#legsofsteelchallenge Day 15

Burpees. I have such a love-hate relationship with the burpee. Need more cardio in your life? The burpee will tell you. Your quads are weak? The burpee will let you know. Soft core? Oh yeah, burpee’s gonna tell you all about it.

I’ve included this plyometric exercise in the legs of steel challenge because it works. Plain and simple. Fifty burpees can be overwhelming if you’re fairly new to them. It’s much better to break them down into sets: 5 sets of 10, or 10 sets of 5. The most important point is that you keep correct form. So if you find yourself hitting muscle fatigue, modify these suckers. Walk your legs up to your hands instead of jumping up from the plank position. And stand up instead of thrusting upward.

We’re 2 weeks in to the legs of steel challenge. I hope by now you’ve started to push beyond your comfort zone. If not, I hope you’ll add to these exercises to help you achieve your goal. And if so, that’s awesome–keep up the good work!

Again, much thanks to our awesome sponsors: @eqstyletheory @rideheelsdown @shopthebraidedmane and @equinesnax

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#legsofsteelchallenge CATCH UP

It happens all the time–you get a little progress going, and then, BAM! Your horse pulls a shoe and abscesses three days out from a show. Or, if you’re a mom, your child gets sick. That’s what’s great about 30 day challenges: you’ve got the workouts on a calendar, so you can go back and play catch up. Or, if you don’t have time to catch up, simply start up again where you left off and extend your time frame.

My daughter just came home from an extended stay in the hospital for a bad case of RSV. Today was my catch up day, and I was so pumped to see all the IG peeps that had posted their #legsofsteelchallenge photos and videos while I was away. YOU GUYS ROCK!!

Putting all the workouts together, I can really feel those muscles that these exercises are designed to target. Be sure you’re adapting these to meet your fitness needs (tone it down or ramp it up as needed).

I really didn’t think the hamstring curls were going to do much for me, but I was pleasantly surprised to feel a little hammy burn after a couple of sets! And those burpees…I need more cardio in my life, for sure.

Exercises like the curtsy and rear lunges really help show you which is your dominant, or stronger, side. I have a weak left knee, and it was pretty evident that I need to work that left quad more.

Thanks so much to our awesome sponsors for helping me put on this challenge: @rideheelsdown @eqstyletheory @shopthebraidedmane & @equinesnax

Day 10:

Day 11:

Day 12:

#legsofsteelchallenge Day 4

Are you starting to become aware of muscles you forgot existed? No? Amp up the workouts with more reps. Yes? Awesome! You’re wobbling around like a drunk turkey headed to the execution table? Whoa, scale it down there!

These workouts are designed to incrementally build muscles you need to keep your lower body stable and secure in the saddle–which, in turn, helps stabilize and secure your upper body. You can amp them up or scale them down to meet your fitness level.

Day 4 is 10 reverse or rear lunges (with or without the rear leg lift), 10 lunges, and 40 seconds of plank. You’ll work quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core.

In the saddle, aim for adding in some posting without stirrups, or if you’re not ready, continue with just focusing on keeping your legs in position sans stirrups at the walk.

#legsofsteelchallenge Day 2

If Day 1 was easy for you, great!! Each day should be progressively harder but should not be painful or result in extreme soreness. (Despite what your trainer tells you, No Stirrup November shouldn’t be a torture session!)

Day 2 consists of 15 side leg raises, 10 lying inner thigh raises, and 20 seconds of side plank (each side). You’ll work your abductors, adductors, and core muscle groups. As always, if you find yourself struggling to complete the workout, break it into sets, or modify it to suit your fitness ability. In the saddle, add another minute or two to your stirrupless session, or drop one iron at a time while posting.

No Stirrups November Legs of Steel Challenge

Are you ready? Really ready? This month, dear reader, I challenge you to push yourself and find out just how far you’ll go to get those highly coveted eq legs. You know, the kind Taylor St. Jacques has.

But to build those legs, you need more than just dropping your irons. In fact, before you drop those irons, you need to be ready. Going cold turkey and putting your stirrups away in the tack room for the month can have unintended consequences for you and your horse. Dropping your irons before your legs are ready can actually cause more harm than good.

This month’s challenge helps you build the muscles you need to have a strong position in the saddle. And as you build the muscles, you should also drop your irons for longer periods of time throughout your rides so that by the end of the month, depending on your fitness level, you should be able to complete your entire ride sans stirrups.

