EighteenHands Rule Book

I created EighteenHands to provide a safe and fun place for plus size riders to talk, share, shop, swap, and have a bucking good time. At EighteenHands it is of the utmost importance that a safe and friendly environment is maintained. Please read and follow the rules below before enjoying all EighteenHands has to offer. These rules are also applicable to the EighteenHands facebook  fan page, YouTube Channel, and anywhere else EighteenHands.

  1.  “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”- Be respectful and courteous to all members at all times.
  2.  Absolutely NO posting of malicious comments under ANY circumstances.- It is not up to you as members to police, judge, or criticize any other members, at any time. If you are the victim of internet harrassment on any EighteenHands portal, reports should be made to me at 18handsstore@gmail.com  IMMEDIATELY.
  3. Any member who chooses to direct hurtful or inappropriate comments at another member will be removed and blocked from all EighteenHands resources immediately– This is self explainatory. If you are a jerk, you can leave.
  4. No posting of items for sale without permission.- Please contact me at 18handsstore@gmail.com to discuss listing your items for sale.  Any items posted for sale without permission will be promptly removed.

If any member at any time feels they are victim of Internet harassment on this site or the facebook fan page,  please contact me at 18handsstore@gmail.com IMMEDIATELY. It is difficult for me to police every post and picture, so I ask that you are responsible and diligent in helping me keep EighteenHands a safe and friendly place to be.



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Horse Weight Bearing Capacity – Revisited

Hi All!

I haven’t written anything here in quite a while and a few days ago I saw a blog post done by fellow plus size equestrian blogger If the Saddle Fits  shared on a non-equestrian plus size fashion Facebook page. The post was called “Body Shaming The Show Ring” and the story was about a husband’s shock to hear spectators fat-shaming his plus size wife during her dressage test. It’s a great post because it really hits home for many of us and sheds light on an issue that hasn’t been openly talked about much until recently.  I find myself still thinking about it today and began wondering why? I think it’s because find it interesting that a non-equestrian page shared the story. Equestrian topics are typically not very relatable to main stream media and plus size equestrian topics even less so. So what’s going on here? Why is this equestrian blog post getting out there to so many non-equestrians?

As I discussed in my last post, I’ve noticed a measurable shift towards body positivity and size acceptance both in main stream and equestrian communities. Plus size people are finally “putting themselves out there”, becoming more confident and increasingly unapologetic and I say IT’S ABOUT TIME! I am and always will be an advocate for plus size equality and acceptance. I believe that the size and shape of your body and the number on the scale does not define who you are as a human being. To me the fact that plus size equestrian topics are being discussed in main stream media says a lot about how far we’ve come.

I feel that from the new attention the plus size riding community is getting, there may come an influx of new inexperienced plus size riders so I feel it’s my responsibility to re-visit once again, the timeless equestrian question

How much weight can a horse safely carry?

When you do an internet search for this question you are given a mix of websites offering significantly varying answers. So what do you trust? I only trust information that is supported by evidence with citations. For example, I would trust information obtained from the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science much more readily than I would believe something I read from John Smith’s Horse Care Blog. Here are a few of my favorites:

I’ve done a lot of research on this question over the years and come to the conclusion that there isn’t one correct answer. Horses are as different as people so each horse’s strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and limitations are different. When we are choosing a horse to do a particular job we take this fact into consideration. For example, if you were in the market for a quick agile barrel horse you wouldn’t test ride a Warmblood bred for show jumping, would you? If you are looking for a high level eventing horse you aren’t going to buy a horse with Navicular and expect that horse to be a high performance jumper, right? So how can we follow an absolute rule that states ALL HORSES can only carry ___% of their weight in tack and rider? In my opinion, we can’t.

I’m frequently asked questions from followers like “What type/how big of a horse do I need?” or “Am I to big to ride my horse?”, so I have come up with a series of questions that I ask everyone who comes to me for help.

  • How tall are you, and how much do you weight?
  • What is your physical fitness level? (Do you work out? What type of exercise and how often?)
  • Do you have a light independent?
  • What discipline do you ride?
  • How much does your saddle and tack weigh?
  • What are your riding goals?
  • How many days per week do you ride or plan on riding?
  • How long are your rides and what type of work do you do during your rides?
  • How tall is your horse and how much does he weigh at optimum weight (Horse is not overweight or underweight) ?
  • What breed is the horse (Please provide multiple full body photos of the horse at different angles (head on, side on, tail on)
  • Does the horse have any known health or soundness issues?

