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, September 29, 2010

Two weeks worth of updates!

You are all going to get Internet cookies at the end of this because this run down of the last two weeks is going to be a long one!

Just give me a minute here, I need to mentally rewind... (that high pitched noise you hear is me rewinding my memory like an old fashioned VCR).

So rewind back to September 17th. I had vacation planned because my birthday was coming up (Monday, the 20th... a whole quarter of a century old, ack!), but things got waylaid earlier in the week when my sister's heart dog (German Shepherd with past issues of neglect and aggression that we have spent hundreds of dollars and hours trying to fix) had a lapse in her "good dog" behaviour that had been pretty consistent for about eight months, and attacked my sister's 17 pound miniature Australian shepherd. If the aggression had always stayed with outside dogs, we could have managed this, but unfortunately, when it happens within your 'pack', it is way more difficult - this was the third time we had had such an incident and unfortunately, my 17 year old sister had to make the completely unselfish decision to put her "Boodleschnitzel" to sleep.

I have mentioned here before how amazing and awesome and wonderful that I think my sister is, but I should mention it again. Everything inside of her was screaming that she couldn't live without Bella but her common sense won over and she made a difficult decision. Bella was put to sleep on the farm with Shay and I holding her tightly and telling her what a good dog she was. I still get teary thinking of it!

Bella spent her last morning romping in our back field with her two best friends, Psyche (Shay's border collie) and Morrie (my 35lb mini Aussie). Here is a picture that I snapped of Shay with Bella and Psyche that morning:

I am so incredibly proud of her for making the right decision, even though it wasn't easy and it was breaking her heart. Bella's remains came home this past weekend (we had her cremated) and I think Shay is doing really well coping with a big German Shepherd sized hole in our household. She knows she did everything she could and we had well and truly exhausted all of our options over the last three years.

The next day, Shay took off for an agility trial she had planned - while all she really wanted to do was curl up and grieve, mom insisted it would be a better idea for her to go with Psyche to run agility and try to take her mind off of things. I would have loved to have been with her, but we had already planned (months ago!) the very first event for our local "Draft Under Saddle" club - a trail ride and potluck!

There was some road riding (about 1km at each end of the trail) that worried me a little bit, but I have to say that Bronwyn surprised me as she always does and took to it like an old pro. We rode at the back, we rode mid pack and we rode at the front, and even were overtaken by a group of motorcycles at which point - I was bracing for it to hurt, Bronwyn didn't even bat an eyelash!

You can see the rest of the album on my Facebook here.

We had a complete blast - Bronwyn was actually one of the smallest horses there, and got made fun of for her small hoof size and the fact that though I am 6' tall, I had to look UP at a lot of the riders, haha - with the exception of the Newfoundland Pony and Standardbred that were with us!

Overall, I was so proud of Bronwyn. She had her first opportunity to really ride on the road, in a group, be overtaken by traffic, ride close, through a deep wood, and stand tied to a trailer, and she took everything in stride. It has started to occur to me that "Hey, I have a fun little horse that I can take places and not worry too much about!".

That Monday, the 20th (my birthday), my father had his long awaited surgery for his torn rotator cuff (he tore it back on June 22nd and worker's comp has been trying to get things back in shape via PT - when it became obvious that it couldn't be done that way, they scheduled the surgery). All along, he had been doing things in the barn as well as he could with about 1.5 arm's worth of value... since the surgery, he is up in a sling, so one armed. Things got a little crazy with getting up at 6 to get chores done then getting home around 7:30pm and doing chores and all that silliness. I rode Bronwyn a grand total of maybe three times during the week and once it was more or less in the dark, and then we fast forward to this past weekend - Bronwyn's first show under saddle!

This marked a first for me, too - which is hauling a horse. I have traveled with many a hauler in my lifetime, and ridden enough miles in the passenger seat with a horse trailer behind to have a pretty good grasp of how you are supposed to drive with a horse in the trailer... but it certainly is different when you have your baby behind you! Dad came along with me for moral support but due to his surgery, but could not drive (though he did take his sling off and back me out of a sticky hole I had driven into when we were ready to leave)... it was really helpful to have him along because, well, I am a chronic worrier. I hear a tiny bit of movement or feel it and I am freaking. It was nice to have dad along to kind of go "that's okay, she is just readjusting after this turn".

