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!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Horse That Changed Your Life

I am just waiting for some information and resources to pull together for a couple of really good entries I want to write for you, but in the meantime, I thought I could talk about "THAT" horse. The Horse That Changed My Life.

No, it wasn't Bronwyn. And no, it wasn't my first pony. I have probably mentioned on this blog before that I grew up on a farm where there were always horses in full supply - in fact, I remember times that, as a breeding, training, showing facility, we had 22 or more horses here - that's pretty good considering the size of our barn! I rode before I walked, and regularly went on trail rides on the front of my mom's saddle before I could independently ride. As soon as I could hold my balance astride, I rode a pony named Doozer... after an unfortunate accident on a lease, I got Katie, then I moved on to Magic, Flirt, Boots, Caleb, and then there was Angel.

I was 16 when my parents brought her home. I had "defected", as many kids who grow up living, breathing and working horses for a living do, at about 14. My parents had sold my gelding because I had lost interest. There were plenty of options for me to ride, but I chose that year to keep a colt out of our best broodmare, and I named him Caleb. My parents took a couple of geldings to a big APHA sale in Timonium, MD, and I requested a grooming kit as my "payment" for keeping the farm while they were gone.

They had used my dad's boss' big rig with a stock trailer to haul the colts down, and brought one of them back. They asked me, when they pulled in, to check on "Smiley", the gelding they'd brought back, and I poked my head into the belly of the trailer to see a gangly, weedy palomino and white filly snoozing in the shavings. I thought they must have hauled home for someone, or made a mistake of some sort. They told me they had always wanted a palomino mare to add to the breeding program. The first words out of my mouth were "I'm not trading".

It seems I had no choice.

The next weekend, my parents were gone again... I highly suspect it was an intentional move in order to give me time to get to know the new filly, named "Sugar" (aptly, she was as sweet as!). They came home to find me in Caleb's stall, in tears. I knew that "Sugar", who I had renamed "Angel" over the weekend on my own, was something really special and she was going to play an important role in my life. It had been a long time since a horse had stirred up the feelings I was feeling and I didn't know what to do with myself. I was upset for abandoning Caleb, and upset for going against what I had told my parents, but it really felt like I had no choice.

She was kind of an ugly duckling, I'll admit. I would not have picked her as the prettiest horse out of a group. She was tall and weedy, about 15.2hh as a long yearling, and I was really not a big fan of palominos - so I can't say I fell for her beauty; there was just something about her.

Over the next five years, she proved that something - though I could never put a finger on it. We had a bond beyond anything I've ever had. I was more passionate about horses than I had ever been in my life. I began considering my life after I left the farm - how it would always include horses, and would always include Angel. She grew into an amazing, beautiful mare.

I started her myself. She changed the way that we all thought about starting young horses. She taught me to push to get what I wanted, for the things I knew were possible. She was the safest horse I had ever owned; though by age 6 she was still only ever "green" broke under saddle, she was so sane I could put green riders on her. I had my first bareback ride since my preteen years on her. She had three beautiful foals, two of which are my "not fat horses", Ari and Rex, who managed to stay with me by some sheer stroke of luck, though there were many, many buyers interested in Ari.

I don't like to get fluffy and romantic about horses, but we also had a bond that transcended the physical. I dreamt the gender and colour of her foals months before they were due. When I was living away from the farm, in town about 45 minutes away, she was due with her second foal. One evening, I laid down to go to bed but could not. I tossed and turned until around 2am, feeling completely miserable, uncomfortable, and inexplicably sad. When I rose in the morning, my mother called and told me that Angel had lost her foal - the vet, my father, and a local dairy farmer had spent two hours pulling the enormous palomino and white colt from her, and they had left at around 2am.

