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!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Logic & Circumstance

As many of you know, I was scheduled to go to a show this past weekend to expose Bronwyn to the hustle and bustle of the show grounds and perhaps show her in the walk-trot class. I decided about a week prior (and just haven't had time to blog about it!) that the venue was not ideal for a slightly-squirrely horse that tries to take a jump out from under me at least once per ride - between the barn and the arena, nothing but pavement. Also, the arena just had hockey boards with no plexiglass, so easy for a horse to go over (not that I imagine she would have gone over it, but you never know!). I think the best show venue for us is by far and away an outdoor arena for our first try, with lots of grass to stand on while waiting at the gate.

I didn't chicken out - I made a decision to help my horse succeed. I know I, personally, would have been so uptight that I wouldn't have been able to relax, and neither would she, as a result. It's almost funny how in tune to my emotions she can be sometimes. If I'm feeling pigheaded, so is she. If I am feeling the zen, so is she. Our rides tend to be direct reflections of my emotions, funny as that sounds.

Either way, I made that decision - which was MAJORITY influenced by venue, and partly influenced by finances as well (and procrastination) - since I have been putting off buying breeches.

Nonetheless, I went to the show and cheered on the one adult in the walk-trot class with her big green horse (she was up against two or three kids and everybody got first place ribbons!), talked to some Friesian people at length, tended my mother's booth and had a great time catching up with some of the horse people in the area. One thing it made me realize is that I absolutely, absolutely miss the camaraderie of showing.

(I do have to take a moment to side commentary on the youth classes... holy moley - it must be exhausting to be a horse show mom... when the other girls start buying chaps, you have to too - when this kid gets a great big horse, you have to too... It felt like some kind of contest to see who could outdo who. I was pleased to see a few kids in there who DIDN'T have big fancy horses or Hobby Horse show clothes doing well - in fact, the little girl who won the Sportsmanship award was riding a pony that was as wide through the chest as he was tall and looked like a little gray Bronwyn... I cheered her on in every single class!

The open classes were smaller (I might have even gotten a ribbon in the open/adult English pleasure, as long as I had stayed on!) and a lot more laid back, it seemed. I could have seen myself fitting in there.)

Either way, this show made me more and more excited to get back into the showing world. I have been absent for about 7 years - between finances and lack of a horse that would be able to handle that kind of thing. Another (miraculous) thing that this show did was get my sister excited about showing.

I don't think I've written too much about my sister, but she is a natural with horses. She is confident and fearless and seems to have an instant rapport with horses. Wonderful, right? Unfortunately, she would rather spend her time in an agility field or training a dog to do tricks like ride on a skateboard or roll a basketball with their nose than work on round, balanced movement on a horse. She also has an amazing little paint mare, Jesse, who has the most beautiful little pleasure lope and natural head carriage. The two of them would rather just rip and tear the once or twice a year that they actually ride together. It's funny because they're a wonderfully matched pair - both a little crass and stubborn and absolutely hilarious.

We came home from the show last night with Shay asking me to instruct her in riding and showmanship so she could show with me. We are aiming at a show for the end of August that is a show on Saturday and a clinic with the judge the Sunday. I think it would be beneficial to the both of us and a lot of fun since we're so close anyways and have so much fun. She had her little mare all squared up and looking sharp last night in absolutely no time - the riding lesson was beautiful... I hope that we can stick with our plan of riding at least twice a week (she doesn't know it but I'm going to get her riding at least four days a week, I think!). She even rode bareback (I don't think she has ever ridden bareback on her mare and she's been riding her for 8 years or so!), and finally got to experience that great "zen" feeling I get.

I have had a couple of wonderful rides on Bronwyn over the last couple of days, too. She had a couple of weeks off there when things were just absolutely frenzied between work and 4H and everything else that I have on my plate at this time. I think with a buddy planning to ride with me (and willing to video tape my rides), I am going to be a lot more inclined to get out there at least four nights a week myself. And if the rain quits before I get home, I'm going to ride my little horse, Ari... I wanted to last night but ran out of light!

(Also, as a side "squee!!", I bought a Lucky Bucky hoodie in Ladies XL and it fits me. :-D)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Why I do this...

Though I waffled (yes, those on the forum know I am a chronic waffler!) back and forth between thinking I had lost all semblance of sanity and between believing I would be in my happy place, I headed out Friday night to our Cloverbud & Junior 4H Camp this weekend to chaperone 65 7-12 year old boys and girls.

The place that hosted us, Caton's Island, is a gorgeous Christian summer camp that is set on (surprise!) an island and offers a variety of activities, including a climbing wall, canoeing, swimming, and horseback riding.

