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Have you ever reached a point in your life when you needed to just start over?  You woke up one day and realized that you had lost the parts of you that were most important and, slowly, the rest of the things that made you “you” had slowly faded away?  

This is exactly where Devon Brooke, the leading lady of In the Reins, found herself after waking up one day and not recognizing her life.  Mid-30’s and in a dead-end relationship, she had compromised her love for horses and the open country to make her relationship work with a  man who could not reciprocate. Throwing her life to a hard stop, she found her relationship with her fiance suddenly ending, causing her to realize just how much of her passion she had lost, not only in her love life, but in life in general.  Most of all, leaving horses behind had caused her to live a life with an underscore of hollowness.

Inspired to make a change, Devon uproots her whole life in search of greener pastures.  She finds them in the shape of a talented young paint mare named Faith and a quiet ranch named Green Briar. She soon becomes part of Green Briar’s makeshift family, comprised of a noble and delicate matriarch, Sophia, a happy-go-lucky player and bull rider named JD, and a mysterious cowboy champion horse trainer named McKennon. 

Please be aware that this post contains affiliate links, meaning if you buy any products, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you. These affiliate purchases help with the upkeep of Alta Mira Horsemanship, so thank you for helping us keep this site running!

In the Reins, by Carly Kade, is a captivating novel that chronicles one woman’s journey away from everything she knew to find her way back to herself.  Devon encounters struggles and an ill-fated weekend away at a show with Faith, as she slowly finds love and passion with the broken-yet-strong cowboy, McKennon.  But ultimately, she finds that the breakup that seemed to be the end of a road in her life was just the beginning of a much better one.  

Interview with the Author, Carly Kade

In the process of reading In the Reins, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing its author, the lovely Carly Kade!  Can I just say that Carly is one of the sweetest people you will meet? She is always full of life and love, which overflows into her writing.  Follow along as I interviewed her about her books, her story, and what’s up next for her! 

How long have you been an author? 

I’ve always enjoyed creative writing and was recognized as a young author. My education involved English, Journalism and Creative Writing courses, but I didn’t set out to publish a novel until McKennon Kelly, the leading man from In the Reins, came to me like lightning one day in the form of a poem. I vividly remember the day I furiously scrawled him in my journal. That poem ended up being the intro to the first book.  

From there, I just wrote the novel that I wanted to read. Beverly Cleary once said, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelves, write it.” 

I’ve always loved reading and have been riding horses since I was seven. I know that I sure wouldn’t be able to resist reading about a handsome horse trainer who knows his way around horses, so I wrote about what I knew — horses and the equestrian culture. The first book in the series was published in 2015.

My dream is to keep writing equestrian stories that make people feel. I want to write novels that give people escape. I want to write stories that people don’t want to put down. I want to get lost in my imagination and bring stories to life for others. 

Carly Kade with her mare, Sissy

What drew you to writing, particularly equestrian fiction?

Being an equestrian is a lifestyle. It inhabits everything you do. It starts as a girl and grows throughout life. I know I will pick up anything with a horse on it, especially a book. I think the link between horses and my writing is due to the fact that loving horses is a lifestyle. 

I remember how much I loved horse stories when I was a little cowgirl, but I grew up. In my adulthood, I am just as horse-obsessed as I was as a child. I think the equestrian fiction and equestrian romance genres are the books that young horse lovers grow into in order to feed that need to read about their passion for horses.

I am inspired to write equestrian fiction novels that all horse lovers can appreciate no matter their discipline. I have found that my readers are just like me — horse crazy, book crazy, and crazy for handsome hunks who know a thing or two about horses.  

Some of the best feedback I’ve gotten though has been that non-horsey readers say that one doesn’t have to love horses, or have knowledge about them, to enjoy my stories or fall in love with the characters. Many readers are actually enjoying the fact that they are learning so much about the human-horse connection because of my books. That feedback makes my spurs jingle!

Do you identify with Devon in any past seasons of your life?

One similarity between the leading lady of the In the Reins series and me is our unabashed love for horses. There’s no place I’d rather be than spending time with my horse. Just like Devon, I’m happiest when I am in the saddle.

As I wrote Devon’s story, a big difference between us unfolded as her character became far more risky in the saddle (and in love) than I think myself to be. Like it says in Devon’s intro video from my “Meet the Characters” series on YouTube, she is a little bit of a train wreck. Devon talks to herself in her mind a lot. I try to go about my day as clear-minded and present as possible. It isn’t always easy, but thanks to meditation I like to think I definitely have a quieter mind than Devon does!  

What do you perceive as Devon’s greatest strengths?

What is most important about Devon is that she is willing to learn from her mistakes. Readers will find that Devon grows as a person and horse owner throughout the series. Who she is in In the Reins is merely a reflection who she becomes in Show Pen Promise. I think the most powerful thing about Devon is she knows that she is always a work in progress, defined not by her past, but by the future she is creating for herself.

I think this quote really sums up Devon Brooke nicely …

“She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.” – Terri St. Cloud

In what ways do you think Devon represents all women (equestrian or otherwise)?

