Thursday, October 20, 2016

Why I'm Going to Talk About Fitness Again

           
This looks like a workout room to me. Have you ever seen a heavy horsewoman ?       windyhillsheds

 

    Most of us cruise through life often in sedentary jobs. When we're home, many of us are couch potatoes. Some of us have gym memberships, but we get there once a week or so. When we find we can't do something physically that we might wish to, and that we had done before, we tell ourselves that it's simple aging. But that is not true. Here in the country I know a number of people in their eighties, primarily farmers, who, about four years ago could work me, a much younger woman, under the table !
              I had the same lack of appreciation for fitness that many of you do, until I got horses, about four years ago.  Having horses was a lifelong dream for me. My parents didn't want them during my girlhood, despite the fact that my great grandparents had been large acreage ranchers and practically lived on horses. As a young married, I lived in the suburbs where having horses would have been illegal. Then, as mother of a large family, I didn't have the time or the spare cash. As my children began to graduate college, I realized that if I didn't get horses on our rural property soon, that I would never have them. It took time to convince my husband that I should get one. One quickly became two, because the horse I wanted was bonded to a close friend stored in the same location he had been. Then, although I had heard a lot about how to care from horses from my father, I began the process of learning about their care from reading and from a team of equine veterinarians.  Although I am a registered nurse and I give injections as immunizations to alpacas, dogs, and other animals, giving injections safely to horses is another matter. Fortunately, I had great tutelage from the equine vets in "taking over the reigns" of their care and giving those essential immunizations via injection safely to them, but also safely to me.  There is a lot to horse care. They need their hooves worked on periodically, usually by a farrier, although a good horse owner should be able to keep them maintained between farrier visits, and certainly inspect them daily. They need to be consistently fed twice daily. They need to be kept clean, groomed, brushed, etc.  Their stalls and paddock must be kept clean. Horse dung must be collected and removed.  Worming, immunization, and annual dental must be done. Someone must collect the correct grade of hay and store it because at certain times of the year it disappears faster than you can imagine. Horses need to be turned out to graze, and then, in my neck of the woods where we have coyotes, they should be returned to their stalls before dark.  After a number of months of taking care of my initial two horses, I was offered two more. I absolutely couldn't envision my work doubling. Somehow, I agreed and added two more horses who needed some level of rehabilitation. Now I have four horses !
           I adapted to having four horses fairly well.  In all weathers, I rise each day at four am, and fully armed because of predatory animals who venture here to the farm, often in the dark. I head to the barn.  I empty and scrub out water buckets and then I refill them. I sweep out and muck all the stalls. I struggle with the wheelbarrow to the horse manure compost pile. I mop each stall, and then squeegee it, so no glorious horse slips.  When it dries, I place some pine shavings in one of each stall's corner. I look over each horse, talk to them a little, and sometimes check hooves inside the barn.  Then I am careful not to overfeed them as I measure out their pelleted rations.  Sometimes I tie two of the more dominant horses so that the thin horses get a chance to eat all their food, and the portly ones don't become ill from pilfering food from their friends.  While they eat, I take care of alpacas, dogs, poultry of a variety of types. and barn cats.
           Somehow, a year into all the animal care, I had a smaller waist and hips than I had at fifteen. I could unload forty (yes, forty) bails of hay with thin but more muscular arms than I had before. I can keep up with a two year old (grandson) better than I could with my own last two year old. Better nutrition is one of the reasons, and certainly regular challenging physical activity is the other.  I am also able to pass for much younger than I am.....Not that I care. When some of your children are in their late twenties, lying about your age makes you look as if you had them as a child yourself !
         The important message here is that bad days come for all of us. Sometimes, our general fitness allows us to save another or to save ourselves. In preparedness, sometimes, our lack of fitness impedes our ability to continue CPR or exit a car in a flood, or after a rollover accident in your SUV that wasn't even your fault ! Someday you may have to walk home from work in challenging circumstances.  I urge everyone to gradually make activity you love and healthy eating a regular health habit.  You will feel better, function better and even have a better mood.  Then, you will better meet those emergent challenges.