August 28th, 2006, I came home from the agility field with my sister. It was a reasonably decent afternoon - beautiful weather, quite sunny. Angel was laying down in the pasture, up on her chest. I immediately knew something was wrong - she laid down frequently, and she was visibly normal, but I could tell. I ran into the house to grab the mineral oil and tell my parents that she was sick. They insisted she was just snoozing in the sun (which, for all intents and purposes, that was how it appeared). I brought her inside and put a litre of mineral oil into her. Eight hours later, she died.

As soon as she started rolling, I knew she would die - I can't explain it, but I knew. I spent desperate hours walking her, trying to keep her on her feet, trying to keep her alive, even though I knew what the end result would be. Our fantastic large animal vet showed up and spent a couple of hours with her, gave her the strongest painkillers he could, did everything he could... charged me for 15 minutes and the drugs. He left about 45 minutes before she finally let go, and we tried to call him back to euthanise her because we knew it would get no better. My Earth Angel went home just before midnight.

I was completely desperate with grief... my father took her forelock and her tail for me and for months, I carried her forelock everywhere I went, rubbing it whenever I felt anxious. I missed a week of work - I was fortunate to have an understanding boss who had heard story after story about Angel and who pulled strings to make sure I would not be penalized. About a week after it happened, my mother had to take stress leave from work. The entire family was devastated - she had been the hope for our breeding program.

The night that she died, my father told me that "you might not understand it now, but everything happens for a reason...". I hated him for saying that. I couldn't imagine that anything could justify losing Angel. There were times later that I couldn't figure out whether owning her had been a dream or real. She sent me shooting stars every night for months - and not just one shooting star, several, more than I had ever seen before... I always seem to see them now... she doesn't send them often anymore because I am okay, but at the time, I think she was letting me know it was okay. All of this is kind of silly to me, someone who has always viewed horses as livestock, and understood the "industry" side of things, but I swear it's true!

It was just about a month shy of 1 year later when I saw Bronwyn for the first time. I was looking for a very specific horse - I wanted a 16hh or taller, 10 year old or older, broke broke broke stock horse GELDING, and I preferred that he was sorrel or bay. Bronwyn was none of the above. She was, at the time, 15hh with long toes, 3 years old, wild as the wind, a MARE, and she was black. She also needed a few pounds and a TON of work.

She was running around the pasture of a friend of the family, wild and wooly. He couldn't tell me a whole lot about her, and introduced her as "that friesian filly" (we are fairly certain she has 0% friesian in her). She didn't even stand still long enough for me to see if all four legs came out of different holes, but I knew. Just like I "just knew" with Angel, I just KNEW.

A year later, her former owner told me that he had seen something in that pasture, that that skinny, scared filly needed me as badly as I needed her, and who was he to stand in the way of whatever that was?

Bronwyn frustrated and infuriated me for about six months, and I thought many, many, many times of returning her and giving up. She would tolerate just about anything but I could tell she didn't like it, and after having such a great working relationship with Angel, I couldn't imagine owning a horse that didn't want to work for me. At best, I viewed her as a resale project to help me get my horsey feet back under me.

Little did I know that in a short year, she would transform the way I think about horses, the way that I train horses, and the way that I view myself. She has been both an immense confidence booster (despite having my first fall off of a horse in 11 years off of her back in May) and a constant teacher. I put all the work on her myself, just like I did with Angel... and the most important? She made me happy. Truly, deeply happy, in the same way that Angel made me happy.

Things have not always been easy with her, nor will they ever be. She is extremely opinionated (birds of a feather, I guess...), has a tendency to digress to "mustang" if she doesn't get the right amount of attention (though she never seems to forget anything I've taught her under saddle, even if I go 3 months between rides), and is not inclined to be a "more than one person" horse... but she's honest, and she respects you if you call her bluff.

