An Equestrian’s Imperfect Pursuit of Wellness

Photo © Greyboy Pet Photography

BY LAUREN MAULDIN

Wellness is a funny word. The dictionary defines it as “the state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal.” I guess that makes sense, but it seems more complicated than its basic description. 

As an equestrian, I’ve always had a pretty good handle on what wellness means for my horse. The responsibilities we have as horse owners is a checklist I’ve memorized. Yearly visit from the equine dentist? Wellness. Ample amounts of forage, high quality grain and hand-picked supplements? Wellness. A flexible schedule of training and turnout based on my horse’s performance needs and happiness? Wellness. With the support of good professionals and years of experience, my horse’s wellness has become a well-rehearsed routine. 

I wish I could say the same about my own. 

For me, overall wellness is a harder target to find. This was especially clear after I unexpectedly lost my heart horse in late December during colic surgery. For years, I had poured so much time, care and love into his health. Struggling through waves of grief without him, I realized that I had a much harder time determining what wellness meant for me.

I think it should mean diet and fitness, right? That sounds like “the state of being in good health.” But most days, I do well to take my dog for a long walk or squeeze in a short flat lesson at the barn. Those are the good days. The bad ones are in bed, feeling sorry for myself and struggling to keep going in a world without some of the ones I love the most. My wellness has no cross-country runs or weight sets.

And diet? Well, I certainly have done better. Last year I dramatically changed my food choices, and the weight fell off. For the first time in my life, I felt like I might be getting close to that blurry, mythical ideal of what my body should be. Yet carbs are delicious, especially when you’re sad. I have had to learn to forgive myself for eating lemon poppyseed muffins. I have had to learn that, on my bad days, wellness means eating cheese fries with a friend and allowing myself to be human. 

Photo © Greyboy Pet Photography

The equestrian community is tough. We are known for putting our horse’s needs before our own. Scroll long enough on social media, and you’ll see jokes about our horses getting shoes every six weeks while ours have holes through the sole. Our horses are sparkling, perfectly groomed as we stand next to them covered in dirt. 

I like those memes. I relate to them, but I also can’t hush the little voice in my head that tells me this kind of disparity shouldn’t exist. That it’s time for us to find what wellness means for more than our horses.

The April 2019 issue is all about finding what wellness means for you. Read the entire issue online here.

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About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.

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