I can relate to all the things that make up Devon Brooke (the good and the bad) because those things are inherently female. Devon Brooke represents all the mixed emotions that make up a woman: strength, independence, uncertainty, desire to find love and that little bit of neurosis I think a woman can harbor when her fantasies don’t exactly match up with reality. Devon’s judgment certainly becomes impaired over a cute guy in cowboy boots!  

One reason the books resonate so much with readers is because the trilogy is a romantic drama about life and the struggles we all go through to overcome life’s challenges. The In the Reins series captures the struggle between letting life move forward and shying away from taking the reins.

Author Carly Kade with her paint mare, Sissy.

How has your own horse journey impacted your writing?

The inspiration for my equestrian novels comes from time spent at the barn and riding my horse Sissy. After my rides, I often have to scurry to capture the words on the only thing I can find when inspiration suddenly hits me — torn out insides of my horse’s feed bags! I scribble down my thoughts while perched on hay bales listening to the sounds of the horses rustling in their stalls.

Reflecting on the process today, it feels as if In the Reins just flowed out of me and was just something I had to do. That’s the way I feel about having a horse in my life, too. It’s just something I have to do. Writing equestrian fiction novels about horses and riding them are both good for my creative soul. 

My history with (and knowledge of) horses is definitely a reason why I think other horse lovers have been drawn to the books. I know what it feels like to enter a show pen and be nervous. I know what it feels like to feel stuck with my horse’s training. I know what it feels like to swoon over a cute cowboy. Ha! I hope that sort of authenticity comes through in my writing. 

I’m a horse owner. I’ve shown competitively most of my life. I write about my lifestyle, not something I’ve researched, but what I do.

What’s next for you? 

Right now, I am working on the first draft of the fourth book in the In the Reins series. I’m calling it JD’s Story right now, but I never know what I am going to name my books until the story tells me what it wants the title to be. I didn’t name In the Reins until the moment those three words left my fingertips toward the end of the novel. It was the same with Cowboy Away. I instantly knew what the title to the third installment would be when I typed show pen promise.

I can’t wait to see where my bull riding heartthrob takes me in the next book in the series. I have had readers tell me that they love JD McCall and want more of him. That makes my spurs jingle because I was hoping it would be difficult for readers to choose between JD and McKennon. I think the combination of these two very different men is the perfect storm when it comes to handsome cowboys!

I will be sharing series sneak peeks, updates and new release info on my blog and in my Readers’ Group for readers who can’t wait to find out what happens next for McKennon, Devon, Sophia, JD and the Green Briar horses. I am excited about the journey this series is taking me on!

Get Lost in a World of Horses, Cowboys, and Second Chances

In the Reins is somewhat of a departure from my usual realm of non-fiction reading.  I loved getting lost in Devon’s transformation as she faced her need for change head-on.  She pursued her new life so tenaciously, in spite of uncertainty and doubt. What’s more, I loved the complexity of each of the characters, JD the reckless yet tender-hearted bull rider, McKennon the strong and intuitive cowboy, and Sophia, the matriarch and Devon’s confidant and guardian angel throughout the novel.  I would recommend this to any equestrian who loves getting lost in a great story. For parents with young reading cowgirls, please note, of the content is best for adult eyes only, as there is an element of romance in the pages.

Thank you everyone for following along with me today for my first book review.  Please let me know if you like reading book reviews and discovering new authors!  And a huge thank you to Carly for joining us today for an in-depth interview about In the Reins and life as an equestrian author!

Where Can I Buy In the Reins?

You can buy it right here on Amazon!

Be Sure to Check Out Other Books in the Series!

Where to Find Carly Kade:

You can find Carly at her Website, Amazon, GoodReads, BookBub, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Watch Carly Kade Creative Videos on YouTube!

The post Catching Up With Carly Kade + In the Reins Book Review appeared first on Alta Mira Horsemanship.

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Thrush is a prevalent occurrence in the equine world.  If you haven’t encountered it yet in your time riding, chances are that you will fairly soon (unless, you know, you live in the Sahara Desert).  Thrush in horses is a disease based in moisture and bacteria.  It attacks one of the horse’s most vital body parts: the hooves.

*Disclaimer: The following post contains affiliate links. Any purchase you make through the links in this article will contribute a small commission to Alta Mira Horsemanship at no extra charge to you.  These commissions help support the upkeep of this website.  Additionally, I am not a veterinarian, so please consult your vet about any health concerns for your horse, including questions about the information in this article. Please see my full disclaimer statements here.

Growing up riding in Southern California, you would think that I didn’t see much thrush in my lesson horses.  San Diego is basically a desert that meets up with the ocean. Even at the barns located farther inland where the dirt was hard-packed, every winter brought thrush.  Why? Because as a drier climate, paddocks weren’t very prepared for rain drainage. So once the rains came, huge mud puddles formed in all the stalls. I’d go to pick my lesson horse’s first hoof and be greeted with an in-your-face half diaper/half stinky sock kind of smell.  

Here in Washington State, we see a lot more rain and endure longer seasons of moisture.  However, a lot of our paddocks are better equipped for drainage. Still, I will occasionally see thrush pop up here and there.  And I know how to spot it quickly based on that same ostentatious odor.

What is Thrush?