Though I didn't believe my father then, I know now that Angel left me for a reason, and that reason was Bronwyn. Bronwyn needed me and if I had still had Angel, I might never have even seen her, nevermind had the space, time or mindset to bring her onto the farm and work with her. I still tear up when thinking about Angel and everything she represents to me in my journey as a horsewoman, but I have come to the understanding that those were the events that needed to happen, that she had played her role, changed my life the way that it was meant to, and then made way for another horse that could teach me more than she could.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't miss Angel, but I am blessed to have her "living on" in my barn through Ari and Rex, who each play their own special role in my life, and have their own lessons to teach me, and in the case of Ari, are already teaching lessons to 4H kids who don't have the privilege of their own horses.

I can only be thankful for the time that I did get to spend with Angel while she was here, and the lessons that I learned, and the fact that she renewed my love for horses and made me passionate once again.

Please share the horse that changed YOUR life in the comments, I'd love to hear about others who learned those life lessons.


  1. The horse that changed my life was named Lester - he was a wonderful TBxCanadian and was my best friend for 5 years. He was a wonderful character - was sane and smart and fun. He would always jig all the way home on every hack we went on which meant I was untacked and ready to go home by the time everyone else got back. He loved Smarties and saved my butt over I can't tell how many jumper courses and the few times I fell off you could tell he honestly felt bad. He was my partner in every way and I have compared every horse since to him and few have come close but never fully measured up. I miss him, but in a good way - in the happy memories sort of way - he was one of a kind.

    :) Thanks for letting me share! I look forward to reading what other people say!

  2. Wow....totally, truly amazing. Desiree was not my first horse either, but as you knew her, she was special too. She definitely had her opinions and shared them honestly, but she also had a deep passion and love for people, especially kids. My fondest most touching memory is the one of when a little autistic boy rode her for the first time. He was so small and she so big. He stood under her huge neck and reached up to hug her, she dropped her head and touched the top of his head and gave the 'mother nicker'. You know the barely audible one that the mare gives her foal right after birth. It made me think she knew he needed a protector and it seemed to me she claimed him. I stood in awe with tears rolling down my cheeks. I was blessed to have Desi in my life all but 2 of her years here on earth. She passed away in January last year at the ripe age of 28.5 years! Saddest day ever but her memory lives on in, I see her somewhere in something, everyday!

  3. My first horse was my special horse. Her name was Rebels Hope. My first ride on her left me in the middle of a field with my left stirrup. Things got better after that though. :)

    I love hearing stories of people special horses. Thanks for sharing. . .

  4. My fourth horse, a gray mare, was my special horse. I had her for 23 wonderful years - we moved all over the country together. I lost her in 2004 (after major colic surgery) and I STILL tear up thinking about losing her - even right now.


  5. I have two - one is my first horse Babe. She was a little chestnut quarterpony mare I had as a teenager. I also had her son ( 1/2 Morgan) and broke him to ride myself. I had a very bad home life and every waking moment I was at the barn with her. I credit her with saving my life.

    When I was 15 my parents sold her while I was at the fair. I didn't know until they loaded her up on the last day. That was 30 years ago and I still miss her very much.

    The second is my current heart horse Delight. She was love at first sight, even though I wasn't looking for a horse. She's a 14+ hand chestnut Morgan mare. My husband saw my love for her, made payments and surprised me with her on my birthday! The next spring she foaled out a beautiful black Morgan filly.

    When I saw Star for the first time I knew that God had sent them to heal my heart. They are a reminder to me everyday that He knows and understands me.

  6. I love your blog! I know that feeling about "that" horse. Denali spoke to me when I saw her at the auction. We've had our ups and downs, but we never give up on each other.


  7. Way late in the ball game here but I wanted to share too.

    My special horse was Harley. He's still in my profile picture. Harley was that horse that allowed me to accept who I was and to know that even though I was a big girl I could still do it all. I went from riding at a fancy new barn where I was constantly told I had to lose weight and made to feel guilty about my weight to a small farm where I got to treat Harley as my own, re-train him to jump and just fall in love with a horse truly for the first time. Harley was incredible, and just what I needed he was the sweetest, gentlest, most loving horse I have ever known. Unfortunately we were only together a short while before his owner was having financial problems and had to sell him... I showed him to the lady as well as loaded him on to her trailer. That day was horrible and I felt like my heart had been ripped out when I watched that trailer disappear with my boy. It took me a year before I could even think about him without crying, and I still do cry over him if I think too much about him. I miss that big boy more than anything... and I just hope and pray that he has had a good life, treated like a king as he deserves to be treated.


