Meet Stephanie Peters, an accomplished hunter / jumper rider. She, like so many of us, was born a horse lover. She was also born with a very rare disease called Acromegaly, a hormonal disorder that develops when your pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone during adulthood and is usually caused by a benign tumor.
Stephanie was just diagnosed in 2018 and discovered that the Acromegaly was the reason why she was always considered the ‘big girl.’ Thankfully, her tumor was removed in March of 2018. She wasn't able to ride for five months following her brain surgery, but she would visit her horses almost every day. Understandably, she says they were a huge part of her successful recovery. We caught up with Stephanie to learn more about how she incorporates nutrition, lifestyle habits and a sense of gratitude for what she has experienced.
-Please tell us a little about yourself and when you first discovered horses.
I started riding when I was five. My first pony was a mini named Ginger. She was older but she was such a light in my life. I loved her. I only rode her in a neighbor’s backyard, but I started taking formal riding lessons when I was six. My mom signed me up for riding lessons because I was being bullied in school. I wanted to leave school and have something to look forward to. Horses were that excitement for me. They made me feel loved and accepted. And in the presence of a horse, I never felt like I had to prove anything.
I rode with Chuck and Lindy Esau. They were fantastic. I rode with them for years and then I moved up to the higher levels and had the pleasure of riding with some of the greats! I’ve been so blessed to have amazing coaches for the last 25 years. My trainers now, Catherine Cruger and Kendall Ellsworth at SomeDay Farm, have been a huge part of my recovery. They’ve been so patient with me through my brain tumor diagnosis and they’ve kept my horses so happy and healthy while I’ve recovered. As riders, we appreciate good, honest, kind trainers! And I do think it’s important to find a trainer that supports body positivity and is understanding of your personal struggles outside of the ring. I’ve been lucky to have some great people in my horseback riding circle.
I do have amazing moments where I’m feeling 100% and my horses are feeling 100%, and those are the moments I live for!!
-What are a few examples of wellness routines and/or goals that you use to support your life (both in and out of the saddle)?
After my brain surgery I really wanted to make a huge goal for myself in 2019. So I decided to do a triathlon! I’m currently training. I run for 45 minutes on Mondays. On Tuesdays, I ride horses and I do walk/run intervals for an hour. Wednesdays, I have personal training my trainer Ally at BodyRock Fitness. We work on strength training and overall fitness! On Thursdays, I ride horses and do epsom salt soaks which helps with sore muscles! Friday I’m back in the gym with Ally.
-Do you work with alternative health practitioners such as chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist, Chinese medicine, nutritionist, etc.?
I do massage and acupuncture once a week. It’s been a lifesaver for me! Not only for my hormones, but also for my mental health. I take a supplement with my tea at night called Jade Pearl. It’s a wellness supplement that supports hormones and women’s reproductive parts.
-How have your health challenges (please tell us your story) changed any of your routines / wellness habits?
So after being diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2018, I never thought I’d be as healthy as I am now, one year later. I was so excited to have my diagnosis (as crazy as that sounds). I think so many people would be terrified. But I finally felt like I had some major answers to so many unanswered questions. What a relief!
-What foods and principles do you follow when nourishing yourself?
My diet right now during the week consists of eggs, veggies, goat cheese, protein shakes, apples, pears and bananas, a lot of greens - salads, veggies, and green smoothies. I make sure to get in a lot of fiber and protein to recover from my workouts!
When I eat now, post surgery, I really focus on mindful eating. Making sure I’m choosing foods that are going to nourish my body and give me the energy I need to ride, work out and get through my days. I don’t count calories. I think counting calories can be so damaging to one’s mentality and can contribute to disordered eating. I think it’s important to listen to your body and honor your cravings and needs. Our bodies tell the truth. And I think it’s important to listen to what our bodies are telling us.
-What foods do you rely on for nourishing yourself on competition / non-competition days? How do you stay hydrated? (Either riding or triathlon training)
Some great things that I’ve incorporated into my daily routine are the Arbonne vegan protein shakes! I’m allergic to whey protein, so the Arbonne products have totally saved me. They are whey-free, dairy-free and completely vegan. I do two scoops of protein, a cup of almond milk, one banana, a half a cup of wild blueberries, a tablespoon of peanut butter and some cinnamon. It’s amazing! That’s my breakfast every morning. With my shake I also take my vitamins, including vitamin D, vitamin C, B12, Spirulina, Cod liver oil and VitaMineral Green. I put a spoonful of the VitaMineral Green in my smoothie in the morning! It’s a great source of all the sea kelp and greens from the ocean!
I always have coffee in the morning (it’s my thing!) and I make my shake. I don’t eat much after 7pm. I make sure to have dinner early and if I do have a nightly craving, I’ll eat a piece of dark chocolate! Honey Mamas is my favorite brand! Lunch for me is always a salad or a healthy sandwich. I love tuna salad and I love turkey sandwiches! With all of the things on them :) I think it’s so important to not deprive yourself.
-How do you prepare mentally for a big event? Do you ever experience performance anxiety and, if so, how do you manage it? Do you take supplements for managing anxiety?
At horse shows, I make sure I’m on top of my health. My goal at shows is not to look a certain way and sacrifice my health to do so. My goal is to nourish myself so I can perform my best and feel strong. If my blood sugar gets low or I haven’t given my body enough fuel, I can tell. I get weak and shaky and I become more anxious than usual. And I absolutely make it a priority to drink lots of water! The A-rated shows now have amazing VIP tents and they provide everything we need as riders. I’m so grateful for that!
I prepare mentally by taking some quiet time. Whether it’s in the gym or at a show, I take a moment, take some deep, cleansing breaths, and I mentally go over what it is I need to do. If I’m at a horse show, I will meditate for 15 minutes before my class starts. I will go over my course in my mind and visualize how it should feel - how the strides should feel, how my connection should feel, how much impulsion I should have - and then I take the visualization into the warm-up ring. I try to make that come to life. I would say 90% of the time it happens. Some days don’t go as planned, and that’s okay. We work through it. My top priority is always my horses’ well-being. No doubt about that!
-Your favorite indulgences?
Saturdays I have a rest day, and a cheat meal day!! I swim for two hours every Sunday and after my swims I love to indulge in one of my favorite cheat meals! My favorites are sushi, cheeseburgers, Chipotle burritos and a donut.
-What has been your big take away from all that you’ve learned in the past year?
The good news is the lessons and blessings I’ve received from this disease are ones that have been vital for my emotional and spiritual growth. We all have things we struggle with that we cannot change. We cannot control our destiny, but we can control how we deal with it. Being different and unique is what unites us, and owning our truth is so powerful.