Happy, Healthy & Horsey: Life Regional Championships, Class 1

“I healed. Are there any more powerful words in the universe?”

This journey towards being happier, healthier and horsier has certainly had some unexpected twists and turns along the way. I thought I’d whip myself into shape in less than twelve months. I had visions of 60 pounds evaporating like the morning fog over my beloved Smoky Mountains.

Ah, human, how much you had to learn!

Recently, I’ve had a couple of incredible “learning opportunities” — life challenges, if you will — sorta like “regional championships” for Esther’s commitment to her own well-being.

If I were preparing Kaliwohi for regional championships, there are a few things that would be non-negotiable. Consistent work, with specific goals, is one. Excellent nutrition and hydration. Holistic body care, including top quality farrier and vet work, massage and touch therapy, as needed. Safe surroundings every step of the way. All these things are not to be compromised, if one wants to maximize their riding partner’s potential.

Kaliwohi and I, working on consistent contact. Photo by Kyle Hancock

You want an “A HA!” moment? Here ya go —


By that I mean that I, too, am worth drawing some “bright lines” when it comes to providing myself with the right tools for success. Tools like measurable goals set on a specific timeframe, excellent nutrition and hydration, holistic body care, safe surroundings.

Hmmm… I see a pattern here, don’t you?

Let me give you a couple of examples from my personal “regional championships” this week.

As y’all know, I do all my own barn chores unless I’m traveling. I have a couple of local friends who pitch in when I’m away, and I am grateful to them. I trust them with my four-legged, finned, and winged children (say it with me: honeybees are family, too!) which is no small thing, as any animal-lover knows. I would never tolerate anyone abusing or disrespecting any of my animals.

So imagine my shock, surprise, and off-the-charts rage, when I drove home one afternoon recently and saw someone I thought I both trusted and respected, smoking on my farm. If you’re a smoker, you do you. But on my land, I get to have my rules. I also get to insist that my rules get followed, to the letter, all the time, even when I’m not there.

It’s called RESPECT.  It’s called TRUST.  It’s called INTEGRITY.

If Kaliwohi were stabled somewhere awaiting regional championships, and I found some structural defect in his stall that posed a potentially life-threatening risk to him, you’d better believe I would find a way to eliminate that risk, either by fixing it myself or finding stable management and asking them to fix it or move my horse to a safer place. Safety is non-negotiable.

Kaliwohi in his stall at home, safe and content. Photo by Esther Roberts

So when I saw someone I once trusted, someone I have invested years of my life building a friendship with, and someone who knows-without-a-doubt my rule regarding smoking on my land (FYI – Esther’s smoking-on-my-property rule is: Don’t. Ever. No exceptions. Period.) openly smoking on my property, with a can of gasoline nearby no less, you better believe I hit the proverbial roof.

Numerous scientific studies have long advised that we humans should not “stuff down” our negative emos. Denying our negative emotions and only expressing happiness and butterflies is unauthentic to the human experience. Refusing to acknowledge negative feelings also enables such harmful coping mechanisms as – surprise – overeating. We “people pleaser” types subconsciously try, quite literally, to shield our body organs (via packing on fat) against the negative chemical toxins that result from whatever biochem cocktail our negative emos generate within us.

Esther’s Life Regional Championship, Class One, went like this: Immediately upon seeing such a disrespectful action from this (supposedly) trustworthy friend, I felt my respect for, and trust in, the person smoking on my land suddenly fracture like an ice berg calving. Irretrievably broken. Forever. I felt so betrayed. The emos of hurt, disappointment, and rage boiled up like a volcano, and, for the first time in my life, folks, I let that volcano blow wide open. I used language I never use to express my outrage immediately, candidly, and effectively.

The beauty of language is it allows one to communicate clearly and effectively.

Some positive examples:

“You are beautiful, just as you are.”

“I enjoy your company – I can be me around you and I like that.”

“You’re doing great, and I believe in you.”

Or, in this case, “You’re a lying sonofab@#$%, and I will never trust you again. Ever.”

I was shaking with adrenaline. I hate conflict. I hate feeling negative emotions. I like happiness and butterflies. But Esther is learning to “cowgirl up” and express her negative feelings in positive ways. This particular person has lied to me in the past, and, because  – newsflash – I myself have made mistakes, I have tried to “forgive and forget” with respect to this relationship – keeping the good and letting the bad go.

But. Respect and trust and integrity are core ingredients to any relationship; without those, there’s very little to work with, in my opinion.

The “big win” for this particular “class” in this regional championships analogy is this: I did not clamp down my negative emotions. I did not remain silent and then gorge myself on ice cream to compensate for internalizing my anger. I clearly expressed my wrath immediately and completely and appropriately to the situation.

And – Glory Hallelujah! – expressing my negative emotions immediately and appropriately felt fabulous and liberating and profoundly sad and tragic and empowering, all at the same time.

It took me several hours to relax. And during those hours, I reflected on many things, but I did not eat.

I walked. The movement helped my body rid itself of the adrenaline.

I cried. The tears helped me mourn the loss of a once-cherished friendship.

I prayed. The communication with God helped me realize my personal standards for “inner circle” friendship – respect, trust, integrity – are worthy standards, and standards I choose to maintain, even if it “costs” me a relationship I once cherished.

I healed. I realized that, by expressing my negative emotions appropriately and timely, I didn’t ruminate on them, or the situation. It was over and done with and I had no residual internal chaos clamoring for a sugar-induced dopamine rush. A profound peace flooded my inner being and I happily realized my life will go on without a close connection to that person; our standards are simply too divergent. And that’s okay. #GoInPeace

I healed.  

Are there any more powerful words in the universe?

Next week: Life Regional Championships, Class Two!


Go Riding!

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