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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!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas to ME!

I didn't want to say anything sooner for fear of jinxing it, but as many of you know, I have been on the "Great Saddle Search" for some time now. In the end, I resolved that the Duett line of saddles is about the only way I can go. They are not cheap, but I have yet to hear any bad feedback at all about them. In fact, they are so well liked, as a general rule, that finding a good used one is kind of like finding a unicorn... and finding a good used one that would be both wide enough for Bronwyn and big enough in the seat for me... they exist, oh, they exist... but to get one that is USED is kind of a "from my cold, dead hands.", a la Charlton Heston.

I have doggedly kept my eyes on eBay and Tack Trader looking for something that will fit me and (most importantly) Bronwyn... a couple of times they have come up, out of my price range. Two went over the summer in the $500-600 range which would have been right up my alley, had I had money in my hands. I eventually gave up on the idea of something used and took on a second job through the November/December months in order to buy a new one in the new year.

And then it happened. I found a 38cm, 19" Duett Companion Trail on eBay with a starting bid at $500. This was doable. I was excited!



I don't dig the two-tone going on, but with what I do with Bronwyn at this moment, and considering the fact that my butt and thighs will cover most of the ugly up, it will do. Heck, at this point, I wouldn't care if it had Mickey Mouse all over it, as long as it fits Bronwyn.

Anyways, the seller, "Nora", was beyond helpful. I contacted her with what I anticipated to be my payment schedule prior to even bidding on the account. She was so easy to get along with and even expressed excitement when I won the auction. So, Nora... thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for assisting in this wonderful adventure we call saddle-fitting!

Now, I am a pretty experienced eBayer, but I am also pretty anxious, and I have a hard time (and heart palpitations) when I am bidding on something that is not that common to find and that I also "need". I enlisted my mother, who I would call a "MASTER EBAYER" to help me out with the bidding. What that meant is that she sat at the desktop computer with the page open ready to "snipe" the bidding at 10 seconds prior to the auction ending, and I sat in my bedroom, on my bed, with a blanket over my head and my laptop open before me, neurotically refreshing and refreshing the eBay page and occasionally letting out squeals and shrieks. I had already decided what price I wanted to go to, but what if someone else went $10 higher and I lost the auction?!?! THEN I would have to continue this neurotic searching of eBay and all things internet or wait until the new year before I could buy a saddle.

In the end, I ended up winning the Companion for less than half of what it would cost new (even including the shipping), and I am pretty darn excited. It got into the mail on Friday and I have only a delivery confirmation number so I can do some more neurotic refreshing on the USPS website (probably better that there isn't an actual tracking number so I have more details to anticipate looking for).

Does anyone see a pattern with neurosis here? I am practically bouncing in my seat hoping that it will land before Christmas (they said 8 days but I know USPS can sometimes be faster... but also during this time of year can also be MUCH MUCH SLOWER) and I will have a REAL Christmas present for myself and for my horse.

I usually have buyer's remorse after spending any amount of money on anything (sometimes even grocery shopping gives me buyer's remorse!), but I haven't experienced an ounce of it yet and I am so darn excited!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Slightly Not-Horse-Related: Being Thankful

A week ago on Saturday, I was thankful for having a steady mount. Bronwyn and I decided to finally ride up on the clearcut that has happened next to our home (you might remember me blogging about it and how upset it made me). All the snow that had been on the ground had melted out and it was a really mild day - we had gotten a lot of rain shortly before it but it had backed off and I was really looking forward to just riding my horse up into the mountain and being able to unwind from some personal stresses that were going on.

Bronwyn was keen so as we headed out the driveway, we picked up a brisk trot. As we were passing our pond, all of a sudden, there was no horse under me. Thinking she had stumbled, I supported her head the best I could and tried to keep her from doing a nosedive and Bronwyn managed to stay on her feet. She continued to trot off as though nothing had happened. I reined her in and looked behind me to find an enormous gaping hole in our driveway.

She had put a front foot through a spot beside the cedar culvert that someone had built several years ago. Fortunately, there was no metal for her to cut herself on or get caught up in. Due to the heavy rains we had been experiencing, the earth beside the culvert had just washed away and left a sinkhole. She walked off sound and we completed our ride with no problems - she was not sore even the day after. I was so impressed with her steadiness, and the way that she just took things in stride.

It's funny because to many, she is not predictable, she is difficult and sometimes I feel like she can be a handful. On our longer-than-should-be-legal 4 hour ride, she was full of it when we left - my dad actually said later on that he hadn't been sure if I could handle her. She is reliable in her unpredictability, and the strong underlying current, despite some of the fears she still harbours, is that she trusts me and I trust her and in the end, that is why we get along so well!

Later on, I became thankful for other things that were related to saturated ground and rain.

This is a picture of what our front lawn looked like earlier this week - you can see the spot on the driveway where we fell through the sinkhole. The pond in front of our house is supposed to start about three feet behind the fence. Eventually, we unclogged the old rotted culvert and set most of the pond free and our dog yard is no longer flooded through, but the rain did more damage to other areas.

I lucked out. I am thankful.

These images were taken on roads that I travel on at least a weekly basis (some of them more like daily). This was all from a day's worth of torrential rain.







Fortunately, our place sustained no real damage, but places just 20 minutes away.. people were evacuated, horses had to be moved, reports of riding rings and barns down, pastures flooded, homes picked up and MOVED by the water.

The area is rebuilding, but this has always been one of those "it can't happen here" things.

Monday, November 29, 2010

One Year Later

For anyone whose mind just did a double take when I said I was a fat girl who rides horses, my fat horse and I are here to change the way you think. For anyone whose mind just took a wistful trip down through their childhood memories in which they once rode horses but now feel they are too fat to do so, my fat horse and I are here to change the way you think. And for anyone whose mind did an acknowledging little nod and said "Mhmm, you go girl!", I am here to celebrate with you.


When I sat down to write my first blog entry for this blog on November 29th, 2009, I didn't know what to expect. I knew that I was taking a foray into waters that have, in the past, been controversial, so it could have ended up in one of two ways - I would receive copious amounts of backlash due to my content, or I would receive accolades. I knew from the beginning that there would be few out there who would be impartial to the things I would be saying - there would be either hate or love and one would certainly outweigh the other.

I did not know that there was a whole community of ladies (and some men!) out there who could relate to the things that I was saying. A supportive, wonderful, funny, talented, knowledgeable base of women who were already doing the things they loved without worrying about what others would say. I did not know that there was a whole community of ladies (and some men!) who would need the encouragement that I would provide, that would take the words that I would type and let them bolster their confidence and help them to do things that they may not have otherwise done, like get back into the saddle, start taking riding lessons at a public barn, or purchase their first horse in years.

So many things have come of this blog - so many positive things, that may not have happened without it - and I have benefited from it as well. I have developed more courage, more confidence and more character as a result of this blog. I have felt more love, shared more joy, and celebrated more successes of others as a result of this blog. I feel comfortable, excited and happy to share photos of myself, and I think there are others out there who feel the same way now, too.

I was reminded of why I started writing this blog in March, when I went to visit with my dear friend, Carina, and helped her rediscover the joy of riding. (I have to say, I was also pretty spoiled on this aspect because I got to ride a great horse and enjoy the lovely weather while doing it!)

I "met" the amazing Suzanne Wild, who wrote a guest blog for us, of Fuller Fillies who is facing the same potential for controversy that I do in writing my blog by creating her clothing line.

I have had many a personal revelation that aren't always horse related to share with my readers.

We developed the Forum where someone posted words that completely made my heart swell a couple of weeks ago - "I feel safe here." This is exactly what I had been hoping for, exactly what I had envisioned in beginning to share my journey with everyone. The forum has become a tight knit, supportive community for those who are foraying out for the first time into the world of horses, or who want to get back into it, or who are living it to the fullest. We encourage a community of respect and honesty and so far, have done well. I love those girls and there are parts of each of them that I aspire to be more like.