While I wait for answers to these questions I starting thinking about horse conformation. If you are interested in learning about horse conformation, the last two links that I provided above are great starting out points. There is an infinite amount of additional information available in books and on the web and if I dived into that right now we would be here forever so I will not digress. I will tell you, though that based on my research, I’ve found the ideal conformation for weight bearing is:

  • Short back
  • Wide chest
  • Deep barrel
  • Straight legs with generous cannon bone
  • Adequate hoof size in comparison to body size
  • Large, well muscled, adequately sloping hips
  • Well muscled shoulder with angle close to 45 degrees

Conformation that is NOT ideal for weight bearing is:

  • Long back (also called dog backed)
  • Narrow Chest
  • Shallow barrel
  • Slim, light boned, and/or noticeably incorrect legs
  • Small, contracted appearing hooves in comparison to body size
  • Small hips with a sharp slope
  • Very narrow shoulder angle
  • Skinny, stringy musculature

A horse that can carry extra weight is a well built and naturally balanced horse. The better a horse can balance himself, the more balanced he will be under saddle. The more solidly built the horse, the more surface area he has to absorb the shock of the rider. A narrow incorrect horse will struggle because he will not be able to balance himself and the weight of the rider will be more concentrated on his back due to the smaller surface area of his body. So with ideal horse conformation and my set of questions in mind we press on.

Once all of my questions are answered, I use the “20% rule” as a starting out point. Studies show (see first link above) that a sound healthy horse can comfortably carry 20% of its body weight in tack and rider at any level of work. Even though I do feel that every horse’s weight bearing capacity is different, for the safety and well being of the horse I like to see how close to 20% weight ratio we are before factoring anything else into the equation. If the ratio is over the 20% mark I put them into one of the following categories*:

  • 20% ratio – OK for all types of work
  • 21-24% – OK for moderate to heavy work
  • 25% ratio – OK for moderate work
  • 26-29% ratio – OK for light to moderate work
  • 30% ratio – OK for light work

Heavy work – Horse worked 5-6 days per week and/or performing high level physically demanding tasks such as: ranch work, eventing, foxhunting, endurance riding, jumping, high level dressage, performance barrel racing, etc…

Moderate work – Horse worked 3-4 days per week and/or performing physically challenging tasks such as: Trail riding on moderate terrain, showing, low to moderate level dressage, canter work, low level gymkhana and gaming, hunter paces, etc…

Light work – Horse worked 2-3 days per week and/or performing less challenging tasks such as: Easy trail riding, light schooling, a few schooling shows, limited canter work, etc…

*The above categories are only my opinion but my experience has taught me that when I categorize in this way, the results are better in the end.

Let’s say I want to purchase a horse that weighs 1200lbs and I weigh 280lbs. I am already 23.3% of that horse’s body weight without tack. Here’s where the rest of my questions come in. I will use myself as an example:

  • 5’10’, 280lbs
  • Physically fit
  • I have a moderately light/balanced seat. My balance could be better.
  • English
  • Saddle – 13lbs
  • Eventing / Foxhunting / Hunter pace (jumping) / Versatility/ Trail riding
  • I ride up to 6 days per week depending on how busy I am. Typically 4-5 days
  • 1-2 hour rides. I might go on a 2+ hour trail ride on rare occasion.
  • 15.3hh, 1200lb
  • AQHA – Photos demonstrate that the horse is of good weight bearing conformation, except the feet appear to be somewhat contracted in relationship to its body.
  • No soundness issues