Bronwyn is truly becoming an old pro at this trailering thing. She loads up pretty quickly - the only thing I don't like is that I can't get into the compartment ahead of her and make her back down slowly - we remedied that by removing the chest bumper when I am ready to unload (ours were just bars so we replaced it with rope, bolts, and a pool noodle. It won't stop her if we were to stop hard, hard, hard, but it's a nice soft place for her to balance) and I walk back with her telling her to be easy.

Anyways, I am getting off on a tangent! THE SHOW!

It was held at Callandar Hall Equestrian and organized by a really fantastic gal named Leah who was super, super helpful and really supportive to me. Their fall training show, she told me, is the biggest event of the year for some of their students, so I was pleased to be able to take part in it. She somehow convinced me to enter something called "pole equitation", which... well, I had no idea what it is and Bronwyn had never seen ground poles, so... total cinch, right? We went over a ground pole in the indoor arena while warming up a couple of times and that went alright, then went up to the main ring.

Surprise! They were between standards... like real, actual jumps - just with the bars all knocked. Oh my!

The first pole... well, I don't have a video of that, but she clipped it with her front hooves, I think, and rolled it up her back legs and then took a big jump and scared herself (and me, a little). I told Leah "I don't know if we can do this". Eventually, we worked through things but not before she did what one of my Facebook fans called the "politest refusal ever":

The actual class looked like this:

We were only two in the class and I won it - but I think it's mostly only because the little girl I was against had a hard time remembering the pattern. :)

We then participated in green horse w/t - which, well... let's say Bronwyn was more green than the other horse in the class (!), and then an intermediate rider w/t/c. Bronwyn had pretty much lost her mind in the green horse w/t class (rushy, pushy, and ignoring many of my aids), so I was riding very... um... proactively and aggressively in the w/t/c class and it's hard to have good equitation when you're having trouble with your horse! When they asked for the canter, she picked up the wrong lead (for the first time, ever - seriously), and the three good strides she got at the correct lead were, fortunately, right in front of the judge. I placed 5th/6, and I kind of feel like it might have been a pity placing so I didn't feel like I got horribly beaten by every child in the class.

From pictures, I recognize I need to get my hands up out of my crotch!

And the good one - mid poop!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guest Blog: Fuller Fillies

We’re just back from the ‘good old US of A’ having had a month long tour taking in business and pleasure and the thing that always strikes me when I’m there is the difference between the English Trade and the American/Canadian Trade; the Consumers are pretty much the same the world over- yes their tastes differ but largely (no pun) they are happy if they can buy flattering, comfortable clothing at a good price- but the Trade is a whole different ball game!

I have recently been recalling our rise to fame in the UK to see if I can apply any of the learning from it to develop the US/Canadian Trade...

Many of you know the story; 39 years old coming back to riding with ‘extra padding’ led to a rather ‘tiddly’ (it was Christmas 2005) me deciding to dust down the Fashion Degree and design my own collection. Having worked in Sales, Marketing, Advertising & Business Consultancy I thought that I had all the bases covered – Hubby was a Financial Consultant which was, and remains, just as well because all I care about is how much I have to spend!

‘The bases’ were far from covered however, because neither of us had any in-depth knowledge of Manufacture which is pretty key to getting a Collection made really. But I knew a man who knew more than me and that was a good start. He arranged a meeting with a team of other men which should have set the alarm bells ringing right away... “Now then Ms (pronounced Mzzz) Wild, you are wanting to produce a range for big girls, of course this will have to be done at a premium because bigger clothing is a different ball game because it means more stitching and we have to pay someone to do that stitching!” I considered this for a moment... “Exactly how many more stitches are we talking here?” “Oh probably 100 or so...” “...which takes approximately 1 second to do on a machine...?” I continued; anyway, needless to say that I decided they had just spotted a chance to make a quick buck and with no intention of bringing out a premium-cost Brand I showed them the door.