I love writing this blog. I love hearing the stories, receiving the emails, photos, and feedback from people who are living differently now or who are feeling differently about themselves. It is heartening to me to know that by simply sharing my fat horse with the world, that others are seeing things in a different light. This blog makes me feel safe.

So, a year later, Bronwyn and I want to thank everybody from the bottom of our hearts for the support, encouragement, and sometimes even the criticism to take a second look at what I am doing and how I am doing it and change things. Here's to many more years just like this one has been!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Learning not to fear the fall...

I do kind of live life on the wild side once in a while.

The first time I ever rode Bronwyn bareback, she had been off for about two months. I had never ridden her bareback and it had been YEARS since I had ridden ANY horse bareback... but I thought to myself "Oh, why the heck not?" - the last time I had ridden her, we had parted ways unexpectedly due to the sudden levitation of a cat into an apple tree. I don't know what made me think it was a good idea to climb on without riding in a saddle first, but I did, and I was pretty dang proud of the two of us by the end of that ride:



As a side note, prior to the fall that I had prior to that picture, my last fall was ELEVEN years before. As you can tell, I have lucked out. It is easy for me to say "FACE YOUR FEARS!" and encourage people to ride and not worry about falling off - when I know there are those out there who have had serious injuries to their backs, their pelvises, their heads, etc, that don't find it that easy.

Anyways, all of this to say that I have gotten a little cocky. My little mare can be taken out pretty fresh and we can go for a jaunt without a bridle OR saddle now:



I kind of knew I was riding on borrowed luck from the first go round, which is why it didn't REALLY surprise me when I accomplished fall #3 from Bronwyn's back in a beautifully epic, but sadly unwitnessed front flip over her shoulder into the snow when I decided I HAD to ride my fresh mare who hadn't been turned out in about 12 hours, who had not been ridden in about two weeks in the fluffy snow that was falling. Did I mention I was wearing a horse-eating winter jacket that makes noise when you move around? No? Well, I was.

I also neglected to longe her prior to riding, and to bother with a bridle - I just had my rope reins attached to her halter. I was pretty much asking for it.

She was a little sticky about standing still while I mounted up, which is not very typical for this big beast. I eventually did find a low enough spot to stand her in to get my leg swung up over her but before I could get it all the way over and get myself settled onto her back, she started moving off - I was essentially laying on my stomach along her spine. When she veered left, I went right and landed on my back in the snow, laughing just a little bit.

I have kind of tried to take the attitude that "If I fall, I fall..." all along but that doesn't make falling too awesome. Fortunately, Bronwyn is also still of the mindset that I SHOULD be on her back, not on the ground, so she is always surprised when I land there and hasn't mastered the art of trying to GET me there. It's kind of cute how she is like "MOM! WHY are you on the ground?!??!?!?! *horrified look*"

Anyways... I'm doing alright this morning - my neck is a little stiff from the lash as I always try to protect my helmet from hitting the ground when I fall (awesome, right? LOL) and get a little bit of whiplash.

I managed to get back on after I fell (though I was pretty shaken up) and we had a nice little jaunt around the pasture just like we had intended originally. I wasn't afraid of falling again, because I managed to get out of that one...

But I am curious - those of you who have been hurt in a fall (broken bones, bedrest, hospital stay resulting, etc), how do you muster up the courage to get back on? In my lifetime with horses, I have never broken a bone or had a concussion or anything to that effect (knock on wood), but if I did, I am not sure I would still be brave. Let's talk about it in the comments!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I hate saddles!

There has been a lot of discussion about saddles on the forum lately - the good, the bad, the ugly. One of the lovely ladies on the forum said "I love saddles!" - and all I could think was "I HATE saddles!".

Yeah, I do hate them. Right now, anyway. I am on saddle three, on an extremely limited budget, and trying to find something that fits both my big butt and long inseam as well as Bronwyn's mountainous withers and broad-as-a-coffee-table back has been a challenge that frustrates me. I've almost decided to give up on saddles altogether. I have been posting this photo around the internet and telling people I give up - I am just going to live in the woods with my horse and braid sticks into her mane and ride her around with no tack whatsoever and go wherever she wants, whenever she wants and completely forget about the concept of schooling or competing with her.

Honestly, I feel like my lack of a saddle that we feel comfortable in together has been a huge block to me getting any work done with her. I would say her training has really not progressed more than a step or two this summer due to a combined lack of time to invest into it and also the fact that when I do ride, I am scared to put any real significant amount of time on her, or to do anything strenous for fear of hurting her because of poor saddle fit. I can't work on my position because the saddles I have had don't allow me to get my leg under me. It's overall uncomfortable.

I have taken to riding bareback, primarily. I enjoy it - I look forward to it - probably because I am so uncomfortable in the saddle. I have ridden Bronwyn herself bareback more often in the last two years than I ever rode all of the horses I ever owned and rode in my childhood previous to Bronwyn put together. It's just comfortable that way.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't LIKE to find a saddle that I love. I'd love to find something that will change my mind. Unfortunately, the tack "scene" in our region is not the same as in other places. Sure, you can find lots of 18 or 19" seats... and you can once in a while find a reasonably priced "broadback" style saddle (though never seem to be as wide as Bronwyn needs!), but you rarely find something that fits both her AND I in one saddle in one place, anywhere near me, and in my price range. I can't go to a tack shop and sit in a variety of brand name saddles to see what fits me best or take something home from the consignment shop for a seven day trial. I will have no choice but to buy something from "away" and risk it not fitting, and pay the shipping both ways if it doesn't... IF there is a return option. I am just scared of making a mistake that I can't afford.

I want to put my pennies together and buy something great, designed for a broad backed horse with a seat to fit my butt but it seems like that is a long way in the future at the rate I am going now. I will bide my time, watch eBay, collect pennies out of the washing machine and eventually, I know I will own something that I will love.

In the meantime, you can find me in that treeline behind my roundpen, weaving alder branches into Bronwyn's mane!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Some housekeeping...

A few things happening right now!

You can now access the blog simply by typing www.afatgirlafathorse.com - it will bring you right to this page. :)

Also, I changed the layout. Tell me what you think? I like that it is now streamlined with the forum and I have freed up a little space on one side to put some relevant advertising. I would love to be able to do some more contests and giveaways but, as the blog points out, I have three horses, so we all know with those, cash isn't always around. :) I will be straightforward and say that there WILL be some advertising on that side, but I will work my best to make it relevant (horse related and in most instances, companies that handle products and services relevant to plus sized riders) and attractive - and no more of those gross Google AdSense ads!

Another thing that I am really interested in doing is reviews of products that are useful to us, as plus sized riders - so don't be surprised if you see some of those.

This month marks the one year anniversary since I started writing this blog and I am hoping to have some fun on the Forum over the next couple of weeks.

Also! We are running a secret santa gift exchange and Christmas card exchange on the forum if anyone is interested - last call for submissions for that stuff is on Monday, the 15th.

And we are really looking forward to some "Winter Workshops" - I haven't ironed out the details of how they will actually be rolled out, but we are planning to pick topics to learn about and hammer down to learn lots of new stuff during the winter season when riding time and daylight is more limited.

Thanks for sticking around for the ride! :)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Proof that it's not always pretty and wonderful...

For once, I am not bragging on Bronwyn!

I think sometimes I might put off the idea that Bronwyn is perfect and our relationship is without flaws, and if I do, I'm sorry - because I could have driven her somewhere and dropped her off for someone else to deal with this weekend! Despite my frustration, though, I learned a lesson or two - it seems when I am the most frustrated with her, I learn new lessons if I allow myself to calm down and consider the situation.

