Haters Just Lose

Acts of Hatred, Hate Crimes, and Degradation of Others

In light of a recent hate crime committed at the local high school wherein four youth were charged with painting racist graffiti on school property, I started giving a lot more thought to the nature of hate and what it does to us as humans. Outright acts of hate as well as hate’s lesser cousins–cruelty, cynicism, criticism, bullying–all work to separate us from each other. Haters may feel threatened, vulnerable, fearful, but sadly these feeling can get twisted into acts that will degrade and distance themselves from others.

Losers Just Hate, Haters Just Lose

During a recent visit to Pimlico Racetrack to enjoy a sunrise tour before the Preakness Stakes, I spotted a groom with his Thoroughbred charge strolling down the shedrow. His T-shirt said: Losers Just Hate. I imagine it was a reference to competition, wherein the losers in any field often find excuses to malign the winners, envy them, or generally degrade their accomplishments. It was funny, but sadly a bit too close to the truth.

I thought about turning that slogan around to read: Haters Just Lose. Because that’s exactly what happens. Haters lose out on everything. Peace of mind, joy in life, experiencing new things, loving other people… the list goes on and on. Chronic haters have more health problems including heart disease, impaired immune system, stroke (see Toxic Emotions Can Lead to Serious Health Problems/HuffPost).   

Vulnerability, Daring Greatly, and Discounting the Haters

Brene Brown, NYT Bestselling Author of The Gifts of Imperfection and other books, examines the concept of vulnerability and how to have the courage to be open, to live, love, parent, and lead in her book Daring Greatly. She writes, “The fear of being vulnerable can unleash cruelty, criticism, and cynicism in all of us. Making sure we take responsibility for what we say is one way that we can check our intentions. Dare greatly and put your name on your posted comments online.” Indeed. How often people hide behind anonymity in order to unleash their cruelty. Brown advises those victimized by online trolls to discount comments from anyone who is not also “in the arena” and owning up to their words, and ignore those who act too cool to be vulnerable. Her final words of advice are funny. She says nothing serves as a better reminder for her (to ignore detractors) than the words of her friend, Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing: (she quotes) “Don’t try to win over the haters; you’re not the jackass whisperer.”


Even If It’s Slow, Just Go: How to Chunk It, Not Chuck It

Put them on and go!

My run times were slower. I wanted to quit. I found excuses not to run, not to try. Why try if I can’t be good at it. (See post on toxic perfectionist tendencies ). Then one day while walking in the park I ran across a woman walking two old Labs. She said they were slow, but they still wanted to go. Of course. Even if you’re slow, just go! I didn’t wait for my runner mojo to return, but instead laced up my running shoes and got out there. Slow, but go. When we don’t achieve our goals or when things get hard, many of us want to chuck it, but here’s my advice: Chunk it, don’t chuck it! 

Has the same thing happened to you? Perhaps your goal was to show your horse in the next highest jumper division or to get to a Second Level dressage test? Maybe due to unforeseen circumstances you feel you’re moving backwards.

Perhaps your goal was to lose twenty pounds before swimsuit season and the scales aren’t moving.

When we identify a goal, we want it to happen all at once. We hate to wait. We go on crazy diets to drop the weight, we hurt ourselves pursuing an insane exercise regime, or we burn out or injure our horses pushing too hard, too soon.

We need to learn how to take our longterm goal and break it into chunks. Chunk it, don’t chuck it when things go wrong. For example, to get back to a running a 5K goal, set some achievable milestones along the way and set yourself up for success, not failure. Here are some ideas:

  1. Turn off your trackers and just run a comfortable distance, setting a pace that feels comfortable. You can check your speed later! Don’t worry about slow, just go!
  2. Plan to run the same course and notice if you get half way up that hill you had to walk before. Pay attention and celebrate your improvements.
  3. Stretch yourself a little bit each time. Go a little further or a little faster. Be kind to yourself.

Also, be kind to your horse. The horse is an athlete who also needs to warm up, maintain a consistent fitness level, stretch, and cool down. Don’t expect too much too soon from either of you. Celebrate the perfect canter depart even if the 20-meter circle falls apart half way around. Focus on the ideal spot you found to the first fence even if you pull a rail on the last obstacle. It may be as small a goal as “I didn’t pull on my inside rein for the whole ride!”

