Live Well
lessons-learned-from-my-equestrian-career
March 2015

Lessons Learned from
My Budding Equestrian Career

My daughters have been horseback-riding for several years. A few years ago, I decided to give riding a try. I had ridden a little bit when I was young and always loved horses but I had never pursued it. In any event, I started taking riding lessons a few times a week, and shortly thereafter,
was riding six days a week. I loved riding! I loved being with the horses, being outside, the breeze in my hair…

And, then came the time to plunge into the competitions. Participating in a hunter riding competition involves going into a fairly large size ring and jumping around a course of 7-9 jumps in a specific order. Go off course, and you are disqualified; fall off your horse, and you are disqualified; drop a rail from the jump and you lose points. And it’s all supposed to look seamless. Going into the ring is the scariest and most exhilarating experience at the same time. Usually, right before going in, I feel that my brain has disappeared somewhere inside my body. It eventually makes its way back but very slowly. But then, I am done and all I want to do is go back in and jump more. I soon realized that, in addition to riding, I was learning some significant life lessons from competing. Lessons I sometimes wished I had learned when I was younger and could have applied to my previous careers. I thought I would share some of these with you now:

  • You are only as good as your last ride or, in other words, have the courage to persevere. Some days, you will be great and you will be in sync with your horse and jump almost perfectly. Other days, you will fall on your face (as I have on several occasions) and you will have to get over it and move on. Don’t get caught up in your greatness and don’t get pulled down by your weaknesses. Move on and keep working. Or, as Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
  • Face your fears or, as my teenage daughter likes to say, “Go big or go home, Mom”. Walking into the show ring can set my heart beating about five times faster than it normally does. I can rationalize all I want — I have jumped these jumps before, I know I can do it — the minute I am about to walk in the ring, I feel like I have never, ever sat on a horse. And, then, I start to get on the course, and I get over one jump, and the next, and the next few. And the next thing I know, I am done and I survived. And, that feeling is the best feeling ever! So, sometimes, when we face our fear and see that we made it through (even though we may have made a few blunders along the way), we realize that maybe it was worthwhile.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a step back in order to move forward – it’s not about your ego. Often, we feel that we constantly have to keep getting better and that taking a step back is not an option. There have been many times when my trainer has told me that I need to go down to a lower level, at which point I go a little crazy but ultimately acquiesce. I’ve realized that my stubbornness is my ego taking over. But, when it comes to working with horses (who are not machines but living beings that have moods and emotions too), ego can’t come into play. Taking a step back has allowed me to fill in gaps in my foundation, or to stop fixating on self-created problems (or, as I like to say, get out of my head).

horses

I ride two horses: Connie (short for Contender) and Karma (an apt name if there ever was one). Connie is a 22-year-old sophisticated but bossy mare. She knows her job and doesn’t want anyone getting in the way. This can be annoying at times when my trainer and I have other ideas about how to get the job done. But, ultimately, I know she will take care of me. One day, at a horse show, Connie and I jumped a jump and I accidentally lost my stirrup and fell in front of my saddle. I was hanging onto Connie’s neck and my remaining stirrup. Connie knew that if she turned, I would tumble off. So, she headed for the next jump and I hung on tighter. Then, after the jump, she slowly came to a stop and allowed me to prop myself back onto my saddle and walk out of the ring as gracefully as possible. Karma is a quirky horse: in his world, the bogeyman is everywhere and, if there is something to spook at, he will; if the weather is not to his liking, he will make it known to me; and if there is another horse that is acting wild, that is his cue to be wild too. And, yet, when we walk into the show ring, he takes care of me and guides me through the process. I don’t know what I would do without these two (and their numerous barn friends) in my life because they have all taught me so much.

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Worthwhile
edible-education

Edible Education 101:
The Rise and Future of the Food Movement

Every year, The Berkeley Food Institute at Berkeley University offers a course called Edible Education 101: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement. I have been watching the lectures and doing the readings for this year’s course and highly recommend it. You can watch the lectures on YouTube and the readings are posted on the school’s website:
food.berkeley.edu/edible-education-101

The course features many prominent figures in the food movement, including experts in organic agriculture to school lunch reform, and urban agricultures, among others. The course explores different aspects of the food movement, and in particular, ways in which the food system can become more sustainable.

While I am only into the beginning of the course, what I have learned so far is the extent to which our food choices have an effect and are affected by the environment, politics and human rights. Specifically, how the government’s quest for cheap food led to the a farm policy that subsidizes large farms growing corn and soy, at the expense of other fruits and vegetables. And, how many of us take for granted the farm workers on these large farms, and the abhorrent conditions in which they work.