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, December 31, 2012

2012 In Review

I think we can say with certainty that 2012 was a big year for Bronwyn and I. A year full of changes and growth and, I believe, a strengthening of our bond. I know that I, myself, have felt pushed and challenged for the better, and Bronwyn's body and skill attests to the same for her. I thought we could look back at the entries of 2012 and some of the highlights!

January -  Taking The Big Leap - I made the decision to persue riding lessons for the first time in a very long time. I put myself out there and hoped to be well recieved. I found a barn family that I would not trade.

FebruaryThe Things Worth Having - A discussion of the work involved with horse ownership - the work that it takes to have the things that are worth having, and realized that even though we might be tired at the end of the day, we are happy and fulfilled.

March - Negativity Breeds Negativity - I talked a bit about motivation in the face of a campaign aimed at shaming children for their bodies.

April - You shouldn't believe everything that you read on the internet... - A brief review of my feelings toward some of the commentary I recieve on my Youtube videos, etc, on a regular basis.

May - Guest Blog: “My Horse Isn’t Fat, He’s Just Big Boned” by Dr. Joan Norton, VDM DACVIM - A featured guest blog by Dr. Joan Norton, VDM DACVIM about our "fat horses", Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) and Insulin Resistance (IR).

JuneMoving Day! - We moved!

July - Setting Goals - I got to share the lovely video of two girls from our forum who met, decided on a goal, and made it happen - very fashionably, I might add!

August - Things to Worry About- A brief look at my fanatical worrywart-ism.

September  - Product Review: Fuller Fillies Show Boot - a thorough review of the Fuller Fillies show boots (I get asked about this one often) - which I still love and wear, and which have not let me down.

October - Full Disclosure - a blog entry in direct response to a very unfriendly forum conversation that popped up on Horse & Hound.

November - Don't Wait - "You might not have forever to wait for that perfect moment to do the things that will make you happy or that you want to do. Don't wait "until tomorrow". Tomorrow might never come."

December - Your Christmas Gifts to Yourself - READ IT. I want you to.

Overall, a round and full year of growth and discovery for myself - I hope that in some of my writings, it has been the same for you as well. Keep your eyes open for tomorrow, when we're going to talk about goal setting once again.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Taming the Wild Mustang

You see it in horse movies all the time - the young girl sits in the corner of the wild mustang's stall and he gets curious, comes over, snuffles her hair - their bond is forged immediately, and it is strong.

Almost 5 years ago, I sat on a bucket in the corner of Bronwyn's stall, covered myself with hay and wished that she would show an interest in me. She was so uncomfortable with my presence that she wouldn't relax enough to eat, gave me wide eyed stares, and turned her back to me. I must have spent the equivalent of a day attempting this method to bond with her - and she never gave in fully. Oh, near the end, there was an odd hair snuffle but she immediately jerked back to attention the second that I moved even an iota.

Last night, during a quiet moment in the barn, before I left, I snuck into her stall and sat my butt in the corner - flat on the ground - no escape route if she decided to trample me. She let a contented sigh out and brushed her nose through my hair, over my pants, dropped hay on me, turned back to her hay pile and continued to eat, checking back with me from time to time.

I talked with one of the other boarders last night about 'complicated' horses. Yes, I would say by times she is complicated - her long standing fear sometimes overrides her burning desire to please and serve. Her work ethic is sometimes interrupted by snow falling off the roof of the barn. She sometimes stands stock still in the crossties to be groomed and saddled, sometimes she dances around. Things that don't scare her today scare her tomorrow and things that scare her today are her best friends tomorrow. She can be complicated, quirky, foolish, even. But she has come so far, and I am so proud of her. We have definitely forged on through another new adventure this year, moving to a boarding barn, going into full work, even entertaining the idea of a second rider/leaser.

We didn't set any New Year's Resolutions last year except for her to get closer to me, to move off the farm and be near my new apartment, and we accomplished that, and so much more. I am looking forward to 2013 and everything it brings!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Your Christmas Gifts to Yourself

November 29th was the 3rd anniversary of my first entry on this blog. I know I have said it before, but I will say it again - when I began writing this blog, I had no idea how things would go. I expected an overwhelming amount of hate mail, to be honest, because the response to plus-sized riders that you generally see on forums and various other spots on the internet (and sometimes even in person) is rarely tactful or, let's be honest here, based in anything except nasty stereotypes. What I didn't expect was the overwhelming amount of mail that thanked me and identified with me. Most of the time, I still feel like I am not qualified to write for the talented, compassionate, wonderful people that read my words - and all of the time, I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do so.

So I tried to decide what I could do to give back to you all, especially at this time of year, and I thought about the lessons I have learned over the last few years that have really helped me maximize the enjoyment I get out of my life. Some of you know that I struggled with mild-to-moderate depression from about age 12 until 21 or 22 - and sometime after that, I started to figure things out. I wouldn't say I have everything figured out, I still have moments where I think my life is running off the tracks, but as a general whole, I am satisfied with my life and the direction it is going - and what it took to head in that direction were a few basic truths and tricks.

I want to give to some of you, this holiday season, some invaluable tools that I have discovered for myself over the last few years. They aren't a guaranteed fix-all, and some of them are hard to grasp (so hard, in fact, that there are some areas that I truly encourage "fake-it-til-you-make-it"). If you are reading this and you are much like me, being kind to yourself and giving to yourself can be difficult. So pick one or two, or all of the "gifts" that I would like you to give yourself this year for the holidays, and try to stick with it through the new year. Eventually, it gets easier.

Self Acceptance & Love

This one was the hardest for me to get my head around but it was the most crucial and truly a gateway to everything else. You are a good person and you are kind to others - but let's think about the people that you go out of your way to do the most for. They are people that you care about and love. You would do whatever you could to make sure they were happy, healthy, and safe. As a basically good human being, you will be kind to those that you don't like - or at least not go out of your way to make them miserable, but you are going to put in the extra effort for the people that you care about. 

I didn't hate myself, but I sure didn't love myself either. I thought there were a lot of ways that I could improve, both emotionally and physically before I was a person worthy of my own love. I thought about how much better a person I could be if only this or that. And I would respect myself a little more if I lost some weight. 

At one point, during an interesting summer, I got this notion in my head that I was, fundamentally, a good person. I don't go out of my way to hurt others (if they've hurt someone I am close to, well... that's a different story), I am a fiercely loyal friend (see previous), I let funny things slip out from time to time, I feel things with my whole heart. Those are qualities of a person that I would enjoy spending time with and would actively seek out. Those are qualities of someone I would admire. So if I possessed these qualities, why was I so indifferent to myself? What made me any less deserving of my own acceptance and love than the average person I would meet on the street that I would accept and love? I began to understand that I am a good person and I deserve good things like anybody else.

Then, I got a hair cut. I think it is important to point out that acceptance of my personal and physical self had to come hand in hand. If I had not accepted my body at that time (at 325lbs), I don't think I would have been able to accept my internal self. I would have thought Sure, you're a great person and everything, but.... you're fat. Because society has programmed us, somehow, to believe that a fat person is less worthy of good things than a skinny person when really there is no correlation between the number on the scale and fundamental goodness of person. So - back to this hair cut. It was uncharacteristically short but I chose it because I thought it was probably the cutest hair cut going at that time. I remember catching my eyes in the rear view mirror one morning as I was getting out of the car to go to work. I looked myself square in the face and tentatively said "You look pretty cute today." I don't know if I truly believed it at that time, but I began to look at myself. Really look at myself. Who told me that a double chin was "disgusting"? Where did I get that idea from? Where did I get the idea that I was not worth looking at? Not worth being a friend, or heavens - a girlfriend because even though I possessed all these great personality characteristics, my physical body was not appealing?

