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!

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?).