Photo by Laila Klinsmann from Pexels

Reward, reward, reward the good and remember it. For yourself and your horse. Focusing on mistakes gives them too much power and adds to the negative aspects in life (and we have enough of that!) Instead, think about what you did well. Feed the positive.

So, here’s what you do:

  1. Break down your goal into concrete, small, achievable chunks
  2. Identify what you are doing right, what you’ve achieved, small improvements attained
  3. Focus on and think about the good. Celebrate it.


You don’t have to take home a blue ribbon in order to celebrate.




Five Ways to Combat FoMO—the Fear of Missing Out

Is Social Media to Blame?

Social media has been vilified as causing negative behavior from increased violence, suicides, and social isolation. Of course in and of itself, social media is not evil, although sometimes we tend to portray it in that light. It is, however, able to ignite fear, insecurity, depression, and envy in a human faster than bytes moving at the speed of light. An often talked about phenomenon—the fear of missing out, or FoMO—occurs when the viewer becomes despondent over their own life or activities when compared with what they are viewing on social media. It is the cyber version of “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Individuals have gone so far as to cease enjoying the party they are attending when they see friends on social media enjoying a different activity that does not include them.

FoMO can also take the form of comparing oneself to everyone else—and not favorably. Does is seem like everyone else is going on fabulous vacations? Everyone else is buying a bigger house or fancier car? Is it true that everyone else has children accepted to Harvard or my personal trigger: everyone else’s horse is winning at all the shows at Grand Prix and I’m still wallowing in Training Level. Not true! Although we know it is not true that everyone else lives in Barbie’s Dreamhouse, it sure feels like it sometimes. Comparisons often create toxic emotions and the sense that our life is less than fulfilling. 

Here are five key ways to defuse the negative effects of FoMO:

  1. Reduce Time Spent on Social Media – This one is obvious, but it is also worth noting that FoMO is more likely to hit when we are already sad or feeling inadequate. Schedule time on social media when you have accomplished something or when you are feeling positive and uplifted.
  2. Count Your Blessings – If you feel your life is not living up to the standards of everyone else’s, you may need to increase your gratitude awareness. Make a list of the things you are thankful for. Take time to conduct a “mental tour” of your life: include your home, your family, your health, your friends, your talents. You may be surprised how you feel afterwards. You can never express too much gratitude over even the small things in life.
  3. Set Your Own Goals – Examine what you want to achieve or what you want out of life and go after it. Chances are your goals and desires are very different from everyone else’s, and that’s great! You’ll be headed out on your own journey in life, not tagging along on someone else’s trip.
  4. Live in the Moment – Take time to enjoy where you are and who you are with instead of rushing to the next event, the next item on your to-do list, or the next opportunity. Mindfulness, meditation, being present—all these things help slow us down and help us appreciate what we have.
  5. Reward Yourself – So, you didn’t win the race or get the big book deal but you did achieve a goal you set out for yourself. Don’t wait for something huge in order to reward yourself. Give a present to yourself and don’t wait for outside recognition.

Further Reading on FoMO and What to Do

The FoMO effects along with various means of dealing with it have been described in scholarly journals. Psychology Today had a post on FoMO and I was gratified to see that many of their recommendations mirrored mine. Shankar Vendantam on National Public Radio (NPR) did an excellent examination of the phenomenon of FoMO, pointing out that increased social media activity is actually causing greater isolation. Check out the podcast.

Remember, the social media world is not real. Live a REAL life!




Bodywork Can Keep Your Body (and Your Horse’s) Working

When we talk about message, what springs to mind? Indulging oneself at an exclusive spa, receiving special wraps and treatments from a burly masseuse? Put away those ideas that body work such as message therapy, chiropractic adjustments, or acupuncture are merely for the hedonistic wealthy set. Instead, think of these treatments as a means of keeping you and your horse healthy, comfortable, and injury free.

Injury free? How can that be?

Of course there are no guarantees against injury, but bodywork can keep the muscles, connective tissues, and joints in proper alignment, preventing tears, excessive wear, and soreness that cause more serious problems. I’m a runner and I credit the fact that at my age (undisclosed) I have not suffered any serious set-backs to my monthly deep tissue message treatment. Sometimes it does feel like a bit of an indulgence, but on the other hand, I have avoided IT band problems and other runner complaints. My horse suffers from sacroiliac (SI) point problems. Although she has had joint injections, I plan to further support her musculoskeletal function with message and adjustments.

