Food

The Vegetarian Equestrian

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Mary Bahniuk Lauritsen can’t recall a time she wasn’t around or on a horse.

“My mom is a dressage trainer and rider, so I was plopped on a horse from day one, though I didn’t start showing until I was nine,” Mary said.

She was smitten with dressage from an early age. Mary laughed while recalling that she “was one of those weird kids who never wanted to jump.”

Since those formative riding years, Mary has racked up quite the resume. She is a USDF gold, silver, and bronze medalist; she’s ridden at the Grand Prix level; competed on the bronze medal-winning NAJYRC dressage team; trained her own horse from when he was four and has ridden him up the ranks; successfully coaches junior riders; and she volunteers at shows. Whew! On top of all her work and career highlights, she completes these feats without an ounce of meat. Mary is a vegetarian.

Mary’s sister got her started on the vegetarian diet. As a teenager, Mary ultimately stopped eating meat for animal rights reasons, but after a few years the diet became a healthy lifestyle.

“Now I continue the vegetarian diet for health reasons. I feel lighter, more energized, and cleaner when I steer clear of meat,” she said.

At this point, we’re all thinking the same thing. How does Mary get protein in her diet if she’s not eating meat? Protein comes in many shapes and sizes and doesn’t necessarily have to moo or cluck to be nutritional. Beans, nuts, eggs, milk, and cheese are all high in protein.

“On a show day, the last thing you think about is what you are going to eat,” Mary said. “Usually the only food vendor at the show is dishing out burgers, hot dogs, and deep fried food. Don’t get me wrong, after a long show day, a plate of french fries sounds wonderful, but it’s not sufficient athlete food.”

Her go-to grocery list consists of organic granola bars, mixed nuts, organic string cheese, and a cooler outfitted with hummus, veggies, and pita chips.

“You want food to be quick and easy, but nutritional. That’s why I choose granola bars, like LARABARs, that have good nutrients but also contain a bit of dark chocolate or dried fruit for my sweet fix.”

In terms of riding, Mary attributes her energy and overall health to vegetarian eating.

“When you eat meat, your body has to use more enzymes for digestion, which in turn uses more energy. That’s why you feel heavy or sluggish after a large lunch or dinner,” she explained.

Within the past ten years, vegetarianism and clean eating have become widely accepted and adopted. Mary noted that it’s much easier to be vegetarian these days than it was when she first started.

“You walk into the grocery store or into restaurants and there are lots of vegetarian options now,” Mary said. “When I first became a vegetarian, I really missed bacon, but there are lots of veggie ‘meats’ that have the same texture and similar flavor. I see these more as occasional treats than part of my regular menu.”

For riders wishing to break into the vegetarian diet, Mary suggests starting small.

“The easiest meals to go meatless are breakfast and lunch, so plan ahead and schedule some of your meals to be meatless,” she explained.

Her go-to lunch is a burrito. One day it can be black beans with salsa, spinach and cheese, and the next day it can be guacamole with tomatoes, salsa, and cheese.

“Burritos are great because you can change them up so easily,” Mary said.

Mary operates and manages her own training and lesson program. You can check out her operations, as well as her modeling career at www.millenniumdressage.com.

This article originally appeared on Horse Junkies United and was written by Lydia Mindling.

Lydia Mindling

Sweet Briar College grad with a soft spot for sassy mares. Though her primary job is aviation, she considers soaring over jumps much cooler than soaring through the skies.

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