Don't Forget to Take Care of Yourself
Many of us equestrian athletes spend day in and day out at the barn or the show taking care of our most prized possessions, our horses. They get the best in nutrition, exercise, care and gear, in order to make sure they are really living their best life. As an athlete in a physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding sport, we have to remember that we are a team with our horse. Our horse also wants us to be taking care of ourselves and our mental health in order to compete or ride at our very best. So, what about us? I will be talking about what we can do for ourselves in order to keep us in peak condition just like our equine teammates!
I started riding when I was 4 years old and now 21 years later I have done nothing short of going the extra mile when it comes to being an equestrian. I have my own equine sales business called Headwaters Equestrian, I have my Bachelors in Equine Science from Colorado State, I have worked in western disciplines, I have worked in the english disciplines, jumpers, equitation, hunters, you name it I’ve probably done it. I have been competing for years and I have really found that, while my horses are getting the absolute best care possible, it is just as important to make sure I am just as prepared and happy as they are. To continue, I will share some of my “equestrian self care tips” that have helped me over the years.
Ok, so, we all know and love our “Fit Equestrian” slogan, “Trust me. It’s a Sport” right? It’s great to be able to explain to people how we equestrians fit into the word “sport” or “sports activity.” With this being said, being in top form in order to compete and ride well starts with our mental sanity! Many of you have probably heard the quote, “The game is 90% mental and 10% physical.” This, in my belief, is extremely true. I’m sure every one of us has had days where we have thought “this class isn’t going to go well because of x, y, or z.” or even something as simple as “I’m really nervous about jumping this course or going into this flat class.” I know these have been said, because I would say them to myself. I recently decided to do something for myself that I was extremely hesitant to do in the first place and it turns out, it’s what I’ve been missing for a while. I started working with an Equestrian Sports Psychologist. Woah! Oh my gosh! You’re talking to a shrink! Everyone watch out!! I’d never do that! That’s what you’re probably thinking right? I did. At first. Now I can’t believe I waited so long. This has helped me in more ways than I could have imagined by turning everything around into a positive! Turning those show nerves into an unbeatable self confidence boost! Putting your focus all in the right directions.
Now, I’m not saying everyone needs to go and do this for themselves but, keeping your mind sharp at all times while we are riding our beloved beasts is always important. So if you have nerves or doubts or concerns, speak them! Find someone you trust to talk to, whether that's your trainer, parents, siblings, other family members, a support group, friends, etc. about the things that are bothering you. It NEVER hurts to ask for help. Please take that into consideration, plain and simple. NEVER! Ok now that I’ve driven that point home, other ways to get your mind right;
- Meditation/Yoga → Resting your mind and body, this can be done in simple yoga classes, that not only help you control your body but also have more control over your mindset per focus and breathing.
- Music → You can’t tell me you’re not going to be in a great mood after you’ve listened and belted out your favorite tune. Remember as Beyonce says “You ain’t never seen a fire like the one imma cause.” And that should be your mindset!
- Reading or Coloring → Ok have you guys seen these super intricate coloring books they make nowadays?? Sheesh, I’ll tell you at 25, I still enjoy coloring (no shame) and reading a genuinely great book? Both of these are great options to get your mind on something simple and unclouded, unlike the devices we all have strapped to our faces 24/7. Putting that down for a few minutes and doing something to engage your brain in other ways is extremely helpful
- Your horse → I know this seems pretty self explanatory, but I think a lot of us can forget the little moments with our horses that mean the most. Taking the extra time to give them a luxurious bath or taking extra grooming time, or taking selfies with your horse will help you gain an extra bond with your creature which is always a plus because you guys have to be a team right? These extra little moments can be so helpful mentally. You can’t be in a bad mood when you’re trying to give your horse a shampoo mohawk, you just can’t!
Now that I have thoroughly beaten that topic to a pulp, even though I could keep going. I am going to talk about what you can do for your body on our self care journey. It's all about taking small steps, so here are some things you can get started with.