From Jim Masterson’s “Beyond Horse Message” on page 105

Lets not forget our equine athletes. Bodywork can help them, too. My horse suffers from sacroiliac (SI) point problems. In the past she has had joint injections, but I also plan to further support her musculoskeletal function with message and adjustments. In order to educate myself on the topic, I’m reading a book written by Jim Masterson, the USET Endurance Team equine message therapist, entitled Beyond Horse Message.  Although I do not believe one can or should undertake performing equine message from a book, it is interesting reading. His techniques aim to alleviate soreness, strain, and tension in the horse. On the topic of equine message, finding a certified practitioner who will work with your vet and farrier is key. So, treat yourself and your horse for better and longer lasting performance.

What is your experience? Have you had success treating or preventing injury with bodywork? Share in the comments!



No Foot, No Fitness

There’s an old horseman’s saying, “No hoof, no horse.” This means if you don’t take care of your horse’s feet, he won’t be able to perform no matter how talented he may be. The same goes for humans, but how often do we really take care of ourselves the same way we take care of our horses? My horses get their feet done every 6 to 8 weeks in order to keep them healthy. I run, but how often do I invest in a new pair of running shoes? Oh, these can last a bit longer…they’re so expensive! That’s what I tell myself when it comes to my own well-being. The truth is if we do not invest in ourselves and our fitness, then we will suffer the consequences. Those consequences can range from sore feet, bad knees, crippling back pain, muscle soreness…you name it. My daughter is studying to be a  podiatric surgeon, so I often hear the message about the importance of supportive athletic footwear and overall good health. If you run, walk, play games,  or move on your feet in any mode or style, take heed! Horsewomen, take as good care of yourselves as you do your equine friends. Remember: No foot, no fitness. 


So Good, It Should Be Required Reading

LiarTemptressI just finished reading Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War, written by Karen Abbott, and feel as if it should be required reading for all history students. The book covers the life of four women–two Confederate and two Union Army spies–who risked their lives for what they believed. Although non-fiction and exhaustively researched, the book reads like a fictional story woven with period detail, human emotion, and suspense. And how is it that I have never heard of these women? Seventeen-ear-old Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army using her feminine appeal and outrageous bravado. Emma Edmonds decided to live as a man to escape persecution from her father, then joined the Union Army, where she served in the bloodiest battles of the civil war before becoming a spy. Can you imagine the irony of her sneaking into enemy territory posing as a man taking on the “disguise” of a woman?  The genteel Southern widow Rose O’Neal Greenhow, along with her young daughter, passed secret messages for the Confederacy and were eventually imprisoned for it, but continued to elude their guards. Elizabeth Van Lew, an abolitionist and Union sympathizer living in Richmond, put together an elaborate espionage ring and hid escaping Union soldiers in her home under the nose of Confederate family members and detectives. Author Karen Abbott breathes life into each of these women as they lived out their lives during some of the bloodiest and most divisive years in U.S. history, brushing elbows with larger-than-life historical figures such as Alan Pinkerton, Mary Todd Lincoln, Stonewall Jackson, and Emperor Napoleon III. If you like espionage thrillers, encrypted complex codes, secret signs, spy networks, hidden rooms, and daring disguises, don’t miss this book. Bestselling NYT author Karen Abbott also wrote Sin in the Second City and American Rose.


Harriet Tubman: Honored at Last

The name Harriet Tubman brings to mind an American legend—a woman who risked death in pursuit of freedom and continued to do so in order to bring others to freedom. She has become a mythic, larger-than-life character on the stage of history, which makes me wonder all the more—who was this woman? Where did she find the courage to do make multiple trips into slave states to free others, knowing there was a price on her head? What prompted her to live in poverty in order to continue to give to others more in need? How did an illiterate and uneducated slave become the voice of civil rights, humanitarianism, suffrage, and champion of basic human values in a time when women, especially black women, were powerless and without voice? I had to find out.

Tubman bust at UGRR Museum

Tubman bust at UGRR Museum

The best autobiography I’ve found is one by Catherine Clinton entitled Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom. In it, Clinton not only provides what scraps of facts we know about the early life of Tubman (not an easy task, separating fact from legend), but also sets these events within the context of the times. Readers, be prepared to learn more about the true nature of slavery and the laws and economic conditions that perpetuated it, than you ever knew before. Tubman was born in my adopted state of Maryland, then a slave state, but also had the largest free black population by 1810. You would think that a good thing, however, it was not. Maryland became a source for slave labor when the import of slaves was halted because those involved in the trade did not care overly much whether you were free or not. Slave merchants raided Maryland’s black population and transported slaves to the south for a hefty profit. Tubman was born into this milieu and saw her sisters torn from the family and sold off into slavery in the far away deep south.

