Whelp, it's still raining every day in Portland. What else is new, right?? The good news is, the temperatures are finally warming up, which means I've gotten to migrate outside more and more for my morning workouts. Its a nice change of pace from working out in the garage space. Doing cardio, especially, is so much more fun when I have a little space to run. Can you tell I'm having a little too much fun with this one? I know, I know, I'm such a nerd. Word.
Here is one of the outdoor workouts I did last week in my driveway that was HARD. Much harder than it looks. Aaaaaaand incorporates two new-to-me core exercises that I'm absolutely loving right now: the double crunch and the dolphin raise plank (descriptions below).
Double Crunch. This move is a combination of a traditional crunch and a reverse crunch. It's awesome because it works both the upper and lower abs. More bang for your buck. It looks like this:
Dolphin Raise Plank. One of its many names, anyway. In addition to working the core, you also get a lot of shoulder action with this one. Its definitely easier than than the double crunch, but effective in a different way. It looks like this:
I think this driveway workout is going to be filed in my favorites box because it had my heart rate through the roof and my abs burning like crazy. I have this weird thing about needing to be drenched in sweat at the end of a workout for me to feel like it was really effective. Which is why I'm not a yoga person, BTW. But this workout did deliver.
What an awesome Easter weekend it was in Portland, with two straight rain-free days!! Easter is one of my favorite holidays, both for what it symbolizes and for the festivities that surround it. Naturally, we celebrated all weekend long. We kicked things off on Friday with a pizza dinner and trip to Baskin Robbins afterward for a special treat.
I had boiled 5 dozen eggs the night before (European family. Don't ask), so as soon as we got home from our ice cream date we dove into the project of dyeing them all. Lucky for Brandon and I, Avery was happy to take on all the egg-dyeing labor, so we got to just sit back and watch the magic happen. HA!! Just kidding. We spent the whole time trying to avert egg breaking, dye-spilling, and color mixing disasters. Truth be told, Avery did an amazing job being careful with the eggs and doing things just as we asked for a chance to participate in the action.
Saturday and Sunday were filled with Easter activities too. Between the two days, we ended up doing FOUR Easter egg hunts. This meant lots of time spent with family and friends, which couldn't have been more perfect. It also meant that we were swimming in sweet treats all weekend long, which brought up the same issue that rears its head every single holiday, birthday, and special occasion when you're a parent: the sugar dilemma.
Kids and sugar - what hot topic. Brandon and I have had lots of discussions about how to deal with the sugar issue in our family, and quite honestly we're still working on nailing down a good system. We definitely want to limit the amount of sugar we give to Avery for obvious nutritional reasons. On the other hand, we don't want to ban it altogether and accidentally create a sweets-starved candy addict later in life. So like with everything else, we're trying to find a balance.
Our pediatric dentist gave us some great advice recently about sugar, which we're trying to adopt especially during holiday times like this past Easter weekend. He said: "If Avery goes to a birthday party or there is a special occasion, let her have ALL the candy and sweets she wants, but just for that one day. After that, get rid of it all." He was speaking purely from a dental hygiene perspective, but his advice made sense to us in the grand scheme of things too.
This past Sunday, Avery went to town on SO MUCH CANDY. Like, a cringe-worthy amount. But today, all the candy was gone and we resumed our normal healthy eating habits. And to my surprise, Avery actually understood when I told her she couldn't have candy today since she ate so much yesterday. It ended up being a fairly easy line to draw, and we're hoping that this system will help us as parents to be more consistent in our stance on sugar.
How does your family handle the sugar dilemma?
Hi friends! Hope everyone had a great weekend. I was out of town for a continuing education course over the past four days and didn't make it back until Sunday night, so some one-on-one time with Avery today made for a very happy Monday.
The course I took over the weekend was level II of the American Hippotherapy Association's Hippotherapy Treatment Principles. Our class was a mix of physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language therapists, and we spent 4 full days refining our skills in all things related to hippotherapy (if you're wondering what hippotherapy is all about, read this earlier blog post: www.bettysbalance.com/home/horses-kids-and-a-bit-about-hippotherapy) It was my favorite continuing education course so far. Typically, continuing education courses involve sitting in a classroom and listening to lectures, but this one looked more like this:
Give me horses over handbooks any day. I had never been a horse person before learning about hippotherapy as a PT treatment strategy, so this course was super helpful in boosting my horseman(woman?)ship skills.
