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Hey!! I love your blog so much, great for my riding questions and stuff. So I've lost a lot of weight (~30 lbs) and I've started to notice that it's taking a toll on my riding and my confidence. I feel weak/tired sometimes. I can't do anything as we as I did a few months ago. I'm really self critical/take things really hard on myself so the past few months have been hell. I need to gain weight and keep myself in shape. Any advice for getting back in shape (and gaining muscle and strength)?

Anonymous

Aw, I’m sorry these past few months have been so hard on you. I’m always here to talk if you want to come off anon or anything :) 

Staying in a healthy weight zone is super important for riding, when you’re controlling a huge animal you need some substance in order to get a response haha! So it’s great that you’re wanting to get to a more healthy point. I kind of feel like I have to ask though…do you think you might have an eating disorder? I don’t mean to be too intrusive or personal, it just seems like all your weight loss was pretty sudden and a difficult experience for you, and if you were to suspect that you are or have been suffering from an eating disorder then I’d recommend trying a therapy of some sort to have a professional help you out as well. I’m so happy to give advice, but talking to a professional in real life could really be more beneficial in that case. 

Whew, sorry for that awkward bit, you seem so nice and I just want to make sure you’re safe! Otherwise, if you want to get in shape and gain a healthy amount of weight I’d suggest first taking a look at your diet- In general, you want a diet based in carbohydrates and proteins, and a regulated fat intake. Carbs are important for energy, but in general for effective energy you want to avoid simple carbs like cookies/candy/highly processed foods (of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have treats now and then…I’m a big believer in dessert rewards haha) and eat foods like whole grains, beans, fruits (bananas in particular are super good to grab right before a ride), and vegetables that give you lasting energy and offer other nutrients. Protein is also something that you need for effective riding, so look for foods that are high in protein- chicken, beans, fish, nuts, dairy products (greek yogurt is a personal favorite), etc. As far as fat goes, it’s more about regulation than elimination- you can cut out a bit, but honestly you need a certain amount of fat in order to function properly, especially as an athlete. Take a look at your caloric intake and make sure it’s up to par (consult a doctor if necessary). As far as exercises go, I made a list a few months ago that includes some of my favorite exercises for riding: http://horsegirlproblems.com/post/64514625883/best-exercises-to-help-strengthen-your-leg-core. When it comes to building muscle and getting in shape, take baby steps- it won’t happen overnight, and you can’t be too hard on yourself. What’s important is that you keep moving forward and keep trying :)

8 hours ago on April 20th, 2014 |J
Hey So a few barn friends and I were talking about galloping, and I jut thought I could get your thoughts. Are you meant to go in two point position or sit deep in the saddle? I don't have an issue with either, just wondering if there was a correct way haha xx

Anonymous

Either is fine, it depends on the circumstances. For a true gallop, it would usually be considered most correct (and most effective) to get into a solid two-point or at least lighten your seat, to help encourage your horse to open up his stride by getting off his back a bit and to keep yourself balanced. You can sit the gallop, especially if you feel more comfortable on your horse with more security (which is what seat contact gives you). However, in all honesty it is pretty uncomfortable for the rider in an english saddle, and does make your horse carry your full weight at a fast pace (not terrible, but not great either). Just my opinion! :)

11 hours ago on April 20th, 2014 |J
Hello! I recently got a Grand Prix horse back in November but she scares me a little. She is not very easy, especially when it is cold. When I showed her in January she started rearing a lot and was sent home. We figured out she was in pain, but was not showing any external lameness. I rode her again for the first time back last week and she was getting really light on her front feet and I kept feeling like she was going to rear. She was good today, but I am still nervous. Any advice? Thanks!

Anonymous

That’s pretty normal, especially if you missed a window of training/getting to know her under saddle because of the injury. Now that she’s back to work, I’d take this time to start getting to know her and getting comfortable riding her (it typically takes at least 6 months to really get close with a horse, so be patient). If she was out for most of the winter and is just coming back now, it’s normal for her to be a little fresh and excited— so just keep in the back of your mind the fact that she should settle more with regular work. When you ride, try to separate the two instances, as the circumstances are totally different (she was in pain then, now she’s healed). Keep a short memory, and only focus on what is going on currently. If her rearing returns as a real problem I’m happy to give advice on that, but for now just try riding her softly but authoritatively so she doesn’t feel too restrained but also knows you’re in charge. Ride actively, remembering to keep the basics of balanced position. Work on keeping her attention on you by mixing up the routine as much as you can by incorporating specific exercises like circling, serpentines, lateral work, extension/collection, etc. Take deep breaths, and just focus on getting synchronized with her rhythm before pushing either of you too much. If you need to, you can even lunge her before you ride as to get out any excess energy and be sure that she’s focused for you, though don’t rely on this too much. Fake your confidence if you have to as well- not only will it fool your horse so she doesn’t take advantage of you, but eventually it will fool your own mind as well, and soon enough that confidence becomes real! Good luck :)

11 hours ago on April 20th, 2014 |J
Hi, I just have a quick suggestion. I know you get a lot of similar questions, have you ever considered making an faq?