Thrush in horses is presumed to be a bacteria-based infection because of its pungent odor and its tissue-eating behavior in the hoof.  The root cause is essentially moisture left in the hoof for too long. It centers around the frog and the tissue lining around it.  Thrush comes with a pungent, black discharge that causes the frog and the surrounding hoof tissue to become soft and break down. You’ll find that the affected hoof tissue will be easy to remove with a hoof pick, and may reveal more black discharge.

While it starts superficially, the infection can penetrate deeper into the hoof and the sensitive area of the frog if left unchecked.  If it progresses to this point, it can cause a really painful, sore lameness not unlike an abscessed hoof.

How to Prevent Thrush in Horses

Since thrush is caused by moisture left sitting too long in the horse’s hoof, the first step is to create a dry environment for your horse to stand in.  While some climates are harder than others, you can either provide a shelter and/or raised area in an outdoor paddock where the horse can stand outside of mud or accumulated manure, or create a drainage system in an indoor stall.  Either way, cleaning your horse’s manure regularly out of their habitation will go a long way in preventing thrush.  

After prioritizing a clean, dry stall, the next step to prevent equine thrush  is to clean your horse’s hooves on a regular basis. Cleaning your horse’s hooves every time you ride is a given.  Riding or lunging your horse will also allow your horse’s hoof to expand and contract, pushing out dirt and debris from the hoof. I would also suggest making a point to pick their hooves even if you don’t ride regularly. Moisture trapped in the hoof through mud, manure, or under a hoof pad can all create an ideal environment for thrush to grow.

The last step in preventing thrush is scheduling regular farrier checks.  Horses with misshapen hooves or unhealthy frogs will be extremely prone to thrush, no matter how much you control their external environment.

How to Treat Thrush in Horses

Thrush can be nasty, but it is pretty simple to treat if you catch it early enough.  There are three basic steps to treating thrush.

Step One:

Clean out all of the infected tissue from around the frog.  It may go deep, so make sure to be gentle on your horse’s hoof.  Clean out all the discharge that comes along with it as well.

Step Two:

You’ll need to apply a thrush-specific topical treatment to help eliminate excess moisture and kill the infection.  My absolute favorite treatment is Thrushbuster.  I’ve used it almost since I began horseback riding, and it has always been effective in treating my horse’s rank hooves.  It has proven to be extremely effective, while also more gentle than alternatives, including bleach, copper sulfate, and turpentine.  Its magic is preventing the infected tissue from spreading into the healthy tissue, while also fighting the infection itself.

Apply Thrushbuster by holding your horse’s clean hoof with one hand, and dripping several drops of the purple liquid right into the affected area.  Let it pool a little at first, and continue holding the hoof in picking position until it soaks into the hoof and begins to dry. You will notice that the less-affected areas will be a lighter purple, while the infected areas will be darker.

Step Three:

Make sure your horse’s hoof gets time to dry.  Don’t treat the thrush and put your horse right back into a muddy stall.  Find a good place to rest or ride where he won’t be stepping back into puddles, deep manure, or mud.  Keep repeating this process until the infection ceases. 

If you think that your horse is more prone to thrush, either from past experience or an excessively moist environment, you can use Thrushbuster (or a similar topical treatment) up to once per week in wet environments and once every two weeks in dry environments to balance the hoof’s moisture levels and kill any infection that might be lurking.  

Thankfully, thrush is so easily treated in today’s equine world, especially if you catch it early.  Call your vet if the infection persists, if you have any questions about treatment, or if the infected area is really large.  If the thrush seems to be causing lameness or other sensitivity in your horse’s hooves, it could be too advanced for at-home care or, possibly, another issue entirely.  

Have you found a great thrush hack or prevention plan with your horses?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or at altamirahorsemanship@gmail.com  

For more information on thrush in horses and its prevention, check out the following articles:

The Horse: Thrush Prevention

Practical Horseman Mag: How to Treat Your Horse’s Thrush

Equus Magazine: 6 Simple Ways to Prevent Thrush

The post Thrush in Horses: Prevention and Treatment appeared first on Alta Mira Horsemanship.

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Today we have the pleasure of hearing from Pam, a dear equestrian blogger friend who has admirable passion and wisdom when it comes to wellness for both horse and rider.  Pam and I are doing a blog swap around the topic of Stress & Gastric Ulcers in Horses.  To check out my guest post on her site, Horse and Human Wellness Project, click HERE.

Living with Gastric Ulcers in Horses

My pony, Stella, is prone to ulcers. We have treated her for gastric ulcers three times in the five years she’s been with us. Ulcers are extremely painful for horses, and until you see the results of an ulcer for yourself, it may be difficult for you to understand how important it is to avoid their development at all costs.

A few years ago I had barely even heard of the idea of gastric ulcers in horses. If you’d have asked me back then how often ulcers occurred in horses I likely would have answered “I’ve never seen a horse with ulcers”. I had no idea how prevalent they were – the statistics are staggering.

How Often do Gastric Ulcers Occur in Horses?

According to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine Center for Equine Health:

“Gastric ulcers are common in horses.  Their prevalence has been estimated to be from 50% to 90% depending on populations surveyed and type of athletic activity horses are engaged in.”

