Happy, Healthy, & Horsey: Contemplating the ‘F’ Word

(No, not THAT “f” word.)

As equestrians, we all have had our share of experiences that justify the “f” word. Frustrating? Well, that’s definitely a part of the equestrian life, and it’s an “f” word, but that’s not the one I’m talking about.

Fantastic? That’s another aspect of life with horses, for sure. But “fantastic” is also not the “f” word I’m thinking about. Nor is “feel” or “feed” or “fat” or “fit” or even “Friday.” And the “f” word I’m talking about is also not that “f” word. (Personally, not my favorite expression, frankly, but there’s a hilarious exposition on that particular “f” word, among others, in The King’s Speech, if you’re interested.)

I’m talking about FIGURES. That one word relates to so many different aspects of horses and humans, too.

Figures, specifically, as relates to food and finances. How are these two seemingly so diverse f-words related?

Well, for one thing, food — as in, quality and quantity — bears a direct relation to one’s figure. I didn’t get to be overweight by eating carrot sticks and apples, friends. Too much quantity of too poor quality food is what packed on the pounds. I may have shared this little anecdote before, but as a refresher: there was a time in my life where I was so out of touch with my own self, so stressed, and so desperately unhappy, I would stop and buy a dozen glazed donuts, and eat all of them while driving somewhere.

And — raw honest bonus for ya — I would then stop again and throw away the box, so I wouldn’t have that evidence sitting next to me in the vehicle, silently damning me for consuming 2,280 calories (feel free to check that figure) in under a half hour. #DonutEatingChamp #NotATitleIWant #Bleah

News flash: the human body does not require donuts. Not one. Ever. Shocking, I know, but that’s the truth. There are happy, healthy humans in this world — of both the horsey and non-horsey varieties — that live their entire lives without processed sugar. I used to think these people were either sadly underprivileged or seriously deranged.

Now, I realize financial-figures-based (aka profit/bottom line) processed food manufacturers have *gasp* a vested interest in encouraging consumers (aka, me and y’all) to purchase and consume addictive high-sugar foods. Why? Because some of the little critters that live inside our digestive tract loooooooove sugar, and, like a cranky pony who can count the treats in your pocket, once those little critters get some sugar, they won’t stop nagging at you until you feed them more. And more. And more. And more.

Some people, like some ponies, can politely take one treat and be satisfied. Oh, to be those people. Those people, and those ponies, tend to have fabulous figures. They also tend not to consume 2,000+ calories at one sitting. #LifeGoals

For folks like me, my inner cranky pony used to constantly craving treats. And it showed in my figure. Progressing-pony-me’s figure is improving, slowly but surely. But fattest-figure-me (when I started this journey) was completely off the rails.

Finances — those pesky figures like income and outgo and expenses and taxes and how many dollars you have in your pocket to take to the next tack swap because even if none of us need a tenth bridle, ya know we’re gonna go “just to look,” right? — those figures can cause something known as stress, especially when those figures are decidedly less than what we want to see in our respective bank accounts. (Bonus: when those figures get low enough, some folks opt to follow King George VI’s lead and wield that other “f” word with both skill and aplomb.)

For those of us who are cranky-pony types, aka stress eaters, our financial figures can negatively impact our food choices, which negatively impact our physical figures. Let’s face it: from a short-term perspective, most junk food is significantly less expensive than high-quality food. The fact that such low-quality food as cheap burgers and milkshakes can, in the long-term, lead to heart disease and diabetes is not at all what fast-food-figure-fiefdoms want you to contemplate when they ask if you wanna “super-size” your order.

But that is the cold, hard, truth. On a long-term basis, friends, here’s a very simple equation that doesn’t take any financial “figure skills” to work out:

Junk food in = junk health out.

We know this. Each and every single one of us know this without a doubt. That is another “f” word: a FACT. How can I be so sure of this? Because each and every one of us feed our horses the best nutrition we possibly can. FACT.

So why, why, why do I and so many of us “settle” for fueling our own figures with sub-par fuel? I put the best diesel fuel I can find in my pickup, for heaven’s sake! My truck gets the best. Always the best. Why? Because good quality fuel maximizes performance and minimizes the repair bills.

My horses get the best. Always. Why? For the same reason. Maximize performance; minimize the vet bills.

Little Gil, as you may recall, was a hot mess last April. I have invested a great deal of time and resources to get his broken little body healed and healthy.

Gil, March 31, 2018; eight months old. Day One of rescue and rehab. Photo by Esther Roberts





Gil, January 16, 2019; 18 months old; Month ten of rehab. All photos by Sarah Smith.

Gil will always be undersized, but at least now his figure looks far more like a healthy yearling than a half-starved fragile foal. His figure is shaping up nicely, thanks, despite the impact it may have had on my finances. #HeyItsOnlyMoneyRight?

Gil is living proof that good fuel is vital to good health. In horses. And in humans, too.

So how’s Esther doing these days? Just this week, my latest book received a glowing review. I was, and am, thrilled. That day was happily chaotic, and I found myself between meetings right at supper time, with only a few moments to stop and get some supper. I felt like celebrating. With food.

So I stopped in a donut shop. It was my first “donut” indulgence in at least two years. I inhaled the delicious smells that hit me as I walked through the front door, while my eyes feasted on all the trays of warm, yummy treats just waiting for me. My mouth started to water as I stood there, trying to make up my mind as to which ones, how many, what to choose?

And, friends, the most wonderful thing happened. Two years of training, trial-and-errors, fighting for my figure, growing my self-esteem, building my self-worth, figuring out why I want to be thinner, fitter, healthier — all these things came into play in that moment, just like what happens with our horses when they face a big challenge but we have taken the time to lay a truly solid foundation (foundation – ah! another important “f” word!).

The guy at the counter asked, “what can I get you?”

And I replied, “one maple-iced donut, please.”

“That’s all?!” He sounded surprised.

“Yes, please. That’s all.”

And I sat down and savored every almost-too-sweet-to-my-palate-now bite, and left the donut shop like a “normal” person – satisfied and happy.  Not craving anything, except a bottle of water to get rid of the super-sweet taste in my mouth.

Perhaps this treat-motivated pony can be re-educated, after all.

And, with time and determination, her figure will reflect her success.

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Go riding.

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