Happy, Healthy, & Horsey: ‘Full Throttle. Then Sleep’

On finding a balance.

Just before Christmas, when U.S. President #43 was eulogizing U.S. President #41, POTUS #43 said this about his father’s renowned capacity for filling every 24-hour period to the max.

“He was born with just two settings: Full throttle. Then sleep.”

I’ve known several animals wired similarly — most of them puppies and kittens — who have that “play-then-crash” mentality. I’ve known a few humans like this, as well. You know the ones — those who are always organized, always tidy, always on time, always seem to be doing more, learning more, showing more, just generally achieving more than the rest of us. If you’re like me, sometimes my “full throttle, then sleep” friends make me feel like a big fat failure.

I have a lawyer friend who feels each month is a billing failure if he doesn’t bill out at least $50,000.00 each month. At least.

I have a riding friend who feels her riding week is a failure if she hasn’t been on her horse at least six days out of seven.

I have a galpal friend whose hobby is cooking, and she’s so very good at it, her coworkers literally pay her to make their dinner for them, take-home style. The presentation of these “to-go” meals is so lavish, her children tease her, “Mom, you’re always sooooo ‘extra’!”

All these folks go “full throttle. Then sleep.”

Achieving a great deal each day is relatively easy — if you’re the President of the United States and you have abundant staff at your beck and call.

But for the rest of us, including all of us who are striving to cram work, riding, exercise, reasonable nutrition, families, community commitments, and on and on into every spin of the earth, how can we achieve our goals while not crashing from the stress of self-induced pressure to achieve and, more accurately, over-achieve?

Riding, of course, can be a huge stress relief, but it can also be a source of stress. (Rated shows, anyone?)

So what else is out there to explore for reducing stress?

Those of you who read this column regularly know I am a great fan of being outdoors in nature. I believe there is something – call it essence or ions or plain ol’ fresh air — but something in nature that is very healing and equally inspiring.

For me, in 2019, I have made a covenant with myself that I will get out of my office and explore nature at least one day each week. I want to live life “full throttle” but I don’t want to keel over from stress in the process! And being out in nature is key for me. Sometimes that includes a horse. But, frankly, sometimes it does not.

We are all caring and concerned horsey mums and dads; bringing one’s horse into the woods can be magical. It can also be a ton of stress — loading the trailer, hauling somewhere, unloading, riding, hauling back home, cleaning out the trailer… can be exhausting and a real fun dampener, sometimes.

At the risk of being called a heretic, sometimes I think the best thing we can do for our horses is leave them at home and go walk in the woods. Our feet. No trailers. Our labored breathing. No wet saddle blankets. Our mind getting cleared. No worries about “heels down.” When done with intention and focus, such horseless workouts can strengthen our muscles and clear our heads and actually improve our riding. Think of it as cross-training in a roofless all-terrain setting. Sublime.

Hiking, sans horse, at Paschal Carter Park, Knoxville, TN. Photo by Sarah Smith.

Kaliwohi enjoying a day off. Photo by Esther Roberts.

For me, at this moment, my entire riding and training focus is on strengthening my right hip and leg, and continuing to shed pounds while gaining muscle tone. I’m not a gym rat, so the great outdoors is my fitness center.

One day at a time.

One pound at a time.

One stretch at a time.

One goal at a time.

With serenity and without stress.

While I, too, aspire to live life, “full throttle,” I also want to remain mindful of all the beauty and healing nature offers to us.

All we have to do is step outside.

And now to enjoy the second half of POTUS #41’s mantra: “then sleep.”


Go Riding!

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