Lately I’ve noticed an increase in the number of emails, private Facebook messages, and Facebook posts regarding folks who are struggling emotionally as plus size equestrians. I’m not sure if it’s due to the time of year with the start of riding season upon us, or if it’s been the onslaught of new Facebook fans that we’ve gained over the past few weeks, but I’m concerned enough that I’ve decided to write a blog entry in an attempt to reach out to each and every one of you. Below are a few select quotes drawn from correspondance I’ve recieved from my fans and followers over the past few months.
“I feel guilty riding my horse because of my weight.”
“I feel so alone.”
“I feel like I’m hurting my horse.”
“I feel like I don’t deserve to ride at this weight.”
“I have recently gained weight and now I feel like I’m being unfair to my horse if I ride.”
“People judge me for riding at this weight”
“People told me I was too big for my horse, so I stopped riding.”
“People will laugh at me behind my back.”
“I’ve given up.”
I am a very strong woman and I love myself inside and out at any size. I surround myself with loving non-judgmental people who support me in all that I do, and because of my inquisitive nature I’m armed with an arsenal of horse knowledge relating to weigh bearing capacity, confirmation, soundness, injury prevention, and more (thank you Google). I have all the confidence in the world that I can ride how I want with few limitations and I strive to use EighteenHands to help all of you to feel the same. Alas, sometimes I forget that not everyone is so lucky to be were I’m at emotionally, so when I read your words and feel each and every one of your pain, it wounds me to my core. I care deeply for all of you and I feel that NONE of you should give safe harbor to such destructive thoughts.
Hats off to you, girls and boys, because you SHOULD be concerned about your horses health and safety, but you know what? EVERYONE who owns/rides horses (regardless of thier weight) should be concerned for their horses health and safety!!! This should go without saying, right? So why do we as plus size riders mix feelings of guilt and self-loathing into our feelings of concern for our horses? So you feel like you’re hurting your horse….but are you? Most likely not. As a rule Most sound, healthy horses can comfortably carry 20% of their body weight in tack and rider during moderate work. This isn’t something I made up. There have been scientific studies to prove this fact. A simple Google search yeilds loads of articles like this one written about studies such as this. That means that an average 1200lb horse can carry 240lbs of tack and rider comfortably for 3-5 working days (including walk, trot, and canter work) per week with no ill-effects. Do you weigh more than 20% of your horses body weight? Don’t freak out! Studies show that horses who carried 25-30% of their body weight during moderate work showed “higher breathing rates and increased soreness the day following activity”. Think about it, that means they worked harder, they didn’t come up lame, slip a disk, or drop dead! Should you be stadium jumping or going on 12 hour endurance rides at 30% of your horses body weight? Well, maybe not…but can you go on trail ride, compete in a show, canter through an open feild, etc…? If the horse seems fine with you on thier back then why the hell not? The bottom line is that we should all be concerned for our horses health and safety every day, but we also have to have the confidence in them that they can do the job we are asking and trust them to tell us how much they can handle. If you listen to your horse they will tell you exactly what you need to know. When you get on your horse, signs that you are too heavy include things like: shaking under your weight, struggling to move out under you, excessive heavy breathing, grunting/expression of discomfort at the walk, excessive tripping/stumbling under your weight, bucking, rearing, bolting, or bad attitude exhibited by a typically good natured horse. I mean, the signs are obvious. If you are too heavy to be on their back and they are in pain, they will let you know. Other than that, just be confident that your horse can do the work and be mindful of thier needs. If they are breathing heavy during a trot or canter, give them a break and let them walk. If you had a long show day or went on a long trail ride give them a day or two off to rest and recover. If you try jumping and they struggle then do flatwork instead…catch my drift? If you do your research, start with the right horse, and are mindful of their needs every.single.time. you ride, there is no reason for you to hold onto feelings of guilt over hurting your horse because you’ll know that aren’t. If you were, your ass would be on the ground rather than in the saddle, believe me.
I feel…alone, guilty, undeserving, bad, worried. Why do you feel this way?
You’ve read the all of the weight bearing studies, had the vet come out for a soundness exam, hooked up with a trainer who told you that your horse will be fine carrying you, see other plus size riders in this community riding their horses, and you listen to me banter on and on about all things plus size equestrian. You’ve been presented with the facts and you’ve seen concrete evidence that YOU ARE NOT TOO HEAVY FOR YOUR HORSE. Yet, you still hesitate to ride. You still feel guilty. You still worry.Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself why? Why do I have these feelings? The truth is, it’s not usually about the horse, it’s about you. You feel guilty because you are heavy. You feel undeserving at your weight. You feel alone because you are the big rider in a sea of thin riders. You feel bad about yourself because you are plus size. Am I right? WELL JUST STOP IT ALREADY!!!!!!! I know it’s not easy to find self love, trust me I’ve been there…but you need to realize that we live in a society where people are drip fed from birth the idea that “thin” is considered “normal” and “heavy” is considered “abnormal”. People are basically brainwashed to think that if we are fat, we are abnormal. There is nothing abnormal about being fat! I mean, when you think about it, its just so absolutely ridiculous that it’s actually laughable! Free your mind from society’s “ideal” human image and play the mantra “There is nothing wrong with being heavy” in your mind. Because it’s the truth. There is NOTHING wrong with being heavy, period. But hearing the truth is only as good as the words on the page, right? You need to feel the truth. Feel the conviction of the words, accept the truth and let it wash over you like a cleansing rain. There is nothing wrong with being heavy. There is nothing wrong with being heavy. There is nothing wrong with being heavy. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING HEAVY!!!!!!!! Just let it go…Letting go of negative feelings and finding self love starts from within. Once you find self love, no one can take it from you. Once you find self love I PROMISE that all of the “I feel like I’m hurting my horse” stuff will fade, because you’ll start listening to all of the more important things floating around in that pretty little head of yours (like the validity of all those weight-bearing capacity studies you read…..they all start ringing true).
You need to ride for YOU, not for anyone else. PERIOD. When it comes to your weight, the only opinion you should concern yourself with is your horses opinion. If your horse is telling you he’s fine with you up there, the buck stops there! You might be judged for being a plus size rider. People might laugh at you behind your back, You might not be treated fairly at a show or event because you are plus size. Unfortunately those types of things happen from time to time…but you need to toughen your hide and stand up for yourself rather than shrinking into a corner crying. Did it ever occur to you that the person who says “You’re too big to ride that horse” has absofuckinglutely no idea what they are talking about? Most of the time that is exactly the case because if they did know what they were talking about, they would know that the average 1200lb horse can carry 240lbs of tack and rider 3-5 times of week under moderate work. But they don’t know. They are just ignorant hateful people who like to put others down to make themselves feel better……so why are you letting them effect your happiness? NEWSFLASH: You don’t have to let them effect you! If you are confident in yourself and in your horses capabilities, then you can actually laugh when assholes say shit like that to you…or better yet put them right in their place like I do, ha!
We’ve come so far in the years since I started EighteenHands. More apparel companies are making riding clothes in our size, I see more large seat saddles out there, more barns and trainers welcome plus size clients, and more and more of you are enjoying your time in the saddle. Every day I see major progress in my crusade to make the equestrian world see us as equals and I feel that every day gets better and better. We will get there, I promise.
I hope that this blog post has helped any of you who might be struggling emotionally with being a plus size rider. Please know that I’m always hear to lend my supprt to each and every one of you, and remember…all you need is self love and knowledge to find true happiness in both the saddle and in life.
It starts from within.