So I looked at myself in the mirror every day and I said "You are cute, you are worthy." - even though a lot of days I didn't believe it - I kept telling myself that. I don't walk around with an inflated sense of hotness, but I can look at my whole body in the mirror most days and think "I look good." - and I had to feel that way at 325lbs in order to feel that way at 250lbs... and everywhere in between. I had to look at the body that I was in and accept her - to acknowledge her as a valid human being worthy of love and good things. To understand that where I was was a part of the journey I am on and though that same body at 325lbs might not always stay the same (in either direction), that body existed and it was mine, and it was okay. I was allowed to love myself that way. I was allowed to then go do the things I wanted to do. I could live my life without hating myself. 

(And while this is not an entry focused on weight loss, I want to point out that it was a LOT easier to work out and eat better and learn the practice of fueling and moving my body better because I cared about it, not because I hated it and wanted it to change. I had lost and gained the same 40lbs several times prior to reaching the conclusion that I was a valuable, valid person - but it was only after I reached that conclusion that I lost 75lbs and maintained that loss. You don't do nice things for people that you don't like, remember?)

Support Structure & Home

I have to admit that during the time frame where I was the least happy, I was subjecting myself to toxic relationships - mostly because I had been involved with these people and situations most of my life and so the logical step was to maintain them, because that was the way it had always been. I still struggle with it but I have adapted the policy that if you do not support and uplift me in my life in the same way that I support and uplift you in your life, then it is not a good relationship. 

I am not trying to toot my own horn here and say that I 100% of the time deserve the #1 Best Friend Ever All The Time (TM) Award. I am only human. Sometimes I fail my friends. Sometimes I am not there for them for one reason or another. But if the load of caring for one another and supporting one another is grossly imbalanced, then it's not a good relationship, and I feel that, as my life is a journey, if the relationship is not advancing my journey, it should be terminated from my life. I know this probably all comes off as sounding really selfish and self-absorbed, but it is truly the second largest factor to me being able to live a happier, emotionally healthier life - right after accepting and loving myself. 

I am not suggesting you delete everybody from your life who is not helping you move forward, but keep close and spend your time and energy on those who value you the same way that you value them. Delete that person from your Facebook friends list who mostly aggravates you and doesn't offer anything to you in the way of happiness and support in return. Consider that you only have so much of yourself to give and if you are spending it on people who don't truly deserve it, the ones who do aren't getting the portion they deserve. And make sure that, while you are taking care of yourself, you are giving the support and love that you are getting back to those who need it.

Surround yourself with people who understand your goals and dreams and want to do what they can to help you achieve them, without telling you that you can't. My parents are a pretty excellent example. While we never have had a lot of money growing up, I am reasonably confident that if I said to them that I wanted to start a campaign to walk across the country on my hands, they would first (possibly quite rightly) question my sanity - but then upon discovering that it is truly something that I desire and am passionate about, would do everything within their power to help me achieve it. I wanted to ride, my dad said ride. I wanted to write, my mom said write. 

The second part of this gift is home. Find the place where those people that support and love you reside and make that your home. 

My boyfriend and I talked about this as we rounded out our first year of living together. Our little apartment is home, to me - but I referenced the farm, where my family lives, as home in a conversation at one point. Of course, he then wanted to know which place I considered my "home" - was it here in the apartment with him or was it at the farm with my parents?  The thing is... when I think about it, I have several places that I consider "home". Wherever he, or my parents or sister are - that is my "home". Wherever my horses are - that is my "home". Wherever the people who have supported and loved me through all of my good times and bad - that is my "home". This apartment, the farm, the barn where Bronwyn lives, the house where the parents of my best friend since first grade lives, the restaurant where I worked full time for two years and still work the occasional evening or weekend at - these are all "home" to me, and coming to them brings me a sense of comfort and ease that I can't just manufacture. To me, "home" implicates more than the dwelling - it is the people within and the role that they play in my life. And I cannot stress how incredibly important it is to find those people and places and value them. They are your refuge, your boost when you need it, your place to spin dreams and find those who will help you make them happen.

Understanding Yourself

I mentioned above that while my life is not sunshine and rainbows, I am generally happy. When I am not, the most valuable tool I have found is to recognize it, and do my best to control it. It is so important to me to be able to feel my feelings - be it crying or writing or meditating to process - but it is also important to me that I don't unnecessarily project those feelings onto people or my surroundings who might not deserve it (again with giving what I deserve and putting in what I wish to get out). 

Every few months, I have a "dark day". Though everything can be going right, I am unnecessarily angry or morose. I can usually feel them come on and I know that I am not excellent company at that time. The absolute best thing for me at this point is to go to bed. Or take a bath, or go for a run. I could go ride but I can't school my horse, it is a time to just sit on my horse and be with her. I usually need to be by myself, and I will go to bed early. In the morning, it has usually dissipated and my potential for doing damage has decreased substantially. This goes along with treating your support group well - supporting them and uplifting them.

I think it is also important to understand why you feel the way that you feel when you're feeling sad or angry or not like yourself. Self reflection and some quiet time usually help me - or bouncing it off of someone who will just listen and not say much and let me come to my own conclusions. It is only through understanding the reasoning behind your emotions that you will be able to control your reactions to things and keep a positive and forward-moving theme through your life.

Making a List of Goals (and Achieving Them!)

I have mentioned before that I am a list-maker - nothing is more satisfying than crossing off something that has been done from a to-do list - to me. Even if it is small. It means I am moving forward - and seeing proof of my moving forward is an incredibly important part of the journey for me.

In September, I turned 27.  My boyfriend asked me what my "three year plan" is. I unblinkingly said to have a fulfilling job, be debt free and have a child on the way, if not already here. Those seem like pretty ambitious plans, certainly - and I think if my list just included those three giant things, which are very big and important (and honestly, except for the last, daunting and will require some planning in the interim), I would likely just give up. So I've methodically broken down each larger goal into a series of smaller goals - I am planning to take an Equine Massage Therapy course in June to head toward having the fulfilling job - which someday I hope will be full time, but in the meantime, I have mapped out the collection of a clientele while working full time, then building my clientele as I work part time, eventually doing something that I love as my sole income. We are meeting with someone who is going to help us make that smaller, broken-down list to become debt free in the first week of January - and we have a few smaller steps in our lives to accomplish before we can responsibly bring any children into this world. 

The point is that if I just looked at my list as I laid it out originally - I would give up. They are too much, too big, too daunting, and how many times will I think to myself "I'll never get there!". Much like breaking my desired weight loss into smaller segments and celebrating every 5 or 10 pound milestone, breaking my greater goals and desires down into smaller, attainable goals has given me the steam to keep moving forward until I reach the things I truly desire as I see myself checking things off of the list and getting closer to the goal.

