2015-12-15: Hi! You're probably here because you did a Google search for 'plus sized horseback riders' or you saw my content quoted elsewhere. There are a couple of things I'd like you to know.

I am still here! But I am living away from my horses and not riding often. I could tell you a lie and say that I am, but I have always endeavored to give you the truth here. As a result, I'm not feeling terribly motivated to write blog posts and I feel out of touch with the community.

I'd love for you to stay a while and look back through the archives. Visit the links listed below. We still have an active forum community and I post on the Facebook page from time to time.

I have tentative plans to try to get more involved in the horse world in 2016, and I will absolutely share whatever that adventure becomes with you, so keep checking back!

Friday, April 22, 2016

It's okay to stand up for yourself.

So, in my late-night wandering of the internet (whilst killing time before I have to go home and pack my townhouse up like a madwoman because WE MOVE TO THE NEW PROPERTY THIS WEEKEND, YAAAY!), I came across something interesting. I vaguely follow a few other plus sized equestrian groups on the internet, and in one, someone posted about how the manager at the barn where they kept their horse had made remarks about their body size multiple times, including to their trainer. The boarder made it clear to the manager that the behaviour was not okay and then chose to vote with her dollars and move her horse elsewhere. Most of the responses were positive, but there was one poster who told this girl she was 'thin-skinned'.

I'm here with a newsflash: Just because you are plus-sized doesn't mean you have to 'take' any commentary you wouldn't if you replaced 'fat' with 'ugly', 'dumb', or any other derogatory remark. And it doesn't make you thin-skinned to demand the respect you deserve, to vote with your dollars or patronage, or cut poison people out of your life completely without giving them a second chance.

Nobody would find it appropriate to leave if that manager was saying to the trainer "boy, that Amanda sure is dog-faced". Nobody would tell me I was thin-skinned for calling him on that behaviour, or for commentary about my intelligence, financial status, or attractiveness. It wouldn't be considered a knee jerk reaction to discontinue my patronage to that professional for repeated, unprovoked remarks about anything besides my body size. It's generally acknowledged that those are inappropriate things for a professional involved in a business to say about clients. But there is this ingrained idea that, as the plus sized set, we should not only expect but accept commentary on our bodies. And we 'shouldn't let it get us down', ignore it and move on with our lives.

Oh, hell no.

I'm all for empowerment. Shaking off the haters. Acknowledging that some people are merely really awful people and keep on dancing. But that doesn't mean that you have to ignore their actions.

Let's go back...oh, maybe 15 years. I'm younger, softer, and less confident than I am today. I'm in a big box department store - the kind that doesn't have distinct divisions between 'straight' and 'plus sized' clothes. I'm minding my own business, flipping through jeans on a SALE rack.

An elderly man goes out of his way, cutting into the women's clothing section to speak to me. He says "Oh honey, you know none of those are going to fit you." He was right, but that didn't make it okay. I was so stunned I didn't say a thing. My mom, my hero, either overheard it or I recounted it to her moments later. She chased him down and told him, without being rude or aggressive, that what he'd said to me was unkind, unnecessary, and very rude. He was taken aback. I like to think that the next time this man thought he might dash some young teen girl's feelings, he thought about my mother calling out his behaviour.

People never change their bad behaviour if you never call them on it.

It doesn't mean you need to scream, cry, swear, or flounce (though if that's your jam, more power to you). And sometimes if you call someone out, it won't change their behaviour. But sometimes it will. In the case of the original poster mentioned above, she called out the behaviour both with her words and with her dollars.

Sometimes you won't have the energy to call out people's bad behaviour, and that's okay, too. I don't always have the energy or confidence to do it. You do what works for you in the moment, and what you are emotionally prepared for. But you need to know that you don't have to lay down and take it, even if society has convince you your body is 'lesser' or 'bad', even if your body-positivity mandate is that 'fat' isn't a bad word. And it's not thin-skinned to stand up for yourself.

Monday, April 4, 2016

More changes on the horizon!

Who knew I'd be posting again so soon? I ... kind of did. :)

On March 31st, we became the owners of this cute little house:

You might be saying "That's not horse related!"....BUT IT IS!

Because this house came with 10 acres of cleared farm land.

The plan has always been that eventually, G and I would be able to buy a place where my horses could come live with us, but neither of us expected this to happen so soon. Because of unforseen circumstances, my parents approached and asked if we would be interested in buying a house together. We jumped at the opportunity, especially with the little one coming in September -- we could have stayed in the city with one baby, but I am in love with the idea of raising my child on a farm and with the idea of multi-generational homes. I get along well with my parents as an adult and honestly, I'd be living with them if I wasn't living with G.