The number seems to be highest in race horses in training (90%), and a little lower in endurance horses and show horses (70% and 60% respectively).

Overall, about one in three horses has ulcers. One in three. To me, this is a horrible statistic, especially since I’ve witnessed the devastating effects of gastric ulcers first hand.

What Causes Gastric Ulcers in Horses?
  • “Typical” feeding routines: Horses are designed to eat small meals very frequently, and to be grazing or foraging almost constantly. Many if not most horse owners prefer to feed horses two or three times a day, leaving their stomachs empty for hours at a time. This works against the very design of the horse’s stomach, which produces acid twenty-four hours a day. With nothing in the stomach to buffer that acid, gastric ulcers can easily occur.
  • Stall confinement: It is imperative to a horse’s physical and emotional well-being that they are allowed frequent turnout, constant grazing and foraging, and access to other horses. Being confined to a stall for more than a few hours at a time means that these requirements are not being fulfilled and the risk of ulcers increases.
  • Transport stress: It is obvious to any horse person that trailering is one of the most unnatural situations in which we put our horses. Being confined to a small space with limited ability to move is enough to cause stress even in humans. In horses, it has been found that gastric ulcers can occur in as little as a few hours when being transported.
  • NSAIDs: The use of anti-inflammatory drugs like Bute block the production of the chemical in the stomach that decreases acid production. This increases the likelihood of gastric ulcers.
  • Changes in routine: This is true especially of changes in herd structure (ie losing a pasture buddy, introduction of a new horse to the herd, change in herd hierarchy, etc), but also includes things like moving to a new stable, going to a horse show, or even an increase in training intensity. All of these things cause stress for a horse, leading to an increased production of stomach acid.
Pam’s horse, Stella, in her pasture. How can you tell if your horse has an ulcer?

Sometimes the signs are obvious. Other times, unless you know your horse very, very well, you might miss them altogether. Oftentimes the severe pain of ulcers can cause horses to behave in extreme ways, leading owners and trainers to think the horse is being “naughty”, and is in need of re-training or, worse, punishment.

Any time your horse shows uncharacteristic “naughty” behaviour, I urge you to first assume that pain is the issue. Harsh re-schooling programs, or any kind of punishment of a horse in pain is, in my opinion, tantamount to abuse.

When Stella’s having a ulcer occurrence, we normally see the following symptoms:

  • increased irritability or crankiness with both humans and her herd-mates
  • not wanting to be touched, groomed, have blankets changed, or be fussed with in any way
  • increased spookiness; being on “high alert” all the time
  • soft or even runny stools
  • her coat becomes dull, especially on her neck and chest area
  • increased rolling, often followed by rearing (the only time this mare ever rears for any reason, either under saddle or on her own, is when she has an ulcer. It is a tell-tale sign for her)
  • When touched in the girth area, especially on her left side, she will try to bite you. Again, for her, this is a tell-tale sign. This is the only time this sweet pony would ever offer to bite.

Other symptoms of ulcers can include poor appetite, grinding of the teeth, resistance to training, weight loss, reluctance to finish their grain, and poor body condition. It is interesting to note that none of these last symptoms have ever been seen in Stella. This could be partly due to the fact that she does not eat grain, but it just goes to show that the typical picture of the “skinny” ulcer horse is not always an accurate one. Stella has never lost weight during any of her three battles with ulcers.

The only definitive way to positively diagnose gastric ulcers is through gastric endoscopy (commonly referred to as “scoping”). Because most vets do not have access to the equipment required for scoping, and due to the stress caused by having to travel hours to the nearest facility (which, in itself, could cause an ulcer or worsen the current condition), some vets (including mine) will forego this option.

If relatively certain through examination that ulcers are the culprit, they may begin treatment for ulcers without scoping. This is what we have done with Stella all three times – and each time, the symptoms disappeared with treatment, confirming our suspicions.

How can we treat ulcers?

First off – if you suspect an ulcer, call your vet immediately. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no “natural” treatment for ulcers. This is a very painful and potentially dangerous situation, and it must be addressed by a veterinarian as quickly and effectively as possible. This is not the time for trial-and-error or a wait-and-see approach.

We treated each of Stella’s three ulcer outbreaks with GastroGard, which is a brand name for the proton pump inhibitor omeprazole. There are other recognized treatments such as ranitidine and cimetidine, which are histamine type-2 receptor antagonists, and some people claim to have found relief for their horses with sucralfate (although studies have not conclusively shown that sucralfate is particularly useful in healing gastric ulcers in horses).

No matter which treatment you choose, please be sure to follow your vet’s instructions to a T, especially when it comes to length of treatment, and weaning off the medication. Coming off omeprazole takes a long time, and painful rebound effects will be your horse’s punishment for your not having followed the correct weaning protocol.

Stella is prone to ulcers. Pam sees to caring for her holistically in her care, riding, and training. Prevention is the Best Cure

Having dealt with the devastating effects of gastric ulcers, I am a firm believer in doing everything humanly possible to prevent them from happening in the first place. For Stella, this meant first, changing everything about her current lifestyle, and second, putting some protocols in place to keep the ulcers at bay.