Having goals and desires is so important in the first place. Even if it is something you think is far off in the future, especially if it is something large and fanciful. Desiring more from your life, and moving forward on the journey - these are important things to me. And having the motivation to move forward for those big goals or dreams is the only way to keep moving. 

Recognizing The Journey

You might not be happy right now - you could be quite happy. This is a part of the journey of your life. 

I have mentioned before that when Angel died, my dad came into my bedroom while I was clutching the piece of her forelock that he cut for me and crying so hard I thought I would vomit, thinking I would never be able to get out of that bed again, and said "I know it doesn't make sense right now but everything happens for a reason." I could have risen out of that bed and hit him with a right hook to leave him reeling.

Something that took some time for me to recognize is that every little piece of this journey shapes who I am. Without even some of those horrible things that I had wished had never happened, I would not be the person that I am today (and remember that I like and accept the person that I am today!). Even little things that seem inconsequential and silly may have a bearing on things that you may not recognize until many years later - or never at all. 

I had to realize that while I may not be 100% satisfied with my life, this is what it is right now, and it will probably not stay the same. And it is the way that it is right now because that is how it has to be in order for it to be different down the road, in order for me to be able to learn and grow and move forward. And it took me well over a year (closer to 2!) to recognize why I would come home to my heart horse alive and okay and eight hours later for my earth Angel to be taken from me, but I know now that everything happens exactly the way that it is supposed to happen in order for progress to happen - whether you believe in a greater power or force manipulating it (which I choose to) or simply in the linear cause-and-effect pattern of life - everything happening as a direct result of something else. 

Understanding this was a hard and painful one for me to grasp but it was so important.

And last, but not least:

Give yourself permission to be happy. You deserve it as much as anybody else does.

I have been wanting to write this entry all month but it took me a long time to collect the thoughts that I wanted to express. I want you all to live the lives that you want to and I know there was a time in my life when I thought that I was in a rut and could not get out of it and these are the things that helped me. It might be daunting - you might need to give yourself all of these gifts but they are time and emotionally intensive and will take too much to give all at once - pick one and work on it (I recommend the first) - and the others will come in succession. 

If you don't need these - these are things that you already know and have employed in your life, I wish that you would help to impart these gifts to others in your life that might need them - you can't tell them how to be happy but you can help guide them on that path. I wish someone had written me a manual on how to be happy a decade ago - but the truth is that you are the only one who can figure it out for yourself, no matter how much someone else wants to intervene. They can show you the tools and the instructions but you have to put them together yourself.

I want to thank you all for three incredible years of learning and sharing together, and here's to that many more again. Happy holidays to each and every one of you.

Amanda & Bronwyn

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Limited Time Discount For Blog Readers!

For those of you who don't follow the Facebook fanpage or might have missed it, I wanted to give you a heads up that Wendy at 16 Plus Rider is offering our blog readers an additional 10% off on an order! Here is what she wrote on the fanpage:

16 Plus Rider, the UK website offering riding wear for curvaceous women, would like to offer a 10% discount to all the friends of 'A Fat Girl and a Fat Horse'. This discount can be used in conjunction with our current offers, and will be taken off your order at the checkout. Don't forget that all our prices also show UK Value Added Tax of 20%, and that this will also be deducted from your order 
at the checkout if you are outside the EU. The downside..? We will need to charge you for additional postage if you are outside the UK, and will email you about this once you have ordered, to confirm the amount. We hope that our usually low prices combined with the discount and removal of the VAT will all add up to a good deal for you! To get the voucher code simply 'Like' us on Facebook, then email us at sales@16plusrider.co.uk. Offer ends December 20th 2012.

"Like" their fanpage HERE and take advantage of the discount!! Buy something for one of your horsey friends or take advantage of a treat for yourself!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The right path...

If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, or even know me a little bit, it is pretty obvious that I really subscribe to the theory that everything happens for exactly the reason it is supposed to. We may not realize it at the time - it might take years for things to come full circle - but I do believe that some of the experiences that I have, in the past, categorized as the 'worst' experiences of my life have spit-polished me into a person that I am proud to be.

With that said, I have been experiencing some stress this week. I landed at the barn after a weekend away last Tuesday to find Browyn injured. You know, I realize this kind of thing happens from time to time in herd settings and for the social and physical  benefits of living in a herd, I wouldn't change it, it is just frustrating - especially when you have to drive 20 minutes to the barn each way to check on her. Mind you, I am used to having my horses about 20 feet from my doorstep and so if I found an injury like this on a horse while I was living at the farm, I would just hop out before bed or work and take another look, just to put my mind at ease. Not so easy to do when I don't have a vehicle and it is a bit of a drive.

I am normally at the barn alone when I go out to ride, unless I am having a lesson - and my boyfriend just started a new shift at work (it came with a promotion, so it is, in all reality, a good thing, a better thing, it's just hard to adjust to) so he is not home in the evenings. I can get a bit high strung by times and when I have no one to interject, things can easily escalate to desperate panic when my mind gets rolling (... do you see where this is going?).

After visiting the barn four or five times, including going out on nights that aren't my barn night, I was convinced that she was out in her hip, needed more chiro, I may never be able to ride her again, and I should just retire her home to the farm for the rest of her life. At this point, I wanted to be able to fast foward our 5 year plan into a 2 year or less plan. I just wanted to be able to watch my horses in my own backyard again.

Then, Wednesday night, after a particularly discouraging visit to the barn Tuesday (I thought she looked lamer, the swelling on her belly was more lumpy and, I had concluded, she just "looked sick".), I was out walking my dog. We heard something in the bushes/a waterhole while we were walking, and I eventually deducted that it was a couple of dogs "at large", so to avoid any potential injuries/attacks/fights (in the dark, with a medium-small dog, I was not interested in meeting them!), I turned around and went home to finish the walk later.

I was even to the point where I had called my parents to see about them making room to keep my now (in my mind) chronically lame, sick horse at the farm again.

Then I finished my dog's walk.

(Yes, I am getting to a point here!)

Some of you may know the significance of shooting stars to me - some of you may not. The long and short of it is that the night that my heart horse, Angel, died, several shooting stars crossed the sky while I was walking her out in her last hours. Almost every night after that for weeks, I always happened to spot one when I was leaving the barn after doing chores. These days, I don't see them as frequently, but every once in a while, when I am feeling a bit down or I am on the precipice of or have just made a big decision that I am uncertain about, I will see one. It might just be a coincidence, but I choose to take it as a reassuring sign from my earth Angel that I am doing the right thing and that I will be okay.

So you guessed it. I saw a shooting star when I took my dog back out. I haven't seen one in a while. I slept better than I had in quite some time and when I went to the barn the following night (last night), Bronwyn looked better, brighter, and happier than I had imagined her to be. We did a bit of clicker work just for fun, a little bit of lunge work. The barn owner was there, along with a couple of leasers and I did not feel quite so desperate about her situation. And she didn't look lame at all. I am still not sure whether I imagined how bad it was or if she just got better, but I do plan to ride her again starting Tuesday. I sure miss that connection.

I have a busy weekend - I am taking my pressed t-shirts (a la the soon-to-be-rebranded Sweet Angel Equine Designs to an SPCA fundraiser Pet Expo this weekend. If you are in New Brunswick (Canada), in the Fredericton area, stop by! If not... have an excellent weekend with your ponies!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Don't wait.