The great thing about being a part of “The Fit Equestrian” nation, you already have the ultimate tips and tricks to be a fit equestrian! The key is utilizing what you have in front of you. I will be the first to say that after a long day at the barn the last thing I want to do is continue to be active and eat healthy. In a perfect world I’d sit my butt on the couch and skim Instagram or some social media site that would take my attention for hours, eating some sort of sweet, because I have a wicked sweet tooth! But, we all know that’s not the way to be an athlete. Of course there are cheat days and I’m not saying don’t ever just sit around eating junk, there has to be a balance. Your body is a temple and we want to treat it as such! So we know how to eat healthy with our TFE “healthy eating guides” and we know how to work out with our work out guides as well, but what about after that? The DMS or delayed muscle soreness is a real thing folks, feeling great during the exercise or ride is an awesome feeling but then, the next day comes and you can barely move because you are sore from your workout or weekend of showing! Most of us can thank Mondays for a day off of riding and physical work! So what can you do to take care of your body after you’ve beaten it up all week? Here are some of the things I have found extremely helpful to keep my body moving and feeling great after a long week!
- Sleeping in → It is so so glorious to not have to set an alarm for the next morning! Whatever day you have off, i.e. Monday, let yourself sleep in a bit (don’t sleep the day away) This for me always acts as a body and mind reset, getting extra sleep will set you up great for the week ahead.
- Don’t stay up late → You have a show tomorrow or a hard lesson, don’t stay up watching The Office all night ok? We all know we’re going to wake up wishing we hadn’t done so because then we have no energy for the day. Getting to bed at a decent time before an event is SO important to set your body up for success to give yourself enough energy to conquer the day
- Get a massage → This is one of my favorites to do on a Monday or day off, you’ve worked your body to the core, it’s time to relax and get the knots out and let your body have a reset so you can be flexible and loose so your ready for whatever workouts or rides you have set for the week ahead.
- Get yourself a chiropractor → I know this can always be a hit or miss for some people but if you’ve ever had chiropractor work done you know how amazing you can feel after an appointment! If you haven’t, I get it, but you should try it with a trusted chiro. We can get so out of joint because of all the things we do when we ride. It’s obviously not natural for our bodies to fold in half, in a seated position over and over like 12 times all the while taking the concussive blasts on our legs when we land off of jumps. So it's important that we keep our bodies aligned so that we perform well. Getting adjusted also helps with our overall form in the saddle, you are able to stretch up through your back better, stretch down in your leg better and keep your head up high! All things I’m sure you hear daily from your trainer.
- Stretch → I’m going to be my own worst critic and say I personally do not do enough stretching but I can tell you it is really helpful if you don’t get messages or get adjusted. With simple stretches you sometimes don’t even need the previous! Taking a few minutes in the morning or evening after a tough work out or ride is helpful for your muscles to grow and not get balled up into knots. It allows you to be flexible in and out of the tack.
Again I can go on and on about all the things you can do for your body to ensure you are feeling great, however there is one more point I would like to touch on and that is take some “you” time.
Throughout this post, I have touched on how to get your mind and body right, now I would like to touch on one last subject that is just as important. Yourself as a whole. When we take a break from our work outs or from riding we have to also take that time and enjoy ourselves. These are the little things that can mean a whole lot in the end. Do what makes you the happiest, other than riding your favorite horse of course. I think it is important to have something other than riding or working out that makes you happy! A hobby or a craft type deal. If you don’t really have one, learn one! Learn a new language, learn photography, learn an instrument or underwater basket weaving! If this isn’t something that strikes your fancy, then bottom line is just do something for yourself. Get your nails done, go to the beach, go on a vacation in general, pick a favorite eating spot and go once a week, cue watching The Office (if thats what makes you happy!) the possibilities are endless! What I am getting at here with this segment is, whether horses are your job or your sport, we have to take a break for a minute to enjoy the outside world. It’s important for your body and your mind to take a step outside of the hustle and bustle of the equine world for just a moment and enjoy ourselves, because just like the horses, we deserve every bit of it.
TFE Ambassador Cory Mclaughlin