Day one starts off fairly simple: 25 squats, 10 lunges, and 30 seconds of plank. You’ll work your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core muscles in this workout. If you find it really easy, that’s good. If you find it fairly difficult, break it down into sets with short rest periods between the sets. Aim for dropping your irons in the last 5 minutes of your ride. If you can’t post without irons just yet, stick to holding your legs in the correct position without stirrups at the walk.

If you’d like to participate, follow me on Instagram: @idteventing  and use #legsofsteelchallenge to share your pictures and videos for a chance to win prizes offered by fabulous sponsors like The Braided Mane  (@shopthebraidedmane), Ride Heels Down (@rideheelsdown) and Equine Snax (@equinesnax). This challenge was developed and produced in collaboration with EqStyleTheory (@eqstyletheory).

It goes without saying, but you should always consult a physician and/or trainer if you have any questions at all about your abilities to perform any of these exercises. I am not a licensed or professional fitness trainer–this challenge is meant to be fun and to build camaraderie in our sport!

 

Make the world your happy place

I’m gonna let y’all in on a little secret: I do NOT have my shit together. Not even close. Every morning when the sitter arrives, I apologize for the disarray that is my house. I mean, she’s used to it by now, but I’m still mortified every morning.

And I just might be the worst sales person on the face of the planet. Let’s face it, I’m not selling ice to an Eskimo any time soon. I might be able to talk him into a nice parka, but that’s only if they’re on sale. (Given that I work in insurance sales, this does not bode well for a successful career.)

And then tonight, I had a horrible ride on Chip. He was so tight and full of tension and yet still lazy (HOW is that possible?!?), and try as I might, we never really did get a relaxed, swinging back. Oh, we got some relaxation, but it was meh at best.

I know some people look at me and think I’ve got it altogether. I know this because they tell me so. Let me reiterate: I DO NOT HAVE MY SHIT TOGETHER. However,  I AM so incredibly blessed. There’s a lot I don’t have, and I still have wants and desires that I’ll never be able to afford, but I’m happy with what I DO have. And that’s the key. Be happy with what you have. Focus on the positive. Build each other up.

As an Army wife, most of my friends are spread across the country. Social media is often my only source for connection with other equestrians. I recently discovered a couple of small businesses operated by some amazing women, and I applied for an ambassadorship for their companies. I actively seek small Instagram accounts and write at least one encouraging comment on someone’s post each day. This small step brightens my day, and it’s made meaningful impact in my life.

So that’s my challenge to you: Find the positive in your life, and share it with others. Let’s make this world our happy place.

The circle of death

Sometimes the answer to a problem is so simple, you overlook it.

Yesterday, I made my mecca to Holly Hill to get Chip’s monthly pedicure. Since it’s a 2.5 hour one-way haul, I try to make it a worthwhile trip and squeeze in a lesson or a XC school. I try to stick with the same instructor, so we can have continuity, but Julie was at a horse show. I was contemplating a hack instead with Amy when a lady walked up and asked if I was the one looking for a lesson. I affirmed, yes, I was seriously needing some stadium help. When she said, “well, I haven’t drank my beer yet, so…” I knew she was my kind of instructor. I told her I was fine with her drinking while she taught–who am I to deny her a cold brew on a hot Saturday afternoon?

Stupidly, I had decided to wear shorts this morning & planned on changing into my breeches when I got there. And then even more stupidly, I walked around and got hot & sweaty before changing. So, there I was, in the back of my trailer (because that dressing room gets freaking hot if the a/c isn’t hooked up), balanced on my toes, trying to shimmy into full-seats without falling over. Y’all, I love my Kerrits Sit Tights supreme, but stuffing my sweaty legs into those tights took me longer than it did to tack up my horse.

Chip was pretty anxious out in the ring. There was a lot to look at & he was the only horse out there. Since he wasn’t eager to stretch right out & walk on the buckle, I picked up the contact and immediately began asking him to step into the connection. Unfortunately, he was so distracted by everything around him, he wasn’t really hearing me. As I was about to begin my typical fix for that, EI (eventing instructor–I didn’t ask her if I could publicly announce her name on the world wide web) asked me if I’d ever ridden the circle of death.

It probably goes without explanation, but, on the off-chance you live in the barren lands without instruction (been there myself), you might just not know what the heck the circle of death is. And it probably sounds pretty intimidating. Will I die? Will my horse die? Ultimately, it’s just 4 poles on the ground (or small jumps) placed in a circle. And you ride that circle. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, that simple little exercise shows you really quickly if you really have your horse on the aids.

