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Julie Kenney, Focus on Fitness, III

Published: 5/24/2016
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Editor’s Note: Julie Kenney runs Blackberry Farm in Harpswell, Maine. She’s an avid, thoughtful horsewoman and a life-long learner. When we heard that she was making changes and taking strides to be healthier and fitter, we knew she’d be a welcome addition to our Focus on Fitness. Although she wrote that publicly documenting her progress is much harder than she realized, we’re thrilled she’s said, “Yes!”

Read Part I

Read Part II

By Julie Kenney

Habits are hard to break.  That’s a wonderful thing if the habit is good. But bad habits make things challenging. 

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to have Judy Cross-Strehlke, a Level IV Centered Riding Instructor, evaluate my riding position.  She observed that I need to ride on my seat bones more (and less up on my pelvic bones) and that I need to sit back on my right hip a bit.  She explained that when we are riding out of balance, our horses have a hard time traveling in a straight line. 

Then I had a “lightbulb” moment.  For the past year or so, my horse has had periodic lameness in his left shoulder.  Could it be my stiff right hip caused my weight to shift ever so slightly onto his left shoulder, causing him to be “off?”

When Judy corrected my seat position, I found that my right hip joint was unable to loosen up and come back down into the straight position.  So she manually manipulated my right leg joints for several minutes until my leg could flow straight down along my horse’s rib cage.  After dismounting, my hips felt as loose as they do after going for a jog.  It was amazing!

As we age, our bodies become stiffer from injury or just natural wear and tear.   Judy gave me some simple exercises and stretches before mounting to assist with that tight hip joint. (Use your horse as a leaning post for balance!)
  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Tuck pelvis under and sit down in a squat position. Keep back straight and push out gently on inner thighs.
  • Balance on one leg. Lift other leg and work bended knee in Figure 8 pattern. This exercise helps loosen hip area.
Without realizing it, I don’t always stand balanced or even sit in a chair completely even on both hips.  So it makes sense that I wouldn’t sit in my saddle perfectly balanced either.  To help break that bad habit for example, I work on standing balanced every time I’m in line at the grocery store.  I also reevaluate my sitting position when I’m at the dinner table or in my office chair.

Through all of these revelations, I have continued jogging three to four days per week.  Since early February, I’ve shaved ten inches off from the three places that I measure on my body. 

Jogging has become a good habit, along with being conscious of the quality and quantity of my food intake.  I don’t deny myself a treat now and then and I believe that helps me stay on course.  It truly isn’t about dieting or giving up anything, but making a choice to eat healthier overall.  It is becoming a lifelong change for the better.

During my first horseback ride following Judy’s corrections, I tried to find that sweet balance point in my seat.  Yes, I was continually conscious of my position and how “odd” it felt since it wasn’t my usual seat position.  But with plenty of determination and practice, I have no doubt that a balanced seat position can become another good habit.

Now, if I could only find someone like Cross-Strehlke to manipulate my leg joints after I swing up into the saddle!

Inspired by Julie's journey?
Check out riders Russ and Marsha Jones, who together lost 160 pounds. Their story is part of Focus on Fitness, a Remuda Reader special. Click here.

Not a Remuda Reader? Click here to read more and join!

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5/31/2016 Steve
Julie, I salute your willingness to be vulnerable and share your challenges. I know there will be people that you may never meet that will gain inspiration and motivation from your experience.
6/1/2016 Judy Cross Strehlke
Dear Julie Such a nice article.! I will be back in Maine in August . Looking forward to catching up with you again! Thanks again for the nice comments.! Judy Cross Strehlke
6/1/2016 Julie
Thank you Steve for all your kind words....always :)
6/2/2016 Julie Kenney
Thank you so much, Judy, for helping me with being balanced in the saddle. I've certainly been conscious of my seat, especially keeping that right hip down. Hopefully you will see an improvement in August!

"In the language of the range, to say that somebody is "as smart as a cutting horse" is to say that he is smarter than a Philadelphia lawyer,smarter than a steel trap, smarter than a coyote, smarter than a Harvard graduate - all combined. There just can't be anything smarter than a smart cutting horse. He can do everything but talk Meskin - and he understands that." - Joe M. Evans, A Corral Full of Stories