I am one of the guiltiest people when it comes to this... too often, it's "when I have a nicer body, I'll do ____" or "when I have enough money, I'll do _____". I put things off and put them off until it's the "right time" or "things are aligned". The silly part is that a lot of the time, it's already the right time, and things will never be aligned or perfect. If you wait forever for the perfect time to do the things that make you happy, you might wait forever.

The community that I went to school in is grieving. This week, they found the body of a young woman that I went to school with and whose mother taught me in elementary and middle school on the side of the road. She was 26 years old and 7 months pregnant. They suspected foul play. The articles written about how friendly and happy she was were almost more painful to read than the details of the investigation to this point. I'm not going to pretend that I was best friends with her, because I wasn't - but I am genuinely sorry for the loss of such a bright spark on this earth and sending all my love and prayers out to her family, grappling to come to some kind of sense with this... but this sure wakes you up. 

You might not have forever to wait for that perfect moment to do the things that will make you happy or that you want to do. 

Don't wait "until tomorrow". Tomorrow might never come.

So live your life, do the things that make you happy and healthy. Aggressively pursue your dreams. Do not settle for less "for now". Stop thinking about what other people might think about your happiness. Embrace your body, in all of it's forms, stop hating it - you can't run this race when you are strangling yourself with self loathing. And you know, it's not going to be easy, and you are going to want to give up because nothing worth having is "easy". DO NOT STOP. Stop balking at road blocks or challenges, EMBRACE THEM, tackle them voraciously -  they will make you a better person - you might not understand now, but you will later - and if later never comes, you will still be that better person. Buy yourself that cute shirt now, not after you're "less lumpy". Save your pennies for that house or that incredible vacation or, God forbid, that horse you have been dying to buy! They say that "good things come to those who wait", but you can't wait for the things in life that you deserve to fall into your lap, you have to have a hand in making them happen. Be a good person, love sincerely and honestly and wholeheartedly - and while you're at it, feel all of your emotions with your whole heart - because there's no sense feeling them in the first place if you don't! Get those 'once-in-a-lifetime' romances, friendships, opportunities now, NOT LATER, because THIS is your lifetime. RIGHT NOW. And you are exactly as good, worthy, deserving or valuable now as you are ever going to be.

Source: flickr.com via Amanda on Pinterest

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The True Cost of Loving a Horse

I have been spending the weekend home at the farm and this morning, my dad was reading some statistics from a magazine about the expense of keeping a horse. Depending on your locale, I believe the article he was reading quoted something like $2500-3500 annually. I can't even begin to calculate the financial costs of my small herd, because if I do, it might make me a bit sick - and I do things "cheap", to boot.

Owning horses or riding them costs more than financially, too. I have learned over the years that owning a horse could cost you your heart, parts of your family or circle of friends. Horses, though they will never do it for a selfish or malicious purpose like a human might, can break your heart unequivocally - with death, with lameness, with one of the myriad of illnesses or infirmities that can strike horses for absolutely no reason at all, with an unwilling sale forced by the economy or loss of a job... You get kicked, you get dumped, you get hurt - some partners have a hard time sharing their time with a horse or appreciating when you come home with your hair full of hay and smelling a bit like manure.

But at the end of the day, we may spend money and emotion and physical wellness on the love of a horse (or a few horses!) - and when you sell, you never actually MAKE money - but we get paid back, too. We profit substantially from loving a horse, and I like to think that makes the slaving at a day job to make the money, which seems to spend mere microseconds in our wallet, to keep our horses worthwhile. I like to think that it makes your heart breaking worthwhile because someday, you can look back fondly and with love and recognize the lessons that you have learned and how much richer you were for the experience. At the end of the day, I think I profit more than I spend.

The profits from loving a horse --

- the confidence you earn from working with a 1200lb animal that could kill you, but instead allows you to climb up on its back in the same way that a predator might, and carries you with pride.

- the rewarding ache in your muscles from putting up hay or mucking stalls, or giving a really good grooming - or simply just spending most of a crisp fall day in the barn bumming around.

- owning or riding horses seems to be an instant conversation starter - because whether they love them or fear them, the general public seems to have a fascination with horses - either the day to day or your mental sanity regarding the amount of money that you spend on them.

- you have an ever present sounding board - someone who is never going to tell you that you need to be less invested, that your hurt feelings are silly or that they doubt your ability to meet the challenge you are facing.

- the network of friends and professionals, either in person or online that turn out to understand your needs and desires better than some people who have been in your life since the beginning.

- the peaceful stillness in your heart when you've put in a day's work and can just recline on a bale of hay and listen to the eating of horses, or watching your equine friends grazing in a field, or just being with a horse.

- the surprising joy when you find something in the Dollarstore or at Walmart that you can use for your horse that will cost you a fraction of the money of buying it from a tack store (I also count this as financial profit!).

- the laughter when your horse proves itself to be more clever (in a NON-mischevious way!) than you expected.

- the satisfaction of introducing a child to a horse.

Yes, at the end of the day, I believe that even if we can't line our wallets in it, we profit incredibly from the love of a horse - and for each person, there is so much more that is personal and private and makes their life with horses that much more worthwhile.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October 21st, 2011 - "Invasion of the Drafties" trail ride

Okay, so maybe it wasn't called that but it sure felt like it!

A few years back, a group of us with an interest in draft and draft crosses as saddle horses got together in a Tim Hortons and connected - though most of us have been too busy to run an official club or organization, we have been getting together for trail rides when time allows it and this was another "unofficial" event. Though the majority of the horses (8 of 11) were drafts or draft crosses, we also had a few "normal sized" horses and a "fun sized" (pony) equine with us.

I love taking Bronwyn out on group trails. She loves to head out into the woods and I love to be with other riders - so it works for both of us. Though she can be a little more "up" in the arena, she is very laid back on the trail - as I tell people, I usually kick my feet out of the stirrups, ride on the buckle, and enjoy the ride.

This ride included an element that she hasn't been exposed to yet, either -- cows! As most of you remember, we missed out on the cattle penning clinic we hoped to go to because she needed her adjustment. I was disappointed but so thankful that I have my old girl back, even better, since the adjustment and massage! Anywho, the beginning of this ride involved a short jaunt through a pasture of adult beef cows. She looked at them like they were going to eat her. As long as they weren't moving in any direction that looked like it would be aimed at her, she was fine. But she was definitely on the alert!

You should be able to click on all of the below pictures for a larger version!

This photo was taken by my friend, Leah Grandy. Bronwyn looks like a pony because Leah was atop a purebred Clydesdale!
The other 6 drafties were all purebred Clydesdales. A group of girls is working on a drill team with them - and many of them hadn't been under saddle long. I have to say they did a fantastic job! We also had two saddle horses, a standardbred and the pony. We were out for about two hours and really enjoyed the fall scenery - the weather was absolutely gorgeous and the trail involved lots of puddles, much to the joy of some of the horses (the standardbred stopped at every opportunity and splashed her rider with glee!).

Just missing one saddle horse in this picture - just before we came home, the rider stopped to visit with a neighbour.

Bringing up the rear - everyone in this shot except for Jenny, the girl on the standardbred, Anna, who I rode the back and chatted with for most of the ride.

Gorgeous, clear trails! No bushwhacking for us - not like when I ride in the woods at the farm!

