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!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer Updates

Things have sure gone quickly...and soon they're going to be even busier, so I thought I would pop in and give some updates before everything gets really hectic!

Pregnancy is alright. I can't say I'm not happy for it to be ending soon. We are expecting a boy and because of my gestational diabetes (I had like, literally NO chance of not getting it since it can be because of extra weight, hormones, and family history (my mom had it with both of her pregnancies)), they plan to induce me on September 1st. MY plan is to try and get things going a little sooner. My OBGYN is on board with that. :)

Apart from the GD, which has made me feel at times like I have no agency or control over my body and how it reacts to things anymore (let's be realistic, the entire pregnancy has felt kind of like that!), the pregnancy has been healthy but my mobility has been pretty low. From mid second trimester, I've had pretty significant pelvic pain and while it went away for a very brief period and we were able to enjoy a trip away before baby got here, it's come back with a vengeance. Rolling over in bed is painful (I have much better success getting on my knees and rolling 'under'), getting out of bed is painful, getting in and out of cars is painful, sitting up at the table is painful...any great amount of walking is painful...the only thing that isn't too painful is sitting in a recliner, so I do that...a lot. I'm pretty sure the payoff at the end will make things worthwhile, I'm just anxious to GET to that payoff!

Here are a couple of pictures from our maternity shoot we did at the beginning of August. I keep looking at these pictures thinking how hugely pregnant I look then...how must I look now?! Haha!

The house is great. Having my horses right here in my yard has been wonderful. I am not always well or mobile enough to spend time with them but being able to look out the window and check on them has been great. And if I can't make it down to the paddock to look after them, there's always someone here who can.

G has been a tremendous partner through all of this. Until I got a float for my stock tank, he dutifully went out and filled the horses' water every morning. He sprays them down with fly spray (when he can catch them!), and goes with my dad to haul hay for them when needed.

We still have a few projects that need to be done before the snow flies. A few roof repairs and the biggest one--we still need to build a proper barn. We've had good intentions all summer but the mix of busy (finishing getting mom and dad out of their old house, doctor's appointments, while I was still trying to work full time, etc) and lack of funds has put that on hold. Now the hope is before October 1st, we'll at least have something framed up and even if I have to tie a horse in each corner, I'll be okay with that!

On the 'other stuff that's not really blog related but is also sort of horse related' front, my alter-ego, Amity Lassiter, the contemporary western romance author, has become a USA Today bestseller. I haven't released a new book yet because see above about busy, but I am in the homestretch and hoping to get this one out before I get the baby out, so we'll see what happens!

I know I've been pretty quiet, mostly because I feel like a lot of these things are mundane details that nobody is interested in and I feel like a dork when I share stuff that isn't riding or horse-epiphany related, but I promise that there's going to be some interesting stuff once I get back to getting Bronwyn (and myself!) in shape.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

It's Been A Good Week...

Admittedly, last time I checked in, I was super anxious. I have always had my horses at the old farm. Always, with the exception of the time Bronwyn spent at the boarding barn (which produced a lot of anxiety, too!). Somehow, the exact same conditions/environment, in a different locale, makes me nervous. Beyond nervous. Seriously - I have worried about everything from weather to coyotes to will they respect the fence to is there enough feed, etc.

So Ari and Jessie settled in well. Saturday morning, my dad planned to bring Bronwyn. He would load her at the old farm alone because we still had some address updating, etc, to do in town since moving to the new place. And the plan was that I would be there when he unloaded. Unfortunately, we got caught up and while I was standing in line at the grocery store picking up a few necessities, my mom tagged me on Facebook in this picture:

Not gonna lie, I totally teared up standing in the checkout line! G thought I was nutters, which was okay. I wrote it off as pregnant lady hormones. She doesn't show up very often, but occasionally, CPL (Crazy Pregnant Lady) shows up and you can't talk her out of tears, or fears, or thinking her husband is cheating on her (that one was a tough one to explain to my extremely faithful, very anti-cheating husband when he got home a little later than normal after stopping at his own brother's house to pick up some sheet rock for our impending kitchen mini-reno). So she cried in the middle of the Superstore, and that was okay too (coincidentally, we got free groceries because of a "market minute" promotion they had going on, so I could have easily been crying tears of happiness for that!). 

