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!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bring it on, 2014!

It has been a couple of years since I have gone into a new year with any clear vision for the 365 days to follow. So often, the holiday season depletes me to the point that all I can think about is being able to clear my head after it's all over and done with and get some rest.

This year has been no exception. Some of you may know I work an additional physically demanding waitressing job during the holiday season and my primary job can be influenced by poor weather affecting my company's infrastructure, so with back to back weekly storms for the last few weeks, it goes without saying that I have been both physically and emotionally drained for weeks now.

We have just one more holiday celebration tomorrow with G's mother's part of the family, which is traditionally always on New Year's Day (a bit of a relief considering how many different places we have to divide our time between during the holiday!), we are wrapping things up for another year.

Unlike previous years, however, I feel a renewed sense of motivation for productivity, goodness and self development. I started drafting a list of wishes and resolutions for 2014 in my paper journal a couple of days ago when I found myself with a few free moments and a glass of wine. So, here I share with you the stream of consciousness that is my desire for the new year. Please share yours in the comments below!

- Spend more time reading and writing. These are things that I love to do and rarely have a problem doing once I actually make myself sit down to do it. Finding myself unbothered by other, more "present" distractions can be difficult. The plan is to enforce a 1 hour daily, timed if necessary, alternating timespace in my day for reading or writing. Doesn't matter if it's good, just matters that I am doing it. Eventually, it will be habit and a cherished part of my day, though I am sure it will begin feeling painful and forced.

 -  Publish (e-publish, possibly) at least one piece of fictional writing in 2014 and build my portfolio as both a blogger and writer of fiction. I have made some connections to begin to explore my options - might as well make that hour a day writing count for something, right? I would also like to get into my options as far as guest blogging and possibly cultivate a non-horse related blog for my other body positivity/feminist ramblings and rants.

- Write at least 4 blog entries per month (preferably weekly!) and integrate at least 1 guest blog or review entry per month. Here is where all of you can be helpful in keeping me accountable. Shout at me on the fanpage if necessary. And if you are interested in guestblogging or writing a review, please see this page.

- Get the Etsy shop for my bling saddle pads - Sweet Angel Custom Bling Saddlepads and spend some time promoting and working at this. This is something I really enjoy doing and again, it falls into lack of productivity. During any time but the holiday, my work schedule allows for me to work on other things in my own time, and this is something I want to pursue more.

- Go swimming once per week. Everybody says "lose weight" every year and I was really tempted this year. I have put on a little bit of weight through bad eating habits in the last month or two but when I really got down to it, it is not about losing weight and being "skinnier". I have come to terms with my body in any state that it is in, I truly have, but I have not been feeling good or energetic. Once I get moving, I feel like continuing. I got a new waterproof MP3 player for Christmas from G, for the purpose of my lap swimming - so this is something I am going to make time for once per week, and hopefully it will lend itself to other things.

- Attempt to do at least 2 "social" things per month outside of the things I do with G. This one is as much for him as it is for me. He insists I should be out doing more social activity. So this will be a movie or a coffee or a trail ride with a girlfriend or a group of friends at least twice per month. (There, are you happy? Haha, just kidding!)

- Get out of our apartment by the end of 2014. This is one both G and I set together. I want this to mean a house with a property for the horses to be with us. All I know is we are outgrowing our apartment with the sheer volume of our "stuff", soooo...

But Amanda, you don't have any horse related goals.


- Ride Rex. I have talked about this OVER AND OVER AND OVER. A few months ago, I started a small savings fund and have been putting away a little bit at a time. I already have enough for a month of training on him in the spring. My parents have me nearly convinced to ride him myself and a strong motivator for that is that I could then, instead, use the money to take him and Bronwyn out to trail rides, clinics, and other fun stuff. I am fully capable and able to ride him myself, I just have to DO IT.

Rex's whole story is truly about false starts. Every year since he was two or three, I've gone through the motions that he was going to be ridden. All the ground work, lunging with a saddle, bridling him - I have even been on him a couple of times. But I keep making excuses. For him, this is old hat, for me this is some kind of mental block, I truly believe. I am going to punch a hole right in that wall this year. Particularly because if I don't, it will block the next wish/resolution.

- Clinic Bronwyn. This might be a cattle penning clinic. You never know.

- Canter Bronwyn. Yes, we've cantered before. This is more about getting the pair of us to the fitness level necessary to canter in a balanced and collected way.

- Spend more time with the ponies. Also, this little girl: 

Obviously not a recent picture.
Expect to see more Lola in 2014. Sweet thang.

Overall, I want 2014 to be a year of moving and shaking. Focusing on the things that I love to do. Allowing myself to be myself. Embracing everything that comes my way. Understanding that I cannot always be in control, and to trust others when that happens. Giving more value to my time. Taking care of myself. Pursuing my goals.

I'm going to be honest and say I've had a couple of theme songs leading me into this mindframe, I think. Don't laugh, now.

Aaand then... for the purpose of ringing in the new year, I bring you this!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dr. Temple Grandin, December 3rd, 2013

You know when something belongs on your bucket list but you've never put it there because it doesn't occur to you that it might be a possibility or something that you could make happen? Yeah, that's what seeing Dr. Temple Grandin speak in public was for me.

When my mother and I found out that she was coming to Truro, NS, about a four hour drive from my place, and we could head out there while combining a trip to make connections to a new forever home for a dog, it was a pretty easy decision for me to reschedule a dentist appointment and postpone a nacho night, since this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

As the daughter of a livestock producer (small scale as it is), I have particular interest in her influence on the welfare of meat animals, and as 50% of all cattle and pigs being slaughtered in North America today are being slaughtered in facilities that employ her strategies, that's kind of a big deal. She has a unique way of looking at the processing of commercial meat without attaching emotion to it - while still employing empathy.