Anonymous

That is actually something I’ve thought about before, I’m just torn! I really don’t want to discourage anyone from asking a question, but then again it would help limit repeating answers (hopefully haha). 

Followers, is this something you’d like to see or no?

11 hours ago on April 20th, 2014 |J
Recently, I've switched to a different horse. Her name is Luna, and she's great with ground work and pretty good with jumping, but once you get to the canter she's horrendous. I found out last week that she is actually still being worked with that, and I'm already a beginner canterer. She likes to cut to the inside and stop near instructors, no matter how hard I try to keep her to the outside, and it takes a whole lot to get her into the canter. She barely keeps it for half a minute. //continued

Anonymous

//continued I’m really not all that confident with cantering as is, and I need some tips as to keeping balance in the canter and steering. Also, if you could help me out with keeping her from turning in and stopping at people, I’d really appreciate any ideas you have. (We don’t have any fancy tack for her. Really, the only extra thing I carry is a crop, and is it weird that I don’t like to carry a crop? I don’t need help with it, just want to hear an opinion on that.) Thank you in advance! <3

If you’re not comfortable at the canter yet, you might consider asking your trainer to put you on a different horse for now, until you solidify your foundation a little more and gain more confidence to ride a horse who still needs training. Now, in general, balance comes from a strong core- you want to strengthen your core so that you have the ability to hold your upper body tall and straight and not rely on the horse for balance. A strong leg is also key, because you want to stretch through your calves into your heels so you stay anchored, and a developed seat is important so you have that extra contact point for control and balance. The basics you’ll want to think about when riding are: sinking down into your heels, using your seat (think about “polishing” the saddle), keeping your upper body independent and engaged, and keeping contact with both sides of the horse’s mouth. Those are also the points you want to think about when you want to steer the horse somewhere- yes, you use your reins, but your leg and seat should also be engaged in the process so you turn her entire body and not just her head. 

With the turning in and stopping thing, be firm with her, and don’t let her get away with it- the mindset is most important. Don’t let her get to the point where she falls in and you have to fight to get her back to where you want her. Every lap, focus on going deep into your corners and staying balanced. Think about creating a “wall” with your inside leg pushing her over and both reins keeping her straight (you can’t drop your inside rein or else she’ll just counter-bend her head and not actually use the corner), so that she has no other option but to stay out. Shift your weight slightly to your outside seat bone and put slightly more weight into your outside stirrup so that her balance shifts accordingly. If you ride with a crop or anything, try giving her a tap behind your inside leg to remind him to respond and move over- if you’re experienced enough to use one correctly, riding with a dressage whip can be great so you can give light taps to get her to move his hind end. I also think it will really help you to work on lateral exercises (first at walk/trot, then at the canter) with her so that she responds and bends to your leg, rather than you having to fight with her every lap. Practicing lots of circles is helpful as well to get her responding to your leg- each time she cuts a corner you can turn her in a small circle and make her stay out more, to teach her what you want. And re: not wanting to carry a crop, it’s not too weird! Some people are more comfortable without one. But you’ll get more comfortable with carrying one with time- if your horse needs one, you should continue carrying one :)

22 hours ago on April 20th, 2014 |J
submitted by: thetrailhorse 

submitted by:  

1 day ago on April 19th, 2014 |J
To the rushing anon - I ride a TB who rushes a lot, but since I started riding dressage, I've been able to almost stop it completely. Don't know how "involved" your flat work is, but if you aren't already, be very aware of each stride, even if you're just going around the ring. Make sure the horse's poll isn't too high on the flat and don't start jumping until that's consistent, so he can't hollow and run off. Before switching bits, make sure you're using the yours as effectively as you can.


2 days ago on April 18th, 2014 |J
Anything to help stop a horse from rushing to a jump? We are fine cantering around but as soon as he sees we are approaching a jump he takes off? Should I try I harder bit when I'm jumping? I use a really soft bit now.

