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!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Weight Loss Vlog #3 - 3.2lbs LOST!

For you horsey people, I have a little funny story about trying to do the "The Barefoot Dancer" routine the other day. Might make you smile. :)

Scroll down for a great guest blog on tack fit!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Guest Blog: The Importance of Saddle Fit

I wrote a short note to the author of this blog a little while back, congratulating her on her blog and her good, sensible, positive advice to riders of all sizes! I mentioned saddle fit, and she very generously asked if I'd write up my email in a little more detail, for the blog readers. So here, without further ado:

The Importance Of A Properly Fitted Saddle

There's not really any way to *over*state the importance of a well-fitted saddle, but it's something I rarely see discussed in the context of new riders or re-riders and their journeys back to riding. Many re-riders I know either ride in whichever saddle came with their horse, or purchase a saddle that 'looks like it fits,' without fully understanding the steps to checking saddle fit. There are a lot of different things to look at when deciding on the best saddle for you AND your horse, and though it can be overwhelming, I believe it's essential for all riders to learn at least the basics of saddle fitting.

I'm not a saddle fitter or a professional, but here are some of the things I always recommend when someone asks about choosing a saddle

1) Go to your local tack shop, and sit in a few saddles. Determine which size saddle fits YOU comfortably. You should be able to slide your palm between the back of the saddle and your butt, with your seatbones resting right in the middle of the saddle. You should be able to do the same in the front.

2) Determine what width of tree your horse needs. English style saddles come in Narrow, Medium, Medium-Wide, and Wide, and some brands also have an inch or centimeter measurement. Western saddles have "QHB/Semi QHB" (Quarter Horse Bars), "FQHB" (Full Quarter Horse Bars), "Arab Bars," and other terms to describe tree width and gullet size. Do some research online or in a library or tack store, and find out which types of trees might be best for your type of horse. Broad, flat-shouldered horses and narrower, high-withered horses need totally different saddles, with different shapes and widths! And there are many variations in between. See the wither tracing link below for help with this.

3) Now that you know what size saddle you need, and what size your horse 'wears,' get a few saddles out on trial from your local tack store, or get a 'try before you buy' saddle from an online retailer. There are used saddles available for trial from many online or local used tack and consignment stores. Even ask your friends or co-boarders if you can try their saddles on your horse, so you can get a good idea of what fits him!

Try the saddle on your horse WITHOUT a pad. Make sure that the 'meat' of the saddle on the underneath, on either side of the gullet, rests smoothly against his back all down both sides of his spine. If there are places where there's a gap between the saddle and his back, the saddle doesn't fit. If the front of the saddle is resting against his withers, it doesn't fit. And most importantly, slide your hand between his shoulder and the front of the saddle...you should be able to easily fit two fingers there without feeling a pinch or a too-tight feeling. Make sure that the saddle is sitting level on the horse's back, not slanting forward or back.

4) Try the saddle with you sitting in it and with someone watching from the ground. I've been riding for over 30 years, and I won't buy a saddle until someone I trust has seen me ride my horse in the saddle, and can tell me if my weight is causing a problem with the fit. Have them slide their hand under the shoulder/skirt, to make sure your body weight isn't bringing the saddle down too hard on the horse's shoulders. Have them put their hand behind the cantle, between the saddle and the horse, to feel for 'hard' spots or pinching. Have them watch to see if the saddle shifts or moves while you ride, which is a sign of a saddle that's not fitting right somewhere. Walk and trot, at least, to get a good feel for the saddle itself.

5) If you have the funds to do so, consider asking your trainer, an experienced rider you trust, or a local saddle fitter to assist you with purchasing your saddle. This is truly the best idea if you're new to saddle fitting and purchasing, but it's not always an option.

Many online retailers will ask for a wither tracing of your horse, and can help you find a properly fitted saddle once you send them the tracing. For a good example of this, see the Trumbull Mountain Saddlery Page. Not only will they take your wither tracing and match it to a saddle, but they can also give great advice online, and have great informational articles about back pain, saddle fit, and information on saddle terminology. That link leads to a 'how to' on wither tracings!

Saddle fit is always important...heck, it's important if you're just longeing! But when you are a larger rider actively riding, especially a re-rider who is still working on balance and seat and core strength, I think it's possibly the single most essential thing in the rider/horse relationship. If you think about it, even a Western saddle will concentrate the weight of a rider to a relatively small part of the horse's back; the more weight, the higher the concentration of pressure. It's absolutely essential that that weight is distributed well and evenly and painlessly by the saddle. Then it becomes a benefit and aid to your riding, not a hindrance.

I have two students who are larger riders, both well over 250lbs, with lovely and suitable horses (one is a PercheronX, one's an Appaloosa). The Appy was having a lot of trouble at her former barn; he was actually balking and stopping on her, flipping his head around, obviously protesting something. The very first thing I did was look at her saddle. She is a re-rider who had recently returned to horses, and the saddle had come with the horse. She had never given the saddle a second thought!

He's a nice solid horse and well suited to her weight, but the saddle she was riding in had a sharp-cornered tree edge in the back (it was a Wintec synthetic) that was digging into his kidneys with pretty much the entire weight of her body. OUCH! He wasn't lame or obviously sore, but when you slid your hand between the saddle and him, with a rider in the saddle, that corner would really bite into your hand! We changed saddles, and I had her start longeing him in side reins, long and low, to get him to stretch and use his back muscles properly and build them up, so he could more comfortably carry the weight of her and a properly fitted leather saddle. They're doing incredibly well, now that the saddle problem has been resolved. The new saddle fits both her and her horse, and it's like watching a whole new pair.

So, next time you ride your horse, slip a hand between her back and the saddle. Feel to make sure there aren't any hard spots or sharp corners or lumps. You may be surprised by what you feel, and how much a well-fitted saddle can change your horse's entire way of going!


Katie M. trains and rides dressage in Upstate New York. She has spent time as a working student with Lendon Gray and Brandilee Hilbert, and currently juggles lessons and riding with a full-time 'day job.' It took her two months to find a saddle that fit her Morgan gelding.


If you've got something you would like me to blog about, shoot me a line at seeking(dot)sendiri(at)gmail(dot)com -- if it's something you know about, you just might get asked to write an entry!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Holiday Wish

(*ETA: I just realized I made a spelling error on my blog URL on the card. Haha, I guess that is what you get for 5 minutes with Photoshop!)

I wish for those of you who have horses and feel unable to ride them the courage and heart to move forward and accomplish your dreams.

I wish for those of you who have long ago tucked the idea of horseback riding into the back of your mind because of your weight the inspiration to start the ball rolling once again.

I wish for those of you with an "inner voice" that nags at you and tells you you CAN'T do this, the clarity of vision to KNOW that you CAN.

I wish good trainers, quiet horses, successful show seasons, great deals on show clothes, good fortune, no vet bills, and lots of time to read the blog for anyone I have missed. (hehe)

Though honestly - I do have to say how much my world and view has changed since getting to know all of you who read and comment or email. I thought I was open minded about plus sized riders, but my mind is opened even more every day - with every comment, every email, every photo. I have so enjoyed getting to know everyone over the last couple of months and am looking forward to years of writing this blog and sharing our stories and trials and tribulations and changing the minds and ideas of many people who would otherwise try to keep us out of the show ring or laugh us down.