A daring rescue!

A daring rescue!

Clinton’s book should be required reading in all schools. As Annette Gordon-Reed put it, (Clinton) “rescues Harriet Tubman from empty symbolism, restoring her full humanity, while showcasing her incomparable efforts on behalf of enslaved African Americans.”


Tubman freed herself by walking from her home on the Choptank River on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to Philadelphia. I cannot imagine that trek. When she became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, she boasted that she never lost a “passenger.”


She was fearless and filled with a holy spirit, convinced that God would protect her. Dubbed “Moses of her people,” I understand how that moniker came about, not only for her guidance to freedom, but also because of her close relationship with God. Despite her spirituality, she was also a fierce and cunning soldier. Abolitionist John Brown called her General Tubman, and during the civil war she acted for years as a spy, a scout, and in any other number of other roles as needed. Despite her service, sadly, she had to fight for years with the U.S. government to receive any kind of compensation.


I am heartened to learn that a museum in her honor has opened close to her birthplace. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Historical Park in Church Creek, Maryland, is a fine museum full of compelling images chronicling her life. Miss Tubman, you were an amazing woman and so ahead of your time.





How Weeding is Like Writing a Novel

weedsWhile kneeling in the sand and weeding by hand my riding arena (yes, I do this because I am obsessive compulsive about weeds) it occurred to me that the task was a lot like writing a novel. How so? I looked at the overgrowth of weeds invading my ring and resolved to do something about it. I had the will. But as soon as the heat and the magnitude of the task pressed down on me, I was compelled to quit. What does this have to do with writing? A lot of times I have a great idea and I sketch out the plan and dive into writing, only to feel that “deer in headlights” immobility when I look at the magnitude of the task ahead of me. Can I really flesh out these characters, spin a compelling plot, unravel the problems, give it a theme and make it marketable to a capricious and demanding readership? No! No, I can’t do it. I want to run away and give up. Like the weeding task, I want to abandon ship and leave it to the professionals. But. Taking a deep breath. I see that when I go out and do a little bit, even a small amount each night, I do make progress. The results are starting to show. If I keep working and don’t lift my eyes to take in the daunting task ahead, I can maintain hope. It is just that simple. Plodding. Don’t look at the bigger task, just the little patch ahead of you. And pull.


Dressed for Tea: The Story of a Mare (A Diagnosis, A Relief?)

TeaHomeEverything was in order and I signed what was for me a huge check and handed it over. We made arrangements for Tea to be delivered to a trainer I had selected who would work with her to bring her back into shape, get her fit, and tune up her dressage education. I planned on having the mare there for a few months, then taking her home as my new partner to continue our mutual education. That was 17 February.

Dressed for Tea was dropped off at the new trainer’s farm with advice/warning (?) from the old trainer that the mare had been ridden as a “crank and spank”, which in dressage terms means she has to be cranked in and held on the bit and “encouraged” to go forward. Tea was a bit underweight, so the new Trainer gave her about a week to settle in. When she finally did get on her, it was quite a shock.

The next day after the trainer’s first ride I was anxious to hear how she went. My trainer softened the report for my sake. She extolled the virtues of Tea’s disposition (ridden in a thunderstorm and didn’t turn a hair), but she was worried about her left stifle, SI joint, loins, and hips, which were so incredibly tight that she could not take long steps in the trot. In fact, she was covering only 2 feet or less. I knew she could start a bit stiff, but had no idea how bad it was until I managed to get on her the following week. To say her steps were short was an understatement. She was like a foot-bound woman in a tight skirt. She did not want to move forward, in fact, even when encouraged she couldn’t. She felt crippled. I jumped off in a panic and ran back to the barn. What had happened to her?

