Happy, Healthy, & Horsey: New Directions for Healthier, Happier Living

“I want to ride more. I want to weigh less. I want to invest more time hiking with friends…”

This week, for the first time since December 2018, this happened:

Back in the saddle; pain-free at last. All photos by Sarah Frances Smith.

Regular readers may remember my December ride, which was the first time back on board since the giant wreck of May 2018. Last December’s ride in the round pen went well, but the next day, my hip said “not-no-but-hell-no” and I knew more work was needed to gain strength sufficient to ride again in comfort (enter DDPY yoga in January of this year, but I digress . . . ).

Kaliwohi and I had a great ride this week. I credit much of that success to my friend Dara Lindner, who very generously shared her time, expertise, and experience with Kaliwohi. Her confidence in the saddle gave him confidence, especially when the wind made him spook during one of their rides. Watching Dara handle Kiwi helped me gain confidence, as well, because I realized my mustang is like any other medium-to-hot horse. True, he was born wild, and true, his default safety zone is always going to be with other horses, but that doesn’t mean he cannot learn to trust a human and become a very safe and sane horse under saddle.  #Hope.

Kaliwohi, stepping under and through at the walk.

Kiwi was relaxed and gently chewing the entire ride – yay!

We even trotted, relaxed and flowing; no round pen, no arena rails, and no runaway.

I am thrilled to be riding again. I am thrilled to feel healthy again. These past months of agonizingly slow progress towards feeling like “me” again have taught me to appreciate that old adage, “if you have your health, you have everything.” Amen. Healing the physical injuries took so much longer than I ever imagined they would. Healing the mental damage, however, took even longer.

Being the human equivalent of the prototypical “overthinking red mare” is not an easy thing, friends. I overthink and stress about everything, and when I stress, my entire being goes straight into primitive survival mode. Hyper-awareness, so it’s hard to concentrate. Hyper-vigilance, so it’s difficult to sleep, especially with muscles so tense it is challenging to relax at all. While I have not lost much weight in the past year, at least – thank goodness – I didn’t gain back what I have lost thus far on my trek toward fitness.

Establishing a regular yoga practice has helped not only strengthen my body, but also relax my entire being. If you’re a fan of yoga, you understand this. If you’ve never tried yoga, I encourage you to do so. I am much stronger and more flexible than I have been in years. Best of all, however, yoga, combined (for me) with a lot of time invested in reading Scripture and deep, prayerful conversations with God, has helped me achieve a great deal of clarity regarding who I am and what is important to me, now, at this point in my life.

I live alone. I run a farm alone (full disclosure — I do hire help for maintenance/repair projects I can’t do by myself). I work alone. And the “lifeline” to my job is electronic in nature: the phone, the computer, the iPad. Over the past decade or so, the tendrils of an “electronic life” have seemed to ensnare my life more and more until it is to the point where I feel like I have to make time to take a walk outside even for just a few minutes.

This is not the life I want. Virtual connectivity is an excellent thing; but spending so much time indoors, in front of a backlit screen, simply cannot be good for a human being. At least, not this human being.

So I’m making some radical changes in lifestyle and time management.

A recent article in Vogue magazine had this to say about stress, burnout, and unplugging:

“Sixty to 90% of doctor visits are due to stress, which evokes a series of genetic and physiological changes that can be tremendously harmful to health if sustained, including increased heart rate, blood pressure, breath rate, and muscle tension,” explains Herbert Benson, M.D., a professor of mind and body medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, who underlines that work-related stress is further exacerbated by excess screen time. In that sense, the onus is also on individuals who may suffer from burnout to be proactive about unplugging and incorporating stress-relieving activities into their downtime.”

” . . . be proactive about unplugging and incorporating stress-relieving activities into [your] downtime.”


Wanna relieve stress, Esther? 1. Unplug. 2. Incorporate stress-relieving activities into your downtime.

My editors here at Horse Nation, Kristen and DeAnn, support my journey towards health and happiness 100%, in whatever way I feel works best for me. I am grateful for their steadfast support. Finding time to write this weekly article can be a challenge sometimes, especially when I have a law practice, and several half-finished book manuscripts, that demand many hours “plugged in.”

The Horse Nation readers, including those who follow the Fat to Fit to First Level Facebook page (eyeroll to Facebook for never yet approving the name change of that page to Happy, Healthy & Horsey) and the awesome group of folks who comprise the Happy, Healthy & Horsey Facebook group, are the finest support a writer could ask for. I am humbled and grateful to each and every one of you.

So I feel confident everyone will both understand and applaud my decision to make whatever changes I need to make in my present schedule and commitments in order to maximize the potential for success with regards to my health, happiness, and horsiness. One of those changes is dialing back the frequency of this column to a monthly instead of a weekly. I want to ride more. I want to weigh less. I want to invest more time hiking with friends, or chatting at one of the many great local coffee shops, or enjoying some old-school “bring a dish” gatherings in our respective houses. All of these things take time. Time away from a computer. Yet time that will be extremely well invested, because it will bring about more meaningful relationships with those I care the most deeply about.

Like him:

The mathematics of riding: Love + Trust = Bliss

Elders on life’s journey say that life only speeds up as one travels this path known as “the human experience.” The only life we have is this one.  The only time we have is now – this moment. I am deeply grateful you’ve chosen to spend these past few moments reading this week’s column. I hope you’ll invest future moments reading future columns when they appear each month. In between times, I hope you, too, will choose to reflect on how many of your “nows” – moments you can never retrieve – are spent plugged in. If that makes you happy, great! But if, like me, your personal answer to the question, “where I’m investing my time, thus, literally, spending my life?” gives you pause, I hope you’ll decide to immediately reorganize your life in such a way to make you the happiest, healthiest, horsiest you you can be!

I’ll be back here in a month, and also, when inspiration strikes, I’ll be posting on my personal blog, Appalachian Chic, on the F2F Facebook page, and in the Facebook H3 group.


Go Riding!

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