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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!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Stick With It!

Bronwyn got a big compliment from my father tonight. We were talking about the five that we have, at various levels of training (including with no training)* and how we really needed to get some rides on some horses and he said "Well, we only have one broke horse in the barn."

Typically, I think of my sister's mare, Jessie, as the "broke horse" on the farm (sad, they all should be!). She is about 11, and though she's not a finished show horse, she is pretty easy going and you can post most competent adult riders on her. She is a little sensitive and can be quick but generally gives very few issues to anyone.

Ari only has six or eight (or a dozen?) rides on her so he clearly wasn't talking about her - or Rex or Freckles, both of which are technically unstarted (though Freckles has had one ride) - so he wasn't talking about them.

He was talking about Bronwyn, he told me. He figured she was a more willing horse to work with than Jessie who gets touchy about mud puddles and long reins tickling her legs. Bronwyn, though she isn't a horse that anyone can ride, probably IS the most "broke" horse we have on the farm and that is still a long way from saying much BUT that is not the point of my entry. The point of my entry is what a success it was to have a compliment paid to her by dad.

Though he has been on my team for a while, I did get a lot of flack about Bronwyn from the very beginning. I originally intended to get her, break her, and resell her (Imagine!).

She was so scared and jumpy when she first arrived that she could border on dangerous if you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (I was only there once or twice and lived to tell the tale!). She was wary and mistrusting. She stood in the back of her stall and blew like a jake brake every time someone walked by. If I could get my hands on her, she would tolerate brushing and handling but you could tell that she was counting the minutes until it was over and she could do her own thing. I sat in her stall for hours, hoping to get her used to me and to "bond" with me but it never happened. She ran through my hands several times when I was trying to teach her to longe (before I got my round pen), and got sticky feet when leading.

During that time, I was reminded again and again that she was "dangerous" and that I was going to get hurt, and neither parent could understand why I insisted on keeping her when I had two other perfectly good horses (the not-fat horse posse) that I could use, plus some of theirs (including a 15.1hh stallion that was a more than worthy mount). I spent lots of nights, tears, ponderings, considering if I should just give up. I was ready to.

I spent six long months trying to convince Bronwyn to engage with me and be a willing partner. In the end, I had to think outside the box - way outside the box for me - and began with the clicker training. THAT was her language, food was her currency and eventually, we struck up, if nothing else, an uneasy partnership. It grew over the spring and at the end of April, 2008, with a small assembled group, including both of my parents, I rode her for the first time.

My dad told me: "When you got on her and I saw that you trusted her and she trusted you, that was enough." - I haven't heard a negative word since, even though dad and Bronwyn have frequent disagreements and still butt heads.

I stuck with it. It wasn't easy. I cried a lot and I wanted to give up most nights... but I stuck with it... it might have been my stubborn pride more than anything - I mean, what young, cocky horsewoman who has had horses her entire life wants to admit that they can't reason with a horse? I don't know what it was that made me persevere - maybe it was the same thing that made me pick her out of a herd of young draft horses and bring her home in the same day, the same thing that made me envision her braided and shined up under English tack, the same thing that made me see a partnership that didn't exist yet... but I can say I am glad I did.

When Angel died, dad told me the same night that everything happened for a reason, whether we understood it at the time or not (I didn't, and I hated him for saying something so foolish). Bronwyn is my reason.

Who would have known that that crazy, sad, lifeless horse with no personality and no interest in partnership would turn out to be that horse that gives me the evil eye if I don't at least pop in to give her a kiss when I am in the barn... the horse that will look at something scary skeptically and say "I don't know, mom..." but when I insist, will say "okay, mom, I trust you."... the horse that has a huge, overflowing personality and great work ethic, and really, truly, desires to engage with her chosen partner? She shone up beautifully, like obsidian hiding under the tragedy of the circumstances she endured in the months prior to the two homes before me that got her out of it and began to bring her around.

I can't take 100% credit for the horse that Bronwyn is... just like I can't take 100% credit for the person that I have become. Bronwyn did that... and my life is so much richer for it. I had an appointment with a banker earlier this week and as I spoke to her and explained what I needed, she looked at me with a wise look and said "You really sound like you have a good life." and I said "I really, really do." - and none of that would have been possible if I hadn't stuck with it - with everything over the years.



Ladies... stick with it. The road is not always going to be easy. There will be bumps and bruises (and rope burn!) and you will likely shed a tear or two, meet closed doors, and feel completely hopeless, and want to back out... but find yourself a good support system and work through it. You deserve it!

* I have horses because I love horses, not necessarily to ride. I am perfectly fine with the idea that some of mine aren't broke right now though they are all riding age. :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

That One Big Fear

Bronwyn has lots of little fears, but her One Big Fear is cats.