Probably my favourite picture out of all of them - the shadows of all of our ponies going up the road on the way home. I can only imagine how awesome the sight of, essentially, the Budweiser Clydesdale commercial coming up the road must have been for people seeing us go by1

Bronwyn never batted an eyelid at the traffic either.

We also did meet a truck on the trail that stopped, pulled over, and even turned off his engine to allow us to pass! I thought that was super classy and tipped my helmet to them as we passed by. :) I wish that every driver was as polite and considerate of horses!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mailbag: Some Commonly Asked Questions

I've decided to do a new feature from time to time - I have a lot of really good conversations with many of my readers via Facebook messages or my email, and sometimes the same sorts of questions come up frequently. I thought that the best way to address these, with the permission of the writer, is to start a "Mailbag" feature and share some of our conversations and discussions with the rest of my readership. 

I am not an expert in ANY field, but I don't mind sharing my observations and opinions. If you have any comments or further questions, feel free to post in the comments! :)

Amber wrote:

Hi! I have just discovered your vlog and webpage. I am from Mississippi, and I, too, am overweight. I love horses and have always dreamed of doing barrel racing. On August 14, I had a weightloss surgery. I wanted to see if I could ask you some questions. I am a beginner rider. I owned horses as a young girl, and loved to ride. After being thrown off, I wasn't brave enough to ride anymore. Now, here I am losing weight, and I am wanting to RIDE! I cant get it out of my head that I am too big for the horse. frown My starting weight was 337. I am now 290, Praise the Lord. At what size do you think is good to get on a horse? Also I noticed your hose is kind of stock and well built. What type of horse and size do you suggest for an overweight beginner??? Thanks so much Amber

 First of all, congratulations on your loss. :)

As for your questions - it is pretty common for people to ask me for absolutes - what weight, what height, what breed is appropriate for a plus-sized rider. The problem is that there are many more factors than the number on the scale or the weight of the horse.

First of all, I always recommend having another set of eyes with you - even if you are quite experienced - to look at whatever horse you are viewing or trying out and give you an objective opinion. Especially when you have been out of the saddle for a while, sometimes emotion can overcome reason (this is how I ended up with a feral three year old draft cross mare when I finally went looking for a horse to ride after being out of the saddle for a year, instead of the quiet, solid, older stock horse gelding I was looking for!), and you might end up with something less appropriate.

We had someone viewing horses at our place and they insisted because they were a stockier person, they required a horse 'at least 16hh'. There was then a comment about how short Bronwyn's back is (in a negative way). The truth is that 16hh is a long way to fall! It is true that often a taller horse weighs more so they work out better for whichever arbitrary rider weight vs horse weight equation that you may choose to use, but often a taller horse is a longer horse, which often equates to a longer back which is not as good for carrying weight.

My big picks are horses that, conformationally, are compact and short backed, with good bone, good feet, and a short loin coupling (you can read a little more about length of back here). I find that this sort of horse is often found in stock horses (non specialized breeding, usually) or draft crosses, but not always.

A lot of people want to choose full drafts for plus sized riders - depending on the breeding, they can also be some of the most docile, good natured horses to deal with - largely based on their height and weight. Sometimes a full draft is not a good choice, because in my personal experience, some of the hitch bred horses can have quite long backs. They are, afterall, generally bred to pull weight, not carry it.

As for what weight to get on a horse - it largely depends on the horse - and the rider. I think the most important thing, for your own safety, is that you have been doing some sort of exercise prior. I am not talking about running marathons or swimming the English channel, but I do feel that a minimum level of physical activity, even if it is just walking for 30 minutes every other day, is one of the best ways to start off. Apart from the fact that moving your body is good for you in the first place, your muscles are going to have an idea of what is going on and anything that you will be doing will likely be engaging some of the primary muscles that you will need for riding (core, legs, etc).

I strongly recommend you find a coach who will work with you, understand the potential limitations of your weight and fitness level, and has an appropriate horse to start. When I started back to lessons, even though I had been running and doing other physical activity, it was a couple of months before I got a chance to canter. Still, the majority of my work is done at the walk and trot both in lessons and on Bronwyn as I continue to condition her (and myself!). I really don't have the level of fitness yet to ride for hours, hold two-point and post without stirrups, but I am working on it. I think it is really important to realize that you need to walk before you can run - literally.

Bronwyn is a draft cross - I have no idea what her breeding is. She is 7 years old and about 15hh tall. Some of my favourite features of her conformation are her short back, her heavy bone and sound feet and her general compactness. I have had some feedback that she has nice angles for a potential dressage horse, but unfortunately, I noticed none of that when I first viewed her, and four hours later brought her home - emotion overrode logic. I was lucky I ended up with the gem that I did!

The most recent side photo that I have of her from much earlier this summer before she began to acquire any muscle at all!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Broken Pony is broken no more!

I don't know if I have really expressed the magnitude of the problems we have been having over the last month or so - between the ill-fitting saddle, and on to the severe behavioural issues that we began to experience following it.

Even after the saddle fit issue was resolved, Bronwyn would still work for about 20 minutes and then begin being outright "naughty" when I asked for a little more - put leg on and asked her to extend. She would crank her head up and to the side, and stop up instead of moving forward. I tried various saddles, bridles, bits and girths and then put my shingle out looking for a chiro or massage therapist to come and take a look at her because something was clearly wrong. Though Bronwyn has spent much of her life being silly or scared of things, never once has she been naughty - and her work ethic has been pretty awesome all summer. The big difference, though, is that her body has changed quite significantly - in shape and in fitness.

I got replies from several people suggesting Christa - and was pleased to find that she had been to my barn recently to work on a horse that was dealing with lameness issues and that this mare had gotten much better after a session.

Fortunately, she was able to come out quite quickly for me. Bronwyn was really quite at ease with her, I think largely due to the fact that she is constantly talking to her during the session, which is what I do with just about every horse. (As a side note, I was largely ridiculed for this when I worked with race horses "back in the day", but I had the quietest horses in the barn, who, when they went to another groom who wasn't as verbose as I tend to be, suddenly were uptight and nervous around their handlers. Imagine!)

She immediately could see that her neck and her pelvis needed adjustments, and then proceeded to spend about an hour working on her muscles - I could see a visible change in the shape of some parts of her body right away!

I have to say that I felt bad at the beginning when she found the initial problems. I think every plus sized rider wonders if their weight could be affecting their horse, even if they adhere to the "20% rule" or any of the other governing guidelines for determining if you are too heavy for your horse, and that was what I initially was concerned with. Without asking the specific question of if I had caused it, Christa reminded me that these sorts of things could happen in any way - rolling over a rock, etc - and I know someone who adjusts her horse post birthing, etc. 

I have to admit to being a little bit nervous when she adjusted her pelvis and neck. Even for humans, the idea of manipulating the bones and the spine kind of terrifies me, but as Christa has a pretty impressive resume, I trusted her while she adjusted the pelvis (not TOO bad) and the neck (admittedly, much scarier). And two days later, when I was advised to go out and ride her again... I had a different horse.

Overall, I think Bronwyn was thrilled with her new friend!