Because one of the most common causes of ulcers is a faulty feeding routine, our first change involved Stella’s hay routine. From the day she was diagnosed, we have followed one simple but non-negotiable rule: free choice hay 24/7. Luckily for us, Stella’s not one to gorge herself on hay. We noticed that she didn’t really eat any more hay once she had constant access to it than she did before. But having it available at all times takes away the stress of wondering where her next meal is coming from, along with providing a fairly constant buffer from stomach acids.

(As an interesting aside, even our horses who do are not ulcer prone found great benefits, both physically and mentally, in having ad-lib hay).

The next change we made for Stella was to move her out of the busy training/lesson barn where I was boarding her, to a friend’s breeding farm, where the horses lived out as a herd in lovely big fields with access to cozy shelters. Stella began to thrive in this environment, so when we bought our own farm and built our own barn and paddocks, we made sure to keep to the same set-up. All of our horses have constant access to the paddocks, and can always make a choice between being indoors or out.

I also made a big change to Stella’s training routine. We now keep our work as stress-free and low-key as possible. This means fewer trips off the property to shows and clinics, shorter training sessions and more days off. This year, instead of heading off to shows or trailering out for lessons, I’ll be exploring the world of online dressage competitions, and video-lessons with my coach.

Perhaps the biggest change to my training structure has been the idea of introducing “low-stress” training options into our routine. For some help with this idea, I reached out Lindsey Rains at Alta Mira Horsemanship. Lindsey’s ideas about horses and training mesh very closely with mine, and I often find myself looking to her blog for insight and guidance with my own horses.

Lindsey always keeps the horse’s care and comfort top of mind, so it only made sense that she would be a great resource for figuring out just the right kind of stress-lowering training exercises for an ulcer-prone horse. As usual, she did not disappoint!  You can check out her guest post on Horse and Human Wellness project HERE

Pam Levy is an equestrian blogger and the creator of The Horse and Human Wellness Project, a blog that chronicles her quest to create a stronger connection with her horses. Pam has been riding since she was seven, and in love with horses for as long as she can remember. These days, she’s living her dream on the small farm she owns with her husband in rural Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast. Their herd includes three horses (Sunny, Stella and Q) and two cats (Jack and Arthur). Visit The Horse and Human Wellness Project blog or Facebook page.

The post Living with Gastric Ulcers in Horses appeared first on Alta Mira Horsemanship.

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Boundaries, in my opinion, are such an underrated thing.  They can take on a negative connotation because they imply confrontation at times, which can be uncomfortable.  Most people confuse boundaries with abuse or mean-spirited behavior. But boundaries, with humans or with horses, carry a magic to them, a magic that I didn’t discover until my late twenties.  

I had to learn the hard way that we teach people how to treat us.  If we want them to be kind to us, we have to teach them that we are not okay with rude comments.  If we want them to respect our privacy, we have to show them where our personal space begins. And if we want them to love us, we have to be vulnerable enough to show them how we receive love.  We cultivate our relationships based on the communication of those boundaries. When we show what we are and are not okay with, we’ve drawn out a sacred space where a relationship can move in and make itself a home.  When I finally started getting the hang of boundaries in my life, toxic relationships faded quickly, and more wholesome relationships started to blossom.

And really, horses are no different.  Sure, they cannot consider our human-equine partnership at the level that we can.  But they do understand and desire leadership, belonging, and safety. Believe it or not, boundaries are what catalyze all these things.  When we exemplify leadership through boundaries with our horses, we allow them to blossom into the best horse they possibly can be.

The lack of boundaries, on the other hand, can cause an otherwise talented and kind horse to become dangerous.  Without boundaries, your hose could become a liability, a problem, or a project.

Boundaries Promote Safety By:
  1. Teaching your horse that safe behavior is in their best interest (Read more about the Pressure and Release Training Method).
  2. Eliminating confusion in your horse.  This will make them less tense and fearful, and less likely to spook or react in a bottled up tantrum.
  3. Establishing your Leadership.  This will lead to happier rides for your horse and safer rides for you, especially in new situations.  While they may not know what to do in a new situation, they will still look to you for guidance.

When we work with our horses, we don’t want them to be in trouble.  We don’t want them to misbehave or overreact or spook. But in order to bring forth an even-tempered horse in our training, we need to implement boundaries consistently in the smallest things.  For example, if I let my horse rush ahead of me when coming out of the stall, will he listen to me when I ask him to stop on the trail? Horses, when allowed to practice bad habits, will persist their bad behavior, and often escalate to worse behavior.  

What we don’t often think about in handling is how our horse suffers for our lack of boundaries.  Most domesticated horses are bred to be submissive. With the herd mentality in mind, the more submissive horses are expecting to be led by the dominant horse.  In the dynamic between you and your horse, you are the dominant leader.  

By not stepping up into your leadership role, you risk making your horse feel like he/she needs to step up on your place.  For most domesticated horses, this produces fear, because they don’t necessarily want to lead. This is why a “misbehaved” horse might be more prone to spooking.  Their bad behavior is rooted in fear. To make matters worse, when we don’t implement small boundaries, we will overcompensate when our horses escalate their behavior.  This only produces more confusion, tension, and fear in our horses around being handled. The combination of all these factors ultimately create a dangerous horse.