While many things startle her and momentarily make the record kind of 'hiccup', when she sees a cat, she can't focus... there is very little I can do to make her sit up and pay attention. You just never know when a cat is going to levitate STRAIGHT UP IN THE AIR, scamper under her feet, or attack with machetes! Those cats... they are scary and dangerous and it takes some considerable effort to convince her otherwise. However, the right amount of sweet talk and support helps her work through it, and gradually it is getting better.

Back in May, Bronwyn dropped me on my butt (okay, well, more like shoulder and butt and head all at once!) because of a levitating cat. It seems as though the cats have learned this and are now making it their goal in life to attend every single ride that I have, and so generally congregate around (I swear, we don't have THAT many cats!) when they see anyone up in the riding ring.

It is getting better and better, but I suspect that cats will always make her ears prick and distract her. Last night, a cat came prowling out of the woods by my roundpen and while she looked long and hard, she kept it together. I call that progress!

I know I talk here about the many different types of support that we as plus sized riders need - a riding network, a supportive home network... support for our (sometimes) hefty breasts (!!)... but I just can't stress enough how it really helps sometimes to have someone along to help us face our fears.

I don't have One Big Fear - I have a lot of little ones. Sometimes they get in the way of things.

As many of you know, I am currently in training for a new job working with accounts that can sometimes range from very very large to very very small, but there are definitely numbers involved. I am not a particularly math-y person (and they didn't test my math skills), but my excellent customer service skills and aggressive attitude about customer impression wowed them in the interview and got me the job. After nearly a week and a half of training, we approached MATH (!!) for the first time.

I am almost embarrassed to say that I had what I consider to be a small panic attack (not unlike what Bronwyn seemed to have when she dumped me!). My heart began to pound and I could feel tears welling up in my eyes... I was even getting the right answer... but I felt overwhelmed by something that has never been a friend of mine. Fortunately, my trainers recognized that I was struggling in that moment and reminded me that I am a very intelligent girl (if I do say so myself!), and that my problem with math was not because of a lack of intelligence, but a lack of comfort. Once I had a few opportunities to both succeed and fail without the world ending, I would feel better. They guided me through, ensuring that I understood exactly what we were talking about and by the end of the day I felt a little better.

This morning, I felt even better. And this afternoon, I feel like I could take math on in a sudden death cage match if I had to! I might not win, but I would at least put up a dang good fight.

Failure is not your enemy.

With the appropriate support network, you CAN fail without the world coming crashing to an end.

Make failure your friend.

Success makes you feel good, but failure makes you grow.

I'd rather keep growing than just feel good all the time - you eventually hit a threshold of good feelingness, and then what do you do? You find your "limited" successes no longer make you feel that good and start saying "Is there more to life than this?".

All of this ties in to my visit with Carina in Arizona. She can correct me if I am wrong, but I think she does struggle with fears every day - there is nothing wrong with having fears. I saw a brave woman face many of her fears while I was visiting her, and I got prouder and prouder as the week went by.

Something about being that supportive person really appealed to me and was something I have discovered I enjoy. I know what it is like to find yourself in the boxing ring with fear, to a certain degree, whether it is with horses, or in my daily life.

I think there are many of us who let fear hold us back - either because we haven't found the right support team or because we have never let ourselves believe that it is possible to come out of that boxing ring (or cage, if you will!) alive at the very least, and sometimes unscathed. Whether it is trying a new discipline, taking your horse to a show, or even getting on a horse again for the first time - you at least deserve the opportunity to step into the ring with that Fear.

Have a good (almost) weekend, everybody!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Juggling Life.

Okay, indulge me for a couple of lines. This isn't technically horse related, but it affects Bronwyn and the other ponies.

I started a new job on Monday. I have really, really been enjoying it so far (we'll see how that changes once I stop training and start dealing with customers face to face!), but it takes me out of the home for 12+ hours per day.

HOW ON EARTH does everyone balance getting up at the buttcrack of dawn, going to work and mentally exhausting yourself, and then coming home and finding time somewhere between dinner and dark to work with ONE horse, never mind two or three? Add to that trying to work out every day...

I am just so tired by the time I land home (and I am not even working a physically strenuous job... however, I have coerced myself into high heels every day this week to fit the "young professional" appearance) that all I want to do is lay down.

The last couple of days, I have managed to get myself up off my kiester and go for a walk or do a couple of miles along with Leslie. I have a needy dog so generally, I walk 4 kilometres with him in tow to satisfy both the exercise need and Morrie's need for some one-on-one... but by the time I get back, it's dark! It doesn't help that I have to commute 45 minutes in each direction.