  8. Taking Riding lessons and having catch rides for 23 years makes you think that you have seen it all. You know what you want and I knew when it was time to buy a horse I wanted a sane Quarter horse gelding, 15 hands or shorter, dapple gray, around ten years old. Doesn't seem completely unreasonable right? Then I went on craigslist of all places and stumbled upon Dolce, a North American Spotted Draft horse, 15.2 PMU MARE, who was 4 years old. As you can see she was far from the original goal. Something about her spoke to me in her ad. So I took my friend out to see her. She was under weight and in a mud lot with a pony munching on a funky hay bale. I know everyone says there is that moment where you just "know" and I knew. As much as I, not a super confident rider, should not be getting a green horse I bought her for $3400. Little did I know she would be so emotionally affected by the move(apparently she had already been moved 3 times before this in her short life and one of those times was when she was weened/ taken from her mother). The place I moved her too turned out NOT to be ideal and we literally only stayed for two weeks. Luckily, an old trainer had space available and we moved in as fast as we could. With my trainer's guidance, deprovara, and my horses ability to finally be a horse and enjoy the simple things in life, she totally changed. She discovered grass, a big pasture, and found some girlfriends. I'm not saying all of our days together are perfect, but I swear she DOES make me laugh every time I go out to see her. This past March we have been together for 4 years and she has taught me things that I am not sure a gelding could get through my thick skull. Most days she is patient and very kind and I am grateful we were able to find each other.

  9. The horse that was speical to the whole family was June, she was my mom's horse, but my teen horse was Blondie, she was awesome and I loved spending my summers riding her but my speical took one look in each other eye's and had to have her was and is my current big Brandy Girl.. To be starting over after 13 years of not riding, and well over 100 pds overweight, its has its challanges but O my goodness its been worth it, so glad I found your blog and look forward to reading along.

  10. My Special Horse was Hazel, She was a 23yr old Quarter Pony mare that had been used to teach hundreds of little girls to ride her whole life. We bought her out of a bad situation of physical abuse after her lifelong owner had died and the family sold her. I taught her to trust humans again, She took me over and over to state championships in western pleasure, halter, equitation etc. I would become agitated when women in their 20's would approach me while waiting to enter a class and throw their arms around my horses neck and weep into her mane. They would all tell her how much they loved and missed her and then tell me stories of how she changed their life. At age 9 it was an annoyance but at age 43 I understand it so well. We sold her when I was 17 yrs old to a little girl about 6yrs old and when I was 20 I saw her at a show getting ready to go into an english equitation class, She was probably 28 or 29 and she was just as fit, shiny, and gorgeous as I remembered. I threw my arms around her neck, I wept in her braided mane and I told that little girl how Hazel had changed my life. She was amazing and could do it all. It makes me well up with tears to think of her because I know she's gone but what an amazing animal she was and I know that there are others much older than me who think of her fondly as I do.

