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, November 29, 2010

One Year Later

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.

When I sat down to write my first blog entry for this blog on November 29th, 2009, I didn't know what to expect. I knew that I was taking a foray into waters that have, in the past, been controversial, so it could have ended up in one of two ways - I would receive copious amounts of backlash due to my content, or I would receive accolades. I knew from the beginning that there would be few out there who would be impartial to the things I would be saying - there would be either hate or love and one would certainly outweigh the other.

I did not know that there was a whole community of ladies (and some men!) out there who could relate to the things that I was saying. A supportive, wonderful, funny, talented, knowledgeable base of women who were already doing the things they loved without worrying about what others would say. I did not know that there was a whole community of ladies (and some men!) who would need the encouragement that I would provide, that would take the words that I would type and let them bolster their confidence and help them to do things that they may not have otherwise done, like get back into the saddle, start taking riding lessons at a public barn, or purchase their first horse in years.

So many things have come of this blog - so many positive things, that may not have happened without it - and I have benefited from it as well. I have developed more courage, more confidence and more character as a result of this blog. I have felt more love, shared more joy, and celebrated more successes of others as a result of this blog. I feel comfortable, excited and happy to share photos of myself, and I think there are others out there who feel the same way now, too.

I was reminded of why I started writing this blog in March, when I went to visit with my dear friend, Carina, and helped her rediscover the joy of riding. (I have to say, I was also pretty spoiled on this aspect because I got to ride a great horse and enjoy the lovely weather while doing it!)

I "met" the amazing Suzanne Wild, who wrote a guest blog for us, of Fuller Fillies who is facing the same potential for controversy that I do in writing my blog by creating her clothing line.

I have had many a personal revelation that aren't always horse related to share with my readers.

We developed the Forum where someone posted words that completely made my heart swell a couple of weeks ago - "I feel safe here." This is exactly what I had been hoping for, exactly what I had envisioned in beginning to share my journey with everyone. The forum has become a tight knit, supportive community for those who are foraying out for the first time into the world of horses, or who want to get back into it, or who are living it to the fullest. We encourage a community of respect and honesty and so far, have done well. I love those girls and there are parts of each of them that I aspire to be more like.

I love writing this blog. I love hearing the stories, receiving the emails, photos, and feedback from people who are living differently now or who are feeling differently about themselves. It is heartening to me to know that by simply sharing my fat horse with the world, that others are seeing things in a different light. This blog makes me feel safe.

So, a year later, Bronwyn and I want to thank everybody from the bottom of our hearts for the support, encouragement, and sometimes even the criticism to take a second look at what I am doing and how I am doing it and change things. Here's to many more years just like this one has been!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Learning not to fear the fall...

I do kind of live life on the wild side once in a while.

The first time I ever rode Bronwyn bareback, she had been off for about two months. I had never ridden her bareback and it had been YEARS since I had ridden ANY horse bareback... but I thought to myself "Oh, why the heck not?" - the last time I had ridden her, we had parted ways unexpectedly due to the sudden levitation of a cat into an apple tree. I don't know what made me think it was a good idea to climb on without riding in a saddle first, but I did, and I was pretty dang proud of the two of us by the end of that ride:

As a side note, prior to the fall that I had prior to that picture, my last fall was ELEVEN years before. As you can tell, I have lucked out. It is easy for me to say "FACE YOUR FEARS!" and encourage people to ride and not worry about falling off - when I know there are those out there who have had serious injuries to their backs, their pelvises, their heads, etc, that don't find it that easy.

Anyways, all of this to say that I have gotten a little cocky. My little mare can be taken out pretty fresh and we can go for a jaunt without a bridle OR saddle now:

I kind of knew I was riding on borrowed luck from the first go round, which is why it didn't REALLY surprise me when I accomplished fall #3 from Bronwyn's back in a beautifully epic, but sadly unwitnessed front flip over her shoulder into the snow when I decided I HAD to ride my fresh mare who hadn't been turned out in about 12 hours, who had not been ridden in about two weeks in the fluffy snow that was falling. Did I mention I was wearing a horse-eating winter jacket that makes noise when you move around? No? Well, I was.

I also neglected to longe her prior to riding, and to bother with a bridle - I just had my rope reins attached to her halter. I was pretty much asking for it.

She was a little sticky about standing still while I mounted up, which is not very typical for this big beast. I eventually did find a low enough spot to stand her in to get my leg swung up over her but before I could get it all the way over and get myself settled onto her back, she started moving off - I was essentially laying on my stomach along her spine. When she veered left, I went right and landed on my back in the snow, laughing just a little bit.