She unloaded and hardly even made a grump face at Ari. When I got home, they were all grazing quietly near one another. Clearly, if Ari thought that Bronwyn was a threat, she wouldn't be comfortable enough to graze a couple feet away. I watched them the rest of the day and there were the occasional 'Move! *grumpy mare face, stalks her off two steps*', but nothing serious -- nothing like what had been happening at home for the last six months every time I tried to re-integrate Ari into the herd.

So my plan worked! And it was probably better that I wasn't there to wring my hands and stress about it while it was happening. Sometimes the most important part of the equation is to take me away from it and let someone else with an outside view who doesn't spend hours obsessing over the bad things that can happen inside her mind. My parents were both there, are both competent horsepeople (I mean, I did learn almost everything I know from them!), and they read the situation as well (maybe better than!) as I could have.

Less than 12 hours later, I saw this:

And then on Sunday morning, this:

I would say my plan to trick Bronwyn into loving Ari again was a resounding success!

I was originally planning to bring Rex this weekend...but I'm still having trouble catching Bronwyn so until that is going smoothly, I think he'll stay at the farm alone. It's good for him to eat a *little* humble pie (don't worry, I won't give him too much!), and I think it will go further toward cementing my herd back the way they were before. 

I fully admit to cheating by calling them to the gate a couple of times per day and feeding treats. At this point, with the ground wet in some spots and uneven in others, and myself in as bad of shape as I am, I don't have the physical ability to push her around the field until I catch her (though I do think my fitness is improving as it's downhill a bit from the house to the paddock and if I walk out the paddock at all, I'm out of breath when I come back!), so I am okay with re-establishing our relationship with the currency she understands: food. If we were at a different place in our relationship (instead of so out of touch that I couldn't even say I've consistently seen/handled her biweekly for the last six months or so), I absolutely wouldn't do this. But right now (and especially with hubby extra nervy about me getting kicked last week!), I have to do the best with what I can, and that's lure her and bribe her. Once our working relationship is re-established, I'll have different expectations, but I do feel like I'm starting from scratch all over again at this point.

She does come in close and will eat out of the palm of my hand, but I haven't made a grab for her yet. I'd like to get to her shoulder and scratch a few times before I make an attempt to catch.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Guess What?! (And Amanda Learns A Lesson About Complacency)

Thaaaat's right! Ponies (some of them) are here at the new house. We moved in on the 23rd and my dad, bless him, has been working tirelessly to get the pasture ready. I've always said I wanted to be able to see my horses from my kitchen window...and tonight, as I was getting dinner ready, I could see them from there!

We've been having some herd dynamic issues since Ari came home in November, but I'm hoping the new land will level the playing field a bit better. So in anticipation of what issues we may have, I decided to bring Ari and Jessie, who get along well, first, and give them a chance to get comfortable with the area and the fence. We will give them a couple days and try to introduce Bronwyn on the weekend. Bronwyn will chase Ari a bit, but will stop eventually, and just make stinky eye as long as there's enough feed. We are hoping they'll assimilate into their own little herd, though.

Rex will come along a bit later. I'm hoping the combination of him being absent from 'the herd' for the week and him being alone for a week might make his introduction smoother. He is a jerk (there's a reason I refer to him as my 'pretty asshole') in the pasture and he would give pretty significant chase to Ari. If Bronwyn makes a herd with Ari and Jessie, she'll protect Ari from the outsider -- just hoping a week makes him the outsider. I prefer to have a mixed herd to minimize buddy dependency, but if I can't make that work, we'll put the two mares (siiiiiisters, they share the same sire) in a separate paddock from my two idiot children.

I would be lying if I said I hadn't thought about selling Rex more than once this week. Based on the complications he poses to my herd dynamic and also...Tuesday, he kicked me.

It wasn't that long ago I said to G that I had never been kicked by a horse, and I worked around my own very comfortably and never worried about it. And then, of course, because I said that...

I was having Ari trimmed in the alley behind the straight stalls Bronwyn and Rex stand in. I was standing on the correct side of her with Ari between Rex and I and then the trimmer asked me to swing her butt a little bit to make it easier for her to access. Then I crossed in front of her and turned my back to Rex to ask Ari to move. I barely realized he got me until afterwards when I saw both my trimmers (my regular and her awesome apprentice) giving me the 'omg' face. He hit me in the buttcheek, thankfully, and it wasn't hard enough to even leave a bruise or a sore spot. But mark that -- the first time I've ever been kicked. It wasn't his fault - he definitely wasn't kicking AT me - he shouldn't have kicked but I also shouldn't have stood there and turned my back.