And I'm gonna be honest, I had reached a point where I wondered what the sense was in keeping my horses--I never see them (especially with how ill I've been this winter) and don't have the time or resources to do any consistent work with them.

So...as soon as the ground thaws enough to drive fence posts, they move in!

There is so much to do with this property -- there are no fences and no barn. On the one hand, it makes things a little more difficult, but on the other hand, we get to set it up exactly as we want it. I've never had that luxury before!

The house needs a lot of work inside, too. It has great bones and lots of beneficial add-ons done by the previous owner, but needs new flooring in most of the house and either paint or wallpaper in just about every room. The kitchen also needs a complete overhaul. It'll be a long, slow process, but I can't wait to share it with you guys! And I can't wait to have my feral ponies home to remind them of their P's and Q's.

I think that'll generate more blog posts for you guys, too. Even if I'm not riding, I'll definitely be inspired to write more once I know where those ponies are and can put my hands on them every day. And I think it's important to show the life-horse balance, too. So get ready to join me for some adventure this year! :)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Reason Why I Can't Ride This Summer...

I had big plans for this summer, I really did. I even thought about paying for some clinics back in January so I wouldn't be able to back out on them! I bought my NBEA membership so I would have insurance and be able to qualify for local horse events. And then at the end of January...something happened.
(you can click to enlarge to read the text...)

I know lots of women ride when they are pregnant. In fact, the running joke is my own mother stopped just long enough to give birth to me and I was practically born on horseback. But because both Bronwyn and I are out of shape and haven't ridden much in the last couple of years, I've made the decision not to ride during this pregnancy. I love her and I trust her but she jumps out from under me just too often. Soooo...anyone wanna come ride her for me this summer? LOL

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Internet Meme That Never Dies

It was recently brought to my attention that that picture was still floating around. Almost two years after I discovered it. I, again, asked Memegenerator to remove it. Again, no response. So I thought if I can't nip it in the bud, I'll go talk to the group that enjoyed mocking me. I never saw the original post, because it took too long for me to get added, and by that point, the original post had been removed. But I still posted. I'm not angry. I'm disappointed in the ability of people to just be kind to one another. Calling people out on their crappy behaviour makes people feel badly about themselves. They don't like it, and they usually react defensively.

Since my post there, on the group designed for 13-19 year old riders, was removed, I'm going to post it here. My heart just aches, though, for the 13-19 year old riders who are a bit chubbier than average, who are internalizing these messages and perpetuating the cycle of self-hatred and deprecation. I hope that someone who needed it saw my post and felt like their heart was getting a hug. I went there sincere, and my post was removed. I can't do anything about the ugly inside other people, I can only do what I can with what is inside myself, and continue to educate people and humanize Anonymous Internet Fatties.

Hi there.

About two years ago, someone lifted an image of me riding my APHA mare, without my permission, from my personal blog that is designed to encourage plus-sized riders to stop waiting for the perfect moment to live their lives. The picture was from 2004 or 2005, one of our last summers together before she died at the age of 6 from a torsion colic just below her cecum that killed all of her intestines (so no surgery or intervention could have helped by the time she was symptomatic). She left behind a nursing foal. That photo was taken on a day I remember really fondly. My sister and I had gotten on our broodmares and taken Angel for her first 'trail ride' -- up the hill on the front of our property. In the original photo, my 12 year old sister can be seen on her mare, and there is another photo in the series where her mare's foal-at-side is seen, puttering along with us. It was really warm, and I was a little nervous, but Angel was, as always, awesome. She was a total trooper, unflappably quiet, and did anything I asked, even though my fitness level had stopped me from putting a whole lot of time or rides on her. My sister's mare pitched a little hissy and backed down some of the hill; they got into an argument. The whole ride lasted maybe 20 minutes. Even now, thinking about it, I'm smiling.

That photo, cropped up close to my smiling face as we were coming back to the barn after a successful ride, with most of my 1300lb, 15.2hh, solid-as-a-rock mare cropped out, was uploaded to a website called memegenerator (again without my permission), where people can find or upload photos and then write anything they want on it. I don't know how long it had been uploaded there before I happened to stumble upon it.

Recently it was brought to my attention that one of those memes was posted here on this group. I know it's since been removed (which I think was a good choice, whether or not I was the subject), and I'm not here to yell at anyone or be upset, or stomp and shout. I just wanna talk. 

I don't know any of you. You don't know me. Why don't I tell you a little bit?