I immediately add the 13lb saddle onto my body weight of 280lbs for a total of 293lbs. My breastplate and girth weigh 5lbs combined which brings the weight total up to 298lbs. At this point I re-calculate the weight ratio and find I’m up to a 24.8% weight ratio but I round up to 25% since it’s so close. A 25% ratio falls into my “OK for moderate work” category (above). Now I look at the type of work I want to do with the horse. I ride up to 6 days a week and my goals are eventing, hunting, hunter paces, horse trials, and versatility with some trail riding thrown in for good measure. These sports and the number of days I ride fall into the “heavy work” category so this horse is probably not my ideal partner. Could he do what I want with almost 300lbs on his back? Possibly. I am an effective rider with a fairly light seat and I am in good physically condition, so these attributes are in my favor but I’m new to eventing and not an extremenly experienced jumper so I have the potential to become fairly unbalanced while learning which would weigh more negatively against me than the positives. I feel I’m really skirting the line with this horse. I could ask for a test period and see how he performs for me, but personally I’m not willing to risk his long term health and safety just because I want to use him for eventing. If my weight ratio was a little lower I might have reconsidered but I don’t feel comfortable at 25% taking everything else into consideration. The fact that his feet are small would solidify decision. Since his feet are small in comparison to his body they will not absorb and distribute the shock of my weight as evenly and effectively as a larger more proportioned hoof and it would cause added stress on his legs. I would probably would not choose to purchase the horse based on the guidelines I set for myself but if I had been a pleasure rider doing less intense type work under saddle I would definitely have taken him for a trial period.

In conclusion – there are MANY factors that affect a horse’s weight bearing capacity. Again, we have to remember that each horse is an individual so their weight bearing capacities are going to be different. Additionally, each rider is an individual so each rider is going to feel different in the saddle. It’s our job as riders to figure out if our mounts can physically handle what we are asking of them at our weight. Finding the right horse is like finding the right pair of shoes, he has to fit! If you do your research and are truthful to yourself in what you expect from your horse you should have no trouble finding a good match. When it comes to what types of horses are ideal for plus size riders, the possibilities are endless!

Ride on my friends


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Size acceptance – Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

In the past few years I have noticed a shift in main stream media towards size acceptance (or should I say size tolerance?). It seems like every day my Facebook and Twitter feeds are lit up with more and more size positivity. How great is that?!  Plus size model Ashley Graham made history recently as the first plus size model to pose in the Sports Illustrated’s swim suit edition. Newly signed plus size model Tess Holliday is making waves in the fashion industry.  MiLK modeling agency added the gorgeous Holliday to thier talent line up and she has been breaking down size barriers with her 5’4″ size 22 frame ever since. YouTube sensation Whitney Thore, known for her viral YouTube video ‘fat girl dancing’ and her no body shame campaign , recently signed with TV network TLC for her own series called My Big Fat Fabulous Life.  I’m even seeing more and more cute little body positivity ad campaigns than ever before. Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty, Special K® More Than A Number and Shhhhut Down Fat Talk commercials, and the This Girl Can advert for http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/ are just a few of the newest and most popular size positive media examples that I’ve seen whirling around lately and I’m absolutely loving it! I am THRILLED beyond belief to see these new trends inspiring self acceptance, self love, and body positivity because as you all know this is what I am all about baby!!! It feels like society is FINALLY starting to climb out of the waif-thin  model adoring, thigh gap worshiping, surgically enhanced and very nearly humanly impossible hour glass figure seeking hole that we dug ourselves into over the last 3 decades.

The icing on the cake here is that mirroring the main stream media shift towards size acceptance, I am seeing the same shift in the equestrian community! No way you say? WAY! It feels like I am getting new emails almost weekly from size-friendly barns and lesson programs asking to be added to our directories. Professional trainers like Jane Savoie are becoming more vocal about size positivity and there are more plus size friendly social media groups cropping up everywhere on the world wide web. I see more plus size friendly resources on the market and my resource pages keep getting longer. There are more 18-20″ saddles on the market than ever before, saddle pads are getting longer, boot shafts are getting wider, more equestrian apparel companies are producing extended sizes and more tack shops are carrying the larger sizes the apparel companies are making. Lesson programs, trail riding outfits, and equestrian vacation destinations are adding more size-friendly horses to thier strings, even bigger horse trailers are becoming more readily available to accomodate larger horses. I mean… five years ago when I started EighteenHands there were 3 companies who could be easily found via web search making plus size breeches. THREE. It took me almost an entire year to find a good quality, affordably priced 19″ english saddle, and there was really only ONE equestrian apparel company who really dominated the market for plus size riding apparel. Today is totally different. The resources are out there and the number of resources available to plus size riders is growing at a surprising rate. 

A world where plus size riders (or plus size folks in general) aren’t being discriminated against by someone, somewhere is not a world that I will ever live in (I can dream,  can’t I?) but I see a definite and distinct shift towards size acceptance as of late. If we as plus size riders keep putting ourselves out there in positive ways (like requesting more plus size products from equestrian brands and tack shops, participating in more shows and competitions, and just getting out and being involved in the equestrian community more) the more positive change will come our way!  Things are only getting better from here on out ladies and gents, you wait and see!

