Recently, my mother took us to a dude ranch.

The first day you are assigned a horse and instructed how to make it go, stop, turn left and  right. You are also told NOT TO LET YOUR HORSE EAT while on the trails.  Apparently , the horses know when they have a new rider and will test them to see how many tree leaves they can chomp along the way.  We were told some tree leaves can make the horses sick and some can even be fatal! It is imperative that you set the “no snacking” boundary Day 1 or the entire week will be a battle.

Easy enough.


I was assigned the gorgeous Palomino, Dreamer, white with brown spots, shiny and well-behaved.  I was proud and excited to hit the trails with her.

Eventually the novelty of being atop such a large, powerful beast waned as the relaxing Bowm-ba-deeda-bowm-ba-dee-da of the trail ride was constantly interrupted by Dreamer stopping to munch tree branches flanking the trail.

I would forcefully yank the reigns, I mean really yank, to pull her head away from these low hanging temptations.  I felt like I was pulling the bit through the back of her skull, but she’d thrash her head in protest, Guess what, Cowgirl, I’m eating this maple leaf.

I wanted to do as instructed, but I also wanted Dreamer to like me.  I didn’t want to fight.  What’s so bad about one little maple leaf (or 4)?  But, then it occurred to me:  this gorgeous creature out on the trail, surrounded by deliciously tempting treats, some harmful, some less so, is not unlike any one of us walking down the aisles of a convenient store, a grocery store, an airport, or the streets of Manhattan.  We are all inundated by food options.  Some healthy, some quite harmful.

Despite being yanked on week after week, Dreamer continued to sample the goods, but there was a notable difference in her once she knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Too bad we don’t have someone jerking our reigns to keep us from unhealthy noshing.  Or maybe that’s what I’m trying to do here.

(picture is of Elsa, 9, yanking the reigns atop Fiona at Clear Creek Ranch 2012)

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Madeleine Vanstory attended Duke University and began her post-graduate journey at The Elaine Clark Center working with special needs children. She went on to work as a Clinical Research Scientist running clinical trials for the CDC and developing medical devices for Welsh Allen, Abbot Labs, Roche and Johnson & Jonhson Her work included non-invansive cervical cancer detection, continuous diabetic glucose monitoring, non-harmful infant bilirubin level detection and studying Vitamin C's anti-aging effects on the skin. Madeleine attended Medical school at The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and completed a residency in Family Medicine at Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro NC. Dr. Madeleine Vanstory is a board certified Family Physician who has practiced all over the world. She has lead medical missions in Kenya and Honduras. She has participated with Operation Smile in Russia, she has patients in North Carolina, Maine, Oregon and New Zealand. Dr. Vanstory has worked the medical tents in the Marine Corps marathon in Washington DC and at the Kona Ironman World Championships. And Dr. Vanstory has marched with the Surgeon General promoting "Exercise is Medicine" at the World Congress Sports Medicine Conference. Disillusioned by the current health care system and armed with the realization that culture, nutrition and emotional well-being have a profound impact on health, Dr. Vanstory now motivates clients and patients to discover the healthiest versions of themselves through humor, counseling in her "Upgrade Your Health" Wellness Program.

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