Dr. Grandin was in the area to attend a conference on autism as, if you weren't aware, she is one of the most recognized adults with autism and, in addition to her work with animals, is a well known author and "inside voice" about issues surrounding the autism spectrum, but is a friend of the former Nova Scotia Agricultural College (now the Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture) and insisted that she get a chance to "do some animal talks" while she was in the area. My mom is an NSAC alumni (she took a course called "Horse Care", hehe).

When Dr. Grandin spoke at the NSAC campus a few years back, it was the first time that the 400-seat Alumni theatre had been filled to capacity, which we didn't know. We were dawdling around town after making connections to deliver the dog when a friend of mine living in the area advised me that we should get to campus if we wanted to be able to get a seat, since an hour and a half before the doors even opened (which was 30 minutes before the talk was to begin!), there was already a line up. We motored over and found a line around the corner of the building, 3 or 4 people wide in some places. I hopped out of the car and mom went to park it. By the time that she got back, the line had doubled.

And the line got longer after that! We filled the Alumi theatre (we were fortunate to get inside), and they set up two on campus locations for people to view live streaming (and it was available online as well). It looked like the satellite locations to watch live streaming were pretty full, too.

We got in and settled in and I couldn't stop grinning. Dr. Grandin received a standing ovation when she took the stage. It was clear that I was not the only person THOROUGHLY STOKED to see this legend in person.

She was exactly like you would imagine her to be - from her enthusiasm to her outfit to the no-nonsense common sense information that she provided. From what I could gather, she had given a talk to livestock producers earlier in the day that would I would have found really interesting in addition to the lecture she gave us on animal behaviour and how to prevent fear memories in animals.

After the slideshow and lecture, we  moved on to the Q&A period, which she clearly was looking forward to (and I sometimes felt like she was pushing through the slideshow specifically to get there). The passion and enthusiasm that she spoke with made it really evident how invested she is in the well being of animals. She got another standing ovation when she left - and because we had a long trip to get home and the crush of people moving up into the foyer to have books signed by her was, quite frankly, overwhelming, we headed home. (Also, secretly, I did not want to "fangirl" in front of her...)

If you're interested, they put the primary talk on Youtube, but sadly didn't include the Q&A, which, in my opinion, was the best part!

Friday, November 29, 2013

AFG&AFH Is 4 Years Old Today!

It is hard not to feel blessed out the wazoo today.

On top of being it being the Thanksgiving celebrations (I was definitely craving turkey yesterday!) for our US friends, yesterday, I celebrated my 3 year anniversary with G. I have talked about him a few times through the blog but I don't know if I've ever communicated just how awesome he is, how much he "gets" me, and how supportive he is (even though he is not even an inkling a "horse person"). And then today, four years ago today, I wrote my very first blog entry: The Beginning Is A Good Place To Begin. Since then, there have been over 200 blog entries written, over 2300 fans on Facebook and almost a quarter of a million independent views.

I had no inkling then what this blog would become, and I can't honestly say if I knew then how it would come about if I would have done anything differently. I have had my lows and my highs and my readership has been through them all with me. I have grown so significantly as a person - both as a direct result of the friendships I have made and stories I have heard through the readership and through the research and reading I have done online about body positivity and acceptance - things I didn't even know really existed when I started the blog. Yes, I have even grown through the (relatively small amount of) negative feedback that I have gotten.

When I started writing, I did know a few things -

1) I was a fat girl riding a horse
2) the online equestrian community (at least at that time and what I had been exposed to) was largely not in favour of fat girls riding horses
3) I was not the only fat girl riding horses
4) I wanted to write about it because people didn't talk about it and I wanted others to know they weren't alone
5) the response was either going to not exist or be terrible.

I could not have anticipated the way that people would respond to the blog, and pretty much every single day, I feel like I am not worthy or qualified to have your ear. I regularly get emails and messages asking for advice and support, and sometimes am so overwhelmed that I can't reply to all of them, and the ones I do reply to, I feel like I am not an expert on any topic (I'm really not) and would be better off directing people to other venues to get their information (for the record, when I can divert someone to someone more qualified, I do, but how do you qualify someone's expertise on existing as a fat person in a world dominated by a different body shape?). I have had opportunities to learn how to be kinder, how to be tougher, and more professional. I have, from my online family community on the forum, learned many things about how to deal in day to day not-horse-related life. I've gotten riding tips, and horse management tips and enjoyed spreading the word in person as frequently as I could.

I changed from someone who secretly wanted to be different than the "fat girl" to someone who loved herself completely in whichever state that I was in, and who, in turn, could then love someone else completely. And I don't think that I could have done that without writing this blog - so as much as it was FOR all of you, and as much as it IS for all of you, it has also been for me. It has been for the girl who always used to qualify her very existence by tagging on "but I'm losing weight", and the girl who would tell people "we are all works in progress", but in her mind knew that was about losing weight, not about developing personally, the girl who pined after the things she wanted but never went out and got them because she didn't think she deserved them. This blog has been for the girl who was shy to go out in public, who worried what other people would think about her, who thought she could stay that girl forever - the one who thought if she lost weight, her life would magically be better and she would be happier - the one who put off things "until the right time" but really meant "until I lose the weight".

