Book Review: Riding Through Thick & Thin

In her latest book, Riding Through Thick & Thin: Make Peace with Your Body and Banish Self-Doubt - In and Out of the Saddle,  author Melinda Folse asks a question that gets to the heart of her thesis: "How can we move beyond any concerns we have about how we look or what we weigh or whether or not our breeches are too tight and just get that feeling?"  This is not a self-help book strictly targeted at plus-sized equestrians; it is a life-changing guide for any woman who is weighed down by negative body issues that hold her back from living the life she longs to live.

Folse makes her intentions clear from the start - to help women overcome their real or imagined body image by encouraging us to make small changes in the way we act and think, thus improving our self-esteem and our connection with our equine partners.   In an age when youth and thinness are worshiped like golden idols on every media platform, is it any wonder that women of all ages suffer from a debilitating affliction of self-doubt?  Is it possible to turn off the negative chatter in our heads and find peace with our true authentic selves?  After reading this marvelous book I can honestly say yes, it can be done.  Melinda Folse's book is an ambitious one, and one in which she tackles sensitive issues of weight and self-esteem with sensitivity and compassion.  Starting with a determination to banish the myth that larger women cannot be successful riders (personally, some of the riders I admire most are considered plus-size), Folse helps us to understand how our weight has little to do with the ability of our horse to move freely underneath us.  Learning how to find that sweet spot where we are perfectly balanced in the saddle is far more important than the number on a scale.  In seeking to debunk the widely held belief that a horse should only carry 20% of its body weight, Folse points out that finding a suitable horse goes far beyond rider weight vs horse size.  When searching for that perfect match we also need to consider our level of fitness, the horse's level of fitness, our level of experience and ability to remain balanced in the saddle, the horse's conformation, as well as the job we are asking the horse to perform.  To prove her point Folse demonstrates how an experienced well-balanced rider will have far less impact on a horse's back than a thin but unbalanced rider.

While Folse aims to stop the self-doubt that penetrates our minds on a daily basis, she clearly recognizes the importance of fitness and nutrition to help our bodies remain strong and balanced.  By providing simple nutrition fixes and exercises, Folse encourages readers to open their minds to small but necessary lifestyle changes that can significantly improve life both in and out of the saddle.  Of course keeping our bodies healthy and fit is only part of the equation.  To find true peace in the saddle we must learn how to "undo" the negative thought patterns that prevent us from becoming positive and productive riders.  To help set us on this path toward positive thinking, Folse suggests incorporating moments of mindfulness and meditation into our daily lives which has the potential to be "a new and different game-changer in the battle against negative body image because when we focus on our authentic selves rather than our (often-imagined) flaws in our appearance, we free ourselves of what's been holding us back from the experience with our horses we've been looking for."

Like a close friend offering support and encouragement, Melinda Folse knows what it takes to find peace within.  Chocked full of exercises for working our bodies, minds and souls, together with helpful tips from a variety of experts, and personal stories from "our sisters",  Riding Through Thick & Thin  will become your closest ally in the fight to banish self-doubt and find peace in the saddle.

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