Or do you just live your life, ride your horse, and let fitness take care of itself?
There is a fitness revolution underway and it seems to be affecting every walk of life. I rarely go a day without diet and excercise popping up in conversations or reading material. Even health & safety meetings at work include reminders to engage in stretching exercises. Equine publications frequently outline rider-specific exercises and there have even been entire books written on equestrian fitness. There are many levels of intensity in riding and exercise, and while the surest way of gauging intensity is with a heart rate monitor (which is on my wish list), there are ways of getting a good guesstimation. Thanks to Android and CardioTrainer I am able to track my “exercise” with a wonderful range of data. A few statistics from this past Saturday’s ride are as follows:
Duration: 2 hours 33 minutes (including the Stirrup Cup)
Distance: 11.52 miles
Max Speed: 22.2 mph
Calories Burned: 745
Fastest Mile: 3 minutes 11 seconds (mile 8 )
Slowest Mile: 37 minutes 43 seconds (mile 10)
The accompanying picture to this post is of the CardioTrainer graph, charting speed (on the left side) and time (in minutes, along the bottom). You may draw your own conclusions.
So, back to our opening question… how do you approach riding and exercise? Though I enjoy my little gadget and the data it produces, I actually tend to fall into the third camp. For the most part, I just enjoy my incredibly active life (I’m on my feet 11+ hours a day) and the fitness follows. I originally started running the CardioTrainer app during hunts to better learn the hunt territory, as I can review the aerial image of the land we rode over. Over the past year I have learned to love exercise for the sake of exercise, as I love riding for the sake of riding, though I’ve never truly combined the two, or done one for the sake of the other. The first half of last year, we spent every spare moment in the gym while the horses languished in the pasture. During the second half we forsook the gym and took up the reins again(though I did maintain an irregular running routine). I entered the summer in the best shape of my life, thanks to Krav Maga and Caveman Training. That experience gave me a newfound appreciation for health and fitness, and, though I have cancelled my gym memberships, the lessons linger on.
There is one major unifying theme that links Krav Maga, Caveman Training and Fox Hunting (aside from sore, aching muscles), and that is extremism. It’s all about pushing past your limits to get the job done. In Krav Maga, our coach would begin our end-of-class “Shark Tank” stress drills by asking, “what does your mind do when your body is exhausted?” We learned to think in the midst of exhaustion and chaos, to better protect ourselves and our families. With a motto of “COMMIT! NO EXCUSES,” our Caveman coach taught me how to dig down deep, push past every weakness, until I was nothing but a pile of quivering muscle collapsed in a pool of sweat on the gym floor. Every week I was pushing past the limits of my strength, speed and endurance…and defining new limits to be pushed past. We steeled our minds in sweat-drenched gyms. The lessons learned are forever stamped into our iron-wrought souls. If you don’t block, you get hit. HARD. And if you don’t give it your all, you’ll never know what you’ve got.
These lessons serve us well in Fox Hunting. Hunting is not a game. It is a blood sport, and sometimes the life lost is not that of prey, but of rider.
Late last year, Ireland experienced one hunting-related fatality – a teen girl, if my memory serves me correctly. Last month, the life of one British rider, a Whipper-in for the Minehead Harriers, was lost. Both of these deaths resulted from head injuries. Just last week, the joint-Master of Full Cry Hounds – Dr. Lewis McCurdy – was injured in a hunting accident. He is currently in critical condition, with a broken neck. (Dr. McCurdy passed away the evening of this post. My sympathies go out to his family.)
So, you may ask, why do we do this? Why continually risk life and limb in pursuit of archaic tradition? Well, I say, ask yourself:
What is life without death?
What is love without loss?
What is health without sickness?
What is comfort without pain?
You can’t truly appreciate the former without facing the latter. Freedom always comes at a cost, and we refuse to be shackled by fear, so we sip our Port to warm our toes and steady our nerves, then we trot off into the misty morn. And, if Fate smiles upon us as she did last Saturday, we’ll be off like a shot, riding hard after hounds in full cry, with no time to consider what may happen, no time to dwell on mistakes. There is only time to live in the moment, and it’s in these moments that you learn how to live the rest of your life – as if any moment could be your last.
RIDE HARD, LOVE FIERCELY and SEIZE THE DAY!