BUT before I get into the details, I wanted to make a big brag on my colt, Rex. For those who don't remember my colt, Rex, here is a picture of us from this summer:

I do have some pretty photographer photos of him from my friend, Jilly, but I try not to post them so much because when I do, I get abduction promises - most of the time, I wish people would just follow through, lol - I can't stand the disappointment when everyone threatens to steal him and then nobody shows up with a trailer! Haha. Probably best to show him in his "natural state" - aka dirty, and with a mane that I have set out to pull several times but never finished completely - note the different lengths along his mane. He is a son of my Angel, and a half sibling to my mare, Ari.

Anyways - Rex has never left the farm (remember, until this summer, we hadn't had a trailer in a long, long time!) - I think I might have loaded him onto a trailer once when we had borrowed a friend's to haul a horse to the vet lab but it was an open stock trailer. We planned to fill our trailer with 36 bales of square hay for temporary storage so before we did that, I wanted to take advantage of the trailer hooked to the truck and load him a couple of times. He never hesitated at the ramp, but did at getting all the way in a time or two - but without too much coaxing or cajoling, he was soon jumping right in like "what else is new?!" - I think he is going to be a fantastic trail gelding... *cough* once I get around to getting him started.

So my bragworthy horse this weekend was Rex. Not Bronwyn. Not by a long shot.

We have been trying to slowly integrate our new mare, Robin, into our herd. She is in foal and we are VERY excited about the baby so want to take things as carefully as we can. To say that Bronwyn has been less than accomodating about the new addition to the herd is an understatement. I firmly believe her obnoxious insistence on segregating her herd from anything or anybody potentially harmful (and yes, she will sometimes herd them away from me if I am trying to catch one of the other horses) stems directly from never having held a position of "importance" in a herd before. She isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, the "alpha" mare in our herd, but she likes to think she is, and takes it upon herself to do the things that Jessie (the REAL alpha in our herd) is too smart to expend the energy on when she can send her goon, Bronwyn, to do it instead.

After an excitable morning of some "faux alpha mare drama rama", I went out to catch the mares to come in for the evening - I was down with a cold that, while it didn't knock me flat on my back, did make me pretty draggy most of the weekend and I had had a long day of cleaning up and doing pre-winter chores. Though the mares were close, none of them wanted to come in so I started the task of collecting them one by one. I always start with Bronwyn because of her aforementioned tendancy to herd the other horses away from me. She was not always (and still isn't) an "easy" catch but I can usually track her down within two or three minutes with Julie Goodnight's method, slightly modified.

So I started to track her down the way I typically do - assertive forward motion toward her shoulder, steady, even pursuit. Bronwyn doesn't typically do the stopping and looking at me at all until she is completely done and ready - I can then approach her and halter her, etc. Instead of her walking or trotting away from me, I was met with a lot of this:




In all seriousness, I was out there for about 30 minutes, with THIS going on. Here's the kicker - I figured out "the big amazing lesson that Bronwyn has to teach me" about 29 minutes into it.

The more she moved, the more agitated I got - while my BODY was still doing the right thing (steady, consistent approach), my BRAIN was going "that HORSE... when I get my hands on her... I should work the CRAP out of her because she's working the crap out of me!" (and on and on, as it goes). You're right, that's a big fat dose of PRIDE going on there. The more angry I got, the more wound up she got, even though my body didn't change what it was doing fundamentally. I am willing to bet that the energy I was giving off STANK to the high heavens.

Finally, I checked myself and said "Wait a minute. What was that 'golden rule' my parents taught me? Ah, that's right - 'never take your emotions into the saddle'." While I am pretty good at not carrying emotions INTO the saddle, I sometimes develop emotions while I am in the saddle, and I am not known to void myself of emotions when doing ground work. There are a lot of things I have been super patient about with Bronwyn, but then there are some things (like the battle we had in August over trimming her ears that I was too embarrassed to post about because I was being a horrible, horrible person and knew so many of you would call me for letting my emotions get the best of me) that I just decide to prove my point over my hurt feelings and don't stop until I've made that point, regardless of the cost.

This was one of those times. I was going to chase her until she fell over from exhaustion unless she stopped and let me catch her. One way or the other, as I told my father, "She is GOING TO BE CAUGHT. DO NOT let her run in the barn!". Once I realized what I was doing (I would suspect instead of the typical approach, she was feeling me more like a heat seeking missile that wanted to decapitate her), I straightened up, dropped the 'tude, and guess what? 30 seconds after I dropped the emotions out of it, she let me catch her.

Humbled once again by a horse, of course.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall Colours Classic Country Trail Ride - October 23rd, 2010

One of my friends from the draft under saddle club that I am involved with contacted the group that had gone on OUR club's first trail ride a few weeks ago to see if we were interested on going on the "Fall Colours Classic Country Trail Ride"...

Let me say that I have no perception. I could be standing in line for something for an hour and think I have only been there ten minutes if I don't have a clock to look at or vice versa. I also have no concept of what a mile looks like or feels like to travel nor could I appropriately guesstimate something at an inch or a foot or a yard. So, being told that the ride was 18km meant little to nothing to me. There were no warning signs that said "Do not attempt this if your horse is not in top shape!" nor were there any "don't forget your seat saver!" memos sent out. What I read said it would take 2-3 hours.

I guess I wasn't sure what to expect - on our ride before, we had gone as a group (there were only nine of us) and with the exception of two who broke off and went ahead, we stayed together the whole time. The path was pretty obvious and we had someone leading who knew where they were going.

At this ride, we left in groups (it felt kind of like The Amazing Race) after being prepped in the house and given a map. As we tacked up and were ready, groups left together. I rode with the friend who had invited me, one of my mom's clients, and another girl that had come on our draft ride - there were a couple of others - we were six in all.

Bearing in mind that this was only Bronwyn's second group trail ride ever, we set off single file into some tight woods. It was all pretty good - helmets are good for things besides protecting your head in a fall - they are also very excellent protectors against bushes and branches whipping you in the head... if you can put your face down in time!

We were warned that there was 'some water' on the trail... there turned out to be quite a few large puddles (would have been perfect for mudding on an ATV!) and a wee bit of running water. If I had been riding any one of the many stock horses I grew up riding, I would have still been back at the beginning of the ride trying to work through them but fortunately, Bronwyn doesn't seem to have much of a problem with water so she plowed through - in fact, I am surprised she didn't have gills and flippers when we got back!

We were also told that the trail actually tracked out at 15km. Our small group of six were overtaken by another group that passed us and with them, we lost our other draft club girl and her friend she had brought along so it was just my mom's client on her QH, her sister also on a QH and my friend on her Newfoundland pony for the majority of the ride.



We took a wrong turn SOMEWHERE and ended up on trail for about 4 hours. I am willing to bet we traveled 18km (or more) and we were all so sore on our bums that we were riding in two point position or (my personal favourite and my invention) the "dead man carry" in which I basically laid over my horse's neck to relieve the pressure on my bum. I also went about 1/4 of the ride with my feet out of the stirrups because my knees hurt and at some points sitting with my bum tucked under and my knees up by the pommel of the saddle like a jockey just to get them moving. There were also a few one-handed back stretches to try and keep my body functioning.

Despite my best efforts, when I dismounted, I was in a permanent crouching position and straightening to walk was pretty painful. Fortunately, when we got back to the house, they had waited for us to eat and we were plied with delicious chilli, salad and CAKE!



(The frosting was delicious!)

Overall, it was great exposure for Bronwyn. We walked the entire trail so while I am sure it was a strain on her, she seemed fine this morning and I am reasonably sure that I am the one who got the majority of the stiffness this morning. She went through lots of water, into some tight spots, heard gunshots, traveled close with other horses, through varied terrain - up hills and down, and overall, despite a couple of I-can't-believe-you-can't-just-trot-and-still-pay-attention-to-me moments, we had a wonderful experience and will, no doubt, return for next year's rendition!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Two weeks worth of updates!

You are all going to get Internet cookies at the end of this because this run down of the last two weeks is going to be a long one!