I am proud of and inspired by the many "average" or "skinny" riders who read the blog, continuing to open their own minds and discover new ways to encourage and support those around them who are facing unique challenges and stereotypes in the equestrian world.

I cannot stress how important a great support system is. I cannot stress how important it is to live your life, and enjoy the things you love.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, regardless of what you celebrate - or if you celebrate nothing at all this time of year, I am sending everyone a giant internet hug. :)


Amanda & Bronwyn

Friday, December 18, 2009

One Random Thought PLUS New Component: Friday Features

Okay - just quickly, before I get down to some AMAZING photos someone sent me this morning...

I was cruising around Youtube as I sometimes do (to see my Youtube channel, you can go to afatgirlafathorse on Youtube), and I came across the infamous fat girl, Mo'Nique's channel, in which she has a brief, and quite funny commentary on fat girls riding horses.

I was not able to reply to one comment I found particularly disturbing:

thats not true most drafts can hold up to 400 pounds on them
but people who are 400 should not ride
but she probally 300+
BUT THAT horse will not break down
but really the wieght limit for a horse should be 280 and not anything more than that will yea

It was written two years ago when the user was 14, so I declined to send her a message because perhaps her viewpoint has changed - but this lack of education really hurts us as plus sized riders. Both of the bolded points are WRONG.

There is a horse out there for EVERYONE. Whether it is a draft, a stock horse, a morgan, a draft pony - anything - any breed of horse can have individuals within it that are capable of carrying great amounts of weight. As I said in my mythbusting entry, that does not mean that a specific breed in whole is suitable for plus sized riders - every horse should be looked at as an individual based on varying criteria - but anyone who is fit enough to get into the saddle, there is a horse out there for them. It's our responsibility, as plus sized riders, to break those stereotypes and educate people so that more plus sized people realize that horseback riding IS a viable option for weight loss and fitness for them. If you have to tell people your weight, DO IT.

They aren't very common, but you guys know there are people out there on the interwebz that hate that I am writing this blog - they hate that we're being successful even though we're fat or overweight, and they hate that people are continuing to bring overweight riders to light as a going "issue". We need to change the way they think, and I think you, my readership, are the perfect people to do it. :)

Enough of that PSA now.


NOW! Onto the really good and fun part!

I am opening up a brand new feature on the blog and it is up to YOU, my readership, to make sure that it is continued!

Friday Features

(In which I feature a rider, horse, event, business, loving trainer, etc, that someone submits to me, and people all can see the wondrousness!)

So today, I chose an email that came to me with intent for the Mythbusting entries. I thought the writer of the email looked absolutely fabulous on her mare and knew I had to share it even though I am not planning on writing another photographic evidence entry for Myth #1 (yes, what I am saying is that if you do ride a draft or draft cross, the floor is now OPEN for your emails as well... so do it because you know you wanna... seeking(dot)sendiri(at)gmail(dot)com - and keep all those emails coming, I love getting them!).

SO - without further ado... Megan and Brooklyn!

(For the record, I didn't think there was anything wrong with the pictures, but Megan sent me a disclaimer: "A little disclaimer about the pics. Those were taken back in April at her very first time away from the barn, and it was an overnight show to boot.. Brook has also put on about 75-80 more lbs since then and she has muscled out considerably."

I was always pretty fit as a teenager not "skinny" but not "fat" either just normal, like a size 9-10 jeans. I started college in 2003 put on the freshman 15 then got in a really bad skiing accident in Jan 2004 and was laid up for a few months, put more weight on, then tore my ACL in late 2004 in a riding accident and was on crutches for months - put on even more weight. I'm currently sitting at 230lbs. I've been around horses since I was 5. They are a major part of my life and I would be lost with out them. Anyway, I currently own a 9 year old OTTB Mare named Brooklyn. She stands about 16.2 hands and weighs about 1250lbs. She's got some good bone to her, not too thick but not toothpick like either, but she is built VERY much like a TB. I got her in Jan 2008. She is a rescue horse that had some serious issues when I got a hold of her. Feet were turning up, teeth were sharp, rain rot, ulcers, worms, 250lbs under weight. I rehabbed her for about 8 months before I started to put training on her. It was worth every second and she has made a world of difference in my life.

Since most people don't know the bond she and I share because of her past and what went into fixing it, I get a lot of dirty looks at the hunter/jumper shows. Some people give me the "are you kidding getting on that horse" look or my favorite is the "how the hell is that horse suppose to lift your fat ass over the jumps in the 3'6" jumpers" look. But when we get in the arena and do our thing people are amazed with my athletic ability as a plus sized rider and the fact that I have a very soft seat that allows my mare to clear the jumps with ease. Do I wish that I was a thinner rider? YES of course. Am I doing harm to my horse? Nope, she is perfectly sound, healthy and happy*.

*Yes, I think she looks pretty happy, too! And I think the two of you make a great pair. :) I love that you are out there competing and doing your thing and that you don't give a toot about what other people think. :) You're an inspiration, Megan!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Video Log #2

... in which I discuss the challenges of working at a restaurant while trying to lose weight, and also working a night shift and lack of sleep.

Stay tuned at the very end for a nice message for my readership. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mid Week Confessional

I was thinking about this as I did my chores this morning... I have a confession to make.

I try to convey a lot of confidence when I write this blog. I feel completely confident and well seated on Bronwyn - I have no guilt or concern riding her at all.

BUT - some of you may know this, some of you may not - but I have two other horses who are NOT "The Fat Horse".

I have Rex:

and I have his half sister, Ari:

Besides their many individual redeeming qualities, Rex and Ari are around mainly because their mother was an extremely important horse to me (I am working on the post to tell you all about her, I promise!)... I feel that she lives on through them - however, it took Bronwyn to spark my interest in horses again.

So anyways, on to the confession part. I do have a nagging little voice inside of me that doesn't want me to ride my non-fat horses. Logic says that Ari, even though she is only 14.2hh, but built like a brick pooper (I would guesstimate around 1200lbs), could carry me comfortably - while I build her up and get her fit, I couldn't do much harm to her. I have ridden her before:

AND to add to this foolishness, Ari has bulked up considerably since these pictures - she was 4 in these pictures, and she will be SEVEN in this coming April. She has approximately 15 rides on her. I started her myself, before I even thought about weight in relation to horses.

Then, I'm not sure what happened, but that naggy voice inside of me came into being, and I have not ridden her since 2007. My mother has ridden her a handful of times over the last couple of years. The real shame is that the mare has beautiful movement, a GORGEOUS temperament and great potential. But I am stuck. I can't bring myself to ride her. I keep telling myself I will when I get down to 250, but will I keep making excuses?

It breaks my heart because Ari is, by far and away, the easiest and closest connection that I have to her mother, Angel, and I can't enjoy her because I have a little voice in my head going "You're going to squish that pony!".