Anonymous

I would practice a ton of gymnastic exercises. I’ve found they really help get your eye back so finding distances is easier and they’re good for horses who like to rush and over-think. Really, even setting a ground pole out in front of a jump helps teach the horse to collect and not charge at the fence, and it helps you see where you’re going to take off.  Also, halts/half-halts are your friend! Half-halt gently coming to the fence, and If you’re heading to the jump and he drags you over the fence, halt him in a straight line and hold it until he seems like he’s listening, to back him off the jump a little. Use your seat to settle him down, and keep contact with both sides of his mouth. Also, lots of circles before and after the jump will help keep his mind busy so that he doesn’t think about running through your hand and you slow him down at the same time. For now, do your best not to let him leap from the long distance- even if the alternative is a chip or pop jump, it’s better for now than letting him take over…he’ll learn quickly that if he doesn’t listen to your hand, it’ll only make things harder for himself. I’d also make sure you’ve warmed up with a lot of flatwork before you start to jump, to make sure he’s warmed up and focused. 

I wouldn’t necessarily jump right to putting a harsher bit on him if he otherwise goes well in what he’s in now, though that’s certainly an option. Try some of these exercises and techniques, and try to work on training him out of the habit first. However, if you feel like he’s training you and you need a little extra leverage, you can play around with bits and put a slightly harsher bit on him for now. 

2 days ago on April 18th, 2014 |J
submitted by: anon

submitted by: anon

2 days ago on April 18th, 2014 |J
Hey, not sure if you remember me but I asked a while ago about being scared to gallop and I've missed the answer:( you probably won't remember me but if you do can you please post the answer again? I understand if you can't x P.S. I am addicted to your account. Your answers are always so intelligent and wise:)

Anonymous

Thank you! I do think I remember you- unfortunately I believe I deleted my answer to your question after it had been up for a few days, so I don’t remember the specifics of it. But let me try to give some general advice about galloping: 

A gallop can be scary to think about, but honestly it’s just a gait change- all you’re doing is asking your horse to open up his stride and increase his speed a bit. If you’re solid in the canter, you can handle a gallop, especially if you keep it nice and controlled at first. Start at a nice canter, and once you feel comfortable you can ask for a gallop. When you go to gallop, take deep breaths and settle into your horse’s stride before you ask for the gait change, staying tall and engaged with your core and anchored in your heels- that way even if you still have nerves over galloping, your horse still feels support coming from your body. Sit deep in the saddle so you’re locked in, and maintain control over the reins while keeping your hands soft to allow your horse some freedom. Count your horse’s strides if you want, just to settle into a good rhythm and also give your mind something else to think about. Fake your confidence if you have to- not only will it fool your horse, but eventually it will fool your own mind as well, and soon enough that “faked” confidence becomes real. After a few times a gallop will feel like no big deal, you just have to take that first leap. Good luck<3

2 days ago on April 18th, 2014 |J
I just purchased the IRH Switch DFS helmet and it's a bit snug on the sides of my head-- not the back, front, or the top. I ordered a medium, which is what I wear (and I prefer the IRH because it fits my head the best), but this surprised me because it seems too small. Is this normal? My friend who buys Charles Owen helmets says hers are usually snug, but I find this almost uncomfortable.

Anonymous

Hm, it’s a bit difficult to say without seeing the helmet on you. The fit of the front/back is most important- wiggle the visor part of the helmet up and down, and make sure that the skin of your forehead is moving with it while the rest of the helmet stays in place. If the entire helmet moves a lot, it’s too big. If the skin of your forehead doesn’t move and is pinched in place, it’s too small. Generally the sides of the helmet will flatten and expand to give you a little more room with time (it kinda molds to your head), just due to constant use and a little sweating in the area. However, it shouldn’t be uncomfortable to begin with, that’s kind of a red flag. Does that helmet only come in small, medium and large, or can you tweak the sizing more (e.g. if you had a size 6 7/8, get a size 7)? Only because I worry that moving up to a large would be a greater leap in sizing and might mess up the fit in the front/back. Is there a tack shop near you that you can go try on helmets at, to get some more options and get your size figure out? That might be the best way to go, so you can be sure in the fit and comfort before you purchase anything.

2 days ago on April 18th, 2014 |J
To the person who uses their heels instead of calves to urge the horse, I used to have the exact same problem and one thing that helped me massively was riding with no stirrups. It's obviously good for strengthening, but seriously improves your eq with the purpose of making your leg more efficient! It made me put my leg in the slightly more forward and correct position that made goosing with my heels more difficult and having the correct parts of my leg in contact. Try a lap or two every ride :)


^^^

3 days ago on April 17th, 2014 |J