Just give me a minute here, I need to mentally rewind... (that high pitched noise you hear is me rewinding my memory like an old fashioned VCR).

So rewind back to September 17th. I had vacation planned because my birthday was coming up (Monday, the 20th... a whole quarter of a century old, ack!), but things got waylaid earlier in the week when my sister's heart dog (German Shepherd with past issues of neglect and aggression that we have spent hundreds of dollars and hours trying to fix) had a lapse in her "good dog" behaviour that had been pretty consistent for about eight months, and attacked my sister's 17 pound miniature Australian shepherd. If the aggression had always stayed with outside dogs, we could have managed this, but unfortunately, when it happens within your 'pack', it is way more difficult - this was the third time we had had such an incident and unfortunately, my 17 year old sister had to make the completely unselfish decision to put her "Boodleschnitzel" to sleep.

I have mentioned here before how amazing and awesome and wonderful that I think my sister is, but I should mention it again. Everything inside of her was screaming that she couldn't live without Bella but her common sense won over and she made a difficult decision. Bella was put to sleep on the farm with Shay and I holding her tightly and telling her what a good dog she was. I still get teary thinking of it!

Bella spent her last morning romping in our back field with her two best friends, Psyche (Shay's border collie) and Morrie (my 35lb mini Aussie). Here is a picture that I snapped of Shay with Bella and Psyche that morning:



I am so incredibly proud of her for making the right decision, even though it wasn't easy and it was breaking her heart. Bella's remains came home this past weekend (we had her cremated) and I think Shay is doing really well coping with a big German Shepherd sized hole in our household. She knows she did everything she could and we had well and truly exhausted all of our options over the last three years.


The next day, Shay took off for an agility trial she had planned - while all she really wanted to do was curl up and grieve, mom insisted it would be a better idea for her to go with Psyche to run agility and try to take her mind off of things. I would have loved to have been with her, but we had already planned (months ago!) the very first event for our local "Draft Under Saddle" club - a trail ride and potluck!

There was some road riding (about 1km at each end of the trail) that worried me a little bit, but I have to say that Bronwyn surprised me as she always does and took to it like an old pro. We rode at the back, we rode mid pack and we rode at the front, and even were overtaken by a group of motorcycles at which point - I was bracing for it to hurt, Bronwyn didn't even bat an eyelash!




You can see the rest of the album on my Facebook here.

We had a complete blast - Bronwyn was actually one of the smallest horses there, and got made fun of for her small hoof size and the fact that though I am 6' tall, I had to look UP at a lot of the riders, haha - with the exception of the Newfoundland Pony and Standardbred that were with us!

Overall, I was so proud of Bronwyn. She had her first opportunity to really ride on the road, in a group, be overtaken by traffic, ride close, through a deep wood, and stand tied to a trailer, and she took everything in stride. It has started to occur to me that "Hey, I have a fun little horse that I can take places and not worry too much about!".

That Monday, the 20th (my birthday), my father had his long awaited surgery for his torn rotator cuff (he tore it back on June 22nd and worker's comp has been trying to get things back in shape via PT - when it became obvious that it couldn't be done that way, they scheduled the surgery). All along, he had been doing things in the barn as well as he could with about 1.5 arm's worth of value... since the surgery, he is up in a sling, so one armed. Things got a little crazy with getting up at 6 to get chores done then getting home around 7:30pm and doing chores and all that silliness. I rode Bronwyn a grand total of maybe three times during the week and once it was more or less in the dark, and then we fast forward to this past weekend - Bronwyn's first show under saddle!

This marked a first for me, too - which is hauling a horse. I have traveled with many a hauler in my lifetime, and ridden enough miles in the passenger seat with a horse trailer behind to have a pretty good grasp of how you are supposed to drive with a horse in the trailer... but it certainly is different when you have your baby behind you! Dad came along with me for moral support but due to his surgery, but could not drive (though he did take his sling off and back me out of a sticky hole I had driven into when we were ready to leave)... it was really helpful to have him along because, well, I am a chronic worrier. I hear a tiny bit of movement or feel it and I am freaking. It was nice to have dad along to kind of go "that's okay, she is just readjusting after this turn".

Bronwyn is truly becoming an old pro at this trailering thing. She loads up pretty quickly - the only thing I don't like is that I can't get into the compartment ahead of her and make her back down slowly - we remedied that by removing the chest bumper when I am ready to unload (ours were just bars so we replaced it with rope, bolts, and a pool noodle. It won't stop her if we were to stop hard, hard, hard, but it's a nice soft place for her to balance) and I walk back with her telling her to be easy.

Anyways, I am getting off on a tangent! THE SHOW!

It was held at Callandar Hall Equestrian and organized by a really fantastic gal named Leah who was super, super helpful and really supportive to me. Their fall training show, she told me, is the biggest event of the year for some of their students, so I was pleased to be able to take part in it. She somehow convinced me to enter something called "pole equitation", which... well, I had no idea what it is and Bronwyn had never seen ground poles, so... total cinch, right? We went over a ground pole in the indoor arena while warming up a couple of times and that went alright, then went up to the main ring.

Surprise! They were between standards... like real, actual jumps - just with the bars all knocked. Oh my!

The first pole... well, I don't have a video of that, but she clipped it with her front hooves, I think, and rolled it up her back legs and then took a big jump and scared herself (and me, a little). I told Leah "I don't know if we can do this". Eventually, we worked through things but not before she did what one of my Facebook fans called the "politest refusal ever":



The actual class looked like this:



We were only two in the class and I won it - but I think it's mostly only because the little girl I was against had a hard time remembering the pattern. :)

We then participated in green horse w/t - which, well... let's say Bronwyn was more green than the other horse in the class (!), and then an intermediate rider w/t/c. Bronwyn had pretty much lost her mind in the green horse w/t class (rushy, pushy, and ignoring many of my aids), so I was riding very... um... proactively and aggressively in the w/t/c class and it's hard to have good equitation when you're having trouble with your horse! When they asked for the canter, she picked up the wrong lead (for the first time, ever - seriously), and the three good strides she got at the correct lead were, fortunately, right in front of the judge. I placed 5th/6, and I kind of feel like it might have been a pity placing so I didn't feel like I got horribly beaten by every child in the class.

From pictures, I recognize I need to get my hands up out of my crotch!







And the good one - mid poop!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guest Blog: Fuller Fillies

We’re just back from the ‘good old US of A’ having had a month long tour taking in business and pleasure and the thing that always strikes me when I’m there is the difference between the English Trade and the American/Canadian Trade; the Consumers are pretty much the same the world over- yes their tastes differ but largely (no pun) they are happy if they can buy flattering, comfortable clothing at a good price- but the Trade is a whole different ball game!

I have recently been recalling our rise to fame in the UK to see if I can apply any of the learning from it to develop the US/Canadian Trade...

Many of you know the story; 39 years old coming back to riding with ‘extra padding’ led to a rather ‘tiddly’ (it was Christmas 2005) me deciding to dust down the Fashion Degree and design my own collection. Having worked in Sales, Marketing, Advertising & Business Consultancy I thought that I had all the bases covered – Hubby was a Financial Consultant which was, and remains, just as well because all I care about is how much I have to spend!

‘The bases’ were far from covered however, because neither of us had any in-depth knowledge of Manufacture which is pretty key to getting a Collection made really. But I knew a man who knew more than me and that was a good start. He arranged a meeting with a team of other men which should have set the alarm bells ringing right away... “Now then Ms (pronounced Mzzz) Wild, you are wanting to produce a range for big girls, of course this will have to be done at a premium because bigger clothing is a different ball game because it means more stitching and we have to pay someone to do that stitching!” I considered this for a moment... “Exactly how many more stitches are we talking here?” “Oh probably 100 or so...” “...which takes approximately 1 second to do on a machine...?” I continued; anyway, needless to say that I decided they had just spotted a chance to make a quick buck and with no intention of bringing out a premium-cost Brand I showed them the door.

