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!

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