Recently I have been thinking more diligently regarding the stark difference between the way we treat our horses and the way we treat ourselves. For example, our competition horses are getting nutrient balanced supplements to suit their ever-changing dietary needs, regular chiropractic care, acupressure, acupuncture, Theraplate, massage, T-touch, aquatherapy, warm fuzzy bedtime stories... and so on.
When was the last time you got a massage?
I bet I can answer the last question for you.
I use those examples because they are the most poignant both emotionally and financially. Excellent horse care is absolutely to be commended and required for these athletes we call partners. We all expect that and appreciate it. The problem seems to be that as riders and athletes ourselves, it becomes easy to shelve our personal well being in lieu of our equine interest.
I don't think it has to be such a stark contrast. Many of you reading this are rolling your eyes and thinking, "No kidding, Caption Obvious. I know I can get a massage." You're right. You can. Do you?
There is a stigma attached to Eventers that embodies bold toughness, strength, grit, dogged determination, self-sacrifice, masochism, and pain acceptance. I mean, someone we all know and admire (think it is a robot) broke his leg during an event and still won on a different horse then won another championship a week later, THEN had surgery. I'm sorry, what?? (Hence the robot)
On the normal people scale of things though, that suggests we should tough it out and go on with it. Yes, you should. We all do. However, as a trainer/rider/person hoping to ride for a very long time... I have recently started thinking I should pay closer attention to my own self-care as well. I would never treat my horses the way I treat myself.
Read that again.
I would never treat my horses the way I treat myself.
I know that was a long intro to get to this point, but I think it's important to think about a few of the variables that lead up to constantly neglecting our own self-care. It's easy to deflect our own discomfort by saying that you can't afford it, don't have time for it, don't need it, feel fine, etc etc. The reality is that we don't make it a priority. If our horse needed it, we would find the time, take off work, scrounge the money, rationalize that he needs it and we would feel good about it the whole time.
So it goes.
I'm giving you permission to practice personal self-care as well. You don't need my permission, of course, but sometimes it's helpful to hear that you should take care of yourself. It's nice to hear you are a valuable commodity that needs to be properly maintained and offered attention. You are valuable.
With that in mind, here are a few things I am doing and others I hope to do to keep myself not-broken for as long as possible:
I'm a healthy eating fool. All the kale! That way I don't care if I eat a donut. A six pack starts in the kitchen. Eat good, feel good. (It's not just a hashtag, it's also poor grammar)
Take said pre-cooked food to horse shows.
It's amazing what you can do with no time and a crockpot. It is healthier, cheaper, and probably tastes better than food on grounds. Bored? I have a pinterest page with all sorts of recipes you may like. Workout
Yes, try to balance those hunched shoulders and tight elbows with some other AB-searing exercise. I try to climb as frequently as possible for my mental and physical fitness. No, riding is not enough. Even if you do it for 12 hours/day. Just ask George Morris.
Magic Bullet I'm stupidly excited about this high powered blender on steroids. I've been on a smoothie-for-breakfast kick since I got this magical kitchen unicorn of an appliance. I don't typically "have time" for breakfast but I can definitely blend the shit out a bunch of veggies and fruits to run out the door with. I also find I drink less coffee when I do this. I'm not sure how I feel about that, however. Coffee, I still love you.
Recently I was super lucky to begin a sponsorship with Balanced Bodyworks and could not be more excited! Normally sponsorships tend to be Equine/gear oriented, so to pick up a sponsorship for Austin Eventing that focuses on the riders well being has been exciting! I don't even want to tell you the feedback I got on how much work my shoulders needed!!
I feel it is important to get body work as a rider/trainer. It is important to take breaks, to take a breathe, to eat a healthy meal, to try to find balance in an industry and a sport that demands your all. Focus on your whole well being and I believe you will be a better rider, coach, teacher, student, and human in general. Again, there are a few of you that are reading this thinking, "Well duh. Of course if I'm balanced I am a better rider." So then why haven't you gotten a massage?
If you want this to be sustainable, it's time to take care of yourself the same way, if not better, than you would take care of your horse.