Following much research the launch collection went into production the following year and we stood at the UK Trade show, BETA. I was amazed at how many people told me how ‘risqué’ they thought the idea was – let’s be clear here – not ‘risky’...‘risqué’. Apparently, talking about big bottoms and boobs amounts to something close to Swedish porn which clearly should be kept in brown paper bags (you understand I have no personal knowledge of what I’m talking about here...) Anyway, I have what we call a ‘warped sense of humour’ and had this thought ‘I’ll show them risqué!”

The next month I launched the ‘nude filly’ advertising campaign. A whole raft of ads with my size 20 model wearing nothing but her hat and boots and the caption ‘2 million riders had nothing to wear – until now’ – all done very tastefully you understand!

The response from the rest of the Industry (our ‘competitors’) was nearing hysteria. The best was when I got a call from an Irish magazine, “Suzanne, if I offered you a full page ad. For £30 would you be interested?” Of course the answer was yes and I had to ask why; “Well a certain Brand has just pulled their advert because they don’t want to be seen next to your ad – apparently he knows fat girls exist but doesn’t want to see them with no clothes on”. What the owner of this very high-profile brand didn’t know was that the Editor was a size 22 and took his remarks VERY personally! It transpired there were many plus-sized Editors working in the industry so we got a fair amount of publicity with that nude plastered in every magazine the length and breadth of the country. It was most certainly different – but hell it worked!

There is one difference between British and US/Canadian consumers and it surrounds the horses you ride; over here if you weigh more than 11 stone you are expected to ride a Draught Horse – riding a pony or thoroughbred could get you lynched! My ‘Fluffy Lillies’ got very excited over a letter in the BHS magazine one month, a lady had written in saying she would love to ride her Fell pony but, at a size 22 couldn’t find clothing to fit her – why were her needs different to her skinny friends? The response had been deafening; how dare this fat b***h ride a pony – didn’t she care about its welfare? Big women were a burden to the tax payer because if they fell off their horses they would need an air ambulance to take them to hospital – I could go on!

The Editor who, it has to be said, has a fondness for well-padded ladies, offered me the right to reply on behalf of XLovely ladies everywhere – and I did. Three pages. Suddenly, big women had a voice and the mail bag was over-spilling for the next 6 months. You can’t buy publicity like that. The magazine had seen nothing like it , which is pretty much the definition of different...
Fuller Fillies became recognised as the authority on the subject of plus-sized clothing in the UK and I have always been the first to defend the needs of my Fluffy Lillies – and I expected it all to start over when we accidentally launched in the USA. What a difference!

Yes, its true, the USA was accidental. OK, it was in the plan for sometime in 2011 however, in January 2008 I got a call from an American lady buyer asking if we were standing at BETA the following month; we weren’t but arranged to meet to discuss the Collection, at the venue. When she arrived with her CEO she brought the proofs of their next catalogue which had half a page of our product already in there – the easiest sale I ever made!

The lady was from SmartPak, by the next catalogue we had two pages and by the next they had become our Wholesale Distributor; a whole different project for them. This is what brought us to America, and to AETA...

I bolstered myself and waited for the tirade of abuse from Retailers aghast that we were encouraging ‘fat girls to ride poor horses’. It didn’t happen – in fact far from it. “You only go up to a size 24 – what’s that in American a size 22? You need to go bigger!” And then there’s my favourite from this last AETA show when I was approached by a lady from Texas, “You got any low-rise britches?” Taken aback by the request I explained that as a plus-sized brand this would not be a good thing as it would dissect the tummy and nobody wants two tummies! “You need to make low-rise britches – they all want them.” An hour later I had established that she had not been asked for low-rise britches by anyone over a size 8 however she thought it would be a good idea – she now seems to be having all of her friends email me on a daily basis asking if we do a low-rise style. Presumably they will wear them with Riding Thongs – something else that we are never likely to produce! Some differences need to be preserved.

Bringing Fuller Fillies to market was always going to provide us with a challenge; what we didn’t realise is how different the challenges would be depending where you are in the world – and they don’t come from Consumers, rather the people who have set themselves up to service the consumer and like to think they know what they’re doing; you can rely on us Ladies but your local tack store might need some education...

Sometimes differences can be perceived that don’t exist and this brings me full circle. Since our launch we have been plagued with requests for us to do a long boot that will accommodate big calves; after 5 years of toil and an office full of ‘comedy boots’ we perfected our Dress Boot in time for AETA in January. We displayed it with pride and were told repeatedly that it wouldn’t sell over there because everyone wanted Field Boots. We hurriedly had 1000 pairs made with elastic laces and what do you know – the Dress boot is outselling the Field Boot 2:1!

At the end of the day we embrace difference; our consumers aren’t just scaled up versions of their size zero sisters – they are different; our clothing isn’t just copies of what is out there already for standard sizes, we design what our Consumers want – that’s very different. And our Consumers are the BEST whether they are in the UK, the USA, Canada or Croatia (and before you ask, yes we do sell to Croatia...) – and why? Because they are big, beautiful and oh so very different!

Viva la difference!

Written for ‘A Fat Girl & A Fat Horse’ by Suzanne Wild, Designer & Managing Director Fuller Fillies Limited. – another fat girl.
www.fuller-fillies.com

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What you need

Sometimes, I think, horses sense what we need, ultimately, over what we necessarily want. There have been countless times that I have been in need of comfort, in need of confidence, in need of security, and I have gone to the barn. Sometimes a horse that doesn’t naturally display the personality that would be conducive to offering this support has a brief moment where they stand still for a second longer than they would, or they nuzzle their face into your neck, which is completely out of character, just when you really need it the most. Sometimes I wish that humans were as sensitive to the needs and moods of others as horses are. Horses don’t ask “What’s wrong?” (which we all know doesn’t help things when you are hurting or grieving), they ask “Does this help?”.

Without going into too many details, I can say that everyone on the farm is having a very rough time right now. On top of the daily stresses of life, we are facing some difficult decisions, and to top things off, a corporation has been clear cutting a property that runs parallel to our home at all hours of the day and night. I have been told I have no right to be upset as it’s not our property, but all night with the saws, the lights of their machines reflecting off of our bedroom walls, the sounds of the forest being taken down methodically, until there is nothing left. I used to imagine that unicorns lived in that forest. It has been there since my father was a child.

Last night, I just needed something. I wasn’t sure what it was. I have been so busy with life and everything else for the last couple of weeks that I am pretty sure it had been a week since I had even put my hands on Bronwyn, let alone ridden her. She made me walk clear to the top of the hill in our pasture to catch her and she was just wound, snorting, taking off, difficult to catch.

I finally caught her and brought her down to the barn and got the idea into my head that I just needed to feel a connection with a living being, with as little interference as possible. I put her bridle on and headed out without her saddle. I finally slid up onto her (she is getting wider and wider, I guess my goal to help her lose weight has been falling to the wayside lately!) and rode to the crest of the little knoll in our paddock. We sat silently, perfectly still, watching the lights of the machines just beyond the tree line for quite some time. Just the feeling of her breathing under me, the tiny movements of her body as she settled and shifted, the frisson that started toward the end of her ribs when she saw a cat coming to us through the waning light and then settled again. Occasionally, she would turn her head and nudge my knee just as if to say “I’m still right here”.

Normally, Bronwyn can be a bit of a pill bareback. She moves, a lot, she rushes sometimes… last night she was calm, quiet, on a loose rein with her head down, patiently standing when I needed her just to be still.

My sister saw me and came out and asked what I was doing, just standing there, not riding, just sitting on my horse.

“Why are you doing that?”

“It feels good. You want some?”