I am hoping things will take a turn for the better as the days begin to get longer and my body gets accustomed to being in a work environment daily and keeping 'regular business hours' (first time I have worked 'regular business hours', which includes evenings and weekends off in a loooooong time!), and I get my body all straightened out.

This isn't all bad, of course. There are so many ways that this job is going to benefit Bronwyn, Rex and Ari in the long run, once I get myself sorted out, that I can't help but smile when I think about how lucky I am to have gotten hired. I'm making more money, for one, which means that I will definitely be able to look into buying a trailer which means that I will definitely be able to start showing or at least riding in other places, attending clinics, etc. I will have my weekends and most evenings off so that means that I will be able to ATTEND more of these things since I can afford them. Life is going to look up for this Fat Girl's horses! (There are a bunch of ways all of this benefits me, too - like actual dental and medical benefits, but the more important stuff is how much better my horses will live now!)

So overall, I am hoping I will have a lot more to say to you on the 'working with Bronwyn' front in the very near future -- I promise I won't keep you waiting too long.

A little housekeeping:
Don't forget to visit our forum, guys!

(Also, don't forget that in order to view the forum, you are going to have to sign up. In order to protect the safe environment we have created here, I'd also just ask that you pop into the introduction forum and post something so we know you are not just a troll!)

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Yes, I did add some Google ads. I have grappled long and hard with the idea of advertising on the blog and while I would like to do simply private, relevant advertising (ie companies that cater to plus sized equestrians buying space), the clientele and readership is simply just not there yet. In the meantime, I am hoping the Google ads are not too intrusive and remain relevant. I draw the line at putting inline text ads, so I hope where they are positioned is not too crappy.

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As a couple of last awesome little points:

My friend Carina has a guest entry almost ready to go and then I will share my reflections on my trip to Arizona. It was a deeply moving and emotional experience for me and I think I only touched the tip of the iceberg with what I wrote while I was there.


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If you are in the Maritimes and planning to attend the Atlantic Horse Fair this weekend, PLEASE STOP BY AND SEE ME! I will be at the Happy Horse Designs booth, which will probably look quite a lot like this:



I will look like... well, myself.

I probably won't have much time to update again until next week, so in the meantime - have a wonderful weekend and I hope everybody gets a chance to enjoy some nice weather and some pony time!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Confidence is KEY.

I think Zig Ziglar said it best: "You are the only person on earth who can use your ability."

Inconceivably, I somehow was the recipient this past fall of a huge boost of self confidence. This was before I started losing the weight, before I started having some of these big successes with Bronwyn. This was before I realized how awesome I have the potential to be. I don't know how or why or where it came from, truly. Someone asked me what the big, pivotal moment in my life outlook was and the closest I could boil it down to was this:

This fall, I took a chance at being rejected. I sat in my car for a half an hour listening to the song "Opportunity" by Pete Murray, and then I took a deep breath and did something really, really scary to me.

Nothing bad happened.

The end result I was looking for never happened, but I learned that it is okay to take a chance, it is okay to fail, and dust yourself off and get back up. I think that is a big way to build confidence - to face your fear, and come out alive on the other side.

“There comes a time when you have to stand up and shout:
This is me damn it! I look the way I look, think the way I think, feel the way I feel, love the way I love! I am a whole complex package. Take me... or leave me. Accept me - or walk away! Do not try to make me feel like less of a person, just because I don't fit your idea of who I should be and don't try to change me to fit your mold. If I need to change, I alone will make that decision.
When you are strong enough to love yourself 100%, good and bad - you will be amazed at the opportunities that life presents you.” ~Stacey Charter


I've made it no secret on Facebook and the variety of forums that I visit lately that things are finally going "my way" (weight loss, job wise, horse wise) - I'm sure there are people that have been wanting to slap the stupid grin off my face for the last several months. I have learned how to make the good things that I deserve in life happen through motivation, perseverance and logic. I can't teach anyone else how to do it but I can relate it to horse experiences.

“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.” ~ Anonymous


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I don't think I have made it much of a secret what my riding history is: I grew up riding safe, sane, quiet horses. I continued to gain weight through my childhood. Eventually, I was a few years away from having ridden, with an unbroke horse and heavier than I had ever been. I had no idea how I had gotten there. Fortunately, confidence still intact, I rode Angel bravely, and did many things with her that I hadn't done with any of the show horses I had owned prior to her. After she died, I found myself farther away and thinking about this fat thing.

I know so many of my readers deal with the issue of having been told they were too fat to ride, they were hurting their horses, etc. It's true that we need to be more aware of our bodies and the way that our bodies impact the horses we ride than some other riders, but I think in ways, that makes us great horsemen and women.

