Coffee and Fried Carbs: It’s Time to Change the Equestrian Diet

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Any rider who has spent a day at the barn or at a show knows exactly how exhausting riding and taking care of horses can be. Riding itself is a lot of physical and mental work. The more horses you ride in a day, the more work you’re doing. Not to mention the exertion of doing barn chores and grooming. With all of this work, and all of these calories being burned, it’s important for an equestrian to practice healthy food habits. But most don’t.

Ask anyone who rides and they’ll tell you the same thing: they (try to) survive on coffee alone. This can range from regular black coffee or coffee with cream, to the biggest, most-espresso filled, extra-sweetened drink with whipped cream on top. And at the end of the day, when they realize they haven’t eaten? Many riders admit they feel sluggish and even “hangry.” There are even riders who try to bring food with them, but it’s normally something small: candy, apples, a yogurt. Horse shows are even worse, given the main option is something deep fried.

Some riders only have one large meal a day. And we expect that meal to give us enough energy to last us until tomorrow’s large meal at the end of the day.

So how do we change this?

First and foremost, it’s understanding that you need to take better care of yourself. Only eating one meal a day can actually put you at risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, or having a stroke. Not eating also affects your ability to concentrate, our ability to work, to make decisions, and even affect your mental health.

Second, it’s working together with your barn friends and family to help take care of one another. Consider getting together with your other barn members who are there as much as you are and investing in a small fridge or place to keep things like granola and protein bars, trail mix, or even bread, jelly, and peanut butter. No one has to cook, either; there are tons of great store-bought healthy snack options. Water, too, is important to have on hand. Have everyone chip into a central fund and take turns doing the “grocery” shopping.

This can also work for shows too. If a group from your barn is going to a show, designate different people to take care of different things: healthy snacks, easy meals, water. If you’re going by yourself, carve out time to prep food to bring with you. Even if they’re something small, such as yogurt and granola bowls, this will help give yourself a break from not only eating unhealthy food, but spending money, too.

The road to changing the way riders take care of themselves is a long one. But the more we work together to help take care of each other, the easier it’s going to become. As athletes, we’re constantly pushing our bodies to the limit — but that limit gets smaller and smaller the less we take care of ourselves.

Nicole is a writer for Heels Down Media. If she's not writing or editing, she's either running, doing yoga, or at the barn working on becoming a better, stronger dressage rider.

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