If you are just learning about boundaries for the first time, do not worry.  The amazing thing about boundaries is that they start to take effect immediately.  Follow these simple steps to start transforming your partnership with your horse from hazardous to healthy.

How to Implement Healthy Boundaries with Your Horse:
  1. Don’t Allow Bad Habits to Form or Persist: I know we all struggle with this one from time to time, we need to draw a line with bad habits in our horses: habits like stomping their feet, anxious movement at the mounting block, biting, kicking, rushing past you when walking, or ignoring your aids.  Stop them as soon as you see this behavior, and use the Pressure and Release Method to reinforce a better one.
  2. Be Consistent: When your horse knows exactly what is expected of him/her, he/she will more willingly trust your leadership and be at peace.  Not knowing how you’ll react to a given situation can cause confusion. A confused horse will more often be tense, fearful, flighty, or aggressive.
  3. Be the Leader: This is hard for us meeker personality types.  Horses are big animals, and we don’t necessarily want to piss them off.  But by not reminding them that you’re the leader in smaller struggles will almost always lead to a bigger dominance struggle.  If you allow this to escalate, you could end up in a new and scary situation on the back of a horse that won’t listen to your direction.
  4. Reward Positive Change: When teaching your horse which behaviors are not okay, it is equally important to show them the behaviors that you favor.  Simple rewards include a pat on their neck, soothing touch or tone of voice, or providing them a break from their task. This will reinforce their training more effectively, and possibly cut down training time altogether.

I thought that exercising boundaries would kill me when I started to practice them.  With horses and humans, I thought that no one would want to be around me when I wasn’t agreeable.  But what I found instead was that boundaries provide the other half of a partnership a means to relate to you and trust you.  If you are consistent with what behavior you will allow, your horse will respond generously–trust me.

Boundaries are not complicated at all, but they can be hard.  Just keep in mind the positive behavior that you want from your horse.  You will then be able to respond to that behavior while it’s still in its simplest form.  When you reward the baby steps towards progress, your horse will be encouraged and learn more quickly.  This create a safer handling and riding experience for you.  But more importantly, it will set your horse’s mind at ease, knowing that he’s not the one that has to call the shots.  And remember, always, that your horse is not against you, he’s just waiting for you to be the leader. Do so with kindness, and you’ll have a loyal horse forever.

What comes to mind when you think of boundaries?  Have you found them useful in your life, either with people or horses?  I’d love to hear in the comments below or at altamirahorsemanship@gmail.com

The post How Horses Become Dangerous: Part 3 – When They Have No Boundaries appeared first on Alta Mira Horsemanship.

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Weight loss is a sensitive topic that most of us equestrian women want to know more about but are often embarrassed to talk openly about because of the struggles we face.  Today, I want to share my journey with you out of overeating and my top weight loss tips after losing 50 lbs and keeping it off.

So let’s get this out of the way: I love food.  Food is fantastic in that it nourishes our life on a daily basis and has incredible healing, strengthening, and energizing properties.  Most of my Instagram feed is filled with people who are really creative with how they pair food in inspiringly healthy ways.

I love food, but I’ve spent most of my life depending on it.  And I don’t mean physically for sustenance and nourishment, as mentioned above.  I spent years of my life relying on food to regulate my moods, make me feel secure, and deal with stress and heartbreak.  

So, as you can imagine, I have spent many years being heavier than I should have been.  When I was young, my binge-eating was easier to hide. I could put away twelve tacos, chips, and ice cream in a day (plus breakfast and dinner) without anyone really noticing, because I was extremely active.  I typically played two to four sports regularly, in addition to swimming several times a week.

As I got older and started dropping out of all my physical activities (read more about that in  the post: When Depression Takes Away Your Desire to Horseback Ride), the weight I’d been holding back with physical activity just started to pile on.  

Struggling with deep depression and searching for meaning in my life, I kept myself numb enough to function by feeding my brain more fats, more sugars, and more carbs.  

When I think about how I used to relate to food, I feel sad for the girl that was going through a hard time and couldn’t see her way out.  But the reality of any eating disorder is that it happens in a difficult time in our life as a crutch to keep us from dealing with the chaos around us or the pain inside of us.  If we use this crutch for long enough, it becomes part of our identity. I’d always felt ashamed about being bigger than other girls my age. But, I needed food to keep me from being sad all the time more than I needed a good body image.   

Finally in my twenties, I started to face all of the pain I was afraid to deal with.  I didn’t want to see the self-hatred, the betrayal, or the loss that I had experienced.  But little by little, I started to feel the experiences, look at them, and move forward.  I had the help of a therapist for a while, pastoral counsel at another point, horses through the worst of it, and new, healthy relationships at last.  

As I started to separate my personal identity from the heartache that had formerly defined me, I began to see myself as a healthy and whole person.  The picture wasn’t complete at first, but I saw glimmers of who I could be, and I walked towards that girl until the picture became clearer. Looking back at how broken I was to where I am now, I know that God is real and He cares.  

