Fat to Fit to First Level: A Metamorphosis Begins

“It is high time to live my life as the person I long to be: Elegant Esther.”

Most of us riders, whether world-ranked elite (Congrats! to Laura and Diddy!) or unknown local, aspire to be a better rider.  We’re mostly type A folks, so we’re busy with many things and we challenge ourselves to be The. Best. At. Each. And. Every. One. Of. Them. #NoPressure #YeahRight

I’m just as guilty as anyone, and that constant pressure to get my weight off, in this oh-so-public forum, has taken its toll. While I’ve preached self-care, self-acceptance, and self-love, I’ve been constantly drubbing myself mentally and emotionally and railing at my own lack of self-discipline when it comes to food, scheduling even more exercise (shouldn’t barn chores count double, oh gods of the calorie-count universe??), drinking more water, and on and on and on.

Pressuring a horse will eventually cause it to break or blow.  That’s horsewomanship 101.  So why am I soooo slow to learn this lesson about my own fine self? I’m not the type to “blow” but I’ve been walking the brink of “break” for a while now. It’s a scary place to be, friends. Katrina has cautioned me about this for a long time, and, at long last, the lesson is sinking in my thick skull.

So, what am I changing?

At a fundamental level, basically everything. My approach to my health, my weight, my exercise routine, my riding, my work, my writing – everything.

My new life mantra can be summed up in one word: Elegance.

I grant you that most of us wearing muck boots with hay in our hair and a combination of fly spray and sweat on our brow would hardly think of the word, “elegance” when we think of the equestrian lifestyle.  But go with me here, k?

Follow along with these photos and the “rest of the story” below…

My friend, adult amateur rider Dara Lindner, came over again this week to work with Kaliwohi. Dara is a fine example of an elegant rider – her body is quiet yet fluidly follows the horse, her cues are perfectly timed and “just enough ask” to achieve the result she desires, and her mind is refined and focused, like the elegance found in finely cut crystal.

Kaliwohi is putty in Dara’s hands, and watching Dara work with my mustang makes my heart happy, not only because he continues to progress while I continue to rehab, but also because I feel a sense of honest pride in all the foundational work Kaliwohi and I invested in order to get him to this point in his training.

In the first photograph, after some walk and trot warm-up, Dara starts to ask Kaliwohi to really use his core and engage the hind stepping through. Her success is obvious by his relaxed and lifted topline, the perfect contact, his listening ears, and the deep engagement.

Dara asking Kiwi to engage his hind. All photos by Esther Roberts.

Once Kiwi is all bendy and stretchy, Dara asked him to canter. Kaliwohi’s left side is his weaker side, but even to the left, you can see he is maintaining a great training frame at the canter as he gives honest efforts to stay back on his haunches and lift his forehand.

Dara and Kiwi cantering left.

After a wonderful, elegant training session at canter in both directions, Dara brought Kiwi back to walk and trot, so he understands canter is “just another gear” and not an excuse to allow any thoughts of “bolt” to enter his wild-wired brain. To finish off, she again asks Kaliwohi to engage his core and step through. Warmed up, worked out, and relaxed, you can see the tremendous increase in effort and scope Kaliwohi gives Dara here.

Kaliwohi stepping well under and through, so that he’s literally “crossing hocks” at the walk.

These photos illustrate elegant riding at its finest, in my opinion. If Kiwi were a six-figure warmblood instead of a BLM mustang I bought via internet auction for $135.00, I could not be happier nor prouder of his efforts and movements under Dara’s tutelage.

Which brings me back to the concept of “elegance.”

And I have a challenge for me – and for each of you – if you’re ready to better yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally, both in and out of the saddle.

I want to take one of my catchphrases, “channel the Queen” to a whole new level. I want to integrate that notion into every aspect of my life. Why? Read on.

If I were dining with the Queen, would I snarf food from its package, wolfing it down in five minutes while trying to multi-task without dropping crumbs on my keyboard? Or would I take a few extra moments to prepare my food in a beautiful way – not fancy – but something more than open cracker packets and microwave plastics? And don’t I – and you – deserve to take a few minutes to focus on our meal and enjoy it, instead of burying the honest enjoyment of a meal under the whole “must multitask” mental monster?

If I were snacking with the Queen, would I “cheat” and grab two extra tea cakes, stuffing them down quickly in hopes she wouldn’t notice? No? Then why do I stand in my pantry and do this, and then feel guilty when one of my house cats spies crumbs on my face? Honesty is a core component of elegance, so I gotta be absolutely honest with myself about food intake. All the time. All. The. Time.

If I were exercising with the Queen, would I whine and complain? Would I quit the treadmill 5 minutes early? Or would I walk on briskly, allowing a good sense of pride to keep me motivated? (I mean, seriously, if I were on a treadmill next to nonagenarian Liz, would I quit??)

If I were dressing to go out with the Queen (“out” could mean riding, working, socializing, whatev), would I throw on oversized, comfy clothes to try and hide the fat I so despise, or would I take two extra minutes to put on something stylish that fits well, square my shoulders, and carry myself to look the world in the eye?

You get the idea. I want to live an elegant life in every respect. I want to live a healthy, happy, productive, giving, kind, and beautiful life.

Having felt “less than” for decades due to being overweight and undertall and feeling “all the things” that destroy one’s self-confidence, striving to live an elegant life literally means re-tooling my own brain. That is why I have failed to drop the next ten or twenty or forty pounds. My brain has been spewing out its prior, very unelegant programming: “you’re not worth it,” “you can’t do this,” “you’re a big, fat failure” blah, blah, blah. With that sort of negative programming, is it any wonder my body (maybe yours, too?) has been hanging on to every shred of protection possible, a la fat cells?

So. I’m re-booting my own brain. Forgetting the “fat Esther” the “old Esther” the “scared Esther” the “been trying to lose weight for so long Esther” and all those other Esthers (Y’all feel free to insert jokes about “poly-esthers” here.)

It is high time to live my life as the person I long to be (and who I am at my very core): Elegant Esther.

And here’s to Elegant YOU, too!

What are you willing to change in order to live a more elegant life? I’d love to hear from you!


Go Riding!


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