Following much research the launch collection went into production the following year and we stood at the UK Trade show, BETA. I was amazed at how many people told me how ‘risqué’ they thought the idea was – let’s be clear here – not ‘risky’...‘risqué’. Apparently, talking about big bottoms and boobs amounts to something close to Swedish porn which clearly should be kept in brown paper bags (you understand I have no personal knowledge of what I’m talking about here...) Anyway, I have what we call a ‘warped sense of humour’ and had this thought ‘I’ll show them risqué!”

The next month I launched the ‘nude filly’ advertising campaign. A whole raft of ads with my size 20 model wearing nothing but her hat and boots and the caption ‘2 million riders had nothing to wear – until now’ – all done very tastefully you understand!

The response from the rest of the Industry (our ‘competitors’) was nearing hysteria. The best was when I got a call from an Irish magazine, “Suzanne, if I offered you a full page ad. For £30 would you be interested?” Of course the answer was yes and I had to ask why; “Well a certain Brand has just pulled their advert because they don’t want to be seen next to your ad – apparently he knows fat girls exist but doesn’t want to see them with no clothes on”. What the owner of this very high-profile brand didn’t know was that the Editor was a size 22 and took his remarks VERY personally! It transpired there were many plus-sized Editors working in the industry so we got a fair amount of publicity with that nude plastered in every magazine the length and breadth of the country. It was most certainly different – but hell it worked!

There is one difference between British and US/Canadian consumers and it surrounds the horses you ride; over here if you weigh more than 11 stone you are expected to ride a Draught Horse – riding a pony or thoroughbred could get you lynched! My ‘Fluffy Lillies’ got very excited over a letter in the BHS magazine one month, a lady had written in saying she would love to ride her Fell pony but, at a size 22 couldn’t find clothing to fit her – why were her needs different to her skinny friends? The response had been deafening; how dare this fat b***h ride a pony – didn’t she care about its welfare? Big women were a burden to the tax payer because if they fell off their horses they would need an air ambulance to take them to hospital – I could go on!

The Editor who, it has to be said, has a fondness for well-padded ladies, offered me the right to reply on behalf of XLovely ladies everywhere – and I did. Three pages. Suddenly, big women had a voice and the mail bag was over-spilling for the next 6 months. You can’t buy publicity like that. The magazine had seen nothing like it , which is pretty much the definition of different...
Fuller Fillies became recognised as the authority on the subject of plus-sized clothing in the UK and I have always been the first to defend the needs of my Fluffy Lillies – and I expected it all to start over when we accidentally launched in the USA. What a difference!

Yes, its true, the USA was accidental. OK, it was in the plan for sometime in 2011 however, in January 2008 I got a call from an American lady buyer asking if we were standing at BETA the following month; we weren’t but arranged to meet to discuss the Collection, at the venue. When she arrived with her CEO she brought the proofs of their next catalogue which had half a page of our product already in there – the easiest sale I ever made!

The lady was from SmartPak, by the next catalogue we had two pages and by the next they had become our Wholesale Distributor; a whole different project for them. This is what brought us to America, and to AETA...

I bolstered myself and waited for the tirade of abuse from Retailers aghast that we were encouraging ‘fat girls to ride poor horses’. It didn’t happen – in fact far from it. “You only go up to a size 24 – what’s that in American a size 22? You need to go bigger!” And then there’s my favourite from this last AETA show when I was approached by a lady from Texas, “You got any low-rise britches?” Taken aback by the request I explained that as a plus-sized brand this would not be a good thing as it would dissect the tummy and nobody wants two tummies! “You need to make low-rise britches – they all want them.” An hour later I had established that she had not been asked for low-rise britches by anyone over a size 8 however she thought it would be a good idea – she now seems to be having all of her friends email me on a daily basis asking if we do a low-rise style. Presumably they will wear them with Riding Thongs – something else that we are never likely to produce! Some differences need to be preserved.