Then there is Rex. He will be four in April and I have not started him yet. He is ready to start - he's all the way there - the groundwork has been laid, he's been sacked out and ground driven excessively - he hardly bats an eyelid when I put my foot in the stirrup and jump around... but my naggy voice tells me he has "spindly legs and little feet" and he's not nearly fit or thick enough to hold me. He's about 15-15.1hh - I would say probably 1050-1100lbs. In another year or two, he's going to fill out into a massive 1300lber, because that's exactly what his mama did.

A few years ago, I would never have had these issues, NEVER. I think what happened was this:

I was starting a 6 year old stallion who is blind in one eye... big boy, sweet boy... I took some video stills and posted them on a forum where many people that I love and trust (still do!) post, and was told I was too big for him and he looked uncomfortable carrying my weight.

This is the picture:

Here is another shot taken NOT from a video still so you can get an appropriate idea:

Every stitch of sense in my brain tells me that he was an extremely suitably sized horse for me. But that was the moment when I began thinking about it, began second guessing myself every time I put my foot in a stirrup. In retrospect, I am grateful because it has helped me to become more aware and able to articulate the things that I have been writing in this blog... but I am also resentful because I have not allowed myself to enjoy two of my favourite horses for fear that I am hurting them.

Sometimes that little naggy voice even comes out when I am choosing pictures from riding sessions on Bronwyn to show on the internet or on this blog. It says "If you post this angle, people are going to see how unsuitable you are for this horse..." and the naggy voice often makes me ask in the middle of a session "Do I look alright? Does this look natural?".

I worked very hard to quash that naggy voice and he hardly ever comes up anymore. One of the greatest things I did was have a real, honest-to-goodness photo shoot on Bronwyn so I could see how freaking gorgeous I actually look on her. No "tricks of the camera", no "bad angles"... I cried when I saw the photo that is up to the left on the blog. And they weren't tears of sadness because the little naggy voice told me anything, they were tears of happiness because I knew I looked fantastic and so did my mare and we had both come through a significant journey this summer. Due in part to the photos (taken by Jilly @ Scuffed Boots Photography), I learned to LOVE myself. I had always been okay with myself, never had a problem, really, but now I LOVE myself and I know I am worth so much.

So maybe this winter, one of my goals will be to go head to head with my little naggy voice and show him who is boss. Why? Because I deserve to let myself enjoy the things that I have... and I'm beginning to feel like a hypocrite, telling everyone to just get out and ride when I am not doing that with my non-fat horses.

So - I am opening the floor for the Mid Week Confessional -- in the comments, confess! Encouragement and support is what this blog is all about and identifying your fears and misgivings is the first step to overcoming them!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Video Log #1!

I am running out the door to a Christmas party but I wanted to post this video that I recorded a couple of days ago.

In a recent post, I mentioned I wanted to start talking about my weight loss journey but I want to keep the AFG&AFH blog true to it's original intent, which is and always will be encouraging plus sized riders in areas where they can sometimes face lots of prejudice and challenges that are different from those of "average sized" riders.

So - without further ado - the A Fat Girl & A Fat Horse Weight Loss Video Log!

A real entry should come tomorrow!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Informal Poll

It was brought to my attention elsewhere that in my first mythbusting entry, Fat Rider Myth #1: Fat People Should Only Ride Drafts (Or: Choosing A Suitable Mount), I was making a blanket statement that excluded many wonderful breeds - such as arabians, morgans, etc, in this particular comment:

Spindly little legs probably won't hold up to much work with any size of rider, so those horses are best to avoid in the first place for anyone! However, when I am talking about "good bone", I'm not necessarily talking about the fat legged draft horse. Many stock horses have excellent bone and fantastic feet and are completely suitable, when coupled with a short back and general overall fitness for a plus sized rider.

I wasn't under the impression that that sentiment was what I was implying AT ALL. I am concerned now that other readers may have percieved it that way. Comment?

More Photographic Debunking Of Myth #1

I have gotten some more really great photos and stories! I love sharing this with you guys - I think it is truly, truly inspirational.

You all should know that I have been getting as much out of writing this blog as people who are reading it tell me they get out of it. It is so encouraging to be able to talk to people "out loud" about things that have been floating around in my brain for so long. It inspires me and makes me want to keep going, and work toward a goal.

So, without further ado - more inspiring ladies!

First is Ariel, with her gorgeous horses!

I started working for a Hunter/Jumper trainer 6 years ago and we exchanged work for lessons. So thats when my life dream became complete. I learned on a few different lessons horses - a HUGE qh, an older thoroughbred, or a stocky paint. But I began progressing faster than even the students she had for years before I came into the picture. (A Fat Girl In: YES! It's true! Plus sized riders can be JUST AS or MORE talented than regular sized riders!) And soon I got to the point where those three loves of my life that had granted my wish couldn't teach me anymore and I was teaching them, so i meet my true love - an overweight percheron qhx gelding nicknamed JuJuBee and Clompy.

With this big guys help, I went through the lower levels in a show faster than anyone can say blue ribbon shower! But with my big 200lb+ shape in all the wrong places, I couldn't look perfect like the skinnier girls, so I went off on my own way, and turn our bigger than average butts into jumpers. Everyone laughed at us when we walked in the arena but as soon as the whistle blew telling us our time was bout to start, off we went! We always walked out with jaws dropped and everyone clapping. When I decided to stop showing, we worked on our height and last summer we hit our 5' mark and called it a year. =) No one in my trainers history had gotten that high that fast or even at all. Now that I know what to do and when to do it right, she puts me on all the green horses - Arabs, Qhs, thoroughbreds, large ponies and when I'm lucky I get the big warmbloods to hack. Even though I'm big and people judge me for the way I look, it's always nice to know that I can get on anything and show them my true colors.

I attached three pictures, one with a tb mare that I was retraining (Addy), and two with the love of my life - My big boy JuJuBee. I gotta say I love your site. Keep going and encouraging all those girls to keep riding. Theres nothing better than giving your trust to an animal with wings. =)

I think Jujubee is freakin' adorable!!

And I think that Sarah's story is pretty inspiring!

I have ridden for about oh - I guess on and off for 18 years now. I find riding to sometimes be the source of my greatest joys and also at times, my greatest frustrations. To have my body not work as it once did makes me extremely frustrated at times but usually I keep plugging away. I am lucky and have a wonderful relationship with my coach and have been able to bum rides off of her as I am not in the position to own my own horse (it's in the 5 year plan though!). My latest love was a horse she had in for training - he has since been sold to a wonderful forever home but this past summer I did something I didn't think I would ever do at my present size - and that is enter a local training show - we didn't win - although we would've had I not nailed a wrong lead right in front of the judge and although at the time I was a little dissapointed (I am extremely competitive) now I can look back and be really proud of it. A few years ago - I was ready to be done with riding - I had got to a camp where they kept putting my tall (5'11") large frame on smaller ponies and the ponies would zig and I would zag and I got my 2nd good concussion and I just decided that riding hurt too much and that I was done. Of course, time heals all wounds and though the help of two wonderful coaches and 3 lovely horses I have made it back to loving riding again. I do wish the sport was a little less sizest (I can hardly get my arms in any of the show shirts in Greenhawk) but I can't control that and I have accepted that truth. Anyway, I have just given you my whole horsie life story - I will attach a picture of me and Bismark - a wonderful warmblood (TBxClyde) who was my partner in crime this past summer. Although he isn't far removed from a draft he is an excellent example of a horse perfect for we bigger gals! :0

Truly inspirational!