It has also been for the new girl that has emerged over the last four years - the one who no longer feels the need to qualify her existence for anyone, who can truly and genuinely say that she is happy, who understands motivation and seizing the day and not being afraid to speak her mind, the one who (kind of, secretly) enjoys the look on someone's face when she suggests that maybe not every body is meant to fit into the same silhouette and that maybe there is more to life than being thin or losing weight. It's for that girl who can be called names like "fat cow" and "buttered pig" and lift her head high because she knows her truth, and that those words and opinions speak volumes about the other person and absolutely not a thing about her.

I hope that the last four years has done something like this for you, too.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A State Of Love & Trust

When I was in the throes of my multiple rides, I commented to my friend Nicole that Bronwyn "is the brains in the operation". The majority of the time, I feel that I can let her make the safest decision for the pair of us when it comes to footing or precarious paths. She did, afterall, just walk out of a collapsed culvert without hurting herself or losing me in the process. This video is a prime example of trusting your horse to make the best decision for the two of you as a pair. I don't know enough about jumping to know how or why they ended up in the mess going into that combination but it is clear that the rider decided that his interference was the last thing that this horse needed in order for the pair of them to be able to make it through together that with all of their appendages intact.

I get a lot of private messages and emails. Absolutely, by far and away, the most popular question is some variation of "Am I too big to ride?" and sometimes refers to a specific horse. I have often said that there is an appropriate horse out there for anyone who can get themselves into a saddle - it just might not be the horse in that physical state that they are riding at that time. If you ask a general equine interest forum, there is a lot of talk about the "20% rule", some people say the line is absolutely drawn at some arbitrary weight (usually 250lbs) - and I have even imposed that one on myself before.

I would be lying if I said I didn't, from time to time, see horses and riders that I did not feel were well matched (in one direction or the other, I have definitely seen riders that are riding horses that are WAY TOO BIG) - it is generally not my place to comment. The truth is that I feel there are way too many changing factors to consider when deciding if a horse and rider are a well matched pair for me to feel comfortable giving any solid guidelines, especially in a general sense.

We can talk about 20% rules and bone ratios and man fat vs. woman fat all we want, but I think we sometimes forget to give the horse some credit for helping to make this decision. Very often, the horse is the brains in the operation. They don't behave on emotion or selfish motives the way that we do. Though some horses are more stoic than others when it comes to pain or discomfort, they will not feign comfort in order to avoid hurting your feelings and likewise, they do not demonstrate physical problems with bearing your weight out of spite or any other emotion. If you are an attentive, aware rider, your horse very often will tell you, without any words, if you are too heavy or just right. So pay attention - just because you might fit the 20% rule (or whichever of the varying guidelines for weight bearing that you choose to follow at whichever time) doesn't mean that you can ignore pinned ears, constant moving off from the mounting block (that isn't related to training issues), surface pain, etc - but also, that horse that you are 20 or 30 or even 50lbs over the "rule that says I can ride" for might prick his ears forward, nod enthusiastically when you pull out your helmet, come rushing to be caught, and lift his back with ease under your weight.

I do think I have occasionally run into readers who are so obsessed with the numbers that they talk themselves out of riding a horse that is perfectly acceptable for bearing their weight. I'm not saying that we should ignore some of the guidelines that are set in place to help us understand where to draw the line when it comes to riding, but I am also saying that sometimes the horse that, by all accounts, should be able to bear your weight can't - because it has a long back, or because it is out of shape, or because it is too old or too young. And sometimes the one the rules say you shouldn't ride is a perfectly acceptable mount because of their conformation and physical fitness.

Nobody wants to be a bad horse owner, and I think it's pretty safe to say that we all love our horses. For many of us, the horse has been the one constant companion that we have had that has never passed judgement on us for not looking like a girl on the cover of Cosmo. None of us want to hurt our horses. Sometimes we need to set our pride aside and admit that the horse we are riding is not the right horse for us at that time, but more often, I think we need to set the "rules" aside and ask the horse to be the brains in the operation for a couple of minutes.

Happy trails!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


So, every once in a while, in my online travels, I see things that make me kind of mad. Last night, I saw so much stuff that made me mad that I queued up a blog entry that I entitled "Why Are Horse People So Mean?". It was going to be about how competitive we are, and how bad people are for absolutely no reason at all. It had this for an opening:

This might be an unpopular statement but that's never stopped me before: If I were not already a horse person who knew the joy of the bond with a horse, that comforting smell of hay and sweat and leather, and the only exposure I had to base my decision on was the people involved with horses, I probably would choose not to get involved.

Fortunately, I ran out of time/steam/energy to write it before it was finished. And then I realized that it would have just been a whole pot full of negativity and complaining, and that's not my MO these days.

And then when I got in bed, I started thinking, and remembered this image that I had shared on my personal Facebook timeline a week or so ago:

I don't know if there is actually any actual, scientific proof to this statement. But I can attest to how negativity or online confrontations affect me at the point of impact -- sweaty palms, cold digits, overall brain numbness, stomach upset. I basically hate to subject myself to it and it would be awful for me to subject my readership to it unnecessarily.

So why do we? Why do I keep looking? Why do I post just one more post? Why do I sneak back to look at that FB page that just makes me roll my eyes and make me angry with how unkind people are to one another? Why do we stay friends with the person that snidely makes underhanded comments about us?

In essence - why do we give others the power to affect how we feel negatively?

Someone once said to me that staying mad over someone is like letting them live rent free in your head. You might be hard pressed to let someone you like do that, so why would you let someone you dislike do that?