There are SO many amazing things you can do with horses to help someone improve their strength, range of motion, posture, balance, speech production, etc. etc. etc., and this course got me all eager to get back to work and try the new things I learned with my kiddos. But I'll save that soapbox for another day...
On a completely separate note, I somehow managed to squeeze in a couple of workouts during my trip and wanted to share one ab workout that was particularly fun. It requires no equipment, since a closet-sized hotel gym was what I had to work with (to their credit, they did have a recumbent bike and a television, which with the addition of some wine sounds like a fantastic way to spend a kid-free evening). Here ya go:
Hello and happy spring! I know that spring "officially" started a couple weeks ago, but we only got our first taste of it this weekend. We've had nothing but rain here in Portland for several weeks now, and by rain I mean the flood-inducing type of non-stop downpour rain. It's left us really craving some sunshine, so over the weekend we hopped in the car and went on an adventure to track it down. The only place within reasonable driving distance that had sunshine in the forecast was central Oregon, so that's where we headed. And find some sunshine we did, in a tiny town called Maupin.
The population of Maupin, Oregon is about 400 people. It sits right on the Deschutes River, which makes it a popular spot for rafting and fishing in the summer months. In the off season, its not exactly a tourist destination. There are about 4 lodging options (all geared toward rafters), 1 market, and 1 schoolyard playground. I'm not going to lie, I was worried that we would get bored spending an entire weekend here. But it was was a place we've never been to and it wasn't raining there, so we stayed. And turns out, it wasn't boring at all.
First of all, the lodge we stayed at was amazing. Not at all what I had pictured for the small, off-season price we paid for it. Each room in the lodge has its own unique theme related to Oregon history; ours was an "expedition" theme with decor inspired by the travels of Lewis & Clark. We had a river view, a deck, vaulted ceilings, and NO TELEVISION (my dream come true). Outside, the lodge had an open-flame fire pit with a fire going all day. They also had lawn games, picnic tables, a volleyball court, riverside swings, a huge lawn, and restaurant with an amazing patio overlooking the river. Here's the place, if you want to check it out: deschutesriver.com/best-hotel-in-maupin-lodging/
We spent a lot of our weekend just enjoying time at the lodge. Did a little fishing, taught Avery how to log roll down a grassy hill, played in the sandbox (aka volleyball court), hung out by the fire, and ate at the restaurant. I'm usually a go-go-go type of person who likes to cram as much seeing and doing into a day as possible, but on this particular trip, it felt so good to just relax and enjoy some simple things in one place. In a way, it was a relief to not have places to go or things to do around town. It allowed me to slow down and truly enjoy time with my family.
When it was time to check out of the lodge on Sunday morning, we did a little exploratory drive around the area before heading home. We ended up finding a little road that ran right along the river and discovered an excellent picnic spot where we stopped to eat lunch and play a little more.
It was a perfect off-the-beaten path adventure. I see a lot more of these types of trips in our near future, since Avery is at the perfect age now where she can entertain herself literally ALL DAY just by being outside. She loves rocks. She loves sticks. She loves mud. She loves every bug she encounters. It was a good reminder to us that we don't necessarily have to take her to child-geared places like the zoo or the bounce house (which she also loves, don't get me wrong) to have fun. Fingers crossed that her adventurous spirit sticks around forever and ever.
Before I dive into the topic of BBG, I need to take a moment to share an amazing breakfast idea I ran across while scrolling through Facebook last night. Plain yogurt + vanilla flavored protein powder. It tastes like vanilla yogurt but with waaaaaay less sugar and waaaaaaaay more protein. I tried it this morning and it. is. SO. GOOD. I added banana and chia seeds to the mix too, and although it doesn't look particularly beautiful in the photo, please please try this if you're a yogurt lover. You'll never buy vanilla flavored yogurt again.
Ok, back to what I originally intended this post to be about - BBG. I guess I'm a little behind the times because I only heard about BBG a few months ago. In case you're in the same boat as me, BBG = Bikini Body Guide and it came out in 2012. It's a 12 week workout plan (there is also an accompanying 12 week nutrition plan you can buy), and its written by 25 year-old Australian personal trainer and fitness guru Kayla Itsines. Here is the website if you want to check it out: https://www.kaylaitsines.com/collections/guides. A friend of mine told me about it after she used it to get fit for her wedding. She took "before" and "after" photos using the BBG program, and her results were impressive. So I decided to buy the workout guide and give it a try.