I grew up with horses. My parents operated a mid-sized breeding and training barn full of APHA, western pleasure, and halter horses. Riding horses as a kid was my job, and by the time I was 14, I was tired of it. My parents sold my show horse because I wasn't interested anymore. A few years later, they brought Angel home from an APHA sale in Maryland as a long yearling and my life changed. All of a sudden, my passion had returned. I was dreaming about the show pen again. I was imagining an entire breeding program with her at the cornerstone. After a couple of years where I couldn't have cared less about horses, I knew there was never going to be a time in my life moving forward that I didn't have a little horse hair in my blood.  

I had a lot of fun with that horse. We hit a few shows, we started under saddle, she gave me two beautiful foals, who are still with me now. In 2006, she died. I came home from town one sunny late-August afternoon and she was lying down in the pasture. It looked like she was soaking up the sun but I knew something was wrong. 8 hours later, she was dead. And there wasn't a single thing I could do about that but rage and cry and wish that I could have rewound the short 4 years we had together. I couldn't. All I have are a few precious photos, and not even any professional or really polished ones. I regret that a lot. 

You saw in that photo that I'm fat. I'm about 6ft tall with linebacker's shoulders and size 12 feet -- not exactly your ideal image of a horseback rider even if I wasn't fat, but then to add insult to injury, I'm also fat. There are some parts of my emotional history that have largely influenced that fact. I was also immensely unhappy for a very large part of my adolescence, which included counseling, depression, and thoughts of suicide. Angel changed a lot of that. When I spent time with her, I was happy. I could think forward about my life to come and what I wanted to see in it. That was 11 years ago.

Now you know a little bit about me. These days, I'm still fat and I still have horses -- I'm also a wife, and a successful author (and yes, my books include horses!). My life was shaped very largely by the 4 years that horse was in my life. I wrote a blog that has had reader hits from all over the world, and now, even when I am not writing regularly, I still get regular emails from people thanking me for my words. Some of my words were published in a non-fiction book published by Trafalgar Square this year. 

I'm telling you these things not to brag but to show you...I could be anyone. I could be your mom, your sister, your friend, or someone on this site that you desperately want to sponsor you. There is a person behind that 'funny' picture. And you might want to have the right to post whatever you want, but I want you to think about the actual, REAL, people, that exist beyond those things you want to have the right to post, and how you might feel if you were the target. If someone lifted your profile picture from Facebook or your blog and uploaded it as 'free game' for the entire world to post as a big, fat, joke. You don't know anyone's story until you ask them (yeah yeah, I know you didn't ask), just like nobody knows YOUR story until they ask you.

I just think people need to be kind to one another. And yeah, you know, when I found out that picture was STILL circulating, two whole years after I initially found it (and who the heck knows how long it was going around before that while I was blissfully unaware!), it was a gutpunch. It always is. I miss Angel a lot, and knowing that a picture of what was one of my happiest days is the butt of someone's big joke IS hurtful. But I shake it off. I've got broad shoulders (remember, they could be a linebacker's!), and if it means someone with a weaker consititution than I have gets a free pass from being picked on, I say bring it on. But I want people to think. To KNOW. Those anonymous fatties are real, honest-to-goodness PEOPLE. With real feelings and real lives.


* Update 2016/01/12 - Success! MemeGenerator finally removed the picture of Angel and I! That means that there are still lots of memes of us still floating around out there but nobody can make new ones. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

So... I got married!

(Okay, it's been 2 months now, but I just got back the photos from the professional!)

I married G on October 17th in a really personalized, intimate ceremony  (as intimate as you can get with 85 guests!) that I wrote. I always imagined a wedding at the farm, but what we put together, though it wasn't at the farm, was absolutely perfect and right up our alley (coincidentally, it was sleeting the day of our wedding...ALL DAY...so it's just as well we didn't have it outdoors or even in a tent!).

I had intended to have some bridal shots taken with Bronwyn, but...well, Bronwyn is Bronwyn. As I haven't done much with her (we went on three trail rides with my friend Nicole this summer, and that was the grand total of our riding this year because I've been crazy with work, wedding planning, and releasing my third novel in August), she's basically reverted to feral (as she does). I even had a friend lined up who lived about 10 minutes from our wedding venue with a barn who would let me keep her there for a couple of nights so we wouldn't have to traipse 30 minutes back to the farm each way. I tried, the day before the wedding for hours, literally. There was no way I was catching her. Even when I stepped in a hole, turned my ankle over and sat on my hands and knees crying like a baby for ten minutes and all the other horses came over and put their noses in my hair, she kept her distance. I would have run the horses in the barn but they'd been on 24/7 turnout for a few months and their stalls were all filled up with other stuff (as that does). The bride in me was fretting because I was an hour late for my nail appointment (with Nicole, coincidentally!), but the horsewoman in me refused to give up. I never did succeed.