This next one is Shelly - she is a gal from my area and I follow her Facebook and occasionally see her in local equine publications. :) It always makes me smile to see the pictures!

So let's see... I'm 5'9" and usually hover around the 270lb mark. Willow is a 14.2hh Appaloosa cross mare. I've owned Willow since the day she was born and did all of her training myself. I do everything with her. Until this summer we competed soley in western, winning countless ribbons and awards, including many provincial titles. This summer we gave english a try and took home ribbons on the flat and for crossrails. We've also logged many hours out on the trail, doing overnight wilderness rides and sometimes being in the saddle over 8 hours a day.

And one of me and Maggie too. Maggie is a 15hh registered AQHA mare. I bought her as an untouched 2 year old and broke her to saddle a year later. She's a bigger horse than Willow but it actually took her longer to physically mature enough to be started under saddle.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Support, Support, Support: Family, Coaches & The Perfect Bra

I know I keep saying "X is the one of the most important things...", but I keep thinking about things that are important that I should write about! (Word to the wise: In the soon-ish future, you won't have to always read huge blocks of text from me - a vlog for some entries is in the works! In the meantime... read this:)

Support... Having people around you that encourage you and care about positive outcomes. I was extremely fortunate to have an immediate family that was horse crazy while I was growing up. The going joke is that they brought me home from the hospital and put me on a horse. Though that's not true, it is true that I rode before I walked, and I spent copious amounts of time on the back of a horse with my mother. I suppose you could say that horses have been ingrained in my essence. Of course, I did what most kids who grow up with horses in their family as a business do, and defected for about three years (13-16), but came back to it when I got my heart horse, Angel, at 16.

I'm not trying to brag about my accomplishments here, but I have ridden lots of green horses, I have started two from scratch (Angel and Bronwyn) and done all of the riding on them myself (under the guidance of my mother). Never in my life did my parents ever say "You're too big for that horse." or "Pfft! Aren't you a little... ahem... unfit to be riding?", or any of the other various hurtful and nasty things that some families, for some reason, seem to be inspired to say to one another when extra pounds are in the mix. In fact, my parents have encouraged me to ride horses that I felt that I was too big for, insisting that what I was doing wasn't going to hurt the horse. They have never encouraged me to do anything unrealistic and every time I have wanted to do something new that might not be in my repertoire, they have always done their best to help me make it happen.

If you have to explain how much it means to your family and friends to be able to ride, to make time for your horses, and the freedom you feel on horseback, do it. I think sometimes people don't understand the value of horses to people they care about. They think "Oh, it's just a passing fad...". The extra bonus is if you have family members nagging you about losing weight, you can tell them what a great workout horseback riding is and that if they are so concerned about your weight loss, they would pay half of your lessons to help you lose some! :)

After I lost my Angel and gained back many of the 40lbs I had lost while riding her while I refrained from riding for almost a year, I got Bronwyn. Since she was green and I knew I wanted to do the riding on her myself, I decided to prepare myself by taking lessons from a riding instructor I had known most of my life. My mother could have taught me but at the time all we had were green horses and I wanted the chance to sit on a plodder and figure out my balance, posture and position again so I would do more good than harm to Bronwyn.

I went to a great woman that I had ridden in clinics under before back when I used to show a lot. When I approached her about the lessons at first, I was hesitant, but I was honest. I told her what I weighed at the time (305), and told her I hoped she had a horse that I could use. She told me she did, and she wasn't concerned about my weight. I am thankful to this day that she made that opportunity for me because I don't know for certain if I would have ever gotten up the courage to get on Bronwyn's back if it hadn't been for her and the (few) lessons I took. So, for that - THANK YOU, CINDY!

It's daunting, especially if you don't have the benefit of an old friend who has known you practically your entire life, or have to go to a complete stranger to take lessons. The most important thing in selecting an instructor is finding one who will also recognize your limitations but not allow them to defeat you. They WILL find a horse that is a right match for you (frankly, I would want to fill my entire lesson barn with horses that are suitable matches for plus sized riders because they're also suitable matches for "average sized" riders, too!), they WILL tailor their lesson program to accommodate for any unfitness or other challenges you may have. They WILL sit down and talk to you seriously about your goals, understand them and encourage you. If your dream is to ride a dressage test, jump 2'6", or win a western pleasure class, they shouldn't laugh at you or even hesitate in encouraging you. If they do - leave and leave fast - those are not the type of horse people you want to associate with. It might take a few visits to a few barns and you might be a little embarrassed when you lay all your cards out on the table... but you know what? When you find the right coach... you'll know. And it will 100% improve the experience.

As for the bra... I can't give any advice. I hope someone in the comments can shed some light on an affordable bra that really holds you in. Unfortunately, I am "blessed" (cough) with very large breasts and I typically wear a regular support bra with a much-too-small sports bra over top. I end up with red lines all over me. I have heard good things about the ENell sports bra (the one Oprah endorsed, perhaps?), but am hesitant to spend that much money unless I know it's going to work!

Things You Should Comment On In The Comments!

What other things would you like to see us offer? Resources wise, entry wise, etc? (I am working on something to do with tack fit, and am toying with a plus sized clothing for riders option - would love some links for that if anyone has them!)

Found the perfect bra? Let me know!

Places I can list the blog in directories, etc, to promote it a little more.

Anyone interested in putting buttons on their website with a link to the blog?

While the blog in no way is a weight loss blog for plus sized riders, I am considering talking about my weight loss journey. Would anyone find this offensive or of poor taste for the "A Fat Girl..." blog? With that said - I am always going to be in the plus sized range no matter what I do - so don't worry about it taking away from the title!

Coming Soon!

I am putting together another awesome entry featuring the photos and stories of plus sized riders on NON DRAFT horses! If you are a plus sized rider riding a NON DRAFT, send me an email with photos and your story so I can post them up! :) seeking(dot)sendiri(at)gmail(dot)com.

A guest entry discussing the importance of good tack fit for your horse!

And before too long, a huge rant about how disgusting Canadian weather can be!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mad At You

Tonight, instead of riding, I did something I had been putting off for a long time because I have not been fit enough or had enough ambition.

Bronwyn is relatively good for mounting up, for the most part. Quite regularly, since I mount up from a mounting block (read: overturned bucket), I will stand on the bucket with my reins gathered up, collecting myself to put a foot in the stirrup, and while I do this, Bronwyn fidgets a step back. Usually, I hop down off the bucket and back her up several steps, then bring her back to the bucket.

This evening, I decided I wanted to go for a ride - bareback, thanks to My3Arabs and Scooter - but I couldn't find a place to mount up that was suitable. Nix that, I could find places that worked but she jigged a little every time I tried to crawl up her side. I got more and more frustrated (she also doesn't completely understand the idea of being led by the reins) until I was so angry, I was going to go into the barn, put her saddle on and ride her until she was exhausted.