The workouts in the guide are 28 minutes long and consist of high intensity resistance training. The nice thing is that they require minimal equipment and can be done at home or at the gym. I did them in my garage, although I had to be creative a few times since I didn't have an official workout bench (I used a sturdy step stool and occasionally our dining room bench....shhhh, don't tell my husband). I don't usually like workout programs/DVDs/videos, and honestly didn't think this one would keep me engaged for the whole 12 weeks. But it did. I actually finished the entire 12 week program today.
I failed to take a "before" photo, because whenever I've tried to start some exercise program or DVD I usually get bored and quit 3-4 weeks in. I wish I would have though, because I'm impressed with the results this program delivered. This is the first time in my life that my back and arm muscles are toned without having stepped foot inside a gym. Aaaannd my abs and lower body are more defined too. In a way, I'm not surprised, because each of the workouts in this program are HARD. I had sore muscles 90% of the time after doing a BBG workout. But I really did enjoy them. There is lots variety in the exercises, so I never ever felt like I had reached a plateau. Plus, I felt like the workouts were well designed to maximize muscle gains.
Now that I've finished BBG, I'm not quite sure where to take my fitness routine next. Get back into running? Train for a triathlon? Make up my own 12 week program? Any thoughts/ideas would be greatly appreciated!
I've been a vegetarian since the age of 3. To make a long story short, I was introduced to the way bacon is made a little too early in life (my poor pet pig), and decided not to eat meat ever since. As an adult, I've come to realize that vegetarianism requires good nutrition planning to ensure I'm getting enough B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, and protein. There are certain foods that I've come to love in my quest to find a balanced vegetarian diet, in particular, these 10 staples.
1. ALMOND BUTTER
I eat almond butter every. single. morning. Safe to say it's one of my favorite foods. Great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. In my opinion, the best tasting kind is the kind you grind up yourself at the store. It has a chewy texture with a hint of crunchiness, and by grinding it myself I know that I'm consuming only raw almonds without added salt, sugars, or oils. I eat almond butter on toast, put it in my smoothies, in my oatmeal, on a banana, in my baked goods, and so on. It's SO versatile. Here are a few good recipes using almond butter: init4thelongrun.com/2016/03/22/20-healthy-recipes-can-make-almond-butter/
2. PLAIN YOGURT AND/OR KEFIR
Yogurt and kefir are excellent sources of protein, B-vitiamins, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and probiotics. I always buy plain yogurt/kefir because the flavored varieties typically come with lots of added sugar. Sometimes as much sugar as a candy bar per serving - yikes. I like to control the amount of sweetness with honey or agave syrup, and of course add in fun stuff like almond butter (I'm seriously obsessed), fruit, etc. I also like to use yogurt and kefir to add moisture to my baked goods, like coffee cake and banana bread. Read more about my love of kefir here: www.bettysbalance.com/home/my-favorite-new-morning-treat
We are a fruit-loving family, and we buy fresh fruits every week based on whatever is in season or whatever we are craving. Except when it comes to bananas. We ALWAYS have bananas in the house. It's sort of a family emergency when we run out of bananas. They are the most portable type of fruit and they go with everything. In baked goods. Used to sweeten smoothies. With a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. On top of waffles. The list is endless. Plus, they are a great source of potassium, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin B6.
If bananas are the one fruit we can't live without, and then avocados are the one vegetable we can't live without. They actually have more potassium than bananas and their list of scientifically-backed health benefits is a long one (www.well-beingsecrets.com/health-benefits-of-avocado/) Our toddler loves to each chunks of raw avocado as a side to her lunch or dinner, and we like to eat them with, well, everything. My personal favorite: avocado toast with salt, pepper, and tomato.
Brandon hates beans. But that's okay....more for me. I often use them as a meat substitute when I prepare our family dishes like tacos, sloppy joes, or chicken and rice (= beans and rice for me). Beans are a nutritional powerhouses, packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals (noticing a trend here?). There are so many varieties and they are SO versatile. I use black beans to make vegetarian burger patties. Pinto beans in my burritos. Kidney beans for red beans and rice. Mixed beans for soups. And I like to bake garbanzo beans for a crunchy little snack that's perfect for on-the-go (recipe here: steamykitchen.com/10725-crispy-roasted-chickpeas-garbanzo-beans.html.)
