Sometimes after an afternoon of riding and mucking, I’d zip over to the gym and hop on an elliptical, pick up a few dumbbells, and roll around on the Pilates ball. I even joined a yoga class to improve my non-existent balance.

As part of my gym membership, I received a training session explaining how to use the weight machines. These massive instruments that look like torture devices have always scared me, while proving how weak I am as I set the weight limit at 30 pounds.

There is one machine, however, that became my favorite: the inner-thigh abductor. While anything requiring arm strength made me shake like a leaf, I had thighs of steel that could pump that iron for days. It was the closest thing to riding in the gym, and it became my new best friend.

One impossibly hot day in July, I let my pony sweat it out under a tree, while I headed for the air-conditioned gym. I walked over to the weight machine area and was met by a sea of #gainz #paleo #crossfit #legday men. It looked like the college football team, Rescue Squad, and Fire Fighters had gathered for a gym party. I headed to an open machine, trying not to laugh at the grunts and huffs that came from the 290-pound bench presses. These guys were taking themselves super seriously.

The majority of the machines were occupied, but soon enough the inner-thigh adductor opened up and I trotted over to take a seat. The weight range on the machine is five to 310 pounds. I stuck the pin into the 40-pound slot and squeezed my legs together as though asking for a trot. I pressed the machine too hard and too fast, and the leg rests flew together with a loud, “clang!” I glanced around, embarrassed, but no one had noticed – they were all concentrating on bulking up.

“Well, that’s too light,” I thought as I raised the weight to 90 pounds. This time it took a little bit of strength, but not nearly enough. I tried 130 pounds, but my riding muscles yawned at the weight so I clipped it up to 170 pounds, then 200 pounds, then 250 pounds.

“Shoot!” I thought as I eased off of ten reps at 250 pounds, “I’m stronger than I thought!” Curiosity and pride got the better of me as I chose the highest weight possible, 310 pounds. Drawing a deep breath in, I exhaled as I squeezed 1, 2, and 3 reps. I beamed with confidence! I had maxed out the machine!

A few guys were waiting for me to finish, so I left and sat down at the leg press machine across the row. I watched as a beefy guy sat down at the machine, glanced at the weight, then looked at me, astonished. I smiled to myself as he moved the weight down a number of notches. I may not have arm strength, but I can sure stay on a horse!

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