Bronwyn earned the nickname "Ploddius" over the summer, due to her short, heavy strides. Let's just say she is Ploddius no more! It was quite interesting to feel the difference in the ride - she carried herself lightly - I have never realized that she wasn't moving that lightly, because she probably never has! Overall, it was worth every penny.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Full Disclosure


I'm Amanda. I am 27 years old and I have been what most would call "fat" (with a varying tone of disdain depending on who you are, I guess) for just about my whole life. I was born 10lbs 11oz, and at my highest, I weighed 325lbs. I have enjoyed horses my entire life.

My job makes me deskbound (I am tied to a phone, quite literally), but just about every day, without fail, I walk my dog for a minimum of 2 kilometers (sometimes 4 or 6), I ride my bike at a speed of roughly 10 miles/hr over about 4 miles (with hills and flats), and two or three times a week, ride a baroque-style horse for 40-90 minutes (and work up a sweat). At 260lbs, I ran a 5K race and finished in about 43 minutes.

I eat when I am hungry (surprise), and sometimes when I am bored. Rarely when I am sad. Most days, I eat a salad for lunch (and I'm not talking about a McDonald's salad with breaded chicken and cheese, although I do, sometimes (gasp!) eat McDonalds when I am hungry). I really enjoy ice cream, frozen yogurt and baked goods, though the first and last in that list, I try not to purchase very often, because then I will eat it!

Right now, my body seems to have settled right around the 250 mark. I wear a 1XL shirt and size 18-20 jeans, depending on the cut.
My horse is a 7 year old draft cross of some variety that I have ridden in varying stages of weight (her and myself!). She might be 15hh if she is a day, and almost as wide as she is tall. I have no idea how much she weighs. I ride in a size 36 or 40 breech, but would probably be more comfortable in a 38 (I just haven't bitten the bullet to buy a pair yet!), and depending on the saddle, an 18-19" seat. I am not an expert rider, by any stretch of the imagination.

She has never taken a lame step in her life (*knock on wood*!). We have recently begun to see a chiro/massage therapist. We run the gamut on saddles as her body seems to be constantly changing. I have no idea what her life was like - physically - before she came to me - all I know is that she foaled somewhere, lost the foal, and was physically emaciated. She is a dominant mare in the pasture and likes to put chase to the other horses when she can.

When I was in grade school, I once sat on a porch swing that was jimmy rigged with twine on one end at a child's birthday party. It broke on the end I sat on, of course, and the children teased me mercilessly about my weight afterwards. Nevermind that there were five children on the swing... I cried on my own after I left the birthday party.

In 2005, I went to London, England - probably weighing roughly 275-290lbs (can't remember for sure!) and my girlfriend and I were out on the town for the evening. As we walked by a man standing on a stairway smoking, he said "hey biggie" under his breath and touched my bare arm with the cherry of his cigarette. Even my traveling partner did not know about this.

A few years ago, I put the first ride on my mother's then-six year old stallion. I was very proud of myself, and him. He was 15.2hh and a solid, well built guy (if anyone is familiar, he is an own son of RH Mr Imprint), and went blind in one eye as an adult horse. I posted the pictures from the first ride and was told that I was overloading him. I allowed myself to believe, even if for a brief time, that I was too heavy to ride any horse, not just this one. I almost made up my mind not to ride any horse, at all, anymore.

I have never - no, not once, been inspired to lose weight or learned something new by someone saying to me that I was fat (with the level of disdain you would imagine), or that I should "eat less, move more", or the favourite - "it's simple - consume less calories than you burn". Though I have lost approximately 75lbs over the course of the last several years, it has never been that simple. Never. And I have never "sat on the couch stuffing my face with Doritos and ice cream". Never.

I have never assumed that someone was naturally skinny because they are anorexic, because they had an unhealthy addiction to exercise, or hated food. I dislike using the terminology "skinny" rider - but have on occasion referenced "average sized" riders. I would never imagine calling someone skinny - to their face, or in their absence, on the internet or in person anything derogatory relating to their physical appearance, whether they were being cruel or not -- though I may have a few choice words about their personality!

I have also never considered myself to be superior to someone who weighed less merely based on the number on the scale. In fact, let me just state, that in the last couple of years, I have not considered myself, either, to be an inferior being to someone who weighed less.

My body is my body, in whatever state that it is, and my fundamental value as a human being is not tied to the number that appears on the scales when I step on them, that is printed on the back of my pants, or stamped under the flap of my saddle. It's the same with your body, believe it or not.

I use this blog to catalogue my adventures and progress with Bronwyn, and encourage others to live their lives at whatever stage they are at. I encourage other plus sized people to ride horses that are suitable for them, for periods of time that both the horse and rider can physically handle.

There. Now maybe you can look at a picture of me riding, a snapshot in time, and judge what is going on.

I want to thank all of you for reading the blog. I want you all to know that you are not any less human for carrying a few (or several, or too many - however you want to describe it!) extra pounds, and do not allow any other person, real or "internet persona" to make you believe otherwise. I want you to be healthy, and strong, and I don't want you to stop living your life because someone makes you feel bad about it.

B & Me

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Saddle frustrations... again!

My goodness, I can't believe September is nearly over!

This is my favourite time of the year, that is absolutely certain. Not only is it my "birthday month" but I love when the evenings get cool and fresh and blow out the stale air from the day. You actually feel a little bit more human - we have been plagued by a ridiculous amount of humidity this summer, so the cooler evenings are definitely a welcome reprieve.

I have known this blog entry was coming for a few weeks now, and it makes me pretty sad.

Anybody who has been reading along knows that I struggled quite a while to find the right saddle for Bronwyn and I. She has shoulders like hams and a very broad back and try as I might to get the "cheap-and-LOOKS-wide-or-is-stamped-wide" saddles I could find locally to fit her, I ended up deposited on my head more than once from slipping saddles. Finally, a blog reader pointed me in the direction of Duett saddles and I acquired my 19" 38cm Companion Trail on eBay.

At the time, it was a good fit for her as she was quite overweight and had been out of work. I continued to ride her once a week or once every two weeks (or sometimes less often than that) and never had a problem. Her gait opened up, she was very clearly a happier horse.

Since I moved her to the boarding barn in June, she has lost some weight from the work and gained some muscle and about a month and a half ago, I noticed some dry spots under the saddlepad, on her shoulders. Right away, I ordered a half pad with gel inserts to try and fandangle a quick fix until I could afford to get a new saddle.

Unfortunately, it became apparent in two rides that the half pad isn't going to do the trick and might have, in fact, been exacerbating the problem. (Insert giant sadface here!) I noticed that when I put leg on to ask for an extension about 20 minutes into the ride, she made nasty faces, bumped up and slowed up almost to a stop. She was trying to even rear a little the last ride.

This horse endured MANY saddles that didn't fit so great without so much as saying boo - she has never, in her life, EVER, been naughty under saddle. Scared and a little flighty? Yes, maybe - but never needed a spank, and forward motion has never been an issue either. This was her telling me, in no uncertain terms, that something is very wrong with the saddle/half pad combination, and later, the same thing with no half pad. After getting a set of eyes on the ground, we determined that the saddle is now so wide that there are parts of it sitting on her withers that should never come in contact with her withers. So I sold the saddle - it was entirely nonfunctional for us at this point, so no use in keeping it around.