High in protein, fiber, vitamins/minerals, etc. etc. you get the picture. Quinoa has become all the rage in recent years, so there are TONS of quinoa recipes floating around the internet. You can use quinoa for everything from breakfast to dinner to dessert. I'm a big texture person, and I love the chewy, gritty texture of quinoa. My meat-and-potatoes-kind-of-guy father, on the other hand, gets offended whenever I make him a meal involving this "sawdust." Its hit-or-miss for a lot of people, but luckily both Brandon and Avery love this stuff as much as I do and don't mind that quinoa makes a weekly appearance on our dinner table. Here's a great quinoa recipe to try, just in time for spring: www.pbfingers.com/cold-quinoa-salad/
GOOD QUALITY BREAD
My personal favorite is Dave's Killer Bread. It's made by a local Portland company, but the good news is that they started selling their bread in all 50 states in 2016. The history of Dave's Killer Bread is an interesting one, involving a guy with a criminal background who turned his life around by tapping into his passion for organic, non-GMO bread (read the story here: www.daveskillerbread.com/our-history/). This bread is packed full of nutrients and it is DELICIOUS. We're talking protein, fiber, omega-3s, etc. No toast/sandwich/carb-loving household should go without good quality, nutritious bread. Disclaimer: I do not represent and am not in any way affiliated to or endorsed by Dave's Killer Bread. I'm just their really happy customer!
8. HARD BOILED EGGS
We are lucky to live very close to a farming community, so we get to pick up farm-fresh eggs every week. The taste of these eggs is not even comparable to the store-bought kind, especially when they are hard-boiled. I always keep a stock of hard-boiled eggs in our fridge. They are a great snack to have at work and in the hours between 3pm-dinner time when I'm usually ravenous. Not to mention they are an easy and tasty source of protein.
9. CHIA SEEDS
Besides their protein, fiber, anti-oxidant, and rich vitamin/mineral content, I love chia seeds because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids. I don't eat fish, so getting a daily source of omega-3s elsewhere is important for me. Fun fact: chia seeds actually have more omega-3s per gram than salmon. Not-so-fun-fact: chia seeds do not provide DHA, which is considered the most important of the omega-3 fats (Personally, I make up for this by taking a daily vitamin supplement with DHA). Chia seeds are easy to sprinkle onto/into any breakfast item. I put them in my yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, and even on top of my almond butter toast. I also like to make chia seed pudding, recipe here: minimalistbaker.com/overnight-chocolate-chia-seed-pudding/
....If I'm being honest. Hmmm, let's see here, health benefits of wine....
#1. Sanity! #2. Antioxidant?
The truth is, I've googled this topic a lot. It turns out that this topic has also been studied a lot, especially in recent years. What they say is that moderate wine consumption can reduce your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, depression, diabetes, stroke, and early death (read more here if you're interested: www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265635.php). Cheers to that!
It's Monday (again), which means my workout motivation was at an all-time high this morning. I've been on a HIIT routine for several weeks now where I focus on my upper body on Mondays, lower body on Wednesdays, and abs on Fridays. It's hard for me to stick to routines. It really is. I get bored so easily, and even though I know I need some consistency in my workouts to see results, I always crave exercise variety. Well, since I've been on my HIIT kick for 10 WEEKS now (which is a record for me), I decided to give myself a break today and come up with a fun total body workout instead of concentrating on arms, legs, or abs. It requires no equipment (except a timer) and incorporates a lot of variety to work every part of the body. Just the mix-up I needed.
Since I've been doing a lot of weight training/strength building, I've been trying to incorporate more protein into my diet. Especially because I'm a vegetarian. I normally eat a lot of dairy, nuts, and beans, but to kick things up a notch I've also started started adding protein shakes to my diet. No too surprisingly, it has made a difference in how I look and feel. When I drink a protein shake in the morning, I have more energy during the day. I feel less hungry before lunchtime, and I feel like my muscles recover more quickly after a hard workout. Adding the protein shake has also helped me build muscle after I felt like I had plateaued. I definitely notice more muscle definition since starting on the protein shakes. Makes sense right, since protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle.
I've tried a bunch of different varieties in the past, but there are two brands that are my go-to favorites. The first - Bodylogix Natural Whey, which is an animal-based protein. Its delicious and doesn't taste chalky. Its natural with very few ingredients. And its very reasonably priced for the quality you get. Another bonus - it's cold-processed so that all the nutrients and immune factors are retained (a lot of protein powders are high-heat treated, which denatures the proteins and limits their bioavailability and immune-boosting qualities).
My other favorite is Purely Inspired organic protein powder, which is plant-based. I love the chocolate flavor in this variety. It tastes like a brownie milkshake. Bonus points - it's organic, affordable, and more nutrient-dense than the Bodylogix brand (fiber, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, etc). Aaaaaand there is no soy in this product. Whooop.