As I started to deal with the realities of my life, my mentality towards food started to change, too.

Two short years ago, I married the love of my life and am happy to say he is also my best friend.  Well, my best friend happens to be insanely healthy. During our first year of marriage, I lost thirty pounds alone by just mimicking his behavior with food some of the time.  During the second year of marriage, we started to get serious about diet and exercise being a part of our life, and I lost another twenty pounds.  

The process was gradual and never too difficult.  I missed the mark all the time (and still do!) in regards to ideal eating habits.  However my eating habits, by continually setting higher goals, have been completely transformed.  By adding some exercise to the routine, I started to feel more confident and protective of the body that was working so hard to keep healthy.  

Me in 2015 vs. 2018

More recently, I wanted to learn more about how I could make my body stronger and get to a new level of health.  I joined the beta group of a program called The Equestrian’s Edge, that specifically helped me focus on how to exercise in a way that benefit me as a woman and equestrian.  That journey boosted my confidence exponentially, because I saw my body starting to take shape in ways I never thought possible.  

So, why am I sharing all of this?  Because I hope it encourages some equestrians who may be struggling with either food addiction or just feeling discouraged about starting their health journey.  This is not advice for someone who wants to lose weight fast or be bikini-ready for next summer.  But if you want a healthier relationship with food, your body, and your self-confidence, you’re in good company.  

Practical Guidelines for Transformative Weight Loss

Personally, my weight loss journey had to be manageable and involve healthier eating habits, routine exercise, and mentality shifts.  Please remember that I have 0.00 medical training, so please consult your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet or exercise routine.  But if you identify at all with my story, these transformation tips may be a good place to start:

  1. Pay Attention to Portions:

    Counting calories at first isn’t bad if it helps you identify portion sizes of food and how many should be eaten in a day. Calories will be different for everyone, but the standard is under 2,000 per day.  Some will go lower, depending on their goals. For me, 1,500 calories a day at first helped me understand portions in a day that would help me lose weight. But the really, really important thing to focus on, calories or not, is to eat slowly and stop when you’re full.  You’ll have to adjust to a new “full” sensation, because it’s not the “roll me outta here” full anymore.  The healthy full is when you feel just satisfied.

  2. Balance Your Macros:

     Macros can be a scary word for someone entering the health world, but they’re actually your best friend.  Basically, your body needs proteins, carbs, and fats to function. (For example: did you know that some vitamins and minerals can only be absorbed when fats are present?  That’s why apples and nut butter are a great combo: the fats in the nut butter help absorb the Vitamin A!). Because your body needs carbs, fats, and proteins to function, focus on getting all three in a meal (focusing on healthy carbs and fats–for example sweet potato or avocado), and you will not only remain full longer, but also be fueling your body in the way it was intended to function. Anything we can do to help our bodies function naturally is a win, right?

  3. Check In With Yourself:

    This one has been the longest process but has provided the deepest transformation when rewiring my emotional eating.  I kid you not, I left a Starbucks parking lot crying one day because I realized that all I was there to do was buy pastries so that I wouldn’t be sad for a few hours.  Checking in with yourself will help you understand when you’re eating to elevate your mood, alleviate stress, or to actually satisfy hunger and nourish your body. Make this a habit by maybe setting your alarm 5 times in a day to ask yourself how you’re doing & why.  Or, when you run to the fridge or pantry unexpectedly, ask yourself: “Do I need to talk with someone, journal, or have a good cry? Or do I actually need to eat?”

  4. Move a Little:

    Did you know that your body is healthiest when you’re pushing it physically?  Physical activity releases endorphins (that affect your mood & mindset), boosts metabolism, and makes you physically stronger to help you live longer.  My suggestion: start small. Maybe this means starting with three walks a week, bike rides, hikes, or longer riding sessions. Do something that makes your body feel good afterward.  The key to prolonged physical activity is combining cardio activity with strength training. Our bodies need both for optimal health.

  5. Drink Water!

     Don’t roll your eyes at me!  At first, I had to force myself to drink water.  What I have found to be most helpful is to start with a glass at the beginning of the day when I first wake up, because it makes me think about drinking water the rest of the day.  You can also incorporate fun things to flavor it, like cold-steeping a tea bag throughout the day, or infusing it with strawberries, lemons, or cucumbers to give it a little flavor.  

  6. Settle at Your Healthy Body Weight & Type:

    Please, please don’t skip this step.  The difference between going on a diet and adopting a healthy lifestyle is considering the long-term goals for your body.  You want your healthy homeostasis to be right where your body is happiest. Over-eating past this point and starving yourself to be smaller are the two edges of the same destructive sword.  So eat healthy, keep moving, drink water, watch your portions, and fall in love with the size and shape that it settles at. In order to continue being healthy, you have to love your healthy body.

  7. Always be Looking to Improve:

     I know myself well enough to know that I’ll be looking for a way to slip back into bingeing donuts, chips, and cheeseburgers if I’m not setting new health goals once I’ve achieved my former ones.  My mind is always trying to find ways to go back to my old lifestyle, telling me, “You’ve lost the weight, now you can live it up again.” Well, when I was eating everything in sight, I was NOT happy.  I was barely surviving. Now, I’m focused on thriving. By continuing to learn about nutrition, I haven’t yet run out of ways to make my daily diet and exercise routine more healthy. So crush your health goals, make them a habit, and keep reaching higher.