I have kind of tried to take the attitude that "If I fall, I fall..." all along but that doesn't make falling too awesome. Fortunately, Bronwyn is also still of the mindset that I SHOULD be on her back, not on the ground, so she is always surprised when I land there and hasn't mastered the art of trying to GET me there. It's kind of cute how she is like "MOM! WHY are you on the ground?!??!?!?! *horrified look*"

Anyways... I'm doing alright this morning - my neck is a little stiff from the lash as I always try to protect my helmet from hitting the ground when I fall (awesome, right? LOL) and get a little bit of whiplash.

I managed to get back on after I fell (though I was pretty shaken up) and we had a nice little jaunt around the pasture just like we had intended originally. I wasn't afraid of falling again, because I managed to get out of that one...

But I am curious - those of you who have been hurt in a fall (broken bones, bedrest, hospital stay resulting, etc), how do you muster up the courage to get back on? In my lifetime with horses, I have never broken a bone or had a concussion or anything to that effect (knock on wood), but if I did, I am not sure I would still be brave. Let's talk about it in the comments!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I hate saddles!

There has been a lot of discussion about saddles on the forum lately - the good, the bad, the ugly. One of the lovely ladies on the forum said "I love saddles!" - and all I could think was "I HATE saddles!".

Yeah, I do hate them. Right now, anyway. I am on saddle three, on an extremely limited budget, and trying to find something that fits both my big butt and long inseam as well as Bronwyn's mountainous withers and broad-as-a-coffee-table back has been a challenge that frustrates me. I've almost decided to give up on saddles altogether. I have been posting this photo around the internet and telling people I give up - I am just going to live in the woods with my horse and braid sticks into her mane and ride her around with no tack whatsoever and go wherever she wants, whenever she wants and completely forget about the concept of schooling or competing with her.

Honestly, I feel like my lack of a saddle that we feel comfortable in together has been a huge block to me getting any work done with her. I would say her training has really not progressed more than a step or two this summer due to a combined lack of time to invest into it and also the fact that when I do ride, I am scared to put any real significant amount of time on her, or to do anything strenous for fear of hurting her because of poor saddle fit. I can't work on my position because the saddles I have had don't allow me to get my leg under me. It's overall uncomfortable.

I have taken to riding bareback, primarily. I enjoy it - I look forward to it - probably because I am so uncomfortable in the saddle. I have ridden Bronwyn herself bareback more often in the last two years than I ever rode all of the horses I ever owned and rode in my childhood previous to Bronwyn put together. It's just comfortable that way.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't LIKE to find a saddle that I love. I'd love to find something that will change my mind. Unfortunately, the tack "scene" in our region is not the same as in other places. Sure, you can find lots of 18 or 19" seats... and you can once in a while find a reasonably priced "broadback" style saddle (though never seem to be as wide as Bronwyn needs!), but you rarely find something that fits both her AND I in one saddle in one place, anywhere near me, and in my price range. I can't go to a tack shop and sit in a variety of brand name saddles to see what fits me best or take something home from the consignment shop for a seven day trial. I will have no choice but to buy something from "away" and risk it not fitting, and pay the shipping both ways if it doesn't... IF there is a return option. I am just scared of making a mistake that I can't afford.

I want to put my pennies together and buy something great, designed for a broad backed horse with a seat to fit my butt but it seems like that is a long way in the future at the rate I am going now. I will bide my time, watch eBay, collect pennies out of the washing machine and eventually, I know I will own something that I will love.

In the meantime, you can find me in that treeline behind my roundpen, weaving alder branches into Bronwyn's mane!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Some housekeeping...

A few things happening right now!

You can now access the blog simply by typing www.afatgirlafathorse.com - it will bring you right to this page. :)

Also, I changed the layout. Tell me what you think? I like that it is now streamlined with the forum and I have freed up a little space on one side to put some relevant advertising. I would love to be able to do some more contests and giveaways but, as the blog points out, I have three horses, so we all know with those, cash isn't always around. :) I will be straightforward and say that there WILL be some advertising on that side, but I will work my best to make it relevant (horse related and in most instances, companies that handle products and services relevant to plus sized riders) and attractive - and no more of those gross Google AdSense ads!

Another thing that I am really interested in doing is reviews of products that are useful to us, as plus sized riders - so don't be surprised if you see some of those.

This month marks the one year anniversary since I started writing this blog and I am hoping to have some fun on the Forum over the next couple of weeks.

Also! We are running a secret santa gift exchange and Christmas card exchange on the forum if anyone is interested - last call for submissions for that stuff is on Monday, the 15th.

And we are really looking forward to some "Winter Workshops" - I haven't ironed out the details of how they will actually be rolled out, but we are planning to pick topics to learn about and hammer down to learn lots of new stuff during the winter season when riding time and daylight is more limited.

Thanks for sticking around for the ride! :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Proof that it's not always pretty and wonderful...

For once, I am not bragging on Bronwyn!

