4 lessons I’ve learned from my horses about staying in shape
Eat little and often.
There has been much study done about the necessity for a horse to always have access to forage and the dangers of an empty stomach. Not only does an empty stomach harm a horse physically, but it also causes psychological stress.
The physiological effects on humans might be different, yet grazing – or at least having 5 smaller meals spread across the day instead of the traditional 3 bigger ones – has many benefits for our body and our brain. A constant supply of energy keeps our insulin levels stable, which helps both mood and weight control. Plus, if we’re never hungry, we’re less likely to make rubbish choices or binge eat.
Interval training is cardio on speed.
Those of us of a certain vintage will remember the early days of interval training our eventers to get them fit. Timed efforts over shorter distances repeated before they had fully recovered from the previous burst had our horses charging up hills with more vigour and less risk of injury than prolonged gallop training ever would.
For a galloping housewife who is short on time, yet desperate to improve their ability to hold said charging horse, short spurts of intense exertion on repeat can do wonders. It doesn’t need to be fancy – anything that gets the heart racing will do!
If you want to stay sound, work on form.
We spend a lot of time and effort making sure our horses are straight, that they have stable surfaces to push off from and that they are balanced when they do so. We do this because it makes their job easier, but also because it means they are less like to injure themselves.
Equally when we are doing anything, from riding our horses, to throwing feed bags around, to sitting at a desk, to lifting weights at the gym, making sure that we are balanced and moving correctly is imperative. It means that the chances of riding our horses, throwing feedbags around, sitting at a desk and lifting weights at the gym well into our vintage years, with the least amount of discomfort possible, is greatly enhanced.
Make changes slowly.
We don’t ask our horses to make the time at the first event of the season without solid prep. The galloping housewife knows of one elite yard where the eventers walk – walk – for six full weeks before they begin any sort of training. Likewise with feed switching feed – whether it be because of a change of regime or a change of energy requirements, we all know that we transition them carefully.
As humans we also are built for stasis. Even when the nutrition modifications represent an undeniable improvement, we are far better off to wean ourselves off the chocolate addiction rather than go cold turkey. Not only are there significant enduring metabolic reasons for this, going slowly prevents the very real physical side effects of abrupt alterations. Speaking of which – if you’ve ever suffered through the hell of the day after a new workout DOMS, spare a thought for your horse the next time you introduce something new to the training. Their muscles react the same as ours and if they’re not quite as biddable the next day as they usually are, it is very possible that they’re as stiff and sore as you would be.
If you're a galloping housewife who is looking to improve their health and fitness, only you're too busy, too lazy, too old, not willing to give up wine or cake or cheese, if sweating at the gym or wearing lycra and being told what to do by an impossibly lithe 20 something with reflective teeth leaves you cold ... The Skinny Bitch Code is written for you.