I didn't expect to do any riding, but early yesterday morning, the horse director (who is a neighbour of mine) pulled me aside and asked if I was going to be available while our kids did camp-based activities, as he knew I 'had a talent' and thought I would have fun helping out. I strong armed my way into getting up there and managed to even get in a few rides (granted, it was a laid back trail string).

I ended up spending the entire afternoon fitting helmets onto excited kids - some who had ridden before and others who had never even touched a horse in their entire life. I spent some time up on horses with kids who had never ridden before. I rode near the head of the string on a quarter horse... yes, I rode a horse that wasn't a draft cross and it didn't keel over and die! And she wasn't even a very big horse.

Overall, I think the experience was cathartic and a good balm for my soul. Sometimes, I think I forget why I still do this anymore. I think these days, I do it to satisfy the girl in me that once let herself believe she couldn't... but sometimes I also think that I am doing it for every other girl out there who gets told she can't, or she shouldn't. I do it for the kids who don't ever imagine that they could do it - for the sense of accomplishment and pride they will feel when they actually do.

One thing I really liked about the program, and I discussed it with the director at length over the weekend, is that he uses primarily draft and draft crosses in his program because of their reasonably good minds, and the fact that he will have among them, a suitable horse for just about any child. It made me think, and consider a lot of things.

You see, I have a little secret. My biggest dream in the world is to operate some kind of scenario on a large scale where children (particularly girls with self esteem or body image issues) can come together with horses, accomplish something, feel worth and pride in their skills and talents... I even have a piece of land picked out for the program - I just have to figure out how I would operate it, and where the money would come from. Nothing would please me more than to see children learning that they CAN do things and that they ARE valuable, and have skills, talents, and characteristics (physical and otherwise) that are worth being proud of, regardless of what anyone else might tell them.

I think I learned a lot about the value of myself when I started making headway with Bronwyn - most people out there don't care that much about the fact that I taught a once semi-feral horse to do the things she now can do, but the proof is in the pudding - she has become a reasonable equine citizen... she can be handled, she can be ridden, she has manners... things she never had before, and I instilled them in her. It might not be worth something to everyone, but it's worth something to me, and to Bronwyn.

Did the beginnings of your realizations of self worth come from a horse?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Learning to Trust

I know, I know - it has been eleventy billion years since I wrote last, but I have been busy!

Work takes me away from home 12+ hours per day, and that is on days I don't go to the gym, necessarily. In the meantime, the days until the show I have picked to debut Bronwyn at keep slipping away like sand in the hourglass - I am down to 20 days left, now!

In the meantime, I have gone back and forth. Every ride feels like it is either a raging success or a dismal failure, there is no in between. Granted, I have high standards for both myself and Bronwyn, and I needed someone to remind me to loosen up a little bit, and to not let myself get swept up in the details.

I had a moment like this a few weeks ago, when, after doing so well and being so soft and malleable in the new bit I bought her, Bronwyn started driving her head down and holding it long and low. Of course, I panicked. Finally, someone helpful on the internet reminded me that she is young and maybe likes to take her contact low - keep giving the contact, add some leg and push her into the bridle... and things have begun to resolve! At the time, I thought I had made a huge mistake with the new bit, that I was ruining my horse and I probably deserved to be locked up for being so ignorant. I seriously considered scrapping the whole show idea.

I had to step back and consider it, take some advice, and move forward. The important part is moving forward. Trust that I CAN do the right thing and that I will ask and take advice so that I will KNOW what the right thing is. I also need to learn to trust Bronwyn a little more, too... give her some credit... keep her mind busy and help her reach her full potential (then I fall into the trap of 'what if I'm not good enough for her when she DOES reach her full potential?!', but I digress). I had also found, via pictures and video of one of my recent rides, that I am unconsciously grabbing up the reins because I am expecting her to spook - it is not a balance thing anymore, it's a control thing. I am learning to let go.

Tonight, we had another fantastic ride (see? I told you, it's either amazing or horrible!) - she worked beautifully, transitions were wonderful, bending, flexing, carrying herself wonderfully for longer and longer periods of time. I felt truly blessed to have a horse like her tonight. I need to put all of the "bad" things into perspective once in a while so I remember how well and truly blessed I am in my life.

There is something about sitting in sluggy grass, watching your equine companion cheerfully fill herself up with some of the same luscious grass that makes you put things into view.

So, I guess my rambling moral today is... be sure to trust yourself. Give yourself a little credit where credit is due.