By Charmayne James with Bonnie Wheatley

This month a lot of the articles in Barrel Horse News focus on health and nutrition, for both horse and human. I thought it would be a good time to talk about how commitment to your personal health and the care of your horses is not only good for you and for them, but is part of developing a disciplined mindset that bleeds over into every area of your life. A person who will make extra effort to eat a healthy diet is normally the type of person who is dedicated toward the care and riding of their horses. Good health and a healthy mindset both contribute to your overall level of productivity. Thinking about your diet and a few things you can give up in order to eat better is a good reminder and good motivation to have a healthier overall lifestyle and feel better in the long run. 3F9C0382

Healthy habits

I know that I’m far from perfect in the way I eat but, what I do know—and its something I’ve talked about a lot over the years—is that everything you do has to be in balance. The food you eat is no different. Take sugar, for instance. Eating a little sugar here and there so you’re not feeling deprived might be a more balanced approach than totally depriving yourself and then bingeing out on sugary foods or drinks. You have to kind of test yourself. Like when you go to a birthday party, can you eat a few bites of the cake or do you feel like you have to overindulge? Or, drinking water instead of coke—do you really need that caffeine to keep you going or could getting out and walking or exercising a bit help your energy level versus going for the caffeine? It’s sort of a test of your discipline level and being conscious of it contributes to the mindset of how you live your life everyday.

Everyone is different with respect to how different foods affect them and it’s sure not my place to tell people what to do, but if you’re trying to improve your overall health and focus look at adding good foods into your diet—fruit, veggies and healthy protein. Just be conscious of what you put in your body.

A lot of times at my clinics I see horses that are out of water. We need water and it’s the same for our horses. They have nutritional needs that are important just as our diet and exercise habits influence how we feel. The number one thing is that horses need quality forage; they need good, quality hay. Dried up, old hay is not good and you don’t want to let your horses go for long periods of time without eating. I’ve always made an effort to keep quality hay available to my horses, especially when hauling and competing, because it comforts them to eat and eases stress.

Similarly, it’s a good idea to grab a little protein before you head out the door to go to a race. That added protein helps maintain your focus and energy. At the various sports camps I’ve attended with my family, I know the coaches always emphasize the importance of eating a good dinner the night before a big game or workout. I know when they leave the practice and the coaches say to eat a healthy meal; have a steak or some chicken and veggies. Those statements really resonate with my kids because they gain an understanding that they need to eat good foods to be good athletes.

Stay focused

I was fortunate in that both of my parents were very health conscious people so I grew up with an awareness of whether or not I was putting good food on my plate or not. If I know I need to eat certain foods in order to feel better, I’m going to do it. I try to stay away from fast food and foods that are high in trans fats. Eating foods that are hard to digest wears your system out because your body has to work harder to process those types of foods. I personally want my diet to contribute to my overall health and energy level because when you have more energy, you get more done. That’s one good reason to eat healthy foods, plus not only is your energy level better, but your thoughts are clearer. So much of being a good competitor is calling on your memory of past situations and experiences. You want to have a clear mind and good memory, both of which are influenced by diet. I know that when I eat healthier and take better care of myself, I remember things better; I’m sharper and more focused.

I believe that every time you do something to resist the temptation of putting things that are bad for you in your body that it makes you stronger mentally. It’s kind of like smoking. I have friends who smoke and they know its bad for them. Smoking ages you and its tough on your lungs and skin among other things. The reasons not to smoke easily outweigh the reasons to smoke in my mind.

In order to be a good athlete and excel in competition you have to be strong mentally, which is what it takes to resist unhealthy cravings. It’s all the little decisions you make everyday that build up to affect your lifestyle. It all bleeds into how you care for your horse; it determines your work ethic and the commitment you must have to learn and improve.


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