Of course, this makes G anxious. I'm 21 weeks pregnant and of course we would be devastated if anything happened to harm our unborn child. I had to remind him that this is something I've done my whole life and the reason this happened this time is because I had gotten too comfortable and wasn't paying attention. Because he's not a horse person, I get that it makes him nervous, but I reminded him to trust me - this is something I've done forever.

I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me question my ability and maybe my clarity of mind since I've been pregnant, but deep down I know I can still do this, I just have to do it smarter and eliminate as much risk as I can. And fortunately, I have mom and dad close by to help out when I need it. 

(As a side note, I had my first OB appointment today - I was worried after hearing horror stories that I would have a bad time because I've gained a pretty significant amount of weight, but the experience turned out to be way easier and less stressful than I imagined. I have been fortunate to this point to have health professionals that listen to me and trust that I know my body, but I always worry the next corner will bring me someone who sees the number on the scale and doesn't hear what I'm saying. I was pleasantly surprised. And, as the ultrasound technician last week noted, we have a crazy active baby. I told the tech the baby is practicing for rodeo - kicking their fat stubborn pony. :) ) 

Friday, April 22, 2016

It's okay to stand up for yourself.

So, in my late-night wandering of the internet (whilst killing time before I have to go home and pack my townhouse up like a madwoman because WE MOVE TO THE NEW PROPERTY THIS WEEKEND, YAAAY!), I came across something interesting. I vaguely follow a few other plus sized equestrian groups on the internet, and in one, someone posted about how the manager at the barn where they kept their horse had made remarks about their body size multiple times, including to their trainer. The boarder made it clear to the manager that the behaviour was not okay and then chose to vote with her dollars and move her horse elsewhere. Most of the responses were positive, but there was one poster who told this girl she was 'thin-skinned'.

I'm here with a newsflash: Just because you are plus-sized doesn't mean you have to 'take' any commentary you wouldn't if you replaced 'fat' with 'ugly', 'dumb', or any other derogatory remark. And it doesn't make you thin-skinned to demand the respect you deserve, to vote with your dollars or patronage, or cut poison people out of your life completely without giving them a second chance.

Nobody would find it appropriate to leave if that manager was saying to the trainer "boy, that Amanda sure is dog-faced". Nobody would tell me I was thin-skinned for calling him on that behaviour, or for commentary about my intelligence, financial status, or attractiveness. It wouldn't be considered a knee jerk reaction to discontinue my patronage to that professional for repeated, unprovoked remarks about anything besides my body size. It's generally acknowledged that those are inappropriate things for a professional involved in a business to say about clients. But there is this ingrained idea that, as the plus sized set, we should not only expect but accept commentary on our bodies. And we 'shouldn't let it get us down', ignore it and move on with our lives.

Oh, hell no.

I'm all for empowerment. Shaking off the haters. Acknowledging that some people are merely really awful people and keep on dancing. But that doesn't mean that you have to ignore their actions.

Let's go back...oh, maybe 15 years. I'm younger, softer, and less confident than I am today. I'm in a big box department store - the kind that doesn't have distinct divisions between 'straight' and 'plus sized' clothes. I'm minding my own business, flipping through jeans on a SALE rack.

An elderly man goes out of his way, cutting into the women's clothing section to speak to me. He says "Oh honey, you know none of those are going to fit you." He was right, but that didn't make it okay. I was so stunned I didn't say a thing. My mom, my hero, either overheard it or I recounted it to her moments later. She chased him down and told him, without being rude or aggressive, that what he'd said to me was unkind, unnecessary, and very rude. He was taken aback. I like to think that the next time this man thought he might dash some young teen girl's feelings, he thought about my mother calling out his behaviour.

People never change their bad behaviour if you never call them on it.

It doesn't mean you need to scream, cry, swear, or flounce (though if that's your jam, more power to you). And sometimes if you call someone out, it won't change their behaviour. But sometimes it will. In the case of the original poster mentioned above, she called out the behaviour both with her words and with her dollars.

Sometimes you won't have the energy to call out people's bad behaviour, and that's okay, too. I don't always have the energy or confidence to do it. You do what works for you in the moment, and what you are emotionally prepared for. But you need to know that you don't have to lay down and take it, even if society has convince you your body is 'lesser' or 'bad', even if your body-positivity mandate is that 'fat' isn't a bad word. And it's not thin-skinned to stand up for yourself.