So I ask you…

Is it just me, or do you agree? Is there a light at the end of the fat-hate tunnel?

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Resource Alert: Cathy Drumm, Dressage Instructor

Hi All,

I just wanted to give y’all a heads up on a great new plus size friendly resource. Cathy Drumm is a Dressage trainer based in Western, MA. Cathy travels around the country offering lessons, training, and clinics in English Dressage, Western Dressage, and Hunter/Jumpers. Cathy is an advocator for plus size equestrian altheletes and is able to the meet the needs of the plus size rider in a friendly and safe environment.

“Cathy has been an equestrian instructor and trainer for over 30 years. Raised and educated in England, she learned to ride in the classical school of horsemanship, working her way through the British Pony Club ratings, eventing, hunting and showing.

Upon graduating from college in 1979, certified to teach English to high school students, Cathy moved to the United States and after teaching for 3 years, decided to resume her equestrian career. She began by giving lessons at local farms, and as her experience and knowledge grew, so did her business. She also had a family during this time, getting married in 1985 and eventually having three daughters, all of whom are talented riders.”


Cathy Drumm, Western Dressage Association of America : http://www.westerndressageassociation.org/news-events/what-exactly-is-western-dressage-by-cathy-drumm/

Cathy Drumm Homepage:


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Resource Alert: ChestnutMareCrafts

Hey all! I haven’t blogged in a while so I wanted to say a big HELLO to all of you and to share an awesome plus size friendly resource I stumbled upon recently….

Chestnut Mare Crafts is an Etsy shop run buy Meredith, A CT native. Meredith creates  beautiful saddle pads, quarter sheets, saddle covers, stirrup covers, and other equine crafts. My hands down favorites in her shop are her saddle pads and quarter sheets.

SADDLE PADS: ChestnutMareCrafts saddle pads are 23″ along the spine so they will accomodate all of our larger seat english saddles. The standard saddle pad has a slightly forward front edge so it will fit most A/P and jumping saddles. The “model” saddle in all of the Etsy shop photos is an 18″ Stubben Siegfried VSD so it gives you an idea of how large these pads are and how they will look under a larger seat saddle. an added bonus is that you can customize your saddle pad, adding pockets and other features to meet your needs! Are you looking for a dressage pad? Pony pad? Large draft pad? NO PROBLEM!! Send Meredith a quick message and she will gladly accomodate you!

“Both girth straps and billet straps are made of durable, black nylon webbing, to help keep the saddle pad in place while riding. For added durability, nylon webbing covers the spine of the pad as well.

This high quality saddle pad fits under English all-purpose or jumping saddles to help cushion and protect your horse’s back while riding. It measures 23″ across along the spine and 19.5″ from the withers to the bottom of the pad. In these photos, the saddle shown with the pad is a Stubben Siegfried VSD saddle, size 18 wide.

Chestnut Mare Crafts saddle pads are filled with a layer of 1/2″ NuFoam densified batting. NuFoam quilts like foam, but it will not yellow nor disintegrate; plus it is resistant to mildew, and holds its shape well.”

chestnut mare crafts 
QUARTER SHEETS: I love a quarter sheet in the winter, but try finding one draft size (yeah riiiiight!). I typically find quarter sheets to either be a.) WAY overpriced for a mere square of fleece, or b.) Cheaply made and so not worth the money…

ChestnutMareCrafts has FIVE quarter sheet sizes from Small to Draft and they are handmade with high quality materials and are fully customizable! They come in full fleece, fleece lined cotton, or coming soon (per my special request) full fleece with printed cotton border (YES, I’ll share pictures when its done!!!). ChestnutMareCrafts quarter sheets come in at a fairly reasonable price as well. They aren’t “cheap” but won’t break the bank either. For the quality of materials and workmanship that goes into these, they are definitely worth the price.

quarter sheet

Willow has a saddle pad and quarter sheet on order as we speak so check back for photos and more detailed product reviews. In the mean time, visit ChestnutMareCrafts on Etsy and Facebook and be sure to tell Meredith that I sent you!