Fortunately, I was too exhausted for that.

Sometimes, I think, when you're putting training on a horse and you don't do it for a profession and your horse represents a lot of things, least of which is the freedom to break stereotypes and do things that people have told you that you couldn't, it is hard to not take it too personally when your horse does something that is just stupid. Bronwyn was being pretty stupid. The long walk in the mucky cold back to the barn seemed to simmer me down a little bit.

I knew I couldn't really put work on her in the mood I was in, though. My parents taught me to be a considerate and conscious horse person and I know as well as anyone that you can't take anger, anxiety or aggression into the saddle with you, least of all on a green horse.

I did saddle her up, took her back up and worked her on the longeline. Then, I turned my bucket over beside her and spent a lot of time just standing on it (funny enough, she has no problem standing still if I am mounting from the ground and someone is holding the stirrup on the other side), praising her. I then mounted and dismounted four or five times - sat on her, never walked off a step, just mounted and dismounted.

I have always told myself "when I am more fit and can do it more easily" that I would do this from the ground, from both sides, until she got so tired of it that she was sleeping when I mounted up, but I finally found the ambition (or adrenaline via being angry?), and am glad I did it. By the end of it, I was even putting my foot in the stirrup on the OTHER side and she was standing still and behaving really well. So, I didn't ride, but I got my point across without harming our relationship, and I'm proud of that.

THAT'S a problem that plus sized riders and "skinny" riders alike, face! Sometimes, I think it would be nice to be detached enough from your horse emotionally that you could not get a little butthurt when they start acting foolish, but then I remember how nice it is to have such a connection with your horse - to remember what they have come through from the beginning and to be proud of what they have accomplished, even if it is as little as standing still while being mounted.

I could have done a lot of damage if I had gone through with my original plan to work the bajeesus out of her. I guess this is just a little PSA.

And also - I happened to be in the right place at the right time today and nabbed a work harness for Bronwyn at a livestock auction today for $50. It has been well used, but also cared for quite well, just missing a piece or two. We tried it on my three year old percheron cross filly tonight, and will likely try it on Bronwyn tomorrow in the daylight. I will grab a picture of THAT!

Coming SOON: "Support, Support, Support: Coaches, Family & The Perfect Bra"

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Recognizing Your Limitations Without Letting Them Defeat You

Mindful practice, in its purest sense, is simply this: be aware of what is, what is here in the moment.
-Charles T. Tart in Living the Mindful Life

I think the singlemost important thing about being a plus sized rider is awareness. There are ways to make it all happen, but you would be doing an injustice to your horse if you weren't completely aware of what you're doing and doing it in a way that causes the least harm to your mount.

For all you re-riders out there: this doesn't mean that just because you can't do X right away, you are allowing your weight and the circumstances it presents to defeat you - because you're still riding, right? It just means that until you get yourself into shape, there are some things that you will be limited in - and that's perfectly okay, too.

Of course this begins with choosing the right horse, as I mentioned in Fat Rider Myth #1: Fat People Should Only Ride Drafts (Or: Choosing A Suitable Mount). Yes, you can ride - but as I mentioned in my introductory entry, sometimes the horse you have in your barn right now isn't necessarily the right horse for you to get back into riding on.

I'll tell you about some of my further limitations that I think others will find, too, as they either get back into the world of horseback riding, or advance farther than just a ten minute walk around the yard on their horse:

-----> I always mount up with a mounting block (okay, okay, it's an overturned bucket, but that's nice because then I can go along with Bronwyn when she's not standing perfectly still). I don't think it is a sign of weakness or anything else. There are a lot of skinny* riders that can't spring up into the saddle without pulling on their horse's withers. I know that right now, I can't spring up into the saddle so there is no shame in the mounting block. It saves my horse's back and it gives me a leg up (ha ha!).

-----> Another thing I already mentioned briefly is the length of time you can ride for. I don't care if you are a plus sized rider or a "skinny" sized rider, when you start riding again for the first time, or even for the first few months, you will be hard pressed to ride for long periods of time. I rode my entire life before Angel died. When she died, I lost about a year, give or take, of riding - when I first started back again, fifteen minutes just about killed me. If I go a few weeks without riding now, long periods of riding are difficult for me, which is why I try to be on a horse's back at least two or three times a week (work and weather seems to be getting in the way an awful lot lately!). No, you won't be able to ride an endurance ride or a jumper's course when you first start back until you start to work some of those "riding" muscles and start to get in shape for riding. Don't be discouraged!

-----> As a plus sized rider, I recognize there are some horses I can't ride. I can't ride ponies, for example, or fine boned horses. I wouldn't be terribly tempted to mount up on most of the arabs that I have seen. That doesn't mean there isn't an arabian out there that I could ride, but it means that I recognize that for the well-being of the horses I know, I don't ride them. I do think it's silly to go to a boarding barn or a lesson barn and they say "THIS is the only horse you can ride!" and bring you out a draft/draft cross/light draft breed, but I digress.

This doesn't mean you wallow in things like "I can't mount up like "regular" people...", "I can't ride any horse I want.", "I can't ride a three hour trail ride with my friends..." and let it consume you. Sure you can't right now, but if you're riding again, imagine what an accomplishment it is just to be back on a horse! Something that completely thrilled me was when I was able to do a posting trot for more than 30 seconds at a time without becoming exhausted. I couldn't probably show an english pleasure class right now for being out of shape, but I can hold a mean posting trot for quite a while! Another thing that really thrilled me was not being so exhausted after a 40 minute ride that I could still do things without taking a nap or a rest - heck, I could even go to work (I work as a waitress in a fairly labor intensive restaurant)!

So there are some things you can't do right now. Who cares? What you're doing is more than you have done in the past, right? And as you grow in your confidence, your body tones itself, and you and your horse become better partners, there will be more and more doors opening to you and things you can do that you never imagined before - I never imagined being able to ride bareback at night - heck, I never imagined being able to mount up on a horse bareback without a hefty shove to my bottom from an innocent bystander (!!) - and look what I've been able to do. Don't let your limitations right now discourage you - at the same time, don't blindly imagine you have no limitations at all - that is a setup for failure - and I want you to succeed.

*Please note the use of the word "skinny" in the same vein as the use of the word fat. If you don't understand this, please read "Fat" or Fiction?. It is in no way meant to be used as a derogatory term (I am aware that there are those out there who find it to be as offensive as the word "fat" is to some), but a descriptive word.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Not Fat Horse Related...

But I thought I could share here anyways.

My fur family is minus one member this morning. Due to rapidly and aggressively progressing bone cancer, we laid our 12 year old great dane, Sasha, to rest this morning.

Her zoomies, grumbles, and trips to the barn with us will be sorely missed. I got up early this morning to help the vet out and support my father, who took it very hard. We had known her time was coming soon. She will be buried at the top of our field with her mother and my GSD puppy mill rescue that we lost back in August.

