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!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mailbag... sort of!

I know that I promised a resolutions entry by the end of the month, but this comment was made on one of my videos on Youtube (I don't know why, but this particular one seems to get a lot of frequent views, and a lot of commentary, some of it is truly evidence that slugs and worms can type on computers and post on Youtube). Anyways... I wanted to address this publicly:

Hi as u can see im not a thin rider, I have a couple of weight carriers but what i'm asking of u is this... Could u perhaps dissuade very fat riders i have found u being quoted and well I dont believe they should be riding. I once had a potential loanee turn up to ride my 17.2 percheron and well she must have been 20 stone easily 280lb. So please promote sensible rider weights and suitable weight carriers

I want to make clear that with my blog, I do encourage appropriately paired horses with riders. What I do not do is draw a finite line and say "Xlbs is absolutely too heavy to ride. Period." First of all, it would be hypocritical of me, since I rode when I was 325lbs and secondly, because I don't know what horse you are going to get on, how fit they are, how tall you are, whether you are going to plod along on an easy, flat trail, or run a cross country course. What I do know is that when I weighed 325lbs, the amount of riding that I could do on my appropriately matched horse was minuscule and simple compared to what I can do now. There seems to be this big fear that we are going to get on horses and ride them for hours, up hill both ways, in a blizzard, in their grandfather's pajamas... whoops, got carried away there.

I cannot control how I am quoted and in what context it is done. I am pleased that heavy riders find my words encouraging in the face of adversity. I have never claimed to be a scientific expert or to have done a study on heavy riders. But what I do know is this: when people start talking about how "unfair" it is to ask a horse to carry a load like mine, I want to ask how "fair" it is to the horse to ask it to jump a cross country course, make sharp, tight turns and other unnatural movements, live with metal shoes on their feet, be fed but never allowed to move (wild horses graze for a reason), stalled excessively, started under saddle before they are two years old, sored and restrained and whipped to make their performance more desirable to the eye... If you asked most horses, what we do with them these days is not, any of it, "fair".

What I do know is this - I have an obligation to my horse to care for her in the best way that I know how. She gets a free ride, basically. All I ask in return for housing her, clothing her, feeding her, having her feet trimmed, calling the vet, working an exhausting work week in order to keep her "in the way she has become accustomed" is to cart my butt around a few times per week. I take complete responsibility for any end of life care that she may require, I take responsibility for any maintenance she may require. She nods exuberantly in the crossties when I get my helmet, and drives her head eagerly into the bridle. At the end of the day, it is her I have to answer to. Maybe that's self indulgent. Maybe it's selfish, but isn't everything we do with a horse? My kind of selfish means that my mare gets to live a relatively carefree life, gets spoiled silly, gets all of the health care she requires (I have never seen a chiropractor but my horse has!), and will be taken care of appropriately when her life is drawing to an end, in many thanks for her faithful years of "service".  And that is a million times more than many other horses get. So... if her biggest strife in this life is that she had to carry some extra weight over a few miles, a couple of times per week, I think she is doing well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fat Girl But Not Fat Horse Related (Health At Every Size)

First, I want to apologize to those who prefer not to read weight-loss type entries - this is a vent, I had to get it off my brain, and it has been cooking for a while. I am not going to be very eloquent here, either, because I am still putting together the thought process.

Second - I want to promise that there IS going to be a goals and resolutions post BEFORE THE END OF JANUARY (I'm writing it down to make it so - one of my new goals, follow through!), but again - this is on my brain and I have to talk about it.

Lately, I have been feeling conflicted, and it kind of came to a head tonight, while reading an article about a woman who weighed 303lbs and lost 130lbs. In the article, she talks about eating "two or three pizzas", and big bags of chips in one sitting, and that's "a normal day". You see it all the time - articles about phenomenal weight loss from people who started well over 250lbs - they eat whole tubs of ice cream, they eat McDonalds EVERY. DAY., they like their chicken triple fried with extra gravy and biscuits. You hear about these crazy unhealthy eating habits which got them to the place they reached.

A lot of you know (since I've posted it on the blog many times) that at one point in my journey, I weighed 324lbs. Never did I eat "two or three" pizzas (or even ONE whole one!) in one day, or a whole bag of chips by myself, or a whole tub of ice cream. I have never liked sugared sodas. Did I overindulge by times? Of course, like any normal person. Here is the kicker - I was born 10lbs 11oz. I am now 6' tall with size 12 ladies feet. When I was an early teen,  my mother was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and so she formatted the way that we ate - she lost some weight, I never did. I grew up on whole wheat, lots of veggies, real fruit juice, lean, homegrown meats. It was not uncommon to take a second helping of those things, however.

I am what I would call reasonably active (I walk my dog usually about 5K a day and when I am walking to and from work in good weather, I am walking closer to 6 or 8K a day - I ride twice a week), I eat moderately well MOST of the time - during the summer, my regular lunch is salad! My body has settled around the 250lb mark. I am sure I can go lower with more salad and more walking, but the point is that this is where my body sits when I live a "normal" life (not too much, not too little), and that, to many, is not "normal". I firmly believe in the value of fueling and moving your body the appropriate way, and maintaining it (you wouldn't put watered down gas or drive on flat tires on your car would you?), but I also don't believe that in order to be "normal", you should have to restrict yourself to 1200 calories and exercise 4-6 hours a day.

