Let's talk, shall we? I know every where you look there is someone saying that the whole world is fat. Kids are fat. Women are fat. Men are fat. We even have a prime time show where contestants are competing against one another trying to lose weight. It seems we are obsessed. I could go into the whole reason and argument behind why this is happening, but smarter and keener writers are doing that all over the media, so why beat a dead horse. No, in this case I want to talk about horse fat.
We are back to that "friend". The one who owns the SE Arabian who only wants to gallop madly like only a twelve year old girl can. All the time. Over any imaginable terrain. Who looks down her nose at people who want to actually train and shape the behavior of their horse. The one who is temporarily boarding at my barn. Yeah, that one.
It seems her horse is fat.
This started with Cassandra and the services she offers to her clients. Because it is winter and horses have a tendency to not want to drink enough water, which puts them at risk of colic, Cassandra feeds them a daily mash. I do this on Monday night, because Monday is Cassandra's day off from work. The mash consists of either beet pulp or timothy hay pellets that are soaked in warm water, then mixed with either Equipride or Platinum, plus any other supplements the owners are using, and a little salt. The salt is to help stimulate their need for water, making them feel thirsty and they will drink more. The mash is served at a soup like consistency and includes carrots to entice them to eat up. None of the horses hate this. In fact, Cali is so happy she licks the bucket completely clean, inside and out. It's a great way to get both water and fiber into the horses during the months when colic is more likely. (We've had four serious colics in the past month, one of which resulted in a death and one in a hospitalization. The horse that died was 33, but still, anything to keep that from happening.)
I mentioned to my "friend" (we'll call her F, for friend) that Cassandra was offering this service to her clients and that Ashke really loved the mash. F got kind of offended and wanted to know why her horse wasn't included. I told her to talk to Cassandra about it. She did and the next thing I saw, her horse was listed on the board for wet mashes. I was the one responsible for feeding last night and I called Cassandra on my way home. According to Cassandra, F wants her horse off the mash list because he is getting fat.
My mouth dropped open. A cup of beet pulp and a 1/2 scoop of Equipride a day is not making her horse fat. I said so. Cassandra said that she was worried because he was getting a big belly. Now, to put this in perspective, she is also the person who commented that Ashke was fat when she saw him for the first time in several months. I ignored her, knowing that Ashke needed some work to tighten his belly and build his topline, but also knowing that cutting his calories was not going to make those changes in him. Riding him was going to effect those changes. And his endurance is incredible. We can do 10 miles without breaking a sweat. Of course, this year I am hoping to increase both speed and distance, but he can work for over an hour in the indoor, doing transitions and all three gaits without breaking a sweat. He's in great shape and getting better with each day.
So, I started thinking about why she would think her horse was fat. It seems to be a common theme with her. In the several years we have known her, we've heard her rail against both her husband and her son's weight. It has gotten so bad that T told us her son wasn't eating at school, because he was going to be teased about his weight. I asked T if that was happening and he said no. It is, however, something that F talks about happening to her when she was in school. Her son is a little bit overweight, but he also hates to do any type of physical exercise and her picking at him isn't helping.
I think that maybe she has an issue with weight and her perception of what is healthy. Skinny is not always better. Fit and strong is better. I think this is an issue many women deal with and it's something I have seen in the equine blogsphere, where goal setting has included a lot of weight centric focal points. I know, from having watched my mom diet, that dieting doesn't work. Yes, it takes the weight off, but at some point she would stop dieting and then the weight would come back. That seems like a self-defeating process and one I really don't want to get caught up in.
So, my thoughts are this:
-- Don't diet. Instead make good choices about food. Stay away from High Fructose Corn Syrup (meaning sodas and candy) whenever possible. Try to eat as many natural foods as you can: lettuce, potatoes, butter, whole milk, cheese, broccoli, gr beans, etc. Make corn an occassional food, not a staple. Don't deny yourself sweets, just make them fruit instead of soda or candy. I promise you, oranges are great for that.
-- Use a smaller plate for meals. One of the things that has changed in our society is that everything is bigger. Portions are bigger. Plates are bigger. The amount of food you put on your plate is bigger. The other thing that has been molded by our society is the idea of not wasting food. I believe this concept is based on a generation of parents who grew up during the depression and were told not to waste food. This in turn was passed down in the sixties and seventies. Now, we have these huge plates we can fill with food and then we are told we have to eat everything on our plate. It hasn't been a good combination of events. So, give yourself a break and use a smaller plate. You won't take as much. Also, try leaving the last two bites for the Gods. Be a daredevil and defy convention - leave food on your plate! Seriously, what can it hurt.
-- Stop weighing yourself. This is a vicious cycle that only makes you feel bad about a stupid number on a scale. Instead, check in with how you are feeling. Get fun exercise. Move. Ride as much as you can. Stop worrying about your weight and start focusing on how you feel. This will redirect your attention to listening to your body. We spend all this time trying to learn to listen to our horse, but we haven't ever spent that kind of time listening to ourselves. I find that I forget to eat when I ride. I know N has had this same issue, because I have stopped us on the trail and forced her to eat. Pack stuff with you when you trail ride that is high in protein and has some carbs to it. (I personally only eat PBJ when I am riding. It's the only time it tastes really good.) Drink lots of water. And then drink a little bit more. Carry a bottle of water with you. Drinking water cuts a lot of cravings.
As Jillian Michels says "Move more, eat less."
Wow, did this post take a turn, or what? Back to the horse . . . Ashke is hovering somewhere between 5.5 and 6. I love how he looks and I love how I don't worry about riding him for hours at a time. I'm not sure I would be happy with a horse that wasn't between 5.5 and 6. I also think it is important for muscle development and strength, rather than just weight, but that means consistent work. Work in the arena and work on the trail. Both. At least four times a week, in my opinion, although Cali is fit and fine fettle at three days a week. (I would say five days a week, but I'm pretty sure my wife would take exception to that much barn time.)
Don't project your issues onto your horse.
Don't focusing on losing weight and focus on getting fit.