She declined the offer (though I frankly think she needed it more than I did), and we had a good heart to heart. Again, Bronwyn stood still, like she was taking in the conversation, even when a couple of cats came tearing by her in the twilight.

Next week? Might be different. But last night, she was intrinsically in tune to exactly what I needed, and for that I am grateful.


---

By the by, while I am dealing with these issues that are happening right now, I am planning to post a guest blog entry that was written graciously for me by a wonderful person. :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Black Bile Monster Girl / Not-so-horse-related

I have another mid-week confessional.

I know most of you think I am a perfect, wonderful, faultless, caring individual (hahahahaha!). Let me tell you a secret... I'm not. I have been known to fall into the gossip trap, love to read celebrity "news" magazines and enjoy hearing about drama as long as it's not happening to me. I do make a concentrated effort not to be an outwardly hurtful person but sometimes find myself making remarks in my head about things that if I said out loud would be completely completely unacceptable.

**I think I want to really clarify here that I love my blog readers and forum posters and they should not worry about sharing things with me - the things that I mostly talk about in my head are people who I sometimes consider to be "stupid" - being a fat girl on a horse myself, I think it is wonderful and encouraging and beautiful to see other plus sized riders sharing what they are doing!**

I believe that voice in my head is directly related to the one that sometimes looks at a picture of me riding and says "OMG, look at how you're crushing that horse!" or "Why would that ridiculously-good-looking man even say 'hello' to you? You're not even close to pretty enough to be in his league, AND you're fat!" A lot of the time, I have a great confidence level - a lot of the time, I can be inspiring and encouraging to my readership, but sometimes I go through what I call "black moods", where I just cannot make myself happy no matter what way I slice it.

I think I am afflicted to a lesser degree than some others... after all, those moods are fleeting and usually pass within a day or two (or sometimes even over the span of a good nap or time for personal meditation), I recognize that they are not healthy and I make every attempt to keep myself from spreading that bile and negativity to those around me, particularly those that look to me for encouragement and support. When that "Black Bile Monster Girl" comes to visit, I try to keep her locked up in my bedroom.

I firmly believe that MY Black Bile Monster Girl, while she has never manifested herself like this, is a direct relative (maybe descendant?) of the part that is inside of people that cause them to write these precious nuggets:

YOU FAT COW, HOW DARE YOU MAKE A HORSE DO THAT!!!!
YOU CAN CAUSE A HORSE PERMANT DAMAGE BY FORCING THEM TO DO THAT!!!!! YOUR SUCH A ASTUPID FAT COW, I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU CALL YOURSELF A HUMAN!!!! YOU NEVER DO THAT TO A HORSE!!!!!


(To those wondering, this was a comment in response to my video: Bronwyn's Brief Repetoire of Tricks, and I believe, but am not entirely sure that it was in reference to me demonstrating how I was teaching her to bow, by lifting a foot and gently encouraging her to stretch long in the back and slide down onto the knee. She also left a nice nugget on my riding video from November saying that I needed to get off the horse because I was going to "crush it!" -- almost a year later, horse is still not crushed, damnit!)

I never, never, EVER want my Black Bile Monster Girl to turn into ... well, whatever mutant spewed the above writing from inside of what I am sure is often times a relatively civil, reasonable person. NEVER.

I do, however, tend to gossip, and say what I really think to people that aren't the people I am thinking those things about... I dislike confrontation. But imagine how big the confrontation would be if someone found out I was saying those things behind their back instead of trying to word my opinions in a way that is truthful but respectful and maybe hurting some feelings, but at least being honest and true to my word. I think this is a good first step to silencing the Black Bile Monster Girl before she starts to hurt other people in addition to the way she sometimes hurts me.

And on the other hand, even though I know that the person who wrote that comment is probably just a sad, selfish girl who doesn't have her own horse, and is sadly uneducated - her Little Mutant Girl hurt me - as much as you try to deflect the things that other people say, even when you know that the things they are saying are not true... it still hurts. But, if her Little Mutant Girl is hurting other people like that... imagine what it's doing to HER insides! I wouldn't want to see it.

This blog entry was inspired by the 40 Day Inner Mean Girl Cleanse - they also do an Inner Mean Girl Reform School which looks pretty dang tempting.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I try not to be naggy, but...

I thought this was worth a mention. I know many of my readers are re-riders or having confidence issues, so I thought I would mention that Tack Of The Day has Troxel Legacy helmets for $34.95 and Troxel Spirit helmets of $29.95. That's less than $30 to protect your noggin and potentially save your life in the event of a fall! The deal is only on for 24 hours, so hurry!

Can you afford NOT to?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Show Update: ETSA Show, August 28th, 2010

Well, I survived!

Wow, was this ever... something else. It had been about seven years since I had last shown a horse - and that would have been Angel, my palomino and white APHA mare that I lost four years ago to the day on August 28th, the day I was showing Bronwyn. I think there was a big bunch of emotion kind of causing trouble, which is the big reason why I was so nervous, but it fortunately disguised itself as nerves and excitement instead of grief so I managed to make my way through the weekend without too much trouble.

First of all, I need to say - my sister is great. She is 17, for those who I haven't already drilled that into a bajillion times, and I have to say she is one of my best friends. We are so alike that she can usually tell what is going on in my brain - so when she volunteered to stay with me overnight, I was stoked.

I ended up having a wild and crazy week (my best friend of TWENTY YEARS (holy cow, we're getting old!) was visiting from far-far-away and I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible) and so was completely unprepared come Friday morning to go show the next day. My horse hadn't been bathed in three weeks (!! When you show paints, which I used to do, bathing the night before a show is verrrrrrrry important!), I had absolutely NOTHING packed. By the sheer graciousness of her wonderfulality (yes, I made that one up on my own), she agreed to pack my things so that I could just wrap my horse, load and go once I got home from work Friday night. I sent her a list (her: "this is NOT A SHORT LIST!" me: "Did I say it was a short list? Sorry!") and she laundered, folded, packed, loaded and rolled (bandages!) all day while I was at work. When I got home, all I had to do was put on my boots, wrap my horse and load her.

So, I put on my sneakers, wrapped my horse, and loaded her. (Do you see something missing here?)

Annnywhoo... she gave me a little trouble loading (granted, this was only her second trip out), which was only exacerbated by the fact that I was supposed to meet my farrier at 8:30 to trim her feet up a little to make them look spiffy, but we eventually got her on, my dad in the truck, myself and Shay in the van and we headed out. She hauled easy, like she did last time - she's actually a lot more levelheaded than I often give her credit for - and unloaded easily. Even though it was dark when we landed, she was relatively quiet and at ease - not terrorized. Farrier rasped her feet down and shaped them up for me, and we put her into her stall.


It was her first experience with an open top stall, and the first box stall she had been in in a while - so naturally, I was anxious - was she going to try to jump out over the door? Was she going to spook and freak and tread all night?

I started to relax when she finally felt comfortable enough to poke her head over the door and watch the goings-on - she was really zen - dad thought we ought to have the top door closed but I thought it much better for her to be able to look around and take her surroundings in. When she got zen, I started to get zen! (Thank goodness!)


Originally, we had planned to pitch our tent and sleep in the tent but ended up getting an extra stall and sleeping next door to her on an air mattress - it was the only way I could sleep well, and I slept light, heard everything she did, but felt satisfied knowing that I was right there in case anything happened. The next morning, we got up bright and early to find that Bronwyn wasn't as dirty as I had thought and I could make do with just washing her tail and taking a damp shammy to her hooves, thank goodness!



And so this was the turnout:






(Not too shabby if I do say so myself! The horse, I mean!)

We were entered in halter mares, which was the first class, and open showmanship (I realized after the fact that I probably could have entered novice instead of open and not been against, oh, you know, professionals!). I didn't expect anything out of the halter class as it was also an intro QH show, which means open classes AND pointed AQHA classes, all judged by an AQHA judge. Very graciously, the judge used Bronwyn and put her 5th of 7, above even a QH! (The only other non-stock horse was a percheron/QH cross!)