Disclosure: Betty's Balance is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
One of my resolutions for 2017 was to do more traveling. At the beginning of each month, I check in on my resolutions list to see how I'm progressing toward my goals, and I realized this month that I haven't touched my traveling goal at all. I can safely say that traveling is our favorite family activity (yes, even with a toddler). We love seeking out adventures, experiencing new places together, and showing our enthusiastic little one this big, wide world. So why have we been in such a rut these past few months?
Whenever we discuss travel plans, there always seem to be the same road blocks that come up over and over again. Money is one of them. Vacation time is another. When we put our mind to it, we do a decent job mitigating these things by taking weekend road trips. We don't mind driving and we don't mind staying in cheap hotels (as long as they are safe and clean), which gives us plenty of options for affordable weekend adventures. Yet this year we've barely managed to scrape ourselves out of our neighborhood to take a single day trip to the beach. Laaaaaaaame. So what's been the hold up? It finally dawned on my this past weekend....
Last Friday, I sent a text to Brandon in the morning telling him that I really wanted to get out of town to clear my mind after a hectic week. Like the awesome husband he is, he booked us a surprise weekend trip and had everything packed and ready to go by the time I got home on Friday night. We ended spending the weekend in Newport, which is a beach town about 3 hours from where we live. On our way down, I asked Brandon what the weather was supposed to be like over the weekend, and his answer surprised me: "I don't know, I didn't look." In my type-A brain, alarms and red flags were shooting up all over the place. What if it rained the whole time? What if we didn't get even get to play on the beach? How could he have adequately prepared not even knowing what to expect of the weather?
Well it turns out, the weather SUCKED. The whole time. It was rainy, windy, and really cold. It even hailed, and then snowed for a bit. But guess what - we had an awesome time anyway.
I realized quickly that one of the big reasons I'd been putting off travel plans was because of the weather. Oregon weather in the winter and early spring months is nothing to write home about. 95% rain, 4% hail, and a 1% (slight chance) of sun. Since we tend spend a lot of time outdoors wherever we go, I think that in my subconscious mind I was avoiding the possibility of going somewhere and not being able to do anything fun because of the weather. But Brandon's laid back attitude showed me different. We are not the kind of family that shies away from bad weather. We pack our rain boots and nerdy rain pants and outside we go. Moral of the story - I'm going to try reeeaaally hard to not even look at the weather forecast when we think of planning a weekend trip somewhere from now on.
Every year in the month of February, the winter blues really start to set in for me. I don't feel it much in November or December with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, or even in January since we have a lot of family birthdays to keep up with. But come February, the dark and gloomy days really start to affect my energy levels and sometimes even my sleep quality. One of the culprits I'm sure is the fact that I live in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, a list recently published by smart asset.com ranked Portland, Oregon as #3 on the list of cities with the most depressing winters. #1 was Anchorage, and #2 was Seattle. (see article here https://smartasset.com/mortgage/cities-least-depressing-winters). Not too surprising, since this is typically what our weekly weather forecast looks like:
It was even worse when we lived in Alaska. In the thick of winter, the sun would rise around 10:30 am and set at 3:30 pm. During the week I would rarely even see daylight hours since I was stuck inside a building with very few windows at work. That left me with 10 precious hours to soak up the daylight during the weekend...10 hours TOTAL per WEEK of daylight! It was during this time that I really started to experience symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It was also during this time that I came up with some strategies to help me beat the winter blues.
1. A Happy Light. This was one of my happiest discoveries when we lived in Alaska. A Happy Light is a bright lamp that gives off spectrally balanced light (which is supposed to simulate daylight), designed to help improve mood, energy, and concentration. I generally turn mine on in the morning and set it on my dining room table while I eat breakfast and check emails/work on my laptop. I really do feel like it makes a difference in my energy levels for the day, especially the first part of the day. The general recommendation is to sit by the light for 30 minutes per day, preferably right after waking up. A word of caution: I tried to use the light in the evening when I was feeling down and it actually negatively affected my sleep that night.