When I got Bronwyn, I was definitely thinking about my weight and how it worked in relation to horses. I had had a few blows to my confidence. Bronwyn gave me what I needed - she was a quiet, secure horse to start, despite having been so "crazy" when she came to me. She was slow on her feet and took some effort to get her moving forward, believe it or not. She is now the most forward horse I've ever owned, but I digress.

I've made it no secret that Bronwyn attempts to jump out from under me at least once every ride. I think I have also talked about my vow to ride in only my English saddle or bareback to improve my seat and my skills. Combined, I have had a lot of near misses and close calls, but I've stayed on. Even when I did fall off, though I was sore for a week - nothing bad really happened.

I know there are people who have had falls and broken their backs, or died. Guys, this is a risk that ANYONE, regardless of weight or size, takes when they step outside of their home. You increase the risk exponentially by riding horses. You increase that risk exponentially by not preparing yourself fully. But if you are confident, secure, and have a network that you trust, the odds of a fall are slim. Even if you do fall, the odds of dying are slim. I've never even broken a bone riding horses. It's true, it does happen to people, but in the words of Anaïs Nin:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”


As a closing note, I will share a little story. I am a volunteer 4H leader and have kids come out to the farm every other week to play with the horses. All of mine are generally quiet, easy to handle, as long as they are treated like horses and not dogs... and handled confidently.

I have a young boy in my group that can best be described as "troubled". He is very scared of the horses, despite having owned his own before - the best I can discern from what he has told me, he has had a bad experience and was hurt with a horse. Every other week, he valiantly comes to the barn and works on his fears. I have had him handling our small pony, up to our big draft cross filly. He is most comfortable with the pony, however, this week he worked with Ari.

Ari is about 14hh... so not a big horse, and generally very well behaved though she can tell when you're not serious and will test that boundary. The boy was doing very well walking her and starting to square her up when at one point, when he was about 40 feet away from me, Ari caught a wild hair (tossed her head a little bit). I have always told my kids that if the horses get out of control for whatever reason, it is best to just let go so they don't get hurt and we can catch the horse later. If the boy had held onto her, he might have gotten hurt.

Instead, he listened to my advice and let go, and ducked into a ditch to get out of her way. Ari, as is typical, headed toward the barn, and since I was in her path, I told her to "Whoa" and grabbed the lead rope.

The little boy was scared, and definitely not interested in handling Ari anymore. While I was holding the mare, I pulled him aside and had a conversation with him.

"You did what I told you."

"Yes."

"Did you get hurt?"

"No."

"Then what are you afraid of?"

He looked at me, then looked at the mare, and I handed him the leadrope. By the end of the session, he was beaming and informed me that he liked her, and she clearly liked him by her behaviour.

No doubt, his confidence as he handles these horses is going to be an ongoing battle, but I think I proved a point to him. Bad things don't happen every single time you put yourself out there, as long as you are smart and know what you're doing.

So ladies... if you have to fake it til you make it or have someone telling you in your ear over and over that even though something bad could have happened, it didn't... find a way to overcome that fear, and feed your passion. Sometimes the horse will get away from you, but the moments when the horse doesn't get away from you and you succeed and realize you can do something despite the fear are worth it.



Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." ~Mary Anne Radmacher


I lied earlier - that quote above was not mine at all, however, I was being rushed out the door and so credited it to myself in an all-too-frequent fit of blondeness! Apologies!

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I can't keep my excitement in a second longer!

I wasn't going to say anything because I know how this board can be but I came home to this from Arizona and have been way too excited not to share!



The filly is a week old today and I decided to name her Fiona. Bronwyn foaled out really easily - not too complicated since I used Rex as the stallion - he's a big boy but Bronwyn still has some major booty on him!

I was really hoping for a buckskin filly... Going to try her again on her foal heat to see if I can get what I want. This filly will be up on the local classifieds pretty soon. She is nice and will be a great athletic little mare when she grows up but I am really holding out for the buckskin and white filly... it'll look like a gypsy vanner, except taller and more athletic, I think. :)

I know Bronwyn hasn't really shown much talent for anything yet but I really think I am the one holding her back - she has a lot of potential and I think the foal could be quite athletic and talented! I also know how Bronwyn lost her foal back before I got her and thought she might like the chance to raise a couple and let her great mothering instincts shine through.

In the meantime, I am excited... it has been a few years since we have had a foal out here and I totally have missed little fuzzy noses! She is sooooo inquisitive and friendly, I am amazed that a mare as squirrely and distrustful as Bronwyn can be could produce something so cute and personable!