(with our snazzy 5th place ribbon!)

Besides not being able to set up too quickly, and giving me quite a lot of trouble right up until the point that the judge came to inspect, she was really well behaved - the proximity to the other horses didn't bother her and she trotted out and walked alongside as I asked (she has a tendency to enjoy walking single file behind me when I give her the option). I didn't expect a ribbon, but it was a nice touch! Unfortunately, they didn't have the horse names/numbers, so they just called by number and they didn't announce her rad show name (The Bee's Knees).

Our next class was showmanship. I notoriously hate showmanship because pattern classes like that depend on the handler and I have never given myself much credit as far as polish and snazz go.




Yes, she bent in my 180, and yep, I actually had her stood up that way for inspection, and I still managed a 3rd out of 7. They combined this class with an AQHA class, so they called two placings and when I was not in the open placings, I left the ring. Shortly thereafter, the steward came running up to tell us it had been an error (I was not upset about not placing, I felt like I was a hot mess in there, but I was disappointed that they never got to announce Bronwyn's show name over the loudspeaker!), and I had actually placed 3rd. I felt bad for the people I bumped out, but... um... hello, ribbon! :-D Haha.



After that, we puttered around in the warmup ring under saddle - Bronwyn did not think that the cannibalistic horse wearing a hood was funny, no matter how humorous I found it to be. Then she cooled out, we loaded up and she jumped right on the trailer, much to my delight. Trailered home like a pro. All of my nerves were useless - she was an absolute superstar!

Sunday, we went for a nice, relaxing trail ride with Shay and she got a bath... have I mentioned lately that I love my horse?

But the big moral of this story is that... even after 7 years off... even being a hot mess with a horse that's not the "right breed" and a body that doesn't quite fit in (check out that showmanship lineup, man was I out of place!)... you can still have a freaking blast - I hope everyone has these same kinds of local open shows you can go to and show and HAVE FUN at. If not, find them!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Bittersweet

August 28th.

I realized today as I filled out and mailed the entry forms for the horse show I am going to attend with Bronwyn on August 28th that it will be four years since I lost Angel on that day. I know I have talked about Angel before on the blog... it is hard for me to convey the level on which I am still stirred when I think of her. In fact, I'm fighting a few tears here at my desk at work right now.

When I lost Angel, I went looking for someone to replace her. At first, I told myself I would train and then sell Bronwyn because no horse could ever take the place of Angel. Eventually, B taught me that there is room for the both of them in there, and the thought of losing Bronwyn tears me as much as the feeling of having lost Angel.

I think it will be a fitting tribute to Angel that I should show my first show since I lost her on that date. It will be my first show in 7 years, it will be Bronwyn's first show ever. We are entered in halter mares and showmanship at this point in time. We may post enter for English pleasure if we can make her canter pleasurable between now and then (it was getting pretty good last night) and the stars align with a borrowed hunt coat. My biggest goal for this is experience - for her to get out there and experience the bustle of the show grounds, for her to spend her first night "away" from home since I got her. If we don't show under saddle, I plan to ride her around the grounds just to get her used to that, too.

With all of that said... sometimes I wish that I could be something MORE for you readers. I wish that I had some kind of real talent or skill, that Bronwyn was some kind of amazing horse and that we were at the top levels of competition so I could inspire. I grapple between feeling bad about that, and then alternately thinking "You know, I am going through the same things that most of my readers are going through, and it's nice for them to know I'm going through it with them rather than looking down from a higher spot at them."

I still struggle with my horse and my emotions, the realistic economical challenges of owning and enjoying horses, as well as everything else that goes with it. I think the majority of my readers find themselves there, too. I relate to so many of the great stories and posts we have in our forum. I love you guys.

I'm not very coherent, either. Oh bother!

Monday, August 16, 2010

More housekeeping...

I promise I will have a "real" entry here soon! In the meantime, I wanted to mention a couple of things!

Many of you who know me on Facebook and on the forum already saw this information, but I took Bronwyn to her first parade on Saturday! She hasn't been off the farm since I got her three years ago, and this was a local community parade that took off not far from home - so I walked her to the event (even though we have a new-to-us trailer we have yet to christen with it's first ride, see below!), in the parade and back.

She did GREAT. I was soooo pleased, and we won 2nd out of 6 in the horse division, and beat a cute kid on a pony with dixie cups sewn into her mane. I did put some thought/effort into my presentation, though. The theme of the parade was "Colour Your World"... what do you do with a BLACK horse that needs to be colourful? Why, dress it up as a My Little Pony, of course!





And - the loot! We won a Calgary Flames tshirt, and coupons for an ice cream sandwich & bag of chips at the fair, as well as a free A&W root beer. Do I now get to say I own a prize winning horse? LOL!



About the trailer! It was a complete twist of fate - most who know me know I have been on the hunt for something for a long time but my budget is very tight and it is hard to have appropriate trailer + money + time all in the same place at once... we stopped by per chance to visit an old friend of ours from the horse world and about a week later, came home with this:



It's not much, but it means I no longer have to live in horsey exile - so when we plan for a show, we can now go to one! (And psst, we have one planned for the 28th, which I will appear at, come hell or high water!) We live about 30 minutes from anyone else with horses and aren't on the way to anything else, so trailering costs minimum $75-$100, usually more. Finally, I can just say "hey, let's hit the trail in the next town" and be able to do it!

And last but DEFINITELY not least, I guest blogged this week at my friend/cousin/sister (I don't know what to call her but I love her dearly!)'s blog. She is in the process of starting up a really cool women's gallery and meeting space in Toronto... it is an admirable and super inspiring project and she had guest bloggers all month. I blogged on Saturday the 14th. You can check it out here:

That's Women's Work, Inc

Have a good week, guys! I will be back with something, soon - I PROMISE!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ride-A-Day Challenge & Housekeeping

A couple of little housekeeping things!

I am so, so, so, SO excited to have a new, “permanent” home for the forum – it can now be found at http://www.afatgirlafathorse.com/forum - how exciting to have a .com to play with! Eventually, we will have the blog moved over onto the .com and we can go from there – there are so many options open to us, it’s exciting! None of this could have been made possible without my dear friend, photographic guru, general internet/website design goddess, Jill Renton of Scuffed Boots, who is also responsible for the beautiful professional photos I have posted here!

As for the forum – yes, you will have to sign up again, yes, all of our posts are gone, and yes, I am still planning to trim the accounts that don’t make any posts in order to keep us safe and comfortable. But also – NO, we won’t have any ads and NO, we won’t have to worry about downtime with no backups.

On to other things…

The Ride-A-Day Challenge!

I talked about this a bit in the forum but I have never really had the opportunity to elaborate. I realized a few days ago that I really have a wealth of resources in my hands – I have not one, but THREE horses to ride (I also have a completed 90,000 word romantic suspense manuscript that is so ready for someone to take it and publish it!), and I’m not doing anything about it (nor the manuscript). So, hand-in-hand, I am launching the “Query-A-Day” and “Ride-A-Day” challenge to myself, and to anyone else who wants to follow along (for the Ride-A-Day, anyways – I realize you can’t send query letters to agents without a manuscript, or, you know, an idea for a book!).

The parameters of the challenge are such – I need to at least SIT on a horse’s back five times per week. Ideally, I would be riding and working a horse SEVEN days a week, but I commute 1 hr each way to work and am gone 12+ hours out of the day, plus work a job on the weekends… so I have to allow myself something here or there to recover! If I ride twice in one day, I can use that “extra” ride at another point during the same week to count as a ride when I might need a day off.

Right now, things are a little difficult because Ari is out of commission (stone in her frog turned into abscess and she’s just blown off a big chunk of her frog – she’s on the way toward better, though!), and Rex is… well, not broke. As far as broke horses, I have the two options of Bronwyn and then my sister’s little mare, Jessie. SURELY, in a barn of FIVE riding sized and aged horses, I can find SOMETHING to ride any given day of the week!