Circle of death

We started off just on a small circle, and EI had me supple Chip by simply moving his shoulders in and out of the circle with some counter-bend thrown in there. Chip quickly got the gist and finally relaxed, so we moved onto the circle of death.

I very quickly realized that I wasn’t looking around the circle, focusing too much on the oncoming pole and not planning ahead. This resulted, as EI observed, in a square, rather than a circle. By looking ahead and working on keeping the bend, rather than worrying about where the poles were, my circle improved dramatically, and it was time to move to the canter.

Luckily, Chip, like most OTTBs, has a great canter, so after a few trips around, EI told me to break off and hop over a small vertical off the left lead. We had a beautiful canter all the way. And then….I saw the long spot. WE HAD AN ENTIRE STRIDE LEFT AND I LAUNCHED MYSELF UP MY HORSE’S NECK. And Chip being the superstar pony, who was going to be so sweet and put in that stride said, “well, ok, mom, if you think we take off here, I’ll jump.” I should’ve ended up on the ground. Instead, we cantered off on the other side. I was mortified.

So, EI pulled the top rail off and set it as a placing pole. And this time, I told myself, no matter what, I would not jump ahead of my horse. And I didn’t. But I still threw my shoulders ahead like we were jumping a grand prix oxer instead of a 2′ vertical.

We swapped to the right lead. And this time, as I cantered up to the fence, I told myself to just wait. Lol, and so did EI. I could hear her shouting, “wait! Wait! Wait!” with every stride. I didn’t worry about the distance, I just kept Chip’s canter steady and waited. And, IT. WAS. BEAUTIFUL. So we did it again. And EI asked me if Chip had enough left in him to ride a small course. He did. So we did. And we jumped around in a quiet hunter canter, and I only threw my shoulders forward once.

I have lessoned with some pretty famous instructors: Lucinda Green, Jimmy Wofford, Stephen Bradley, Kristin Schmolze…and they’ve all put a grid in front of me. And grids work. They definitely have their place. But sometimes, it’s the simplest solution that has the most effect. Fix the canter, and the jump will happen.

My take home lesson was to keep the canter quality and then just sit and wait.  The quote of the day was, “When you think it’s time to jump, you still have another stride.”

Chronic lower back pain…and what I did about it.

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment I realized I had chronic lower back pain. You don’t just wake up one morning and say, “wow. My back has been hurting a long time.” It sort of dawns on you that 1. Your back always hurts, and 2. You can’t remember when the pain started.

A couple of months ago I realized my chronic pain was affecting my daily life, so I scheduled an appointment with my physician. The MRI revealed nothing too alarming: mostly typical degeneration with a couple of herniated/bulging discs and some bony changes. My ortho referred me to a pain management specialist for further treatment. The PMS explained to me that the majority of my pain was most likely due to the facet joint nerves (btw, if you speak ortho or neuro, I’m really dumbing this down because it’s not my area & I don’t feel like going back to look up the proper names/words, so bear with me). He recommended I undergo test injections to see if I would be a candidate for facet joint injections.

The first time I woke up from heavy sedation (I was awake, but don’t really remember much), I realized I had absolutely no back pain. Unfortunately, by the time the sedative wore off, so had the anaesthetic that was injected into my facet joints. It’s meant to be short-acting–the procedure is only a diagnostic.

When I met again with my PMS, (lol) he advised me that based off my results, I was a good candidate for neural ablation. That’s a fancy way of saying he wanted to burn my nerves using radiofrequency energy. I was pretty apprehensive, so I did some research. The naysayers suggested that burning the nerves minimized your body’s ability to use core muscles, but since the procedure only burns a select number of nerves coming off the facet joints, that point is really not supported. The only real negative I could find was that for some, the procedure didn’t really provide any relief. (And of course, with any procedure, there is always a minimal risk of infection.)

facet-joint-injection-xray-guidance

facet joints

Friday morning, I welcomed the sedative and settled in for a good nap. And they must’ve upped my dosage this time, because this time I have no recollection of anything past moving onto the table.

Saturday morning I woke up, put my feet on the floor, and waited for the shockwave of pain to run down my back to my feet and back up again. But it never came. And for the first time in a long time, I immediately felt motivated to go outside and ride, rather than laying around.

It’s now Sunday, and I now realize just how much chronic pain was affecting my life. My pain was not debilitating by any means–I was fully capable of doing pretty much anything I wanted to do, but I had zero motivation to do it. The pain made me tired all the time, and I found myself preferring to lay on the couch rather than go work out or even clean my house.