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EighteenHands Presents: “Getting One With Your Horse”


EighteenHands is hosting a FREE horsemanship demo at J&S Family Ranch in Pascoag, RI on Saturday, June 28th, 2014 from 1pm-5pm, featuring Pat Connors of Second Chance Ranch Training in Whitinsville, MA.

Please join me for a fun filled day!

  • FREE horsemanship demo!
  • Give Aways!
  • Picnic Lunch!
  • Relax, hang out, and meet new friends!

Riders of all ages, shapes, sizes, riding levels, and diciplines WELCOME! HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!!!


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Professional Saddle Fitting Services: Vital asset or unnecessary expense?

Last week I had a professional English saddle fitter (who’s information I will share at the end of this post) come out to my barn to assess how my saddles fit Willow. I know the basics about saddle fit and I have a general idea of what to look for to determine proper fit, but I’m no expert. Since I ask a lot of Willow in terms of performance, I wanted to be sure that my saddles fit her as close to perfect as humanly possible so that she is as comfortable as is humanly possible when she’s under saddle.

The reason behind my desire to have a saddle fitter come out is becasue I started noticing some pretty serious uneven sweat marks happening under the saddle pad after every ride. There was some immediate concern because uneven sweat marks are idicative of excess pressure points caused by the saddle. If any point of your saddle is too tight on a horses back, the pressure actually prevents the horses skin from sweating. I of course don’t want Willow to be uncomfortable so I decided that I’d at least look into having a saddle fitter out to the barn. Willow has also been doing some head-tossing when we started doing heavier work (cantering, extended trot work, transitions, etc…) so that also raises concern for saddle fit.

Now I’m no different than most of you in that I am very budget conscious. Money certainly does not grow on trees in my house, so I have to thoughtfully consider whether or not I can afford any and all extra expenses. Of course at first, the thought having a saddle fitter out sparked some serious feelings of anxiety for me. What if he says I needed a new saddle? I can’t afford a new saddle! What if I need a lot of saddle adjustments and it’s too expensive? A world of worst-case scenarios whirled through my mind, but then reality hit me. The easier and cheaper thing for me to do would be to just keep riding in my saddle as-is. I could just remain blissfully ignornant of any potential issues and carry on as before. YES! But what if my saddle really is too tight for Willow? What if the head-tossing thing is happening because she’s in pain from the saddle that I chose for her? Do I want to keep riding her if that’s the case? NO, I don’t! Willow’s comfort and happiness is now and always will be top priority for me, so if I have any question in my mind that her saddle doesn’t fit properly I would address the issue immediately. Once I’d made up my mind that I would have a saddle fitter come out, true to my usual style, I surfed the web to see what I could find. I found a website for a saddler out of Providence, RI,  I gave him a call, and scheduled an appointment.

My appointment came and went and I must say, I’m so glad I did it. It was one of the best decisions I have made for Willow and I to date. Willow’s back was measured with a number of technical tools. Tracings were done, my saddles were assessed, and I was given a diagnosis. I was getting uneven sweat marks because my saddles were bridging her back. If you don’t know what bridging is, it’s when a part of the panel (the padded underside of an English saddle) doesn’t touch the horses back, so all of the riders weight is concentrated on smaller points rather than evenly across the entire panel. I must have checked that saddle 500 times before I bought it, and had 5 experienced horse friends re-check it for me. Not one of us noticed the bridging! Can you imagine? All of my weight pushing down on Willow’s back on 4 small points (one on eiother side of her shoulders and one on either side of her back at the cantle area). OUCH! To fix the problem, the saddle advised that he could adjust the flocking in my saddles to the tracings he took at the beginning of the appointment. It would cost $125 per saddle, take about an hour to do, and would be done on-site in his moble workshop (He showed up to my appointment in a HUGE RV!). He also said that if I needed it (which I luckily didn’t, he has a machine that can widen or narrow a saddle’s tree, and the cost is $115)

One hour and $250 later I had two saddles that fit my horse perfectly. I’ve ridden in both saddles since the fitting. I have even sweat marks, and I have a horse that looks and feels more relaxed under saddle even when the work gets tough. She still does the head tossing thing, but only when she gets really tired and msotly at the end of a long workout so I’ve chalked it up to head tossing under protest, lol.