The good news is the photographer is a friend and I plan on keeping my dress, so maybe in the spring, we'll revisit the idea of bridal shots with my horses.

We still had a great day, and incorporated the horses and the farm into a few little things. Our guestbook was a signable photo mat in a frame made of wood from my dad's hay barn that G's dad built:

Because Jill @ Scuffed Boots was our photographer, someone I have known for a decade, and who is responsible for the photo that started this entire thing, she caught a couple of special horse-related images that other photographers might not have thought to get:

Both my mom and dad walked me down the aisle. I wanted to avoid the traditional 'who gives this woman?' bit, because I found it a bit patriarchal for the type of relationship we have, but I wanted the symbolism that my family and I are a team. It was super special that we were able to do things this way! There was still a 'hand off' when daddy shook G's hand and he gave mom a hug:


My vows included the promise 'not to add another horse to the family...without consulting you first':

There was even a wardrobe change that spoke to G's personality in a big way:

And our meal featured beef that was raised on the family farm. I literally loaded this steer to go to the butcher the week before the wedding! He was tasty, it was a huge help expense-wise, and it was really special for my parents to be able to contribute that way.

Here are a few of my favourite shots between the ceremony and the reception:

If you hung out this long, you're probably wondering what's next? I can't make any promises, even though I'm tempted to with the new year coming. I am hoping to sort my schedule, but I bought Bronwyn a new saddle this fall and I saw this meme on the internet the other day and it really spoke to me:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

8 Years

8 years, 10 months, and 19 days.

That's the amount of time that's passed since my father stood in my bedroom door, while I lie curled in the fetal position on my bed, with a heart shattered to pieces, and told me that sometimes bad things happened for a reason. I resented that so much that if I could have gotten out of the bed, I would probably have hit him. But I didn't. 

I still miss Angel.

So much that if I think about it too long, my eyelids sting with unshed tears.

8 years ago.

"She'll look great all shined up!"

My sister and mother and I are standing in the middle of a friend's field. A mixed herd of horses, mostly comprising of percherons and a couple of paints is milling around us. At the outskirts, a gangly black mare with a mane hanging down her shoulder can't stand still. At this point, I can't tell if all of her legs are coming out of the same hole or if anyone will be able to catch her. 

I need her.

She is not what I came here for. I came here to possibly lease something broke and steady that I can ride and get my feet back under myself with. Something to take my mind off the still-crippling loss of Angel. But I need her. Not just because she's pretty, but also because I've always been a sucker for a sad story fixer upper and she takes the cake. Bred too early, starved nearly to death, a mutual friend pulled her from a field with dozens of other draft horses, then sold her to this friend, and now here she is. She's to be his wife's riding horse. 

He tells me her price. I have no money. I was not intending to buy a horse. And this isn't the horse I was after, either. Nonetheless, fans of the barter system, we agree that eventually I will have something he wants and we'll work it out. It takes a while, but eventually, we do. Years later, he tells me that he saw that we needed one another and who was he to stand in the way of that?

Later that same day I first saw her, I am nervously standing by as we herd her into a stock trailer with a chute built with livestock panels. We lure her into the barn with what my dad calls a 'Judas pony'. I tell myself she's just here to flip and sell, because no horse except for her own offspring will ever be able to replace Angel.

She stands in the back of a box stall and blows like a jake brake on an eighteen wheeler every time something new happens.

For two weeks, I am forced to chase her down within her stall in order to catch her. Once I do, she merely tolerates my attention, but she does come along. Eventually, I convince her to learn to lead, luring her with a steel strainer full of oats. She'll do anything for a lip full of oats. She learns to tie, and how to lunge, and just when I think I have her convinced to work with me, she gets scared and rips the lungeline out of my hands and heads for the barn. Once, she drags me on my belly for a few yards before I'm smart enough to let go.

I don't know when we crossed the line from 'project horse' to mine, but it's close to winter. Around November, I step in a hole while lunging her and sprain my foot. It makes me reconsider our plan. She's getting fat and sassy and we finally make a breakthrough with a clicker and treats--something I've used on the dogs for years. It never occurs to me to use it on a horse until I have no other options, and suddenly I have a partner, not just a horse.