  8. Get a Support System:

    Living a healthy life can be hard and require sacrifices that can be challenging at first.  Having friends to journey with help. Your support system may be a work-out buddy (friend, husband, co-worker) who can go to the gym with you and share healthy eating tips together.  It could be a personal trainer or nutritionist, in the case that you feel you’d benefit from one-on-one professional support and guidance. This may be a fitness program that has a broader support group of like-minded people who are taking the same journey.  

I was fortunate to find a fitness group that I completely loved when I wanted to take the next step in my fitness journey.  The best part? It’s just for equestrians.  The Equestrian’s Edge is a fitness and nutrition program that is geared specifically towards equestrian women who want to be stronger and healthier in horseback riding and every other aspect of life.  

While going through the first month of the program, I did a series of videos chronicling my journey through the challenges and victories.  This first video is more detail about my health journey upon entering the program and an overview of The Equestrian’s Edge!  Check it out below:

Equestrian Wellness: My Fitness Reset Intro - YouTube

To join the waitlist for the launch of The Equestrian’s Edge with Kristin Montero, sign up HERE.

Let’s Journey Together

My heart in sharing all of this with you is to let you know that the journey to your best health is not linear.  It will not happen overnight, but it doesn’t need to. Today is never too late to take the next step towards your overall health.  Let us make decisions today that will prolong our lives, make us feel happier and healthier, and make us feel stronger riding our horses for hours on end!

What have you done in your health journey to make you a better rider?  Do you have any tips to share? I’d love to hear in the comments below or at altamirahorsemanship@gmail.com

The post Equestrian Wellness: The Skinny on Weight Loss appeared first on Alta Mira Horsemanship.

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Christmas shopping for the horse lover can be tough.  There are some super cute gifts out there for the fun and classy equestrian if you look in the right places.  But most gifts that you can easily find in a department store are just plain corny.  As a horse lover, most people don’t know what strikes that perfect balance between cute, cool, and totally horse obsessed.  Sometimes it’s just plain difficult to find something original for our horsey BFF.  But believe me, she does not want another horse calendar.

So what can you get for that equine aficionado of yours for Christmas that will say “chic equestrian” without going all My Little Pony?  Here are some of my top picks for the special equestrian in your life. *Note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I chose my favorite buys from Etsy shops and will receive a small commission at no extra cost to the buyer to help run this website.  See my full disclosure here. Without further ado, here are my top picks this Christmas for your favorite horse lover!

A Gift to Start the Day Right:

Whether your equestrian friend is more sassy, more classy, or just plain sweet, there’s a mug here that she’s bound to love.  And, of course, she’ll think of you when she’s sipping on her morning coffee. (Click on the photos to purchase)

All I Care About is My Horse and Like Two People Mug from Wild Lime Gifts

This mug is so stinkin’ cute.  And it comes in variations for those who only care about their Quarter Horse, Arabian, Dutch Warmblood, Paint Horse, Saddlebred, & Tennessee Walking Horse.  Love it!

I May Look Like I’m Listening to You But in My Head I’m Riding My Horse Mug from eCopious

Hold Your Horses Mug from TheMugMama

Stay Humble, Hustle Hard, & Ride Horses Mug from ItsAllEnergyCo

Everything’s Better in Riding Boots Mug by PippaBashfordDesign

Gifts to Show off Her Horse Junkie Ways in Public:

Even when we’re not riding horses, us equestrians are thinking about riding horses.  Here are some wearables for the equestrian to be fully herself in public. (Click on the photos to purchase)

Easily Distracted By Horses Tee by HorseDoodles

Rio the Horse Tank by Inkopious

Horse Girl Shirt by BlockMerch

Chin Up Heels Down Tee by StagandPeachCo

Barn Hair Don’t Care Tee by HorseDoodles

Horse Mom Tee by BlockMerch

Boss Mare Tank by Equestrian Creations

This tank comes in a mug, too!

All Those in Favor Say Nay Sweatshirt by nicandthenewfie

Related: 30 Gifts for Equestrians Under 30 Dollars

Gifts for Relaxing at Home with Her Horse Obsession:

The day is done.  The horses have been ridden, turned in, and fed.  Now it’s time for your horse-loving friend to relax at home with some equestrian-themed flourishes. (Click on the photos to purchase)

Grey Horse Candle Co. has a great selection of equestrian-themed candles, ranging from Fly Spray to High End Saddle.

You can pick your three favorite scents as a bundle, or purchase your favorite candle individually.  Some fun scents include Fresh Cut Hay, Beach Ride, Early Morning Hack, Sweet Feed, Peppermints for Ponies, Fly Spray, Moonlight Ride, and High End Saddle.

Pillow Covers for the Stylish Horse Lover

Horse Flowers Farmhouse Pillow in Blue by JolieMarche

Horse Flowers Farmhouse Pillow in Pink by JolieMarche

Vintage Equestrian Decor Horse Pillow by JolieMarche

Dining Accessories

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