I picked up a Wintec Wide on Tack Trader that I am still waiting for (should be here next week!) and for now, we are riding this way:

We both enjoy this kind of riding (yes, that's my leadrope tied to her halter!), but she also likes to work, so we are both looking forward to the saddle coming. We are currently working on trotting bareback, which is going swimmingly. :)

I really love Duett saddles, and as far as I am aware, they are one of the only brands that is designed on a hoop tree for horses with shoulders like hams (AND design with seats up to 20"), so I want to stick with a Duett and have put my mind to purchasing my first ever brand-new saddle - so I contacted Nancy from Duett and we are going to work together to figure out what she needs and go from there!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Product Review: Fuller Fillies Show Boot

What's not to love about a pink box?!
  These boots were after my heart from the moment I found out that they come up to a size 12 US foot. When they showed up in a great pink box, it was even better!

I have to admit that when I first began to ride English, the thought of the cost of tall boots just about made me run for the hills. I have a size 12 US ladies foot and calves that measure in around 19" apiece. I had visions of $600+ to have a custom calf put on a men's boot - and quite frankly, I probably wouldn't have bothered for that price.

At this time, the best place, even if you live in North America, to get the Fuller Fillies Show Boot is from Tackanory - and even with the current exchange, they work out to less than $250 Canadian.


Following standard boot-measuring procedure, I sat with my legs at a 90 degree angle and measured around the widest part of my calf, and down the back of my calf from the bend in my knee to the floor. I measured 18.5" & 19" around my calves and 17" from knee to floor - based on those measurements, I chose to order a pair of size 12 XW in a standard height. When I ordered, Suzanne from Fuller Fillies made a comment about my unnaturally large feet which I have chosen to take as a compliment - the good thing is that I did not have to wait for my boots - they were in stock because they were an uncommon size.

I want to make a note about measuring your legs -- I have a fairly large thigh and I truly believe that I should have measured longer and gotten a taller boot. This was no error of Suz's, but entirely mine in how I measured my leg. I believe that sitting with my legs at a 90 degree angle, my thigh interfered with my ability to measure to the very crook of my knee as I measured straight up the back of my calf. As a result, MY boots, while they are still functional and will be fine for what I intend to use them for (local level open showing), may not be appropriate for higher levels of competition.

"When You Get Them"
When they were in the mail, Suzanne sent me the following:

When you get them:
Get someone to help you zip them up the first few times whilst you stand up. Ascertain the length is correct and the top doesn't go to far beyond the crease in your knee.

If they are a little long they will drop HOWEVER; you should not ride in them until they do as bending your knee whilst the bend is not clear of the top will result in a sprained zip-pull…

Unless they zip up comfortably please wear them for a few times to get the leather to stretch; the Renapur will help this and should be used once you are happy with them to keep the leather fed.

... things I never would have known on my own, having never owned a pair of tall boots, and wanted to share with all of you. It never occured to me that even if they wouldn't zip up on their own, they might do if someone who had two hands available and was not twisting around like a contortionist may be able to zip them up for me.

I held my breath and closed my eyes when my mother first zipped me into them with no socks or anything underneath. I will admit that at that time, they were snug enough that I worried about my ability to wear socks under them, nevermind breeches and socks. Several times over the next couple of days, I had someone zip me into them and wore them around - though you often hear about the zipper being the first thing to go and my wincing every time I went down a step, worried they would bust at any minute, the zipper - which appears to be industrial strength but doesn't look like a giant, ugly industrial strength type of zipper - held fast.

Admittedly, while I probably could have been zipping myself into them, I still had my boyfriend zip me into them before I went to the barn for a couple of weeks after I got them. I was probably being overcautious.


These boots feature a great elasticized leather panel in the back along either side of the zipper. This gives them the ability to stretch and move with you, without limiting you, provided that you haven't put too much calf in too little boot in the first place. It helps to maintain a nice, sleek, clean look when you wear them.

I also find that they are nicely tapered in the ankle area - for me, who doesn't seem to carry much weight on my ankle, this is nice - again, with the clean look - the advantage is the panel in the back which means that even though they taper at the ankle quite a bit, if your ankles are thicker than mine, you still can fit into the boots.

They have a zipper keeper in the elastic snap across the back of your calf - not that I have ever had a problem with my zippers falling down - but that little added sense of security.


One major appearance point that I really love about these boots are the spanish style tops. For someone with a blocky calf like mine, it has a lengthening, slimming effect - and would be even more so if my boots were tall enough. They are made of full grain leather which shines up nicely with just a swipe of a lightly dampened cloth - and they look like a million bucks with a recent coating of the Renapur Leather Balsam that came with them!


As of the publishing date of this review, I have had the boots for two months. I have been wearing them 2-3 times per week for as long as 4 hours at a time. Although I wanted to "save them for nice", my boyfriend reminded me that in the interest of a fair review, I should really test the boots... so I did. I have worn them slogging through mud to catch horses, doing ground work, riding (more than one horse in a session!) - in a dressage saddle, in an AP saddle, bareback - mucking, cleaning out hooves, oiling hooves, crouching down to brush out feathers, using the wash rack (YES, I have gotten them wet!), and driving the car. I have left them uncleaned, completely, though maybe twice in this period, when they have gotten damp in the washrack, I wiped them off a bit with a cloth, but not with any real intent to clean them.

Tonight, I decided to take a picture of what they look like "used" - I then spent less than 5 minutes wiping them down with a damp cloth and applied a go of leather balsam (only the second time I have done it since I got them!) to them.

Don't judge us for our bottles - we don't drink a lot, we just don't go to the bottle recycling depot often enough!

I just can't get over how AWESOME they look after I basically used and abused them!

Another thing that I can't get over is how comfortable they are. My feet and joints tend to get very sore after being on them for 3-4 hours but I had virtually no muscle fatigue or sore soles even after wearing the boots all of that time, and riding in them. Now that they are well fitted to my legs, I feel like I could wear them all day long at a show with ease and not think twice about it!

 Overall, I give the boots a rave review! I think for the money, they are fantastic.. and affordable enough that I am seriously considering keeping a pair for show and a pair for barn wear -- though as evidenced above, you wouldn't even need to do that since they clean up so nicely and with so little effort!


And to end - a rare snapshot of one of my favorite creatures Boyfriendus Groomus! He makes rare appearances but Bronwyn loves him and sees him as the bearer of treats, scratches and chauffeur for her rider! (Yes, we have talked about flipflops in the barn - he tells me I have to buy him a pair of cowboy boots and problem solved!)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

NHR: 33 Things to Accept and Embrace

I am working on a few other entries at the moment and working on getting those loose ends tied up but a colleague at work passed this on to me this morning and I thought it was too good not to share. It's not horse related, but on the note of bettering oneself all the time, I thought it could be as useful to someone else as it is to me.

From Tiny Buddha:

1. Beauty cannot be defined. Beauty is a reflection of what we deem valuable. For me, it’s an inner radiance and bliss that transcends judgment and fear, or at least makes an effort to.

2. Perfection cannot be obtained (and it’s boring anyways). Trying to be perfect makes us feel inferior and desperate to change; owning our uniqueness makes us feel worthy and excited to evolve.

3. Love will be messy at times. Sometimes love looks nothing like the ideal. Unless you’re in an unhealthy relationship, lean into the messiness. That’s where the intimacy is.

4. Other people will judge. Doing our best and accepting that people will form opinions is far more empowering than stressing about what everyone else thinks.