I think sometimes I might put off the idea that Bronwyn is perfect and our relationship is without flaws, and if I do, I'm sorry - because I could have driven her somewhere and dropped her off for someone else to deal with this weekend! Despite my frustration, though, I learned a lesson or two - it seems when I am the most frustrated with her, I learn new lessons if I allow myself to calm down and consider the situation.

BUT before I get into the details, I wanted to make a big brag on my colt, Rex. For those who don't remember my colt, Rex, here is a picture of us from this summer:

I do have some pretty photographer photos of him from my friend, Jilly, but I try not to post them so much because when I do, I get abduction promises - most of the time, I wish people would just follow through, lol - I can't stand the disappointment when everyone threatens to steal him and then nobody shows up with a trailer! Haha. Probably best to show him in his "natural state" - aka dirty, and with a mane that I have set out to pull several times but never finished completely - note the different lengths along his mane. He is a son of my Angel, and a half sibling to my mare, Ari.

Anyways - Rex has never left the farm (remember, until this summer, we hadn't had a trailer in a long, long time!) - I think I might have loaded him onto a trailer once when we had borrowed a friend's to haul a horse to the vet lab but it was an open stock trailer. We planned to fill our trailer with 36 bales of square hay for temporary storage so before we did that, I wanted to take advantage of the trailer hooked to the truck and load him a couple of times. He never hesitated at the ramp, but did at getting all the way in a time or two - but without too much coaxing or cajoling, he was soon jumping right in like "what else is new?!" - I think he is going to be a fantastic trail gelding... *cough* once I get around to getting him started.

So my bragworthy horse this weekend was Rex. Not Bronwyn. Not by a long shot.

We have been trying to slowly integrate our new mare, Robin, into our herd. She is in foal and we are VERY excited about the baby so want to take things as carefully as we can. To say that Bronwyn has been less than accomodating about the new addition to the herd is an understatement. I firmly believe her obnoxious insistence on segregating her herd from anything or anybody potentially harmful (and yes, she will sometimes herd them away from me if I am trying to catch one of the other horses) stems directly from never having held a position of "importance" in a herd before. She isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, the "alpha" mare in our herd, but she likes to think she is, and takes it upon herself to do the things that Jessie (the REAL alpha in our herd) is too smart to expend the energy on when she can send her goon, Bronwyn, to do it instead.

After an excitable morning of some "faux alpha mare drama rama", I went out to catch the mares to come in for the evening - I was down with a cold that, while it didn't knock me flat on my back, did make me pretty draggy most of the weekend and I had had a long day of cleaning up and doing pre-winter chores. Though the mares were close, none of them wanted to come in so I started the task of collecting them one by one. I always start with Bronwyn because of her aforementioned tendancy to herd the other horses away from me. She was not always (and still isn't) an "easy" catch but I can usually track her down within two or three minutes with Julie Goodnight's method, slightly modified.

So I started to track her down the way I typically do - assertive forward motion toward her shoulder, steady, even pursuit. Bronwyn doesn't typically do the stopping and looking at me at all until she is completely done and ready - I can then approach her and halter her, etc. Instead of her walking or trotting away from me, I was met with a lot of this:

In all seriousness, I was out there for about 30 minutes, with THIS going on. Here's the kicker - I figured out "the big amazing lesson that Bronwyn has to teach me" about 29 minutes into it.

The more she moved, the more agitated I got - while my BODY was still doing the right thing (steady, consistent approach), my BRAIN was going "that HORSE... when I get my hands on her... I should work the CRAP out of her because she's working the crap out of me!" (and on and on, as it goes). You're right, that's a big fat dose of PRIDE going on there. The more angry I got, the more wound up she got, even though my body didn't change what it was doing fundamentally. I am willing to bet that the energy I was giving off STANK to the high heavens.

Finally, I checked myself and said "Wait a minute. What was that 'golden rule' my parents taught me? Ah, that's right - 'never take your emotions into the saddle'." While I am pretty good at not carrying emotions INTO the saddle, I sometimes develop emotions while I am in the saddle, and I am not known to void myself of emotions when doing ground work. There are a lot of things I have been super patient about with Bronwyn, but then there are some things (like the battle we had in August over trimming her ears that I was too embarrassed to post about because I was being a horrible, horrible person and knew so many of you would call me for letting my emotions get the best of me) that I just decide to prove my point over my hurt feelings and don't stop until I've made that point, regardless of the cost.

This was one of those times. I was going to chase her until she fell over from exhaustion unless she stopped and let me catch her. One way or the other, as I told my father, "She is GOING TO BE CAUGHT. DO NOT let her run in the barn!". Once I realized what I was doing (I would suspect instead of the typical approach, she was feeling me more like a heat seeking missile that wanted to decapitate her), I straightened up, dropped the 'tude, and guess what? 30 seconds after I dropped the emotions out of it, she let me catch her.

Humbled once again by a horse, of course.