I think I used to almost enjoy that dramatic anger, in my "younger days" (insert everyone older than me giving me the stinkeye because I'm calling myself old here), but I have learned that life is indeed every single cliche about being too short to waste it on things and people that do not make you happy. I'm not saying that you should always run at the slightest indication of negativity, but measure the value of it in your life. If something is making your eyes roll or your heart race (with anger) more than it makes you smile, it might be time to cut that something loose, unfriend that FB friend-that-you-don't-even-know-in-real-life-but-keeps-posting-inflammatory-political-posts, make a positive change in your own life.

These days, I try not to get into altercations. Most of the (very few) negative comments that get posted to the blog are responded to with fact, not emotion, and I try to walk away more often than not. I have lived a happier life since I learned to own and know my own truth and get rid of the negative stressors in my life. That is not to say that I don't welcome intelligent conversation - I do, but the minute it turns into personal poison, something that will live in my heart longer than just in the moment, and give me afterburn, I try to get out of that situation as quickly as possible. And I try not to perpetuate it. It's not perfect, but it's the best favour I ever learned to do for myself.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Group Trail Ride Extravaganza!

Fall is honestly my favourite season for the things that Bronwyn and I love most - hitting the trails, usually with buddies. Annually, my group of friends get together for what was originally a "draft under saddle" ride, but what I have now affectionately dubbed "The Clyde Ride". This year, I added another big group ride, and a couple of rides by myself.

I have honestly not had much of a chance or motivation to ride since I moved Bronwyn home to the farm. It gives me a lot of different feelings about what I could be doing differently as far as where we are in relation to her, but at the end of the day, I have to keep reminding myself that each day that passes brings us closer to the day when she will be in my back yard and I will be able to saddle up anytime I want. It keeps me going.

Annnyways. A friend of mine, Nicole, has recently gotten into long distance rides with her arab, Kizz, and coincidentally both has miles of beautiful trails around her property and is only a 15 minute trailer ride away. She wanted to organize a large group ride at her place so set the date for the 20th of October. Unfortunately, it called for rain so she postponed and to avoid a wasted beautiful day the day prior, I went over to try the trail out just the two of us.

It was a really great day and we covered about 14 miles in around 4.5 hours. We took much of it very slow since both Bronwyn and I are out of shape, though we did do a few small trot and canter spots.

I should be pretty honest about cantering... I would be lying if I said Bronwyn and I had it all together. It is an unfortunate spot where she is both unbalanced and incredibly powerful and forward at the same time and with myself as out of shape as I am, it is rather intimidating in the arena. Needless to say, cantering on the trail without the support of the rail and not really knowing what we would come to around the corner... definitely intimidating. It went SO WELL. The first time, I was kind of in awe, the second time, I laughed hysterically while we did it. It was nice to feel so FREE - she felt like she had herself together, and I could appreciate the power of her canter without being afraid my saddle would slip or that I'd land on a rail and break ribs (seriously, my worry-train is crazy).

Overall, it was a pretty awesome ride and we really enjoyed it! Both photos are courtesy of Nicole! You can see where she wrote about this ride here.

I gotta say... after this ride, I was SO SORE. It started in my legs, went up to my back, and my butt stayed sore forever. Bronwyn recovered easily, never took a sore step. Heck, her ears were still perked up at the end of the ride, I think she could have gone longer if she needed to!

The following weekend, the weather turned out just fine and Nicole hosted her ride on Saturday, the 26th. It was attended by a varied group of people, including members of the local distance/competitive trail riding group and the most amazing 13 year old girl on her completely self-trained 4 year old gelding. I was impressed! We hung back toward the end for much of the ride, since again, B is not too fit, and Nicole's gelding also came with us and while he's not AS unfit as Bronwyn, not as fit as some of the other horses that headed right out and lost us in their dust at the beginning of the ride!

B chilling at the trailer pre-ride with Nicole's gelding, Kizz, looking on.
Nicole and her friend Allie coming up behind.

I forgot to mention that there is a part of this trail that is SO gorgeous, so ethereal... you feel kind of like you're intruding on a fairy's forest. Of course it had a carpet of pine needles and fallen autumn leaves. I wish that my pictures did it justice, so I photoshopped a little bit to try and express the FEELING of it, even if the picture doesn't capture it too well:

While we had more company and we even took a short cut, and though I wasn't sore when I initially mounted up, I got sore way quicker on this ride than the one the week prior. It was a tough pill to swallow when I realized we still had a couple of hours before we made it back home, haha!

Nonetheless, Bronwyn looked pretty chipper at the end of it! Here we are, coming in at the end of the ride with Nicole's friend Allie and Nicole's gelding, Coby (who has the same sire as my mare Ari and is a full sister to Shay's mare, Jessie, that I have posted before).

You can read what Nicole wrote about the group ride here.

The following day, we headed out for the Clyde Ride... This is traditionally a much shorter, slower ride, and always a good time with a potluck after. I figured after twice doing the 14 mile ride, it would be a good idea for us to do something less demanding but still active in order to help my muscles get "let down easy". It seemed to have done the trick. Of course it was a great time, and I met a local blog reader (but sadly didn't get any pictures!)... and my real camera batteries died so I only had a couple of pictures from my phone.

And then, of course, the gratuitous dork picture (complete with face) which caused my father to make a commentary about my work in the field of bringing sexy back in my borrowed raincoat:

Photo thanks to Leah Grandy.