5. Sometimes there is no right or wrong. There isn’t always a right decision or answer. It’s just about what feels right to us right now, and whether we have the courage to honor it.

6. No one else knows what’s right for us. Someone else may seem certain they know what we should do. Should can be deceiving; it seduces us with the promise of an ideal destination when what we really need is to choose for ourselves and then pave our path as we go.

7. Tomorrow is uncertain. Despite all our planning, plotting, worrying, or dreading, what will be will be—and no matter how scared we feel right now, we can and will make the most of it.

8. There are things we don’t know. And there are things we don’t know that we don’t know. It might be humbling to revise our understandings of things, but this is how we grow.

9. No other person can make us feel whole. Sometimes we’ll feel a void and turn to other people to fill it. Mutually fulfilling relationships involve two whole people who complement, not complete each other.

10. We can’t change other people. We have to want to change in order to do it. No matter how much we wish someone would act differently, it has to be his or her choice.

11. There are some things we can’t change about ourselves. Change sells, and it’s seductive, but certain things cannot be changed—like parts of our body or nature.

12. Sometimes there are gifts in the things we want to change. For years I cursed my heightened emotions; now I channel them into something positive. Don’t run from yourself; grow into yourself.

13. We are worthy, just as we are. Growth is a lifelong proposition, with no static endpoint. We do it not because we lack value, just as we are, but because we value ourselves.

14. We are going to age. With every year that passes, we have 365 days to enjoy that age—and no one age is better than another. Each is different, with its own challenges and gifts.

15. We are more than any one role. We aren’t one-dimensional, and we don’t have to be. Recognizing this has been huge for me. I am a self-help writer who also likes Judd Apatow movies, karaoke bars, and eBay. I’m multifaceted and owning it!

16. We are going to redefine ourselves. It’s tempting to cling to roles and ideas of who we are, but who we are is always evolving. Life’s far more fulfilling if we see changes as adventures.

17. We will occasionally have to do things we don’t want to do. We won’t always love the things we need to do, for work or the people we care about, but we can find something enjoyable in it, if that’s our intention.

18. We will hurt at times. Pain is inevitable. It’s not a sign that something’s wrong with us or our lives; it’s a sign that we’re human, and we have the courage to care and live fully.

19. We will mess up at times. We will make mistakes—and sometimes the same ones over and over again. This is a big part of how we learn. The important thing is that we do.

20. People won’t always forgive us. We can’t make someone stay in our lives; we can only make amends and then be strong enough to accept the consequences of our actions.

21. Peace is forgiving ourselves. We don’t deserve to cower in shame—and it won’t do us any good. If we want to be happy, we need to cut ourselves some slack and believe we’re doing the best we can.

22. We won’t always like the consequences of our actions. Sometimes we’ll feel regret, wishing we could go back and do things differently. We can’t—but we can make different choices going forward.

23. We always have a choice in how we respond to what happens. No matter what our circumstances, we can choose what we do with them. We can decide it’s the end of the world, or start fresh from right where we stand.

24. We are never alone. It might feel like it, but there is always someone to offer love, kindness, and support. We just need to be willing to reach out and ask for what we need.

25. We will lose things and people we love—but we can gain something from every loss. Everything in life is impermanent—and no amount of time will feel like enough with the people we love. Loss hurts, be we can heal if we believe it’s possible.

26. Everything is cyclical. For every pain, there will be pleasure. Nothing stays the same, so relax through the tough times and fully enjoy the fun times. Everything transforms eventually.

27. There are some things we may never understand. Much of life is a mystery, and it’s human nature to try to solve it. Peace is learning to embrace the open-ended questions.

28. The worst that could possibly happen may happen. Sometimes the thing we fear the most may happen, making us wish we didn’t make a change, or an effort, or a fuss.

29. The worst that could possibly happen might not be that bad. If we’re willing to consider the possibility, we may find opportunity in that “horrible” thing. At the very least, we may recognize we’re okay—still here, still strong, still breathing.

30. We may not get everything we think we want. Despite all our best-laid plans, things won’t always turn out as we hoped they would.

31. As the Rolling Stones sang, we can still get what we need. We may not get the job, the house, the call, or whatever we wanted so badly, and yet find we have everything that matters. Hopefully we can see and celebrate it.

32. We might always want more. It’s human nature to wonder what else there is, at least at times. We can use this to fuel progress, instead of cursing our nature and ourselves for not being perfectly spiritual.

33. What we do matters. It might not seem like it when our efforts and outcomes seem small, but we create tiny miracles everyday, both by doing what we do and being who we are. We all make a difference.

Over the last few days, I have been reflecting on the person that I used to be and the growth that I have experienced, particularly in the years since I lost Angel (6 years ago this past Sunday, 8/26). One thing I can say with certainty is that I am not the person that I once was, and I had to go through the pain and struggle and grief to be able to become that person.

Friday, August 17, 2012

I'll lend you for a while my grandest foal...

The world lost two great horses in the last month. I don't think you would find either of their names in any magazines or posters of them on any girls' wall, except of those who were privileged enough to call them theirs. But for those girls who owned them, these horses were the world. A best friend, a confidant, a mane to cry in when one needed that little bit of extra strength that can't be acquired from anywhere but horsehair.

It doesn't matter if these horses were great or not - they were great to at least one person, and both were taken much, much too young, through events that were not under either owners control. I know this pain, I've been there - so I can sympathize with these two girls from our close forum community who are mourning the losses of their best friends right now.

It is a pretty unique feeling to lose a horse so young to something you had no control over. You do get angry at one point, and wonder why there are people who don't care about their horses the same way you do who never lose a horse in their lifetime until they are old and grey, and what you did to deserve to lose your best friend. You find panic, later on, when you wonder if the short time that you owned them was just a fantasy or a dream. But eventually, and sometimes it takes a long time, you can look back on the lessons you learned and the memories you have with fondness instead of the profound feeling of injustice that I began with.

A lot of people talk about the Rainbow Bridge. I am not particularly religious these days but I fail to believe that a Creator would make a celestial haven for those who have done good that did not include animals - the beings that have brought the most joy, and unconditional love to humans - sometimes more than other humans. In my mind's eye, there is a place where we will be reunited with those animals who were our friends, our teachers, and our refuges, and they will be free of the pains and ailments that they may have experienced in their lives.

And I like to think that my Angel, friend to all in her life, and lover of those younger and weaker, would usher them in and show them the ropes.


The Grandest Foal
Author Unknown

I'll lend you for a little while,
my grandest foal, God said.
For you to love while he's alive,
and mourn for when he's dead.

It may be one or twenty years,
or days or months, you see.
But will you, til I take him back,
Take care of him for me?

He'll bring his charms to gladden you
and should his stay be brief,
you'll have those treasured memories,
as solace for your grief.

I cannot promise he will stay,
since all from earth return.
But there are lessons taught on earth
I want this foal to learn.

I've looked the wide world over
in my search for teachers true.
And from the throngs that crowd life's lanes,
with trust, I have selected you.

Now will you give him all your love?
Nor think the labor vain.
Nor hate me when I come
to take him back again?

I know you'll give him tenderness
and love will bloom each day.
And for the happiness you've known,
you will forever-grateful stay.

But should I come and call for him
much sooner than you'd planned,
you'll brave the bitter grief that comes,
and maybe understand.

Run free, Gretta & Don. <3>