In the spring, I put the saddle on her for the first time and my dad laughs. When I ask him to hold her while I climb on, he thinks I'm crazy, but I do it anyway. I can't explain why I trust her. Or why she trusts me. We don't look back.

Over the last eight years, I've learned a few things.

* Round pens are your friend.
* Never load a horse in a trailer that isn't hooked to a truck.
* It doesn't matter how soft the snow looks. If you backflip into it from the back of a horse and land on your head, it will hurt.
* Never get too cocky, Bronwyn will call your bluff. Sometimes twice.
* Never approach a loose horse when you're short on time. It will be a lesson in patience.
* The madder you get, the longer it takes.
* Never teach a trick you wouldn't want to have repeated over and over... and over. It's cute the first time, but smart horses learn to offer behaviours.
* It's best to just accept that your mare is smarter than you are. Life goes easier that way.
* But seriously, trust her. Because she'll save your ass someday.
* Stubbornness and fear do not go together well.
* Most saddlemakers that market "wide" saddles have never met Bronwyn.
* Never trust a cat not to scare your horse. They are scary, levitating aliens. And that's final.
* "Watch out for that black horse." 
* When that black horse who hates to be caught in the pasture eagerly comes to the gate to meet the boy you brought to the barn, you should marry him.
* Trust your instincts.
* Don't show off.
* Someday, someone is going to consider your horse the safest horse on the trail with them. It's a compliment. It will be worth all the tears and tumbles.
* The best cure for a hurting heart is sometimes just to sit on your horse and do nothing, just be.
* You will experience loss. You will live through it.
* Listen to your dad. Even if you're angry. He's probably right. 

Happy 8th Gotchaversary, Bronwyn.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Not-Strictly-But-Also-Sort-Of-Horse-Related Update To Let You Know I'm Alive

If you follow me on Facebook, you probably have a little idea of what has gone on since my last post in July. The answer is: not a whole lot of actual horse stuff. But for those of you who are interested, I'll give you a little run down.

In July, we moved from our home of two years into a larger space. We still have plans to purchase a home but they have been pushed back a year or two, because...

In early August, G proposed to me. Well, he gave me a ring, waited for me to freak out a little bit, and then said "so you never gave me an answer". I laughed and cried and said yes and called everyone I knew. We set a date for October, 2015. Unfortunately, rustic barn weddings are pretty popular, so all those venues are booked up. We booked a beautiful rustic lodge in a Provincial Park and are planning a country fair themed wedding. No, I won't ride Bronwyn down the aisle, but I've already discussed bridal shots with her, at length, with my good friend, Jill from Scuffed Boots Photography.

In September, I released my first ever novel under my pen name Amity LassiterRunaway Heart is a sweet and sexy contemporary western romance that has been well received by reviewers. The followup, Homecoming Heart, is coming soon (like, as soon as I finish the revisions), and follows a plus sized heroine who is a barrel racer, and her friends-to-lovers story with the boy-next-door. It touches on body image issues. In both of my books so far, I have featured horses very heavily, and I don't gloss over many details because that is my biggest pet peeve about 'cowboy romances' - sometimes they don't even ride a horse!

I love writing - fiction, and non-fiction, and have always wanted to be a published author. As you can imagine, knowing that I wrote a book and people are reading it and enjoying it is so, so rewarding. And it works toward my ultimate goal, which is to have my horses at home to draw inspiration from.

At the end of September, Bronwyn and I were asked to help my friend, Nicole's daughter, Ava Lee to enjoy her first trail ride on her APHA gelding that came from my parents' breeding program. If you had told me six years ago that Bronwyn would be considered the 'safe trail buddy', I would have laughed you off. But she enjoyed it, and more importantly, I'm pretty sure Ava Lee really enjoyed it, too. And since my clinic in May, that was my only ride on Bronwyn. Twice in 2014. This needs to change.

And that's about how the last few months have gone. Now we are tucking into Christmas craziness, and I have scheduled myself to write four more novels in 2015. I've considered writing a non-fiction book about the blog and about what I have learned about being a plus sized rider, but I think there are still some thoughts and ideas that need a little more time to incubate before that can happen.

I have been dealing with some health issues, including low energy and weight gain, as well as a possible stress fracture that I managed to complete 8 weeks of running training before it bothered me. I've been to the doctor and am waiting for test results. 

I am hoping to have a very different 2015. So many good things have happened to me in 2014, but I want to shoot for the stars in the new year, get in the driver's seat and not just ride on the passenger side - I want to take life by the horns and make things happen. And I hope in doing so, I have more things to share with all of you.

If I don't post again until the new year, I want to wish you all the happiest of holidays. :)