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Riding for Life:

A Horsewoman's Guide to Lifetime Health and Fitness, by Rallie McAllister MD; Eclipse Press. Softcover, 224pp. RRP $US22.85. ISBN: 978-1-58150-170-4.

December 11, 2007

Want to keep riding horses for longer, and feel good doing it? Read on.

Riding for Life is written by a doctor who also happens to be a horsewoman. It's not just the same old message on healthy living, diet and exercise. Dr McAllister does explain all those things but gives the information in an easy-reading manner and points you in the right direction to start making important changes.

The book starts with a self-assessment questionnaire on family health history, your own habits, lifestyle, history, and health issues, and then explains what your answers mean. You will find out what doctors are looking for in specific tests, how to recognise the onset of medical conditions, and learn when you need to seek help.

The nutrition section is very interesting and very useful. The differences between food types, and the differences between their sub-groups are explained in a non-scientific manner. And while we all know we're not supposed to eat too much fat, sugar or carbohydrate - in fact, not too much of anything - Dr McAllister tells us why and what the alternatives are.

But don't despair - it's not written in a preachy manner, instead it gives you the facts so you can have more knowledge about the choices you make.

Want to lose weight? If you are heavier than you should be you are simply eating for a person of that size. The basic message Dr McAllister gives is to figure out your ideal weight, and eat accordingly. Your goal weight in pounds, multiplied by 11, gives the total daily calorie intake required to meet this (note: calories, not kilojoules). What you eat is a percentage of this: a balanced diet consists of 50 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 20 percent fat.

The book tells you how to read - or rather, decode - food labels so that you can make eating choices based on the above calculation.

Fine-tuning may also be required, and the function of the different minerals needed are explained, and the best sources recommended. Included in the advice is information on magnesium, selenium, iron, chromium, antioxidants, and other special supplements.

Did you know that when you hit 30, your metabolic rate begins to drop by about 1 percent each year? By the time you reach 55, your body may require 200 to 400 fewer calories each day than when you were younger.

No good lifestyle book would be complete without advice on exercise. You get it riding, carting buckets, grooming, and the other numerous tasks needed to take care of horses. But how to you strengthen these and other important muscles? Several exercises are given, most needing no special equipment other than a chair and a wall.

Finally, how do you fit all this - and daily life - in with horses? It's often not easy. Dr McAllister shares several stories of women who have made changes in their lives in order to keep horses or keep riding. Different methods of ownership (outright ownership, leasing, sharing etc) and the pros and cons of each are explained, as is figuring out which horse is right for you based on your lifestyle.

How do you overcome obstables to working with horses? You need to establish what your goals are. Then establish the steps needed to achieve these goals, and change whatever is standing in the way.



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