The procedure is not a permanent ‘fix,’ and it doesn’t cure anything. My biggest concern was, as active as I’m prone to be, that I would go out, overdo it, and further damage my spine. However, my PMS assured me that the pain and numbness resulting from the damaged discs would still persist, especially if I overdo it. Unfortunately, there’s not yet a good way to treat that type of pain. The sacroiliac pain was referred pain carried by those facet joint nerves, and that is/was my source for chronic pain. The disc pain results when I get out there and try to run on a regular basis. (The PMS and his nurse did give me a really odd look when I asked them about running before telling me, “You should probably find an alternative form of cardio.”)

I could probably keep typing and give you more information, but if you’re interested, just drop a comment below. I’ll do my best to answer any questions!

 

The Cajun Eventer Series, Transformation Tuesday (blog 3)

So here we are in May, and I’m now avoiding Facebook because the sight of so many friends in full-swing competition season is utterly depressing. I’m so happy for their successes, but it’s killing me to be so out of the loop.

Area V has, oh, about 7 horse trials a year, maybe. Probably 5 of those are within a reasonable driving distance. We missed the two this month because Ryan’s in the field. (His new job? In laymen’s terms, he’s an observer-controller for troops training for deployment–to sum it up, he’s gone. A LOT. Like, I’m effectively a single mom for weeks at a time.) That means we have to wait until September for the next recognized horse trial. Which, tbh, is a good thing, as we’ve not schooled XC since we left Aiken.

If you’re not familiar, Chip was a sales horse that I fell in love with and decided to keep as my own. (Made possible by a very gracious Lara Anderson, who deserves a blog post of her own) We’d capped off the season with a successful run at training level at Pine Top before I finished out my pregnancy, and then started back at BN to rebuild his fitness and confidence once I’d had Reagan.

But now we’re in no man’s land, and I’m reverting back to amateur status because I’m working a *normal* full-time job.

I’m trying to figure out how to ride when Ryan’s gone. I lose so much progress when he’s in the box because I can’t exactly leave Carson to baby-sit the baby. If any working moms have any suggestions, I’d be glad to hear them.

I did get to ride nearly the whole month of April due to a break in the training cycle. Here’s the difference two weeks in work makes:

I did make acquaintance with another eventer in the area through my Area III connections, oddly enough. Funny story how we met, but that’s another blog. Chip and I have a date to meet up at her place to XC school next month–it’s only a 3 hour drive, LOL. (If you missed the previous post, EVERYTHING is a 3 hour drive down here.) We’ll use that to gauge our progression & the next weekend is a schooling trial, where we’ll run at BN just to get Chip’s feet wet, literally and figuratively, as it’s been several months now since we’ve run a trial.

The Cajun Eventer Series, blog 2

It took us three trips to get the entire family to Fort Polk from Statesboro, Georgia. The kids and I moved first, tackling a 14 hour drive in two days. Ryan followed about a month later–he had to finish out at Ft. Stewart. To get the house, we had to move in by 15 November. Then, a few days before Christmas, I took off in Bertha Blue Due hauling the gooseneck to pick up the critters.

It was an adjustment for Chip, Wynni and Gretchen. Chip left behind his buddies, Owin & Blackjack; Wynni left behind her girlfriends, and Gretchen…well, Gretchen is one special chicken. She shunned the guineas and promptly moved into our attic.

Winters in Lousiana aren’t too bad, but between the rain, short days, hours at the office, and a baby, I didn’t ride much to say the least. I brought along some hay, but it quickly dwindled, and finding a good source of quality horse hay down here proved impossible. I became incredibly grateful for Standlee compressed bales, beet pulp shreds, and alfalfa pellets. Farriers were another issue altogether. We’re still working on finding a good one, and it’s a sore subject right now.

Being a science nerd with a B.S. in Animal Science, I had already researched feed dealers in the area and was lamenting at the lack of what I deem quality feeds. I’m going to eat my words, though, because I am completely impressed with Purina nutrition. Our local Slagle Mall (they have very broad definitions of malls down here), the combination gas station, feed dealership, hardware store, post office, Uhaul rental, restaurant, and grocery store, carries Purina feeds. Without getting too technical, I’ve always snubbed Purina in favor of Seminole and Triple Crown feeds because I felt the ingredients were sub-standard. However, Chip’s coat and hoof quality are amazing, and he’s building lean muscle quickly and efficiently. He looks amazing, and the grass hasn’t even fully come in yet.

I think that about catches us up through the winter. Blog 3 will discuss our training goals and plans and my desperate attempt to regain fitness.