Bringing Fuller Fillies to market was always going to provide us with a challenge; what we didn’t realise is how different the challenges would be depending where you are in the world – and they don’t come from Consumers, rather the people who have set themselves up to service the consumer and like to think they know what they’re doing; you can rely on us Ladies but your local tack store might need some education...

Sometimes differences can be perceived that don’t exist and this brings me full circle. Since our launch we have been plagued with requests for us to do a long boot that will accommodate big calves; after 5 years of toil and an office full of ‘comedy boots’ we perfected our Dress Boot in time for AETA in January. We displayed it with pride and were told repeatedly that it wouldn’t sell over there because everyone wanted Field Boots. We hurriedly had 1000 pairs made with elastic laces and what do you know – the Dress boot is outselling the Field Boot 2:1!

At the end of the day we embrace difference; our consumers aren’t just scaled up versions of their size zero sisters – they are different; our clothing isn’t just copies of what is out there already for standard sizes, we design what our Consumers want – that’s very different. And our Consumers are the BEST whether they are in the UK, the USA, Canada or Croatia (and before you ask, yes we do sell to Croatia...) – and why? Because they are big, beautiful and oh so very different!

Viva la difference!

Written for ‘A Fat Girl & A Fat Horse’ by Suzanne Wild, Designer & Managing Director Fuller Fillies Limited. – another fat girl.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What you need

Sometimes, I think, horses sense what we need, ultimately, over what we necessarily want. There have been countless times that I have been in need of comfort, in need of confidence, in need of security, and I have gone to the barn. Sometimes a horse that doesn’t naturally display the personality that would be conducive to offering this support has a brief moment where they stand still for a second longer than they would, or they nuzzle their face into your neck, which is completely out of character, just when you really need it the most. Sometimes I wish that humans were as sensitive to the needs and moods of others as horses are. Horses don’t ask “What’s wrong?” (which we all know doesn’t help things when you are hurting or grieving), they ask “Does this help?”.

Without going into too many details, I can say that everyone on the farm is having a very rough time right now. On top of the daily stresses of life, we are facing some difficult decisions, and to top things off, a corporation has been clear cutting a property that runs parallel to our home at all hours of the day and night. I have been told I have no right to be upset as it’s not our property, but all night with the saws, the lights of their machines reflecting off of our bedroom walls, the sounds of the forest being taken down methodically, until there is nothing left. I used to imagine that unicorns lived in that forest. It has been there since my father was a child.

Last night, I just needed something. I wasn’t sure what it was. I have been so busy with life and everything else for the last couple of weeks that I am pretty sure it had been a week since I had even put my hands on Bronwyn, let alone ridden her. She made me walk clear to the top of the hill in our pasture to catch her and she was just wound, snorting, taking off, difficult to catch.

I finally caught her and brought her down to the barn and got the idea into my head that I just needed to feel a connection with a living being, with as little interference as possible. I put her bridle on and headed out without her saddle. I finally slid up onto her (she is getting wider and wider, I guess my goal to help her lose weight has been falling to the wayside lately!) and rode to the crest of the little knoll in our paddock. We sat silently, perfectly still, watching the lights of the machines just beyond the tree line for quite some time. Just the feeling of her breathing under me, the tiny movements of her body as she settled and shifted, the frisson that started toward the end of her ribs when she saw a cat coming to us through the waning light and then settled again. Occasionally, she would turn her head and nudge my knee just as if to say “I’m still right here”.

Normally, Bronwyn can be a bit of a pill bareback. She moves, a lot, she rushes sometimes… last night she was calm, quiet, on a loose rein with her head down, patiently standing when I needed her just to be still.

My sister saw me and came out and asked what I was doing, just standing there, not riding, just sitting on my horse.

“Why are you doing that?”

“It feels good. You want some?”

She declined the offer (though I frankly think she needed it more than I did), and we had a good heart to heart. Again, Bronwyn stood still, like she was taking in the conversation, even when a couple of cats came tearing by her in the twilight.