After all was said and done yes $250 of a lot of money, but now I have 2 saddles that I know 100% beyond a shadow of a doubt fit my horse properly. Having a saddle fitter come out isn’t something I’d do very often, but it’s something I will do from now on when I feel it necessary. For me, for my piece of mind and for the health and benefit of my hrose, it was totally worth it.

The English Saddler
Saddle Fitting, Repair, Sales
Colin Kimball Davis
9 Brighton St.
Providence, RI 02909




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It starts from within…

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.

  • Am I hurting my horse? This is THE major concern for everyone.

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).

  • On the opinions of others. My view on what other people think of plus size riders is simple. “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.”

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.

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Product Review: Smith-Worthington Signature Bridle

I’ve been in the market for a new bridle for my Percheron mare, Willow, and I was having a hard time finding what I wanted. After weeks of coming up empty handed I decided to do yet another Google search for “English Draft Bridles” when I was pleasantly surprised with my discovery of The Smith-Worthington Saddlery Co. . Smith-Worthington is a long time Connecticut based saddlery that produces fine English saddles and tack in all sizes, including draft sizes. I held my breath while I clicked thier link for “draft bridles”….They have PAGES of bridles that come in draft sizes! Yipee! Dressage, Hunter, Eventing, and more! Oh boy was I excited! After scrolling through all of the pages of bridles, one in particular stood out to me:

The Signature Padded Event Bridle


This bridle was exactly what I had been looking for, so of course an order was immediately placed (I ordered the draft size in color Havana)!! Let me tell you… I was SO anxious to get this bridle and try it on Willow because I was secretly thinking that it couldn’t actually be a full draft size bridle and that it would never fit Willow (hey, I can’t always be an optimist!). To my shock an awe, the bridle came in the mail THE NEXT DAY! I mean I know that CT and MA are close but the S.W. people had to have processed and package that order almost instantaneously in order for it to get it to me that quickly. Very impressive Smith Worthington, very impressive…

So I got the bridle in the mail. It came in pieces <gasp> and I had to watch several YouTube videos to put the thing together becasue I’ve never actually put a bridle together before. Thankfully, itt was easy enough to figure out. The first thing I noticed as I assembled the bridle was, “boy is the leather nice and soft!” AND it was BIG TOO!! Yes there was no doubt that this was in fact a full draft size bridle and would undoubtedly fit Willow <let’s out held breath>. So I took my newly assembled bridle and off I went to the barn. I slapped it on Willow, made the necessary adjustments, and VOILA! PERFECT!!!

Here is the complete rundown on the Smith-Worthington Signature Padded Event Bridle:

Item: Smith-Worthington Signature Padded Event Bridle
Material: Leather
Colors Available: Havana, Black/Black, Black/White
Sizes Available: Cob, Horse, Large Horse, Draft
Price: $113.25
Description: (Taken directly from the S.W. website) With propper care, this bridle will give you years of rugged service. It comes with a softly padded crown, brow and nose and an easily and quickly removable flash noseband. Included are laced reins. SignatureTM bridles are made from Continental leather from one of the world’s major tanners. The leather is tanned and curried with plenty of “fat liquoring” for suppleness and long life. These bridles are beautifully made with attention to details:

  • Slotted cavessons and lined turnbacks on reins and cheeks for durability.
  • Aniline finished leather for easy cleaning and preservation. Oil soaks in and doesn’t bead up on the surface.
  • 10 stitches per inch for beauty and strength.
  • Stainless steel buckles and hardware will never rust.
  • Back punched holes make buckles easy to use

Overall Rating: A+


  • High quality soft and supple leather
  • The leather is dyed rather than “painted” as many less expensive bridles are.
  • Modest price point for quality of the bridle
  • True to size
  • Laces reins included
  • Flash band is completely removable. Flash bad is attached by a completely removable tab piece that is easy to manipulate and does not compromise the integrity of the noseband, so you are left with a standard noseband and don’t have that annoying little tab hanging there all by itself.
  • Crown and noseband are padded nicely for your horses comfort 
  • Sleek, simple no-frills design for those who don;t like “fancy stitching”
  • Good, solid stitching


  • The bridle does not come assembled (although this hardly seems to be a true “con” because it was easy enough to assemble. I added this point simply because I personally had never put together a bridle before so it took me 15 minutes to assemble it)
  • The leather color is lighter in person than it is in the picture online. Again, this is hardly a true “con”. I suspect the color is slightly off because the leather is dyed vs. painted (which is a “pro”). Once I oil the bridle it will darken and the problem will be solved.

