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Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Right Horse For The Job


I have talked in the blog previously about the right horse physically for the job - in my entry, Fat Rider Myth #1: Fat People Should Only Ride Drafts (Or: Chosing A Suitable Mount), I discussed the importance of a strong, short back and good bone. Over the course of the blog, I have also written about other things that make your match with your horse very important, like saddle fit, fitness of both horse and rider, and other things.

Often when you are talking to people who just don't understand that fat people can ride, they neglect to remember that as a plus sized rider, we are often more aware of our body and the way that it effects the horse we are riding. I can't push that point home enough, ladies (and men, if you are reading?) - be aware of what you are doing, how you ride and how your horse is handling it.

Some of you might have been confused by the photo in the last entry. For those who need to be brought up to speed, I came to Tucson to help a dear friend (who also happens to be my weight loss buddy - we have lost almost 60lbs between us since just before Christmas) get back into riding. The mare we are with is named Ginger, a great Suffolk Punch mare that I have drooled over since the day that my friend got her over a year ago. That picture is of the first time that my friend has ridden since she got the mare, when she tried her out at the seller's house.

There can be so many fears and concerns that surround riding a horse, especially when you are at a weight at which you know you could get hurt badly in a fall. The thought crosses my mind every time that I ride. Sometimes it helps to have someone there to push you through the mind games you can play with yourself, and remind you that not everything bad happens when it could - it's a part of developing confidence and pride in yourself and the things you accomplish. What also really helps is to have a great horse.

Physically, Ginger is up to the task. I knew that when I saw her. I highly suspected just from photos of her face, her soft eye and her giant body (that is WAY too much effort to launch into many airs above ground) that she likely had the personality for it, too.



The thing is: when you are as heavy as I was when I started riding again (324) and as heavy as my friend is (I'm not going to disclose her weight!), the most you really can do is walk. It gives you a good workout - my friend will attest to that (and hopefully write a little reflection on my visit for the blog!). She will probably just be walking and getting her balance under her for several months. As she becomes more able to do more, the mare will have become fitter and so will the rider have. It's not like she is planning to go eventing tomorrow (though that may be in their future?!).

Anyways, back to extolling Ginger's virtues. This mare is patient and laid back - she has very little to say about most things, and if she is uncomfortable, she just stops rather than bucking or throwing herself around. She has a GREAT spook (I know, people are like "a great spook?! what spook is a GOOD spook, even?") - she more or less spooks in place when something scares her. She will startle, and maybe take a step or two but is easily reined in and brought back under control. Bronwyn spooks the same way - she just spooks more often than Ginger does! I was able to experience one of Ginger's spooks a couple of days ago, BAREBACK no less, when someone was playing in a dumpster at the neighbouring school. I have informed my friend that if I, World's Worst Bareback Rider (TM), could sit that spook without a saddle, she definitely could have sat it WITH one!


Overall, though, "Ginny", as we call her, is the right horse for this job. She is going to be great to build my friend's confidence and help her get back into riding and get those muscles all fitted up for further riding (I already have dibs on bringing Ginny to Canada when my friend no longer needs her! LOL). I wish I could pack her in my suitcase.

I just really want to be encouraging to anyone who is afraid to get back into riding these days -- my friend has also told me that having someone ride the horse you intend to ride in front of you several times to just show you how they are going to react to various things is extremely useful. Just being able to see where the horse's limits are, and where attitude may show up (with Ginny, it is pretty much nowhere, I have discovered!) is very helpful in building confidence from the ground. Being able to accomplish small tasks (like dismounting that giant horse without falling on your butt!) are also good confidence builders. Get a good friend to give you a hand if you're afraid, or an instructor who, as I always stress, understands your limitations and helps you work around them instead of just ignoring them, is always a good option. Don't be afraid to ask for help. There is no reason to fear. Ginny says so.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Arizona or bust!

To say my life has been busy for the last two weeks would be a gross understatement. I have been beyond busy between working a few pickup hours for my boss at the restaurant I work at as well as engaging in the hiring process with a couple of other companies, chauffeuring my family around as our second vehicle is currently out of commission and also just enjoying the gorgeous weather that we have been having - unseasonably warm and pleasant.

In fact, the only time I seem to have been able to find to even write this entry is as I am sitting at the Bangor airport, waiting to go through security for my flight to Philadelphia. From Philadelphia, I will fly to Phoenix and from Phoenix to Tucson. I think I'll be good and exhausted by the end of the three legs of the trip - but I will try to get as many pony photos as soon as possible and then the blogging will commence!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bravery And Solitude...

Yesterday, I was expecting a friend who wanted to go on a pony ride on Bronwyn. She's never done one before but she's quiet enough that I could lead her around with someone aboard, and make it no big deal. I was beyond excited to have someone to come and "play ponies" with me but he ran quite late (like, by an hour and a half!), so I got saddled up and was just going to warm Bronwyn up so that she would be in fine form for her pony ride.

I have kind of made a pact with myself that in order to improve my balance and posture, I am only going to ride her bareback or in my English saddle. After some helpful suggestions from the internet world, I decided to move the saddle back several inches (I am used to western saddles that, due to the weight, settle where they should even if you sit them quite far ahead to begin with!), and it has opened up her stride considerably. Her walk is forward and animated. I like it very much!