What was wrong? Thus began the months-long journey to find out what exactly was going on to make her so stiff, so sore, so unridable. We took her off grass and put her on a low-carb diet. Muscle enzyme blood test analysis showed that was not the problem. We got an expert saddle fitter, who saw that she preferred a flexible tree so I bought a new, made-to-fit saddle for her. But she was still moving like her back was fused and her legs were sticks without any joints. I had the barn’s vet examine her on March 9th and he said she was not flexing her hocks and had a hip/SI joint problem, “and probably more.” I took his recommendation and had her hocks injected and put her on a muscle relaxer, methocarbamol. There was modest improvement, but her left hind was still weak.

Tea has such a great attitude, even with her physical issues she tries her heart out. Training  continued and she did develop better muscling and more strength, but it was a struggle. There was still something terribly wrong. My vet examined her and noticed a severe dip in her neck where it meets the shoulder on the left side. He was concerned that it might be damaged, adversely affecting the whole apparatus of connective tissue along the shoulder, back, etc. On April 17th he injected her neck with hyaluronic acid (HA) and a cocktail of other things. It didn’t help much. On May 15th he watched her go again. She was doing better, but he could see the problem in her hips/hind end. He gave the same type injection in a triangle of tissue around the SI joint. It helped a little, but only for a while.

I was running out of money. I hadn’t planned on a new saddle and costly veterinary intervention plus a long period with a professional trainer. And then she started to act lame on her left hind. It was time to take more drastic measures.

At the end of May I brought Tea home to my farm until such time as we could find out what was wrong with her. My vet recommended nuclear scintigraphy – otherwise known as a bone scan — to really find out what was going on. I had been down this sad road before with not one but two other horses. The Virigina Equine Imaging facility does a great job, but I wasn’t prepared for this additional expense. I could not believe I was looking at having to do it again. In the meantime, the vet said she would benefit from having the actual SI joint injected. So on June 1st, the vet injected directly into the SI joint on both sides with the assistance of an ultrasound. The examination revealed that Tea has a luxated SI joint (tilted out of place) and so much fibrous tissue on the left side of her hip that he could barely get the needle through it. Something had happened to her.

At least now I know there is something wrong with her and she is not just a lazy or obstinate mare. You see, she wasn’t really a “crank and spank” horse, but rather one who was getting by the best she could with some rather serious physical  limitations. And yet, she still has a willing attitude. Now, I have to see what we can do to help Tea.

(The Story to be Continued)



Dressed for Tea: The Story of a Mare (Fate, Kismet, or What?)

Tea Years Ago

Tea Years Ago

I think Dressed for Tea–Tea or Miss Tea for short–was fated to find me (or the other way around). I was looking for a safe, low-level dressage horse who could carry my middle-aged and out-of-practice self to the shows without major drama or trauma. I had experienced enough of that with a mare I raised, loved deeply, but was, in the end, too much for me. I just wanted to have fun! Tea was that horse. Her advertisement boasted that she had shown or trained up to Second Level and had an unflappable nature. She was safe, safe, safe!

Like all horse people, I spend far too much time trolling the horse adverts on DreamHorse. I had seen her advertised, but she was far away, and a bit more than I could afford. I looked at a lot of horses, but for some reason kept coming back to Tea’s picture. I first went to see her just after Christmas with my husband and daughter who was home from school. Tea had issues–she was out of shape, she didn’t track straight, she was underweight, she didn’t bend… I went home and thought I’d look some more.

I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I kept going back to the videos I took and to her photo. The winter dragged on and I tried a host of other horses. Eventually, I decided I needed to try her again. This time, I did a lot better riding her and I started thinking, maybe if she went to a good trainer and maybe if she got more fit…The trainer representing her, a reputable Grand Prix rider, said she was just out of shape and needed someone who would work with her. The thing about Miss Tea was she’s so was so darn accommodating. She would try her best no matter what mistakes you made, no matter what situation you put her in. I thought, ‘that is a horse worth taking a chance on.’ It wasn’t long before I called to have her pre-vet work done.

The day of the vetting, I held my breath. I wanted this mare. I so wanted it to work out. It was clear she could start out a bit stiff, especially behind, so I specifically asked the vet about her hind end and pelvis. He did a flex, he felt along her pelvis and back, he watched her go on the lunge…he said he did not see any Red Flags whatsoever for what I wanted to do with her: low level dressage, i.e. First Level and take lessons and do clinics and just have a fun, safe partner. The vet report wrote: “No red flags noted on exam. Should be fine for lower level dressage.”

Red Flags. I wish someone had seen some and warned me.

(The story continues)