If anything, those 8 days told me one thing - trail riding is what we enjoy the most. I could get used to the distance riding if we had two things -- a fleece butt cushion for my saddle and boots for Bronwyn's fronts at least as she was getting a little footsore on the gravel bits but was not lame (do they even make them big enough for her giant feeties?).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Roundup

A compilation of a few of my favourite things from the last month!

From myself: Group Trail Rides! (More to come in a blog entry, like, tomorrow.)

From blogger, The Militant BakerThe Body Love Conference (which I intend to attend, if everything goes the way that it should!)

From The Body Is Not An Apology

From Horse Junkies United: How My Non Horsey Boyfriend Has Survived The Equine World

And from... the internet? The other side of the world? The INCREDIBLE Greta Clip.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Last call for merchandise in 2013!

Just for a side note for those who do not follow the Facebook page -- tomorrow is the deadline for the last merch order of 2013. You can see the photos/details here! This will be the last order before 2014 so if you are looking to buy yourself or a friend a Christmas gift, now is the time. I am hoping to have some neat new designs in the new year!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Product Review: Higher Standards Leather Care Products

Check out Higher Standards Farm's ETSY SHOP and use coupon code EASYKEEPER to get 20% off your order until Monday, October 21st!

So... here's the thing. I really, really hate cleaning tack.

Okay, maybe I'm lazy. Maybe I enjoy hands on downtime with my horse more than I enjoy sudsing up a collection of tack that is largely strap goods. I don't know what it is. I just know that it is not something that I generally enjoy and is, therefore, something that I generally don't do.

I think that could change.

Enter Higher Standards Leather Care products:

Cute packaging, huh?

Libby from HS sent me an 8oz tub of Fox's Vanilla Lavender leather soap ($14.95 USD) and an 8oz tub of Handmade Leather Balm ($18.95 USD), which are available through the Higher Standards Leather Care Etsy Shop along with a couple of other mouthwatering scents of soap, including a limited edition Starla's Sugar & Spice scent that sounds like it is right up my alley.

When I opened them up, I realized one of the biggest reasons I am not much of a tack cleaner. Tiny tack sponges. I never have them, when I do get them, I can't seem to keep track of them. Huzzah, the leather soap has a tiny tack sponge with it, and it fits right in the tub, so you don't have to worry about keeping track of it, it just nestles right in the tub, cutelike. And did I mention that it SMELLS AMAZING? Seriously, I think that I have solved my tack cleaning boredom thing JUST by adding a good scent to the soap.

Directions are clear and concise and were in both the packaging that the product was sent to me in as well as on the product itself (bonus, another less thing to lose!).

Okay, now I am going to install a warning. If you are someone who loves tack, and loves clean tack, the picture I am about to show you might change your opinion about me forever. So if you want to keep liking me, maybe you shouldn't keep reading.

My saddle is synthetic so wouldn't benefit from this stuff as much, and I have two back to back group trail rides over the next couple of weekends during which I would like Bronwyn and I not to look like we just crawled on our bellies through the mud, so I thought it would be a good idea to clean my bridle as a tester.

This is my bridle:

It has never been cleaned or conditioned. When I bought it, oh... five years or so ago?, it was a cheapish new bridle and the girl at the shop who sold it to me said something along the lines of 'if you condition it up and take good care of it, there is little difference between it and an expensive one, especially for the type of stuff you do'. I had good intentions, I really did. But I never took it apart and cleaned it. It has had a wipe down a time or two, but never a legit, open all the buckles, take all the parts apart cleaning. Yes, I am probably a bad person.

So I took it apart. Some of the buckles were not so easy to open. Eventually, I got it into pieces, with the help of Morrie.

PS: Morrie thinks cleaning tack is boring.

Let me try to help you understand how dirty my bridle was.

Yeah, it was that dirty.

This is what it looked like after:

 Not too freaking shabby, I would say. (You can click on any of the images for a larger picture, if I recall correctly.)

The soap smelled wonderful, the balm was AWESOME. Not too thick/greasy but clearly did the job. My bridle felt buttery soft afterwards and pretty much all of the buckles/loops that came apart hard came back together like butter. I will never make this $60 bridle into a $200 bridle, but if I had a $200 bridle, I would not hesitate to use this stuff on it!

Overall, for convenience, value, presentation, quality, and pretty much anything else that you can measure by, I give this product the highest marks. I blasted the tunes while I was working and really enjoyed the product.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Thank You.

Here in Canada, it is turkey day. I started thinking about writing a big blog entry about how grateful I was for so many things (especially when I woke up with only a few hours' sleep after a night shift (in order to get Thanksgiving dinner ready) yesterday to G bringing me a cup of coffee!) in my life - I wanted to share that with you... but you know, the above image kind of sums everything up.

However... to add to it, my Thanksgiving blog entry is about you, my readership. I say it sometimes but maybe not often enough... there would be no blog if it wasn't for those of you who are reading these words right now and I am so grateful for the community we have built together of people that have all experienced the same challenges and issues. When I feel high and accomplished, I can share that with you. When I feel low and lacking confidence, I can share that with you. When I step out of line because this whole body love movement is still so new and still feels foreign to me sometimes, you let me know and guide me gently back where I belong. I would likely never have known a thing about body positivity if it weren't for writing the blog. I would be minus a few "real life" friends, too.

There are also challenges that have arisen as a result of writing the blog, and I can be grateful for those, too. When someone takes aim at me for riding as a fat girl, I know that is saving someone else who might not be able to handle it, from bearing the brunt of ignorance. I have learned to be more sure of myself, of the things that I know, and of my horse. Through some of these comments, I have learned to listen, not to respond immediately with anger and hurt, sometimes to respond evenly and factually and I have learned those times that sometimes, you just have to walk away from that fight with your dignity and self worth intact. I have learned that when others make unkind comments to people for absolutely no reason at all, or bring up their concerns framing them in offensive language, it says a lot more about them as a person than me. I am grateful to have learned that what others think of me is none of my business. 