Monday, April 4, 2016

More changes on the horizon!

Who knew I'd be posting again so soon? I ... kind of did. :)

On March 31st, we became the owners of this cute little house:

You might be saying "That's not horse related!"....BUT IT IS!

Because this house came with 10 acres of cleared farm land.

The plan has always been that eventually, G and I would be able to buy a place where my horses could come live with us, but neither of us expected this to happen so soon. Because of unforseen circumstances, my parents approached and asked if we would be interested in buying a house together. We jumped at the opportunity, especially with the little one coming in September -- we could have stayed in the city with one baby, but I am in love with the idea of raising my child on a farm and with the idea of multi-generational homes. I get along well with my parents as an adult and honestly, I'd be living with them if I wasn't living with G.

And I'm gonna be honest, I had reached a point where I wondered what the sense was in keeping my horses--I never see them (especially with how ill I've been this winter) and don't have the time or resources to do any consistent work with them.

So...as soon as the ground thaws enough to drive fence posts, they move in!

There is so much to do with this property -- there are no fences and no barn. On the one hand, it makes things a little more difficult, but on the other hand, we get to set it up exactly as we want it. I've never had that luxury before!

The house needs a lot of work inside, too. It has great bones and lots of beneficial add-ons done by the previous owner, but needs new flooring in most of the house and either paint or wallpaper in just about every room. The kitchen also needs a complete overhaul. It'll be a long, slow process, but I can't wait to share it with you guys! And I can't wait to have my feral ponies home to remind them of their P's and Q's.

I think that'll generate more blog posts for you guys, too. Even if I'm not riding, I'll definitely be inspired to write more once I know where those ponies are and can put my hands on them every day. And I think it's important to show the life-horse balance, too. So get ready to join me for some adventure this year! :)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Reason Why I Can't Ride This Summer...

I had big plans for this summer, I really did. I even thought about paying for some clinics back in January so I wouldn't be able to back out on them! I bought my NBEA membership so I would have insurance and be able to qualify for local horse events. And then at the end of January...something happened.
(you can click to enlarge to read the text...)

I know lots of women ride when they are pregnant. In fact, the running joke is my own mother stopped just long enough to give birth to me and I was practically born on horseback. But because both Bronwyn and I are out of shape and haven't ridden much in the last couple of years, I've made the decision not to ride during this pregnancy. I love her and I trust her but she jumps out from under me just too often. Soooo...anyone wanna come ride her for me this summer? LOL

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Internet Meme That Never Dies

It was recently brought to my attention that that picture was still floating around. Almost two years after I discovered it. I, again, asked Memegenerator to remove it. Again, no response. So I thought if I can't nip it in the bud, I'll go talk to the group that enjoyed mocking me. I never saw the original post, because it took too long for me to get added, and by that point, the original post had been removed. But I still posted. I'm not angry. I'm disappointed in the ability of people to just be kind to one another. Calling people out on their crappy behaviour makes people feel badly about themselves. They don't like it, and they usually react defensively.

Since my post there, on the group designed for 13-19 year old riders, was removed, I'm going to post it here. My heart just aches, though, for the 13-19 year old riders who are a bit chubbier than average, who are internalizing these messages and perpetuating the cycle of self-hatred and deprecation. I hope that someone who needed it saw my post and felt like their heart was getting a hug. I went there sincere, and my post was removed. I can't do anything about the ugly inside other people, I can only do what I can with what is inside myself, and continue to educate people and humanize Anonymous Internet Fatties.

Hi there.

About two years ago, someone lifted an image of me riding my APHA mare, without my permission, from my personal blog that is designed to encourage plus-sized riders to stop waiting for the perfect moment to live their lives. The picture was from 2004 or 2005, one of our last summers together before she died at the age of 6 from a torsion colic just below her cecum that killed all of her intestines (so no surgery or intervention could have helped by the time she was symptomatic). She left behind a nursing foal. That photo was taken on a day I remember really fondly. My sister and I had gotten on our broodmares and taken Angel for her first 'trail ride' -- up the hill on the front of our property. In the original photo, my 12 year old sister can be seen on her mare, and there is another photo in the series where her mare's foal-at-side is seen, puttering along with us. It was really warm, and I was a little nervous, but Angel was, as always, awesome. She was a total trooper, unflappably quiet, and did anything I asked, even though my fitness level had stopped me from putting a whole lot of time or rides on her. My sister's mare pitched a little hissy and backed down some of the hill; they got into an argument. The whole ride lasted maybe 20 minutes. Even now, thinking about it, I'm smiling.

