego is too big to accept help. So go ahead, run! Frolic! Gambol like the nimble nymph you are!" I nearly sighed in defeat, but by that time I was nearly at the door. My dad saw me coming and went to get the car, while I navigated the stairs down to the loading zone. I could have taken the ramp, but it was twice the distance.

With a lot of swearing and moaning like I'd been stabbed (which it felt like I had), I managed to pull myself into the car and handed my dad my prescription. "Drugs. Now," I demanded, reduced to monosyllabic speech. "You got it, kitten. And then, we need milkshakes!" my dad declared. "Milkshakes will make you feel better. Like a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down!"

Exhausted, I could only nod.

And that's the true tale of my Easter in the ER. A story of a girl, her horse, and the sadistic staff of a major hospital on a holiday weekend. But as I look out the window at my lovely Shay, and think back on the great rides he's given me over the years (including the one I just enjoyed before coming in to edit this post) I realize....there's no way in hades that I'm getting on him the day before Easter!

April 2012


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