I am grateful for all of the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have gained and been able to give away. I am grateful for my silly, goofy girl who puts up with my foolishness and looks forward to our rides with enthusiasm. I am grateful for the many, many blessings in my life that have come about as a direct result of this blog, and I am grateful for each and every one of you who take the time to listen to me, put up with me, and encourage me.


(From Bronwyn, too!) 

Monday, September 30, 2013

September Roundup!

A compilation of a few of my favourite things from the last month!

From The Chronicle Of The Horse: The Souls The Barn Builds

This awesome hairdo that I have NO IDEA where it originated from, though someone on the FB fanpage said: "I believe this is an old photo of The General, an Andalusian from Colorado"

And even though this last one was from August 31st, I'm counting it because I want to -- but a lovely piece of artwork from Lindsay Gibson Clark depicting my beloved Angel:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Guest Blog: Review For Kanyon Ash Wide Calf Riding/Country Boot

This guest post is from Scherry Clarke, who has a pretty incredible horse story when it comes down to it. She also makes some really neat equine themed skin care products @ Aviemare Body Care.

I've been on the hunt for a pair of wide-calf boots for a while. Unwilling to settle for another pair of cheaply made, poorly fitting boots, I set up some criteria for my "Perfect" pair:

1. They had to fit well along my entire leg. This is no small requirement because I have short legs with large calf muscles. This unfortunate combo means that my calf starts getting wider lower on the leg. If a boot fits on my lower leg it usually gaps around my upper calf.

2. They must be real leather. I refuse to pay $100+ for plastic/pleather or "synthetic" boots.

3. They must be versatile. I wanted a boot that could be used for riding, hiking, general outdoors, or even dressed up with a great tunic, tights and a scarf.

4. They must not be black. I already have a good pair of high-end black equestrian-look boots that I got from widewidths.com

5. They must not cost over $400. This seems high but you get what you pay for. I don't wear junk. I have too many foot issues to do that to myself anymore. Good boots are worth saving up for.

This boot fit all of those requirements. I won't rehash the description. Rather, I will give info that the description does not tell you.

HEIGHT: Nowhere in the description do they mention how tall this boot is. I could not find it ANYWHERE on line and nobody responded to my inquiries. I do not know if the height increases incrementally with size but my boots are a size 9 UK and 15.5 inches tall.

CALF FIT: This particular model is called the Ash. It adjusts from about 17 inches to 20 inches. The 3 inch gusset runs the entire length of the boot so as your leg widens and enlarges the laces can be adjusted. The top part of the boot has a buckle for adjustment. The buckle can be unsnapped from two different positions to further customize fit. There is a small leather piece that snaps over the laces to keep them in place. Plus it looks snazzy.

COLOR: Very attractive two-tone brown. Pretty much true to my monitor.

EASE OF PUTTING ON: I was concerned about this due to high insteps but was pleasantly surprised. I only had to unlace to boot a few holes and my entire leg went right in!

SIZING: This might be your only glitch. Every chart for international sizes said something different. I wanted to pull my hair out. I wear a straight 10 in most US sizes; an 11 with some brands such as Earthies Euro sizes get trickier. In Dansko I wear a 41 which is 10.5-11 in US. In some Euro sizes I need a 42. I always check each brand's charts.

In boots I like an 11 in case my injured feet/ankles swell. So I got a size 9 UK which supposedly corresponded with an 11 US. It did NOT! The box actually states 11.5 US.

However, I put a good pair of Spenco inserts in the boots and a thick footie/sock on my foot and they fit very nicely with room to wiggle my toes. I MUST have this room because my toes go numb if they are crushed. So it worked out fine.

Because these boots come from the UK I would email the seller with ANY questions. I would also err on the side of the boot being a bit larger than too small. One size larger can usually be fixed with orthotics insoles and/or socks.

HOW THEY FEEL: I wore them for a about an hour walking around our olive grove then took my horse for a walk. They were comfortable right out of the box. The top part of the boot is sturdy yet soft and flexible enough to not bruise the daylights out of my high insteps. This was a huge relief.

DUTY/IMPORT TAXES TO US: Another slight snag. I have never ordered internationally so this was a new experience. The boots came a full week early from the date Amazon emailed me and I was asleep. I got a note on my door from UPS saying I owed $26.13 in fees. I was not informed by Amazon, UPS OR the Seller that these fees would be due at the time of delivery or how much they would be. Luckily I was able to contact UPS and the driver stopped back by before leaving town. UPS likes a check for the fees. They won't accept cash.

I have no idea how one can find out how much the Duty/Customs fees are ahead of time. I will have to research this more if I make more international orders. I could NOT find a US seller for this boot however so I had to buy from the UK.

BOTTOM LINE: A sturdy, stylish and functional boot that has multiple uses. Water resistant. Total cost of boots, shipping and duty/import fees: just over $300. Worth every penny as I feel these boots will last a long time if properly cared for.



Note: the boots can be found to purchase HERE.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Why You Will Never See Me Post About Real Women Having Curves

Listen up, ladies... - and men, too - because this might be important for you to read as well!

This might not be popular. And I might be crossing the line into a bit of "feminism" here, too.