I don’t know how long I will be carrying on the challenge or if I might change anything, but I am inviting my forum readers and my blog readers to participate and challenge yourself, within what is reasonable, to ride as often as you can. Maybe we’ll make t shirts!

With that said, I thought I would share a picture or two of some of my rides this last week.

Saturday morning, I decided to try bareback + “bridleless” (technically just bitless as it was a rope halter with reins attached!)… just to see if I could. Granted, it was just in the roundpen, but my mare didn’t go too bad for a green broke mess!







Also, a shot of the new saddle I am currently trying out… it is much better than what I had, so the plan is to keep it for now (because I can trade my mom’s work for it as well) and save up money for something better. We have always handled our horses (through the purchase of different bloodlines to incorporate into our breeding program, our equipment, showing, etc) on the philosophy that you buy the best you can afford and continue to upgrade, providing what you’re using is not detrimental. So… the saddle doesn’t quite fit me, but it fits me BETTER than my last one, and it fits Bronwyn a LOT better than the last one, and if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t have a saddle at all – and wouldn’t be able to put the work into her that she needs, and riding isn’t a possibility at all because she is obese… and that is that. Meanwhile, saving my pennies for something else!


Friday, July 23, 2010

So much to say...

So much has been going on in the last couple of weeks – many times, I have tried to sit down and write about it, but I can’t seem to get my heart into it.

Wednesday of last week (the 14th), I had my first lesson with my new coach, who comes to my place to work with Bronwyn and I. She has started many a horse and carried a very successful Appaloosa breeding program and competed at the National level with her horses. I have known her my entire life (actually, I have my existence to owe to her as she was the one who introduced my mother to my father!), and enjoy her company and value her opinion. The lesson went very well. At the end of it, both Bronwyn and I had relaxed significantly and both of us were moving pretty well – Bronwyn with her head down, relaxed, carrying herself even on a loose rein. We worked on getting her off the forehand, balancing out some transitions (because she rushes quickly into upward transitions), and other things. I am also trying out a new-to-me wide saddle on trial. So far so good, but things have been so hectic the last week or so that I haven’t been able to ride in it more than 2 or 3 times.

That night after the lesson, I was preparing to drive my coach home on a road I have driven a million times before. My father kept insisting that he come, and I tried my hardest to get rid of him – all I wanted to do was analyze my ride with my coach the whole way… but I couldn’t get rid of him. It’s funny how, in retrospect, you see that things are the work of something much larger and more significant in this world than you are. As we were driving my coach home, we struck a large cow moose with our Dodge Caravan. My father was at the wheel, and had the foresight to drive defensively enough that we ended up with absolutely no injuries and very minimal damage to the vehicle (in fact, I drove it to work the next morning). Anyone who lives in an area that is populated with moose knows that there are few instances when someone walks away from a meeting with a moose. Believe in God or don’t believe in God, but it was no accident that my father insisted on coming and was at the wheel – I would not have been able to think quickly enough to hit her the way that he did, which saved our lives. If I had been driving, there may not have been anymore blog entries, ever.

I was reminded how lucky I actually was on Monday morning when I received a call at work informing me that our 4H club’s dairy leader was killed in an accident involving a moose early that morning. It happens that quickly. I, along with a plethora of other 4H leaders and members, not only in our club but across the province and into other provinces, even, was heartbroken. The past week has been very stressful – his oldest son is in my light horse project and was very close to his father – this has been extremely hard on him and his two sisters and brother, all of which were 13 and under.

This is an article about the kind of man that he was.

The rest of last week was spent kind of trying to get back on kilter. The funeral was yesterday. I was told this morning that I looked more like myself than I had all week. You just don’t realize how quickly it can happen.

So, while this isn’t “fat horse” related, ladies (and gentlemen who may be reading), please drive carefully, love deeply and appreciate life (and those around you who are important to you) to the fullest.

Moving!

So, as many of you know, our forum is down.

The company that I hosted it with for free went under, it would seem. Unfortunately, there were no backups, and no chance of recovering old screen names or posts. I haven't had the time to be upset about it with a lot of things going on in my life at the moment, but I do have some exciting news to share:

WE ARE GETTING OUR OWN WEBSPACE!

And by that, I mean, we will be at www.afatgirlafathorse.com -- with our own forum so I can make backups and take care of any issues (AND choose whether or not we have ads, woot!)... the blog will also be hosted on our domain, and this will also allow us to move in some other directions with this whole thing. It's exciting, be excited!

It is happening soon -- it may take another week or two to work out design issues for the main page but the first thing I plan to do is get the forum up and running again, so that we can at least be able to chat while construction is going on.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Forum Woes...

Hey Ladies!

It looks like the forum is down, but don't despair! I am looking into things and will keep you all updated. You can check out the Facebook fanpage if you need to get your need to chat out! :)

Thanks for your patience!
Amanda

Friday, July 9, 2010

The way that horses heal...

As discussed on The Land Before Time between Petrie and Duckie:

“I flyed?”
“No, you falled!”

Yep, I falled. It’s funny – I told my mom last night that I am almost relieved when I fall, because I know it’s going to happen eventually, and some people have falls once a week – I have been very fortunate in that area. I have fallen off of Bronwyn twice, including last night – May 2009 when she teleported out from underneath me when a cat levitated into a tree before her very eyes, and then last night, when my saddle slipped at the canter and, whoops!, I landed on my back on the ground. The worst part? Having enough time to realize I was falling, see my foot caught in the stirrup iron so I couldn’t kick out and even attempt to dismount in a way that was even fractionally graceful. I think it’s better to just land on the ground and see your horse hightailing it to the barn than to have time for the proverbial “OH SHIT, THIS IS GOING TO HURT!” moment.

I was also a little peeved that apparently I don’t know how to tighten a saddle up very much because when I fell, I had JUST gotten back on after dismounting to reposition the saddle after a wee bit of slipping. You would think that I would have made extra double sure to get it together, but I was so excited to get back to that magnificent canter work that we were doing that I didn’t think anything of it when my saddle felt like it “locked” into place when I put my foot in the stirrup to remount. Dumb, dumb, DUMB!

I like to think of every fall as a learning experience (which is why I kind of wish I would have more). So far, I have learned to watch out for other-worldly cats and always double tighten my cinch. Fair enough, right?

But the thing that really made me the happiest about the fall last night (I know, happy when you’re stiff as a 2 x 4, riiiiiiight.) was that it gave me the opportunity to spend some time ‘in touch’ with Bronwyn. She was quite warm still after I fell off, so I stripped the saddle and got on her bareback. She was rushy and anxious so I laid the reins over her neck and took a handful of mane and let her cool herself out at her own pace, in whichever direction she wanted to, and I let myself focus on just feeling the muscles in her body that move when she does certain things, letting my own body figure out how to move with hers in the most effective way, and just spending time with my hands on her, stroking her neck, speaking to her, and letting myself come down from the adrenaline pump of the fall. I spent time communing with my horse.

I think that I have expectations for myself and for her that make the both of us a little antsy and anxious sometimes. I get uptight, she gets uptight and I think I sometimes lose sight of my actual love for horses. I know I love horses, and that is an underlying current in everything I do but maybe I sometimes forget the REASON I love horses, which is the way they can make you humble… and the way that you can become fully in tune with them… the way their rules apply to your world and how you have to forget a lot of your rules to be able to communicate effectively with them. They don’t behave like people do – they don’t do things for personal gain or to make others feel bad. Their rules and laws are clear and simple and if we all applied a few more of them to the way we interact with other people, I think the world would be a happier place.

I am so interested in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and personal growth using equines and the lessons they teach us right now…I so firmly believe that horses heal and improve us… new career path to follow?