Photo taken two years ago, she got progressively whiter in the face these last couple of years.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Photographic Debunking of Myth #1

***Scroll down, I've added more!***

I got a couple of really swift responses from people who are not riding draft horses, and wanted to share!

The first email I got was from Maria:

The horse I've been riding (and hope to purchase in 2010!!) is about 15'1, French Canadian, built like a...well..horse, lol! Big boned, very overweight himself (if I do get him, we're going on the same mission and you and Miss B!), but perfect for me in every single way. I have no idea how much he weighs.

I was told at my barn I can never ride any horse but him (A Fat Girl In: I suspect she could ride whatever she wanted, but sometimes we just have to work around the stereotypes and ideas that people get in their heads.)--and had no problem with that!!! We've even jumped 3"-something I was told neither of us could ever do :) (A Fat Girl In AGAIN: This is the stuff I love to hear!)
I do ride a daintier QHx sometimes, who also doesn't have any problems with me, but still he is my love!

I am pretty sure the expression on her face says it all!

For those who don't know, French Canadians are a delightful breed of "light draft", which I think are pretty much the bee's knees. After I lost Angel, my first ride back was on a friend's beautiful, talented four year old French Canadian mare that I completely fell in love with - too bad her family is completely in love with her, too! If ever a horse had a forever home, I imagine that one has it!

I also got an email from Kate, who has just recently started her new partnership with Rosie (though her Flickr account tells me that it won't be "Rosie" for much longer, any name ideas?):

Here's a link to pics of my new horse and me... I weigh about 215lbs, and am 5ft 3in tall. Rosie (soon to be either Mocha or Cocoa!) is about 15.1 hands, and I have no idea how much she weighs. I tried a weight tape, which said 1235lbs, but I know those are less than accurate! She's a registered TWH, not a lick of draft in her!

Again, another situation where I think the smile more than says it all! What a great looking partnership that looks like it is going to be! And psst, you can see her whole Flickr series of Rosie here!

Talk about high wattage happiness here! LaVada sent me some pictures and a really touching email about her and her mare, Kahlua. My favourite part? Her email subject was "I've never even ridden a draft! :)"

I've always ridden my family's stocky Quarter Horses and my family just isn't build to be tiny. Our horses are working horses in the summer and trail partners in the spring and fall. My aunt weighs in at 250 and her working mare has NEVER had a problem doing work all day or hitting the trails. The family horses are always excited to work and we make sure saddles fit and take note if the horses ever seem sore, which is very rare and usually only relates to a stone bruise. My aunt has been working on her weight for years, but seems stuck between 225 and 250. She's come to the conclusion that if her horse is not bothered by it, she won't let herself be bothered by it anymore. (A Fat Girl In: Hard for some of us to come to terms with, I know! Before I let myself enjoy riding Angel, I worried incessantly about it...)

I had never even THOUGHT of heavier riders needing to ride heavier horses until I was interested in taking formal lessons. I took my first lessons on an Appendix Quarter Horse mare and was told I rode very well for a "heavy girl". What kind of bass-ackwards compliment was that? The following year I moved to another barn to take lessons. They perched me up on a Friesian stallion and when I asked why (considering all the other horses were arabian and arabian crosses) I was told I was too heavy for the other horses. I weighed 180 lbs at the time.

I rode with that barn for a short while but when another girl who started at the same time as me went to her first show, I was told I wouldn't be able to go as the only horse I was allowed to ride was their stallion and there was a no-stallions policy at the showgrounds. I quit riding lessons shortly after that. I'd lost a lot of confidence in myself and my riding abilities then. (A Fat Girl In: What a shame - finding a supportive coach who is willing to talk about these things is so important, and being able to discuss your goals and plans and have them help you make them happen. That's the point of a coach, is it not? I'll discuss this more in an entry about support.)

I started riding the family's quarter horses again and gained some of that back. Last summer I was given a horse from an extended family member. She was an arab/QH cross and man was she a handful! I began working with her from the ground up and despite having worked with younger horses many times before, she tested me in every way. I happened upon a trainer who exchanged work for lessons and she built my confidence up, taught me to think different about horses, and helped me work with my mare.

After working with a horse with as much personality as Kahlua, I've had many chances to see just how strong this compact mare can be. This spring I finally began riding her around our riding yard. We started bareback as my trainer has had me ride bareback for the last year and I was most comfortable there.

These are photos from the first time Kahlua had anyone on her back off leadrope. We've had other people put rides on her so I could focus on working on resensitizing a mare I began riding last winter, but since then I've done slow rides around with Kahlua. The trainer who worked with me over the last year has never brought of weight as an issue. She has told me that if I need to tone up, I'll know because I will feel it everytime I'm sore from riding. My horse will let me know if I'm reaching a point where weight affects my ability to ride and "until then, just saddle up and giddy up!"

Haha I apologize for the riding posture itself if it seems a little wonky. This was her first time off leadrope and I was certain she was going to take off any second if I put my leg to her, but I've found that just doesn't seem to be in her plans anytime we've been riding. At that point she was more interested in backing up at 50mph if we put any rein on her (which also explains the "reins"). True, I was more perched on there and we encouraged her to just softly move forward around a pasture she was familiar with, but being able to ride my own mare for the first time was truly one of the happiest points in my life today. (A Fat Girl In: Isn't it really about making yourself happy? Of course we recognize our limitations but if we can be happy in the end...? And I would say, judging by these gorgeous pictures, that Kahlua is just about as happy as LaVada! Though I have to say, I am jealous about the Friesian stallion part!)

I'd love to add more pics and stories of non-drafts to this post, so if you're a plus sized rider out there riding a non-draft, let me know at seeking(dot)sendiri(at)gmail(dot)com! :)

Fat Rider Myth #1: Fat People Should Only Ride Drafts (Or: Choosing A Suitable Mount)

Weight numbers are a funny thing. I can't think of how many celebrity juice rags I have seen where the front is emblazoned with "THIS CELEBRITY TOPS 250 POUNDS!!!"

I happen to think I would look pretty fantastic at 250lbs - not that I don't look pretty fantastic right now at 291lbs. I sometimes play this guessing game with people when we are talking about weight. I will tell them I won't be insulted, but I want them to guess how much I weigh, and no guess will hurt my feelings. They usually guess in the very low ballpark. I usually get 230-250lbs, and then shock people by revealing that I weigh closer to 300lbs.

I guess the point is that people get so obsessed with numbers. I have never understood it. I see people who are on the "fluffy" side (I'll say 180-200lbs) get all in a panic, calculating and figuring to see if they are over the 1/3rd or 1/4 "rule" for their horses, and panicking if they are coming close to 250lbs.

The fact of the matter is that it is hard to paint every rider with the same brush based on the numerical figure of their weight - equally so, you can't paint every horse with the same brush based on the numerical figure of their weight. The 1/3rd or 1/4 "rule" is a nice guideline to follow but realistically, it doesn't work that way for every horse. Further, people are often guesstimating with a horse's weight, particularly when they are just guessing by sight or using a weight tape.