Anyways - I warmed her up a little in the spot where I have been riding but since it has been a while since I rode last, there was some snow that had crusted over and she was not crazy about the part where she sank a couple of inches after she broke through the crust. Overall, she was reasonably behaved but not thrilled about working up there, so I got the crazy idea in my head that we should go outside of the paddock and up the driveway, which is about 1/4 mile uphill toward the road.

Right off the bat, she spooked out from under me when I was mounting up - I wasn't all the way up so caught myself easily, got her back under control and got on. Then, she thought the van in our yard was the scariest thing in the world - granted, she did have to walk through a space only about 8 feet wide with a snowbank on one side and the van on the other. I eventually convinced her the van wouldn't eat her and we got past that. We did alright up until we started the incline toward the top of the hill. All of a sudden, every snowbank that had some mud on it was going to eat her and the trees wanted to decapitate and skin her alive! I definitely ended up riding her more distance sideways than forward!

There was a time that I would have bailed off as soon as a horse started to give me a little trouble. What Bronwyn was doing definitely would have scared me off of her back. I have learned, little by little, with Bronwyn, what I can and can't handle - and let's just say she hasn't sent me anything I can't handle just yet. I have developed a much more secure seat and better balance. I hardly even thought about the fact that I was just on a wee little banana seat with no saddle horn until I was coming back down the hill, having successfully defeated and vanquished all snowbanks and trees with malicious intentions!

Another really awesome thing that I "taught" Bronwyn (or that she just started doing) is to slow her footfall at a walk without me touching the bridle. "Eas-y... Eas-y... Eas-y..." in a deep but soothing voice makes her slow herself down and, in turn, helps her start thinking about other things when she is getting scared. It's a completely useful tool that I intend to try and teach all of my other horses from now on!

In the end, my friend didn't ride (he is a dancer about to leave for a contract and we thought if we could do everything in our power to avoid breaking the thing he makes his money with, that would be good), and all the riding I did was while I was alone. I also never would have been brave enough to ride when no one was home at one time - but lately, it has been 'ride when no one is home or don't ride at all'. How many of the rest of you are faced with this issue?

I've become braver since owning Bronwyn... I'm proud of myself, and I'm proud of her for the distance we've both come, together.

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In other news, I have been working on getting Rex refreshed. I have mentioned on this forum that he has been brought to the brink of being backed time and time again, but he will be four next month and he is ready to have a real job. I have been ground driving and lunging him every other night and he has been doing fantastically. As I lose the weight, I am getting more and more excited about riding my "not fat horses". :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Another Exciting Announcement!

I haven't wanted to say anything until things were set in stone, but now that I've received the confirmation, I am at liberty to announce...

I am going on an official "A Fat Girl & A Fat Horse" Roadtrip (okay, I'm flying so does that make it an "Airtrip" instead?)!

The last week of March, I will be visiting with my buddy Carina and helping her get back into the swing of riding. I am way too excited - warm weather, pretty horses, and a good friend! Of course, we will be documenting the week through the blog with lots of pictures and updates - I think you will all find it extremely inspiring what we are planning on doing. If nothing else, you will want to reach through the screen and snuggle her horse. :-D

Friday, March 5, 2010

Shooting Stars

Tonight, I stepped outside just in time to see the most brilliant shooting star. It streaked across the whole sky, leaving an ethereal trail behind it. It was not like the shooting stars you see more commonly that are just a flash that leave you wondering if you actually saw anything at all - no, it was the kind of star that left an impression, and made you absolutely sure that it was real.

I mentioned in my post, The Horse That Changed Your Life, that after Angel died, I saw a lot of shooting stars. They became less and less frequent as I healed... but it has always seemed that if there is going to be a shooting star, I just happen to step outside just in time to see it. Very convenient. Tonight, I stepped outside to grab the mares from where they were stuffing their faces around the remnants of a round bale we just put in a couple of days ago and just so happened to look at the right part of the sky to see that beautiful shooting star.

Angel has been on my mind a little lately - or things pertaining to her, anyways. I have been thinking a lot about Rex and Ari and the role they play in my life. There have been times that I have considered selling one or both, or leasing them out or something so that they are being used more than they are being used here because of my emotional hangups. I just know I can't. They were both on the sales market before I lost Angel and through dealings of fate, they are both still here. They are meant to be in my life for a reason.

With that said, I am nearly convinced to back Rex within the next couple of weeks. He is all the way there - I have taken him through all the steps over and over and over again - all that is left is for someone to get on and ride. He is bigger than Ari... I still have that hang up over her... maybe I can ride him and start to see things in context. Either way, I know that Rex needs a job and will be much happier when he can put his head down and go to work.

Sometimes I really miss Angel... who am I kidding? Most of the time, I really miss Angel. She was what I needed when I was 16, and she saved my life in many ways. (Okay, okay, I know it's so cliche to talk about your horse saving your life when you were an angsty teenager!) She started me on the path to weight loss. She started me on the path to my passion for horses.

And every once in a while, she shows up again to let me know that I am going in the right direction.



You took such good care of him, I just hope I do you justice, sister.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Exciting announcement, everybody!

The FORUM is here!

You can click the word "FORUM" above, check out the link in the sidebar that I will put up VERY soon, or click on this link below:

http://afatgirlafathorse.ipbfree.com

Be aware that this is a MODERATED forum, and for the protection of the forum members, you must be a member and be signed in to read the posts!

Also need to give a shout-out to Sam @ Zhuria Web Design for setting us up with a spiffy forum that matches the blog! Check her out for web design - she owns horses so she has that extra edge for equine sites!

Now... sign up and get posting! :)