Next week? Might be different. But last night, she was intrinsically in tune to exactly what I needed, and for that I am grateful.


By the by, while I am dealing with these issues that are happening right now, I am planning to post a guest blog entry that was written graciously for me by a wonderful person. :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Black Bile Monster Girl / Not-so-horse-related

I have another mid-week confessional.

I know most of you think I am a perfect, wonderful, faultless, caring individual (hahahahaha!). Let me tell you a secret... I'm not. I have been known to fall into the gossip trap, love to read celebrity "news" magazines and enjoy hearing about drama as long as it's not happening to me. I do make a concentrated effort not to be an outwardly hurtful person but sometimes find myself making remarks in my head about things that if I said out loud would be completely completely unacceptable.

**I think I want to really clarify here that I love my blog readers and forum posters and they should not worry about sharing things with me - the things that I mostly talk about in my head are people who I sometimes consider to be "stupid" - being a fat girl on a horse myself, I think it is wonderful and encouraging and beautiful to see other plus sized riders sharing what they are doing!**

I believe that voice in my head is directly related to the one that sometimes looks at a picture of me riding and says "OMG, look at how you're crushing that horse!" or "Why would that ridiculously-good-looking man even say 'hello' to you? You're not even close to pretty enough to be in his league, AND you're fat!" A lot of the time, I have a great confidence level - a lot of the time, I can be inspiring and encouraging to my readership, but sometimes I go through what I call "black moods", where I just cannot make myself happy no matter what way I slice it.

I think I am afflicted to a lesser degree than some others... after all, those moods are fleeting and usually pass within a day or two (or sometimes even over the span of a good nap or time for personal meditation), I recognize that they are not healthy and I make every attempt to keep myself from spreading that bile and negativity to those around me, particularly those that look to me for encouragement and support. When that "Black Bile Monster Girl" comes to visit, I try to keep her locked up in my bedroom.

I firmly believe that MY Black Bile Monster Girl, while she has never manifested herself like this, is a direct relative (maybe descendant?) of the part that is inside of people that cause them to write these precious nuggets:


(To those wondering, this was a comment in response to my video: Bronwyn's Brief Repetoire of Tricks, and I believe, but am not entirely sure that it was in reference to me demonstrating how I was teaching her to bow, by lifting a foot and gently encouraging her to stretch long in the back and slide down onto the knee. She also left a nice nugget on my riding video from November saying that I needed to get off the horse because I was going to "crush it!" -- almost a year later, horse is still not crushed, damnit!)

I never, never, EVER want my Black Bile Monster Girl to turn into ... well, whatever mutant spewed the above writing from inside of what I am sure is often times a relatively civil, reasonable person. NEVER.

I do, however, tend to gossip, and say what I really think to people that aren't the people I am thinking those things about... I dislike confrontation. But imagine how big the confrontation would be if someone found out I was saying those things behind their back instead of trying to word my opinions in a way that is truthful but respectful and maybe hurting some feelings, but at least being honest and true to my word. I think this is a good first step to silencing the Black Bile Monster Girl before she starts to hurt other people in addition to the way she sometimes hurts me.

And on the other hand, even though I know that the person who wrote that comment is probably just a sad, selfish girl who doesn't have her own horse, and is sadly uneducated - her Little Mutant Girl hurt me - as much as you try to deflect the things that other people say, even when you know that the things they are saying are not true... it still hurts. But, if her Little Mutant Girl is hurting other people like that... imagine what it's doing to HER insides! I wouldn't want to see it.

This blog entry was inspired by the 40 Day Inner Mean Girl Cleanse - they also do an Inner Mean Girl Reform School which looks pretty dang tempting.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I try not to be naggy, but...

I thought this was worth a mention. I know many of my readers are re-riders or having confidence issues, so I thought I would mention that Tack Of The Day has Troxel Legacy helmets for $34.95 and Troxel Spirit helmets of $29.95. That's less than $30 to protect your noggin and potentially save your life in the event of a fall! The deal is only on for 24 hours, so hurry!

Can you afford NOT to?