I have mentioned her weight before, but how many people, if I didn't tell you that I had her body weighed (pre-necropsy, sadly), would believe that this mare, in pasture condition was 1290lbs? A weight tape would have measured her at much less, I am certain. So I would hesitate to use a 1/3rd or 1/4 rule (or a 20% rule or whatever other rule they have out there) unless I knew my numbers for certain. 1200lbs can look as different from horse to horse as 250lbs looks from rider to rider.

The immediate thought, going by the rule of rider's weight compared to horse's weight, is that anyone over 300lbs probably needs a draft horse. The reality is that often, full drafts are just not suitable. Certain full drafts would be perfect, but not every draft is cut out to carry that much weight, particularly if they are show hitch bred.

There are two really really, significant, important factors in choosing a horse for a plus sized rider, in my opinion (and remember, I'm not an expert, I'm just trying to give advice to get people in the saddle!) --

1. Bone
2. Length of Back

Spindly little legs probably won't hold up to much work with any size of rider, so those horses are best to avoid in the first place for anyone! However, when I am talking about "good bone", I'm not necessarily talking about the fat legged draft horse. Many stock horses have excellent bone and fantastic feet and are completely suitable, when coupled with a short back and general overall fitness for a plus sized rider.

A short back carries weight better than a long back will. Many hitch bred draft horses (ones bred specifically for the high-stepping harness action that happens in the world of showing draft horses in hand) have long backs. I am not going to comment on why I think they are bred to have long backs, because this isn't that kind of blog - but the truth of it is that many have long backs, thus making them unsuitable for a heavy rider.

There are many, many, MANY other factors that I also think are extremely important - including but not limited to fitness of horse AND rider, skill level of rider (good, light seat?), age of horse, skill level of horse, fit of tack (for both horse and rider) and a variety of other things.

Many plus sized riders (myself included in recent years) find themselves more comfortable on a draft or draft cross as a mount. It is true that these horses can meet the bone and back requirements, as well as often are large enough and have backs large enough to carry a larger seat size saddle that a plus sized rider would require - however, other breeds can, too. As I mentioned in another entry, my last horse was an APHA mare who carried me with no problems at all.

I know there are others out there riding "non drafts" as plus sized riders and if you are one, I would be really interested to see pictures and would love to be able to post them on the blog! I am going to begin a feature entry, I think, where I share photos and the story of plus sized riders once a week (Fridays, maybe?) - so if you are interested in seeing your pictures up and having everyone oooh and ahhh over how pretty you are, drop a line to seeking(dot)sendiri(at)gmail(dot)com!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Small Victories & Things You Never Imagined You Would Do

I was able to cross two things off my bucket list tonight:

1. Ride bareback in the snow
2. Ride with only the moon as my light

I was so incredibly proud of Bronwyn - as a general rule, I am always incredibly proud of her because she is extremely tolerant of my silly ideas - as she took it all in stride.

The idea started forming in my head the second I woke up to discover the farm covered in a layer of snow on Monday morning. Now... sometimes I have foolish ideas and Bronwyn flat out refuses, but most of the time when I have a foolish idea, she just goes along with it because we're cool like that. Unfortunately, my father thwarted my plan Monday morning because it was quite wet and slick and he insisted I should give the horses a day or two out to pasture in the snow so they could get used to it again. I set it aside Monday and planned to ride today but got so caught up running errands that I found myself out in the barn watering critters at 9:30 and just then realized that the entire day had completely bypassed me!

My father was with me in the barn, and he usually understands that when I decide to do something stupid or silly, the best thing for him to do is stand by and make sure I don't get hurt, because he's a good Daddy and that's what good Daddy's general do - let their little girls make stupid mistakes and then help them sweep up the pieces.

I tied a rope around Bronwyn's neck to give myself something to depend on if I needed it, donned my helmet, put her bridle on and longed her and then had to figure out the daunting task of mounting up... which is not always easy. I am not as flexible as I once was (who am I kidding? I was never flexible!) and no buckets ever seem to be tall enough to allow me to get my leg up over her back without causing an enormous cramp. Fortunately, she let me sidle her up to the core of the round bale in their pasture and I got my leg swung up over and spent probably a good minute prying myself onto, deathgrip crawling onto scampering up onto her back. Bless her, she stood perfectly still.

Now, the last time I rode bareback was back in May - to preface this and drive the point home about my "silly ideas" that I get that Bronwyn puts up with, let me just say... that time back in May that I rode bareback (two or three days) was after I had gotten dumped off her for the first time (and been dumped at all in 11 years!). I was extremely sore for about two weeks and when I got on her to ride bareback (without riding in a saddle first, AFTER she had had those two weeks off from work!) it was uncomfortable. It was nice to ride her bareback (I hadn't ridden bareback in about three years and then it was only once!), but it was extremely difficult for me to relax enough that I wasn't teetering dangerously back and forth. It was a good combination of worried about falling again and worried I was hurting her back. I have pictures that prove that she didn't mind so much, and she was a very good girl and I didn't fall... but it wasn't pleasant and I didn't do it again all summer. BACK to the present, now!

As soon as I got on her, we turned and headed back down toward the barn, and dad stood in the doorway and asked "Is it all you imagined it would be?". I sarcastically replied "Oh, magical."... but what I really meant was:


It did feel a lot better. I think it might be because I have been riding her more regularly and I can feel my core muscles getting stronger. I felt like I had much better balance and she even trotted a couple of steps, which excited me because I stayed on. I almost bit the snow when I dropped my rein because of the gloves I was wearing, but stuck with her.

When I came back in the barn, I asked my dad if he ever, in a million years, had envisioned that I could be doing something like that with Bronwyn when we first brought her home. She was a bit of a scared basketcase when she first arrived just over two years ago, and it took me six months to be able to get her to engage willingly with me. He said he absolutely didn't ever imagine that could happen - and I honestly never imagined it either. I never imagined myself being able to ride bareback, for one, comfortably and feel okay about it, or being able to do it on Bronwyn.

I always worry about bareback being hard on her back but she seems fine. It distributes your weight into a much smaller area (no matter how big my arse is!) than a saddle (at least a western saddle, which I typically ride in) does. I try to sit forward and relax, and allow myself to break at the hip and drop in my heels - someone on the Free Speech Horse Forum recommended the rope or strap around the neck to help out. I really think my riding, overall, but especially english, will be greatly helped by riding bareback. IMAGINE - a FAT girl riding a horse BAREBACK!

Sadly, I have no pictures to share of my "magical moment" tonight, but I do have a new one that my dear friend, Jill of Scuffed Boots Photography just finished editing from our photoshoot that the profile picture was taken in. Check out her wild mane.

Monday, November 30, 2009

"Fat" Or Fiction?

I have been bragging my new "pet project" blog all over the interwebz. I love to show off what I am up to lately and A Fat Girl & A Fat Horse is no different!

I showed it to a very sweet and very dear friend of mine (actually, the girl who took my fabulous profile picture on Bronwyn!) and she loved it, but told me she took issue with me saying that "I am a fat girl".