That photo, cropped up close to my smiling face as we were coming back to the barn after a successful ride, with most of my 1300lb, 15.2hh, solid-as-a-rock mare cropped out, was uploaded to a website called memegenerator (again without my permission), where people can find or upload photos and then write anything they want on it. I don't know how long it had been uploaded there before I happened to stumble upon it.

Recently it was brought to my attention that one of those memes was posted here on this group. I know it's since been removed (which I think was a good choice, whether or not I was the subject), and I'm not here to yell at anyone or be upset, or stomp and shout. I just wanna talk. 

I don't know any of you. You don't know me. Why don't I tell you a little bit?

I grew up with horses. My parents operated a mid-sized breeding and training barn full of APHA, western pleasure, and halter horses. Riding horses as a kid was my job, and by the time I was 14, I was tired of it. My parents sold my show horse because I wasn't interested anymore. A few years later, they brought Angel home from an APHA sale in Maryland as a long yearling and my life changed. All of a sudden, my passion had returned. I was dreaming about the show pen again. I was imagining an entire breeding program with her at the cornerstone. After a couple of years where I couldn't have cared less about horses, I knew there was never going to be a time in my life moving forward that I didn't have a little horse hair in my blood.  

I had a lot of fun with that horse. We hit a few shows, we started under saddle, she gave me two beautiful foals, who are still with me now. In 2006, she died. I came home from town one sunny late-August afternoon and she was lying down in the pasture. It looked like she was soaking up the sun but I knew something was wrong. 8 hours later, she was dead. And there wasn't a single thing I could do about that but rage and cry and wish that I could have rewound the short 4 years we had together. I couldn't. All I have are a few precious photos, and not even any professional or really polished ones. I regret that a lot. 

You saw in that photo that I'm fat. I'm about 6ft tall with linebacker's shoulders and size 12 feet -- not exactly your ideal image of a horseback rider even if I wasn't fat, but then to add insult to injury, I'm also fat. There are some parts of my emotional history that have largely influenced that fact. I was also immensely unhappy for a very large part of my adolescence, which included counseling, depression, and thoughts of suicide. Angel changed a lot of that. When I spent time with her, I was happy. I could think forward about my life to come and what I wanted to see in it. That was 11 years ago.

Now you know a little bit about me. These days, I'm still fat and I still have horses -- I'm also a wife, and a successful author (and yes, my books include horses!). My life was shaped very largely by the 4 years that horse was in my life. I wrote a blog that has had reader hits from all over the world, and now, even when I am not writing regularly, I still get regular emails from people thanking me for my words. Some of my words were published in a non-fiction book published by Trafalgar Square this year. 

I'm telling you these things not to brag but to show you...I could be anyone. I could be your mom, your sister, your friend, or someone on this site that you desperately want to sponsor you. There is a person behind that 'funny' picture. And you might want to have the right to post whatever you want, but I want you to think about the actual, REAL, people, that exist beyond those things you want to have the right to post, and how you might feel if you were the target. If someone lifted your profile picture from Facebook or your blog and uploaded it as 'free game' for the entire world to post as a big, fat, joke. You don't know anyone's story until you ask them (yeah yeah, I know you didn't ask), just like nobody knows YOUR story until they ask you.

I just think people need to be kind to one another. And yeah, you know, when I found out that picture was STILL circulating, two whole years after I initially found it (and who the heck knows how long it was going around before that while I was blissfully unaware!), it was a gutpunch. It always is. I miss Angel a lot, and knowing that a picture of what was one of my happiest days is the butt of someone's big joke IS hurtful. But I shake it off. I've got broad shoulders (remember, they could be a linebacker's!), and if it means someone with a weaker consititution than I have gets a free pass from being picked on, I say bring it on. But I want people to think. To KNOW. Those anonymous fatties are real, honest-to-goodness PEOPLE. With real feelings and real lives.


* Update 2016/01/12 - Success! MemeGenerator finally removed the picture of Angel and I! That means that there are still lots of memes of us still floating around out there but nobody can make new ones.