Ever since watching Joy Nash's "Fat Rant", there has been this niggling in the back of my mind. I mean... I want to be able to live a life that is enjoyable, without having to consider every SINGLE calorie that enters my mouth and spend any time I am not at paid employment working out. WHAT IF I treat my body the right way, but I am still not "normal" by society's standards? What then?

The Health At Every Size movement is incredible. It is based on the idea of loving your body and treating it right and being kind to yourself if your "normal" body size is not what everybody else considers to be "normal".

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that every person that is overweight is "supposed" to be, and I do believe that it is possible to lose weight and find your body at its ideal weight, not the weight that society has arbitrarily told you is "ideal" or "looks the best". I do believe there are some of us hanging onto weight out of laziness or emotional challenges or medical issues. But I also believe that some of us look exactly how we are supposed to. I am saying that if you are treating your body the right way and enjoying life and you still don't look like someone that is regularly featured on the cover of Cosmopolitan, that's probably just fine, too.

The biggest enemy, however, of the self love and acceptance movement of HAES, I believe, is articles like the one I mentioned above. I am very happy that the woman featured found enough self love to stop treating her body like a dumpster - I am thrilled that she seems to have found a weight where her body is happy... but an article like this, detailing the way that she abused her body prior to treating it right perpetuates the idea that ALL fat people are this way because of gross neglect of our body, when that may not always be true. An actual comment on my blog told me to "get off the couch and stop stuffing [my] face with Doritos and ice cream"... the truth is - I love Doritos but I can't remember the last time I had them, and while I do try to include a small amount of frozen yogurt (masquerading as ice cream, my favourite is chocolate chip cookie dough!) in my day, if my hunger and calorie budget allows it, I am not much of a full fat ice cream eater. I do take a couple of hours to myself, a few evenings a week, to sit on the couch, yes - who doesn't? And why do I deserve to do it less than anyone else? And when I tell people what I am doing, and am not losing crazy amounts of weight doing it, I'm "lying" about how I am living. It is a vicious cycle.

If you haven't already checked out the HAES movement, I strongly encourage you to. It makes a lot of sense, if you are somebody like me - active, eating moderately, and not dropping weight hand over fist (anymore). It also really goes hand in hand with the idea I have been trying to promote with this blog - the most important first step to being happy is loving yourself, and caring about yourself - this is how you will accomplish your goals, this is how you will live the most fulfilled life possible. There is also a page full of resources - blogs and websites, books and communities that follow the HAES movement. Do yourself a favor and check it out!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My horse reminds me to be a better person.

Earlier this week, I attempted to ride Bronwyn. Even though I did saddle her up, put a leg over her and put her through work, I wouldn't call it a ride. I was PMSing and she was clearly in heat (as evidenced by her atrocious flirting with the stallion while we were in the crossties, I mean COME ON, have some decency!) - we had not had any consistent riding since before the holidays - I have been lucky to be able to ride once a week during the last couple weeks. But I was ready to do some work, and I thought she ought to be as ready to work for me as I was to work her. It is, after all, one of my new year's resolutions to get serious about schooling (more about my resolutions in another entry, sometime soon, I PROMISE!). She must have missed that memo.

I demanded that she work well. She insisted she would not. Blowing through my leg, Rushing, rushing, rushing, counter bending when I was not asking for it. I got frustrated. I got a bit hot under the collar. And the more frustrated and demanding I was, the less she gave me. It was a train wreck. I eventually gave up, made her do something simple to succeed, and put her away. I was embarrassed that I had gotten so uptight, I was frustrated that she wouldn't work for me.

Tonight, I went out to try again. I was by myself, I had lots of time, I was determined to go out there and enjoy spending quality time with her - after all, we have been lacking in it lately due to the craziness of the holidays, you know. Tonight, our ride was what I would call harmonious. She did everything that I asked. She was attentive to what I asked, being ultra agreeable about it. I felt like we got good work done. Unlike Tuesday's ride, I walked away with a sense of pride. I was proud of how I had handled myself, proud of how she worked, and eager to push forward. We finished with cooling her out bareback, which was a nice change (note: she is getting WITHERS).

Every once in a while, she reminds me that I need to be a better person. That I need to be more patient. That I will only get exactly what I deserve, no more, and no less. When I am too prideful, she makes me humble. When I am impatient, she makes me wait longer. When I am demanding, she is rebellious.

But when I am honest, she is honest. When I am patient, she acquiesces. When I ask, she gives. When I ask, she gives. I ask. She gives.

And so... it is easy, isn't it? The relationship with a horse. It's just like our parents raised us. When you ask politely, doors open for you. When you demand something petulantly because you "deserve" it or because the giver "knows better" than to not give it to you, you rarely get what you are seeking.

And doesn't it make sense? This beast, that can outpower, outfight, outrun, outweigh and outsmart us will respect us only if we respect it. It's a good philosophy to apply to our lives outside of horses, too.

I love the time that I spend with Bronwyn. I love good rides, but most of all, I love when I can walk away and have learned a lesson that can be applied outside of the saddle, to my life, to my interactions with others. I love when my horse can teach me how to treat people.