I personally feel like fat is a descriptive word, and so, therefore, has no negative connotation for me. I know that there are many out there who choose to use it as an insult or derogatory term, but to me - it simply is not. "Fat" takes less time to say than "overweight" or "plus sized" (though you will note that out of respect for those who have been made to feel that "fat" is a very negative word, I generally will refer to my readership or other plus sized riders as "plus sized" or "overweight"), and since I am a writer by nature, and I have affixed neither a negative nor positive spin to the word myself, it is the word I use.

For me, "fat" is no different than "dark" or "tall" or any other word you might use to physically describe a person that is neither good nor bad. The insult "Yeah, well... you're FAT and STUPID!" makes about as much sense to me as the insult "you're TALL and STUPID!" or "you're DARK and stupid!". The word only has as much power as we give it and if it is just a descriptive word in your vocabulary... it's perfectly okay to say "I am a fat girl".

And I think people who use a word like that as an insult are about the same as people use a word like "gay" as an insult. "Gay" and "fat" are words used to describe a person, not to imply that there is anything wrong with them.

I love my friend and I think she is a wonderful, positive girl, inside and out - and I think (correct me if I am wrong, love!) that she doesn't like to hear me say "I am a fat girl" because she feels that I am putting myself down. I am sure there are others out there who take issue with me saying that about myself. But the truth is, to me, it is no different than saying "I am a tall girl" or "I am an Amazonian girl".

So today, I want to do two things on this blog. I want to send out a big "XOXOXO" to my friend, and thank her for the vote of confidence - and I want to leave you with one of my favourite Youtube videos of all time.

Joy Nash's "A Fat Rant". You can't help but feel inspired and uplifted after watching it.

And drop a comment - tell me - what kind of a relationship do YOU have with the word "fat"? Do you allow it to be used as an insult or for derogatory purposes in your life, or do you simply regard it as yet another clever descriptor?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lose Weight Or Don't Lose Weight - But Live Your Life Anyways!

Right now, I want to address all of you who used to love riding but have put on weight and don't feel like you can't possibly ride a horse anymore. Pssst. I have a big secret. You CAN.

At my heaviest, I weighed in around 325lbs. Never once, for a minute, did I let myself think it would be okay for me to stop doing something that I loved. I had a great, patient, quiet mare at the time, and she really helped me. Angel was around 15.3hh, 1300lbs in pasture condition, and she was green as grass, but she turned out to be exactly what I needed.

At the time, I didn't think too much about being a plus sized rider and the implications surrounding it or any of that sort of thing - I just wanted to ride. And I did. And weight came off.

I don't want this blog necessarily to be all about losing weight and whatnot - because some people are happy in the skin they are in and that is perfectly fine. This blog isn't about losing weight, but I have found that with regular horseback riding and eating healthy foods because I want to, I have begun to lose - this blog is mostly about finding a way to do what you love to do without being made to feel negligent or guilty about it. Nobody knows your life and nobody knows your situation as intimately as you do. Nobody here on this blog is here to judge or tell you that you can't - this blog is to tell you to enjoy life anyways, even if people are telling you that you can't!

It is so important to continue doing the things that you love. In the case of horses, it gives you inspiration for the future, time outdoors, peace of mind, and goals. You read, see, and hear a lot of negativity about what fat people can or can't do. There are even people out there who don't understand why people can "let themselves get fat" and worse, some who are downright discriminatory. The best revenge? Living well, and doing things despite the negativity. So do it! Go out there and ride your horse. Go out and make yourself happy, because you're the only one who really can. You'll feel good.

I am so interested in the tales of plus sized riders - where they are in their lives, how they do things, and supporting them - so if you are, stand up and be counted in my comments - tell me how you're living well and doing it despite the odds. And if you need a little help? Tell me there, too. I'm here for you. :)

The Beginning Is A Good Place To Begin

This morning, I weighed in at 291lbs.

For some, this would be horrifying. For me, this is a triumph!

Yes, I am a fat girl. And yes, as you can see by the picture, I endeavor to ride horses. It's kind of an oxymoron, considering the first image that pops to mind when someone thinks of a talented equestrienne is one that is slim, trim and svelte. For anyone whose mind just did a double take when I said I was a fat girl who rides horses, my fat horse and I are here to change the way you think. For anyone whose mind just took a wistful trip down through their childhood memories in which they once rode horses but now feel they are too fat to do so, my fat horse and I are here to change the way you think. And for anyone whose mind did an acknowledging little nod and said "Mhmm, you go girl!", I am here to celebrate with you.

My name is Amanda and I am a 24 year old fat girl. I have owned, loved, and ridden horses my entire life and I have been a fat girl since I was born - at a whopping 10lbs11oz! Not only am I fat, but I am also built like an amazon. I teeter at about 5'11", my hands rival those of any man, and my feet are a size 12. I never have been, nor will I ever be that talented equestrienne who is slim, trim and svelte (nor will I ever probably have to stand on tiptoe to kiss a man but I digress!). I'm okay with that. I have come to love myself, and the skin that I am in. I want what is best for myself and will work to get that.

The fat horse's name is Bronwyn. She is my partner entirely by chance (I believe it is divine intervention, I am sure some will disagree) and I will someday share the story. In the meantime, she is a fat horse. She is a draft cross (which is the only part of her lineage we feel we can safely assume!), and we have been told she is 5 years old. Due to a serious starvation as a young mare, she is obsessed with food. Not only is she obsessed with food, but she gains weight merely by looking at food. Like me, she is relatively fit (in the "workhorse" way, not in the "sprinting thoroughbred" way), but still very much out of shape.

My goals for Bronwyn and I? To show open in English pleasure this summer and not run out of breath (for both of us!). To ride in clinics and with your stereotypical equestrienne types and let people know that not only can I ride a horse as a fat girl, but I can do it well. I want to do with Bronwyn all of the things that any other rider aspires to do with any talented young horse.

Why am I writing this blog?

I AM NOT writing this blog to fill the heads of plus sized riders with fluff and rainbows. I am not here to say "even if you weigh 500lbs, you should ride horses!". I am not even here to say that everyone who weighs 300lbs is fit or ready to ride their horses. I AM here to say that life doesn't end just because you're fat, and fat is not a good excuse to stop doing the things that you enjoy.

I am writing this blog:

- to TALK about plus sized riders. People need to be aware!
- to SHARE ideas and resources with other plus sized riders.
- to SHOWCASE talented plus sized equestrians and share success stories.
- to DEBUNK many of the myths surrounding plus sized riders and the horses they ride and the equestrian world they live in.
- to INSPIRE those who have packed on a few pounds but used to love riding and want to investigate if this is a possibility at all for them.

As plus sized riders, one thing I will stress - it is so important to recognize your own body's limitations and the limitations of your horse. If you are overweight and you want to get back in the saddle, do not expect to ride an endurance ride on your first trip out, or ride for hours even. When I was beginning to get back into shape, fifteen minutes was a LONG, BIG workout of a ride for me, and it might be for you, too.

Another realization you may have to come to is that your current mount is not suitable for you at this time in your life. I am not saying all plus sized riders need a draft horse (in fact, I will debunk that myth soon enough in an entry!), but if you plan to ride as a "fat girl" (or guy!), the truth may be that the horse standing in your backyard right now might not be a horse that meets your needs any longer.