2. An engaging book. After Avery goes to sleep, one of my favorite things to do is curl up in bed and get lost in a good book. Part of my struggle with the winter blues is having a really hard time falling asleep. I can't ever seem to turn my brain off, and will often lie in bed for hours trying to get to sleep. I get frustrated because I can't sleep, which makes me less likely to fall asleep, and so on. Reading before bed has been a lifesaver in this case. My book makes me look forward to getting into bed rather than dreading it. It also helps me shut off all the noise in my brain and focus only on what I'm reading. This is the book I've been loving this past week (review coming later):
3. Getting outside (even in the rain). This one is SO important for my sanity! One of my favorite rituals has become taking out the trash and checking the mail on work nights, because it gets me outside on days that I would normally be stuck indoors all day. On my days off, Avery and I make sure to get a little fresh air every day, rain or shine, and it helps enhance my mood and energy A LOT.
4. Regular exercise. Surprise, surprise, right? Some good workout music, my garage, and a hard sweat session always works in boosting my energy levels for the day.
5. A cozy home. During the winter months we spend a lot of time indoors, which is why I have started to make an extra effort during the winter to keep our home a cozy and relaxing place to be. An important part of this is keeping the house clean. I alway feel a sense of unrest when the house is upside-down, so Brandon and I have agreed to make a daily habit out of picking up toys, doing the dishes every night, etc. to help keep our house as clutter-free as possible during the winter. I also like to bring out soft throw blankets and candles in the evenings to add to the coziness of home.
6. Vacation planning. January and February are my favorite times to plan our vacations for the year. It helps me transport myself to a sunny, warm place even if the day is dreary and dark. This year we have a few camping trips, a summer Alaska trip, and a surprise trip on the books so far. The anticipation alone is enough to lift my spirits on a cold February day.
Any other suggestions for how to beat the winter blues? Please let me know in the comments!
Today, I want to share a little bit about what I do as a pediatric physical therapist. Besides treating kiddos with various diagnoses in a traditional clinic setting, I'm lucky to work at a place where I also have access to the amazing treatment tool that is hippotherapy. Rehab for hippos?? (what I typically hear when I first introduce kids to hippotherapy). Not quite. Hippotherapy = the use of horseback riding as therapeutic treatment delivered by a licensed physical, occupational, or speech therapist. When I first learned about hippotherapy, I have to admit I was skeptical. How could riding a horse be useful in teaching a child with cerebral palsy to walk? Or in strengthening a child with Down syndrome? I've been working with horses for over a year now and have learned SO much since then. I've seen first hand just how many therapeutic benefits riding a horse actually has, a few of which are I've listed below.
When a horse walks, the way their pelvis moves in a 3-dimensional motion very closely mimics the way a human pelvis moves during gait. A person riding a horse therefore gets very similar movement in their spine, hips, and pelvis as they would if they were walking. This makes horseback riding an incredible tool in teaching someone how to walk. The motion of the horse and the warmth of the horse's body can also help to ease joint/muscle stiffness for kids with high muscle tone or spasticity. On the other hand, kids with excess mobility at their joints (such as in Down syndrome) and poor muscle control can benefit from riding a horse too. As the horse moves, the rider must engage their core muscles and recruit balance and postural control strategies in order to remain upright and stable. If you've ever ridden a horse, you know that it takes some leg and core muscle action to stay on, especially when the horse moves over an uneven surface or changes its speed. As a therapist, I can take advantage of the various ways a horse moves (faster vs. slower, in straight line vs. tight circles, etc.) to achieve whatever goal I'm working toward with a kiddo. A big bonus is that the kids LOVE their horse time. You just can't bond with a therapy ball the way you can connect with a horse.
Ok, so now to step off my PT soapbox for a bit and get back to what inspired this post in the first place - taking Avery for her first solo horseback ride. Among the perks of working at a clinic with a barn and horses is getting to teach my own kiddo how to ride. The very first time I put Avery on a horse, she was 20 months old. This is how that went down:
She eventually warmed up to the idea, but would only ride if I was sitting with her. Fast forward several months to her second attempt this past weekend...
She did AMAZING! I was so proud of my little munchkin. She was sat up tall, kept her little body in alignment through sharp turns, and even rode with her hands high in the air using only her leg and core muscles for support. She wasn't afraid of the horse at all, either. In fact, connecting with the horse seemed so natural to her. All of our horses (we have 5) are so gentle and loving with the kids. They are amazing animals, and if you have any children, whether they need therapy or not, I strongly encourage you to give them an opportunity to connect with at some point in their youth.
I’m Betty and I live in the beautiful pacific northwest. I'm a mommy. Vegetarian. Wife to a meatatarian. Pediatric physical therapist. Outdoor enthusiast. Enjoyer of fitness/healthy living. Even bigger enjoyer wine and chocolate lava cake. And hoping to find some balance between it all.