I try to repost as many relevant things as I can on the Facebook page, but I can't post internet memes about "real women" having specific body parts. You've seen them... they are usually colourful and feature some womanly icon who isn't a size 0 and they say things like "Nobody wants a steak that is all bone so why would a man want a woman without a little meat?" and "REAL women have curves", and a variety of other things that speak about your validity and desirability as a woman based on your physical attributes.

Here is the thing - real women are fat and skinny, tall and short, have hair on their face and smooth, hairless bodies. They come in every shape and size, nationality and personality. Even though we, as fat women, have been told by society (and sometimes even the people in our lives that are supposed to love and care about us) that skinny women are better than us - more desirable to men, more successful and more attractive - indeed, more "womanly" than us, the answer is not to try to juxtapose ourselves as better women than anyone.

I do not want to be more woman than anyone. I just want to be a woman, recognized and appreciated as such, whether I weigh 100lbs or 400lbs. The amount of fat and weight that I carry on my body has absolutely nothing to do with the gender with which I identify. I do not want to marginalize or ostracize other groups of women in order to make myself feel better.

Don't get me wrong... it is understandable to want to do so. I know why it is easy to do this. For your whole life, likely, people have seen fit to comment on the state of your body without your permission like you are not even a human being let alone a powerful, wonderful woman. I've mentioned before that I was once looking at a sales rack in a clothing store when an elderly man approached me to remind me that I couldn't fit into any of those clothes and shouldn't bother looking. Yes, these sorts of things made me angry. They made me want to hurt someone the way that I was hurt.

But let's think about it this way - you know you have that friend on your Facebook page that once in a while posts something derogatory - probably one of those "some ecards" internet memes that make some sort of commentary about a fat person in Walmart, or whatnot. You know they didn't mean it for you because, well, obviously they are your friend... but a part of you feels badly and it stinks because you feel like you don't have a right to say anything because it wasn't directed at you. When you start posting the comments about "what man wants a bone?", you are certainly making someone else feel the same way you feel when you see derogatory comments about fat people - and if you're a half decent person - why would you want to make someone else feel that way?

People, and specifically women, are sometimes fat or skinny despite their best efforts, because of genetics or medical conditions or sometimes because they just want to be. You don't know the passage of their life, you don't know how or why they are where they are or look the way that they do, and assigning "bad" to skinny is no better than them assigning "bad" to fat.

And that is why I don't allow any "better than" talk on my Facebook page. Because we don't have to be better than to be good, wonderful, authentic, marvelous women. We are all enough just exactly the way that we are.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Product Review: Equine Aid

I am pretty fortunate to have at least one horse that is a good drinker. So good, in fact, that I tend to rarely actually see her drinking at home - she seems to have no qualms about water quality or flavour and is always hydrated. For those that don't have Bronwyns, meet EquineAid, a product that, per their website, has changed the old adage that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

Make no mistakes, this is not marketed as an electrolyte (because it's not!), but as something to think of as "a horse cookie dissolved in water" - a tasty treat to encourage your horse to drink when it might not otherwise want to. There is no comprehensive ingredient list on the website but it does say this:

The ingredients in Equine Aid are all human grade--organic, non-GMO alfalfa, molasses, brown sugar, and pink Himalayan rock salt--and are consumed by horses on a regular basis without any adverse effects. 
[Post entry note: The rep I have been working with informs me that what I've listed above is the comprehensive list of ingredients. Straight, simple, wholesome!]

Soooo... since it said it was human grade ingredients, before I offered it to my horses, I did what I usually do - I tasted it. I lived! It tasted a bit like black licorice, actually.

Overall, I found the presentation of the product - both the packaging and the product itself - to be neat, clean and professional - just the way I like most things.

The instructions for use on this one were obvious - mix with a bucket of water and offer to horse. I did find it didn't dissolve into the water as quickly as I would have liked but there were no adverse affects as a result of it - kind of when you put cocoa in milk or water - maybe mix or shake it into a small amount of water prior to mixing it into the larger bucket.

(I didn't taste the water after I mixed in the supplement, but I am sure it would have tasted good!)

The next step was to get my taste testers! They had been in the barn for a couple of hours so I thought it would be a prime opportunity to offer them a drink -- this is what I ended up with:

Bronwyn, who actively ignored it.

And Rex, who was interested, but not interested enough to drink. As I did this outside, I thought perhaps it was the "you can lead a horse to water but not make it drink" thing, so offered it inside, in their stalls... which was met with similar disinterest. They weren't interested in straight water, either - so it leads me to believe that it had nothing at all to do with the EquineAid in the water, and everything to do with that they just weren't thirsty.

I did, however, offer it to Serenity, who thought it was pretty snazzy:

To be fair - the website recommends that you feed it dry on top of their feed to get them used to the taste and in their water at home so they will drink it off property as well, which makes sense. I can't say for sure if things would be different if I offered again, but I do have other samples and plan to give them a shot when I have actually taken one of my kids out and worked them - so they ought to be thirsty.

My overall verdict? If you have a horse who is a picky drinker (and we all know them), EquineAid can be ordered for $1.99/pouch or $25 for 30, which, as someone who doesn't venture off property very frequently, I find to be pretty reasonable. 

Stay tuned for part 2...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Heart Knows


It is funny how, seven years later, you still permeate my life so much that I knew I had to come to the farm today even though I could not remember why. I wasn't feeling well this morning and G gave me an opt out, saying he'd come next week and help me groom, but I knew I had to come.

I was in the barn with Rex, spending some time giving that filthy boy a deep groom, when I remembered. First, I thought I had missed it by two days but I think my heart knew. It has grown so used to grieving on this day that it does it on its own, without any help at all.