I really like this bridle so far* and I have no complaints about it or Smith-Worthington. This bridle and The Smith-Worthington Saddlery Co. get an A+ in my book!

*I will report back on this bridle after I have ridden in it for several months to see how the integrity of the leather and stitching hold up.


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Shaping up for another season in the saddle (Part 2)

In my last blog post, we touched upon the importance of getting ourselves in shape along with getting our horses back in shape for the start of riding season. I want to stress again how important fitness is for a successful ride. (Calm down kids, I didn’t say you have to lose weight! being FIT and being THIN are two different animals and I would NEVER tell anyone they had to lose weight. It’s not my business to do so.)

So what does being “fit” in the saddle mean? Being fit in the saddle means that you can support yourself in the saddle. It means that you can maintain a stable leg and core, a correct upright posture, a balanced quiet seat, and give quiet correct aids. You should be able to do so at every gate.

And why is being “fit” in the saddle so important? An unbalanced rider bouncing and flapping around on a horses back at any size poses a challenge for a horse. When the rider is unbalanced and unable to maintain a quiet connection through their seat, it makes it that much more difficult for the horse to balance himself. I will repeat this: If you are unbalanced on your horse, it is difficult for your horse to balance himself. Here is a great article featured on HorseChannel.com that explains at length what I mean. Please note that nowhere in this article does the author mention weight. Only fitness, and as I already stated fitness can be achieved at any weight.

What can I do to improve my fitness? You don’t have to run marathons, hike Mount Everest, or bench press your horses full weight at the gym to be considered “fit”. You don’t have to look good in spandex, have six-pack abs, or rock an oompa loompa spray tan to be considered fit. Fluffies can be fit too yes, it’s true! 

  • core exercises: This article by HorseChannel.com goes over a few basic moves you can do to strengthen your core. These moves are easy and can be done by anyone. Having trouble with the plank? Modify by doing them on your knees!
  • lower body exercises: This video by Horsechannel.com gives a great series of moves to help strengthen your butt, inner thighs, hamstrings, quads, and core. Watch out for the squats, which can cause knee pain when not done correctly! If you have trouble or feel pain, modify! Put a chair behind you and s l o w l y lower yourself down into a sitting position allowing your behind to just touch the chair, before you s l o w l y raise yourself back up to stand. Does that still hurt your knees? Keep the chair behind you but squat half way down to the chair. This will still engage your behind and hamstrings but will help keep strain off of your knees.
  • exercises to increase your stamina and cardiovascular fitness: Adding a little bit of cardio to your day a few days a week will drastically improve your stamina. (Just think, you wont be huffing and puffing after a long posting trot!). I am a runner, and I try (weather permitting of course) to incorporate three 5K runs and one 10K run into my week. I’ve noticed a HUGE difference in my riding stamina since I started running. I can trot for all day without getting winded! I know that not all of you can run and many of you don’t want to run. Fear not, there are so many other cardio exercises you can do! Anything that gets your heart rate up and makes you start to sweat can be considered cardio. Some examples are; Walking/hiking, spinning/ cycling, swimming, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, rowing, vigorously cleaning your house, playing with your kids, Nintendo Wii sports and/or fitness games, Xbox Kinect sports and/or fitness games, and SO MUCH MORE! Try adding 30 minutes of cardio to your daily routine 3 days a week and see how much your stamina improves after just 1 month!
  • pilates for equestrians: Pilates is GREAT for riding! It helps to improve core strength and builds long muscle, and the moves can be modified to fit any level of ability. Kerrits offers a great, FREE series of videos called “Pilates for Riders” on their website.
  • mounted exercises: HorseChannel.com provides us with yet another great article reviewing a few mounted exercises that will help improve your ride. My instructor is going to have me doing no-stirrup work tonight, eeeeeek!!

I would like to end this post by stating clearly that I am not a fitness coach, nor am I a riding instructor or trainer. The above examples of fitness exercises for equestrians are samples that I use in my personal life to help me improve my riding ability. This post is intended to simply give you ideas of how you can use fitness to improve your riding and these exercises should be modified to fit your personal needs.

Enjoy, and RIDE ON!



