A Lifestyle Change for Jane

By Bridget Braden-Olson

Getting in shape is hard, it takes discipline and dedication. I’ll often say there are “no excuses” but the truth is, getting fit is easier said than done. Some riders who do their best to get in shape for riding horses struggle with the lifestyle change. I want to share the success story of a rider who has been four years in the making.

The rider is Jane. She’s been riding for 20-plus years with horses on her own property. She’s a terrific horsewoman and a wonderful owner to her horses. Jane has a very successful career in the medical research industry; she travels, and works on the computer for hours upon hours. Her horse-time is her getaway for some peace and quiet. Jane’s a very disciplined rider, always there for her lessons, and she has the determination to become a better rider for her horses.

When on her horse, Jane struggled with her balance and overall self-control because of too much body weight. In the beginning, Jane weighed about 270 pounds and was very afraid of cantering her horses. We clicked because she wanted to get in shape for riding and that’s what I do. We started with a program of working out two days a week and riding three days, with another day of stretching with her personal trainer. Jane did this regimen for the first year and it was the hardest – results weren’t happening as fast as she wanted and Jane was mostly frustrated. She was riding much better, but not dropping the weight was driving her nuts and it was hard to watch, especially seeing how hard she was trying. 

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During that year Jane was discovering how hard the lifestyle change was going to be, day in and day out. There were little things like making dinner for her husband, and food that tasted good but wasn’t necessarily the best for her to eat to lose weight. Jane leaned down in the first year but didn’t drop the weight she wanted too. I tried to defuse the frustration and remind her that she hadn’t been able to trot for more than two minutes at a time, but now, she could trot for twice that duration and aid the horse more skillfully than before. The weight was definitely limiting her progression and again, it was hard to watch.

She finally decided enough was enough and went to her doctor to discover she was pre-diabetic, which meant her diet needed to be very strict. This visit scared her enough to get extremely disciplined with her eating and nutrition, regardless of whether she wanted the “good stuff.” With the guidance of her doctor/nutritionist she was able to find the plan that worked for her and she lost over 80 pounds within the following year.

Activities such as walking up the hill to her house were impossible for her before dropping the weight, but now she marches up that hill with no foot/knee pain. In the saddle, Jane was coming along nicely, but she still had this fear of cantering. I think the core balance of having so much weight made her super insecure and of course, the last big Warmblood she owned would take off with her in the canter. (That’s a whole other blog.)

Jane had a new body, one that she could control more easily and balance in the saddle. Her horse didn’t have to compensate for her core imbalance and things were progressing nicely. Riding was all new to her, in general she had a different feeling. At this point in her progression, she was still working out, now strength training three days a week with a personal trainer and stretching on her own, riding up to four days a week. She also does yoga when she can, and swims more often in her off time. The weight stayed off and she continues to gain muscle and less fat. Sometimes I have to do a double take when she’s walking down the aisle in her workout cloths, there’s a pep to her step for sure!

In October of 2015, Jane and her horse Madison had a show for the record books – her very first show! Doing Training Level at a local show, which mind you had about 20 horses at a time in the warm-up, Jane cantered and in her test she scored 67 percent on day 1 and 77 percent on day 2. She even got a 9 on her final halt! She actually took the Amateur High Point Award for the weekend, amazing and so well deserved.

You rock Jane!

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BioRider Fitness
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