  11. I am a paraplegic, and have done riding for the disabled for many years. I have also ridden many many different horses. At one point I was riding an Australian Stock Horse named Leopold, who was a big stubborn sweetie... but if he didn't want to move, I couldn't make him move. So anyway, one day I spotted the owner of the RDA riding this big lanky chestnut horse. I asked the owners partner who this horse was, and I was told that she was being tested to see if she would be suitable for the RDA. I said that if she was successful, that I would like to be the first to ride her. Sure enough.. SHE PASSED! I was SO excited. Normally when I have a first lesson on a new horse, I ask that I have a leader (if not two side-walkers as well). Anyway, I was on this horse (her name was Donna), for maybe less than 5 minutes. I was in love already. She was a fast mover, and she actually LISTENED. I asked that I be able to ride her independently... and they let me! That was the first day of a 3 year relationship with her. She was the "lead mare" of the group, and she was definitely the boss of the boys! hahaha. You see, she had a MASSIVE attitude problem. She hated all the horses, and only liked certain volunteers. She didn't like being surrounded. So she suited me perfectly, as I prefer riding independently. Over the 3 years they had her there, she bit a lot of the leaders leading her around, and scared the children who rode her half to death... but they KNEW how much she and I loved each other, and decided to keep her. It was really funny. I used to ride her in the last lesson of the day, and she would have had 3-4 lessons before me. I distinctly remember one day being told that she'd been naughty ALL day long for all the other riders, and even made a child cry. So I was like "oh ok"... and I got on her thinking she'd misbehave for me. She bahaved for me like an angel! I think she did this because I earnt her respect when I tried to take her back to the ramp off lead... but she had other ideas. She wanted to go back into her stall for a feed. I fought with her for 15 minutes on a freezing cold day, and I ended up sweating like a pig. After that she never misbehaved for me again. We even got to compete at the RDA state champs together. It almost never happened! The poor ol' girl got sick on the way up, and I was told to prepare not to ride... but she woke up the morning of the comp, and was fine! Not long after that, she began getting really unwell. She was going off her food and began losing weight. They decided she was no longer fit for RDA... and they made the decision to retire her. It was the saddest day of my entire life... and not a day goes by where I wonder what ever happened to her. I know she would be long gone by now... but I will never forget her! <3

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  13. My current horse, Red, has changed my life. Red was owned by my aunt, who no longer had the money to take care of him and he ended up with me, but before I get into that, I want to tell you a little about his life before me. He was an ugly little colt who was almost completely bald with awful skin issues, he had a broken tail because he was let loose in a cattle shoot, and he was at some horse sale. My aunt had bought a beautiful, stunning Paint, but the Paint was crazy and she demanded a refund. The paint would chase her kids, rear and buck at them, she was INSANE. The man said he wouldn't refund her money, but he could do a trade. He would give her that colt for her pretty Paint! So she refused, naturally, and took the Paint back home. Well, tried. The paint went crazy in the trailer halfway there, and she drove as fast as she could to the horse sale and once again, demanded a refund. She ended up with that colt, whom is related to Dash for Cash, and also a horse that my mother previously owned. She named the colt Little Red. Well, little Red turned out to be not so little. He matured into a muscular, 15.2 Quarter Horse. Bigger than the majority of her other horses. Little Red still had skin issues and he was losing weight due to the constant itching. Finally, when he was ten years old, she HAD to sell, so my family surprised me by going to FL, our second home, to be honest, and I rode that itchy matured Quarter Horse. I had no clue that my parents were thinking about buying him. But, I fell in love with him. I was told they found him a home and I sobbed for days until I was told that he was mine!! I called him Red since day one, Little Red just didn't fit him. What about him was little??? A few months later, he was brought to Tennessee, where I live, and we started training and rehabilitating this skinny horse. I got him on September 4th, 2012, and now he has gained at LEAST two hundred pounds, his mane, previously an inch long, has grown several inches, you'd never know his tail was broken because it's now long and hairy, and we have the most amazing bond in the world! He sees me, runs to me and wraps his head around me. He's patient with me and puts up with my many mistakes. He lets kids crawl all over him, pull his mane, play with his ears, and he just sits there. He is amazing! I have awful anxiety issues, like, really bad. I was told that I needed a therapist but I told the doctor I had just gotten a horse and he was all I needed. A couple months ago I went back and I had improved a little and I owe it all to Red!! He has helped me so much, and I've helped him. :)
    Kalin from Sittinginthesaddle.blogspot.com

  14. Avalon ( AvieMare) and I have been in several newspapers, journals and websites. This is our story:


    Peace & Happy Trails,
    Scherry & AvieMare