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Shaping up for another season in the saddle

The Ides of March…

Many riders are not lucky enough to have use of an indoor arena and thus don’t have the luxury of riding during the cold months. There are even more of us who shut down completely during the cold months and it’s a miracle we even muster up the will to put on our coats to feed and change out frozen water buckets…nevermind RIDE in sub-zero conditions (EEEEEK!)…Yes, you all know who you are!!!! Needless to say that in most cases, our horses have enjoyed a few months of living the “pasture pet” life while the humas hibernate until Spring.

Well, it’s that time of year again ladies and gentlemen. It’s nearly St. Patrick’s day and early spring is slowly trying to melt through winter’s vice-like grip on the land. The dafodil shoots are ever-so-slowly starting to reach through the frozen earth, the days are getting just a little bit longer, the horses are starting to lose thier heavy winter coats, and we are slowly start to thaw and come out of hibernation. We begin to pull out the tack, saddles, boots, leather cleaner, and lunge lines and begin to prepare for the long anticipated riding season.

After a few months off, we notice that our horses fitness levels have decreased. Muscle tone is slightly diminished, top lines have changed, and the hay bellies are hanging low. <SIGHHH> we have our work cut out for us! We have riding to do! We can’t after all just hop on our horses after months off and expect them to perform at thier very best, right? DUHH! Every good equestrian knows this! Otherwise we’d all have some pretty tired, pissed off, heavy breathing, possibly lame ponies, right? Right! So, like the good horse moms and dads that we are, we dutifully break out the lunge lines and round pens and start our horses on thier spring workout schedules.

2 months later….

It’s late April/Early May. We’ve lunged, ground worked, and schooled our horses back into relatively decent shape. We’ve overcome the “spring silliness” (you know, the energetic behaviour that many of the horses show when the weather warms and the blankets come off) and we are ready to ride!! We get on, beyond excited to FINALLY be back in the saddle after such a long winter, and we prepare for the <perfect> first ride of the season. An hour later we are sweating, our thighs and calves are killing us, our lower backs are sore, and we just can’t figure out why this ride was so much less pleasurable than our last ride of last season. Our horse wasn’t listening, they were lazy, cutting corners, not collected, not on the bit…WHY?!? We are the same rider we were a few months ago afterall, right? So what went wrong? It MUST be the horse! The horse was off, not in shape yet, not listening well, etc… It was definitely the horse, right? WRONG!

A sucessful (or unsucessful) ride is just as much the result of OUR riding as it is a result horses level of performance. Our horses have had the winter off and we’ve worked hard to get them back into shape, but what abous US? Look in the mirror for a moment. Have we also had a winter free from excercise? Are we too out of shape? The answer for most of us is YES! (unless you are just a superstar and have been going to the gym all winter and in that case, GO YOU!). If our leg, arm, back, butt, and core stregnth has diminished over the winter, then we are NOT the same rider we were a few months ago! Maybe our horses performance wasn’t perfect for the first ride of the season, but maybe ours wasn’t either. Maybe our aids were off, maybe we weren’t as balanced as usual, maybe our leg and seat weren’t as quiet as they should be…maybe while we were working so hard on getting our horse back into shape for spring, we should have worked a little on OUR fitness level too?

I brought my new horse home in January. I have an indoor, so I was lucky enough to have all winter to get her back into shape after years of pasture pet life. I lunged, groundworked, and round penned my girl all winter and I rode her casually in between. She’s in pretty darn good shape now, so I figured that when we started lessons with my new trainer I’d be ahead of the game. Well…I was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, Willow can trot up a storm and her stamina is getting up there, but ask her to get on the bit, collect and drive from behind and she falls apart. Why? Because I’m not in shape! I hadn’t ridden for YEARS before I bought Willow. Sure I workout, but I majorly slacked on my fitness after I got married in October and it shows in my riding. My instructor pointed out to me (in a friendly and helpful way) that I have trouble keeping my leg quiet and I struggle to sit up tall while I ride. I am struggling with keeping MYSELF collected and therefore my horse falls apart under me. BUT, when I do stay collected Willow goes BEAUTIFULLY! My instructor actually even commented on how gorgeous a mover she is when I’m doing what I’m supposed to! Funny how that happens, huh?

So kids, the moral of the story is……lets start working out to improve our riding seaso! Our horses will thank us for it, I promise!

(tomorrow I will follow up this blog post with some fun and easy workouts that you can do to improve your ride!)



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