Fat to Fit to First Level: Horses as Healers

“He is my riding partner. He is my healing partner. He is my mustang.”

Photo by Esther Roberts

March is winding down and, for many of us, the show season has begun. Last year, when I first backed Kaliwohi, I had big plans for the 2018 show season. We were gonna rock Training Level and be focused on competing at First Level by 2019. And then life happened.

One job disaster and one divorce later, I have adjusted my expectations for 2018. And adjusted my desires and goals, as well. I am still just as determined to continue losing weight and getting fit, and I am just as determined to get Kaliwohi in shape and trained through all the Training Level movements this year.

But my new reality is this: at the present time in my life, I don’t really care about competing. Kaliwohi is serving a far more important function in my life at the moment than all the braiding and white breeches could ever do.

My horse is my healer.

When I feel so sad I just want to stay in bed, Kaliwohi inspires me to get up and get going, right on schedule. I know he’s waiting for me. It is my responsibility to feed him and clean his stall and groom him and train him. It is my privilege, as well, to care for this trusting, kind-spirited mustang.

When I wonder what it might be like to sell my farm and go live in a chic flat in newly revitalized downtown Knoxville, with no early morning barn chores in the sleet, I bury my nose in Kaliwohi’s mane and inhale that “horse smell” we all know so well and remind myself how totally worth it farm life is – mud and muck and all.

I have invested some time over the winter simplifying my life. Cleaning and sorting and donating items that others can use, pitching out or recycling the junk, and striving to achieve a sense of inner peace and balance. The good news is, I’m getting there. Slowly but surely, I am beginning to feel a sense of genuine success at life itself.

This feeling has little to do with what the scale says, although that, too, is beginning to change for the better, after months of stagnation and frustration. My feelings of success are grounded in a newfound sense of authenticity. Somewhere along life’s journey, I became so dedicated to being a “people pleaser” and avoiding conflict at all costs, I lost me. I am rediscovering me, Esther, and finding that I like myself, despite my many flaws and past mistakes, including all the years of overeating that caused me to get so fat in the first place. I’m learning to understand why I overate, and I’m learning new tools to cope with those “I’m not good enough” feelings so I can continue on my weight-loss journey and become the healthy, fit, athlete I know I can be.

When I was a young girl and much too poor to own a horse, I would grow excited every time I had the opportunity to simply pet someone’s horse. I didn’t need to ride the animal – just being around horses made me happy.

Over this past winter, Kaliwohi has helped me reconnect with that childhood feeling. The pure joy, the sublime happiness, of simply being around such a beautiful and delightful animal.

Kiwi is shedding out and we are gearing up for a demanding fitness regime and training program. But without even entering the show ring, Kaliwohi is a winner in my mind. He is my riding partner. He is my healing partner. He is my mustang. And I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Photo by Greg Bell

Join me on this journey on Facebook: Fat to Fit at Horse Nation (page and group), and my blog www.appalachianchic.com.


Go riding.

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