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by Carole Carson, AARP, October 27, 2008
Karina Wahlman, 46, of Penn Valley, Calif., doesn't typically put on her gym clothes when she wants to exercise. Instead, she puts on her work clothes and goes about cleaning stalls, loading hay, carrying grain, grooming horses, and teaching riding lessons—all of which take strength, stamina, and discipline.
Sometimes she puts on her riding clothes. Karina experiences a natural high when she's outdoors riding one of her eight horses. As an accidental by-product, Karina is also strengthening her leg and stomach muscles.
Karina's mother always advocated eating correctly—fruits and vegetables were a big part of family meals. A vegetable garden produced beans, tomatoes, and squash. Except for an occasional treat of ice cream, store-bought desserts were rare. As an adult, Karina tries to stick to this pattern.
Karina considers being around horses a natural, healthy therapy. "You are challenged," she said, "to build a relationship with another living being—a being that doesn't communicate verbally. Consequently, you learn to communicate and be sensitive to its ways. Riding and being around horses stretches you physically, mentally, and emotionally."
She recently purchased a Haflinger horse with beautiful eyes and a gorgeous creamy-white mane. This latest acquisition gets lots of hugs, kisses, and attention.
Her advice: "If, like me, you have a hard time being disciplined about doing your workout in a gym, you need to find an activity you truly enjoy. Plus, if you find the activity challenging and beneficial, chances are you'll make friends and end up building a fun social group as well."
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