When my Nana passed away, Daddy told me an analogy about how losing someone or something special to you is like when you pull a large boulder out of the ground. At first, that hole is jagged, it wants for something to fill it. As time passes, eventually it smooths out, sometimes it fills in a bit. There is always, however, a groove there. Eventually, the grieving turns to memories you can call to mind on any day of the week and be happy to have them. Eventually, you stop saying "I wish there was a rock here." every second day. Eventually, you learn to function and move on, and you allow yourself to grieve on days like today.

Seven years ago, I came home at this time of day and saw you laying in the field - sunbathing, everyone insisted, but I knew something deeper was wrong.

The heart knows, doesn't it? Just like I knew something was happening the night that you foaled when I was in another city and it took three grown man to pull that dead colt out of you but didn't hear the news until the next morning. Just like I knew about the sorrel and white filly growing inside of you that first year, that filly that would go on to touch hearts that I didn't even know would need touching. Just like I knew that you would leave me that night.

After four years of teaching me to love horses again, to trust in my partner, to believe in myself, and how to know an equine so well that you can tell in six seconds whether something is wrong or not, you had completed your work here on Earth and you moved on.

You opened up the door for Bronwyn to come into my life. And you left me Rex and Ari. And you reminded me that it is okay to cry when you have to. And you gave me a special appreciation for falling stars - because so many fell that night while I walked you, and now every time that I see one, I know you are reminding me to listen to my heart, and letting me know I am going in the right direction.

Most importantly, you taught me that everything will pass, too - no matter how hard it seems to overcome. That someday I will look back on every challenge I have faced and be reminded that I had to be there to be where I am now. That everything that happens exactly the way that it is supposed to.

My girl, I had no idea I was learning these lessons when I was learning them. It took me a long time to appreciate it. Seven years later, I can say I still miss you, but the overwhelming emotion is THANK YOU.

Angel & Rex Spring 2006

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

I bet most of you don't know that I get very anxious going into new social situations. That might be surprising for some of you - some of you might not find it that surprising. I, myself, was a little surprised when it started to rear its head in my first, and only year of university.

All through middle and high school, I had been that obnoxiously outgoing girl. You know, the one who turns around and introduces herself to everyone within hearing distance in lines at concerts, has no problem getting up in front of her youth group and acting like a doofus, makes it all the way to the provincial level of public speaking competitions without batting an eyelash. Then, in university, it started small - as simple as I could not possibly spend the night at someone's house, I would fight tooth and nail to get back to my apartment after a night out at the bars. I knew that it was turning into a problem when I started taking an economics course mid year and I got up on the first day and gathered my books, ate breakfast, showered - got all the way ready to go and got to the door to leave and turned around and climbed back into my bed, unable to face the "newness" of a whole class of new faces, a professor I had never met, and a completely different part of the university than I had ever had a class in.

It never developed into anything that has affected my quality of life but I know there are some experiences and friends I have probably missed out on as a result of my desire to stay home, where I am comfortable.

So when I decided I wanted to add "something else" besides dog walking and biking to work to my exercise regime, I picked lap swimming. We have a local pool that offers a pretty decent price and is not far from our apartment, so I investigated it as much as I could online... but then I came to questions I couldn't find the answers to online - like what sort of people swim there? Am I going to get hated on for being a slowpoke? How do you know which way to swim? Which time is the busiest to go? And of course... the one that I try to never let myself ask but pokes it's head up ALL OF THE TIME and I think is the root of all of the anxieties I have about just about everything - even though I know better than this - Am I going to be the fattest person there?*

All of those unknowns cause me a lot of anxiety so yesterday, G put me in the car and drove me to the pool without my bathing suit so I could take a peek in through the big window and see what sort of people swim there, and how fast they are swimming (the answers were all sorts and all speeds). I talked to the lifeguard at the desk to get a feel for it and he told me I should swim in the medium speed lane because the slow lane is mostly people walking or flutterboarding. He told me that the midday swim is usually the busiest.

Armed with this information, I steeled myself to go back today and actually swim. I knew I had to take my information I had gained and the little burst of bravery that I had and go swim sooner, rather than later, or I would chicken out completely. So I put my swimsuit and a towel in a bag and headed out. I was extremely nervous as I left the house, tummy full of butterflies - what if they don't like me? G gave me a hug and told me I would be just fine and sent me out the door.

As I parked the car, I wanted to turn around and go home, but I knew that G was at home and would know I hadn't swam if I just turned around and went back with dry hair, so that little bit of knowledge forced me into the reception and changing rooms. By then, I was most of the way there so why not just try it?

So I did. And obviously, I am here to write this and my entry didn't start with "NEVER GO LAP SWIMMING, IT IS HORRIBLE!". The truth was that it was uncomfortable at first, but I enjoyed it. It felt like a physical challenge. I pushed my body and my mind and I came out alive on the other end. There were, indeed, bodies of all ages, and shapes and sizes and speeds. In fact, the most inspiring swimmer there was a woman a bit bigger than me. She came to the pool, got in the medium speed lane, put her head down and went right to work. I felt like my strokes were frenzied and challenging, I felt like I was splashing a lot, but she cut through the water like a hot knife in butter, with slow, methodical strokes. She was a beautiful swimmer.

Am I going back? Of course.

If you're comfortable, you're not growing.

* And really, who cares if I am? I am as entitled as anyone else to pay my $3.50 and go swim as many laps as slowly or as quickly as I want to, regardless of my size or skill level.