There’s something wonderful about the internet, Facebook, Twitter and social media in general… It’s semi-anonymous. Though your name is attached to your posts and replies, you don’t actually have to face the person you’re speaking to. This leads to an amazing lack of inhibition in people where they are able to just say things, truthfully perhaps, but not appropriately. Things your mom would have your rear end for saying, things that though you’re no expert you feel that you are clearly the most intelligent on the forum and have to interject. Things you would NEVER say to their face or at least that directly… in my blog I really want to expose just how a simple Facebook comment has torn my life apart about horses and how unfortunately I witnessed a Facebook friend receive the same cruel attack just last week.
“You’re too fat to ride that horse”.
Ok that one hits this girl at home, and goes probably the deepest with me. I do not care how much scientific evidence you googled up, and I don’t care what every trainer with at TV show told you, and I especially don’t care if you think you’re being “helpful” to the “poor sweet rider who doesn’t know better”. Social Media is NOT the place to do this!
As a “fat” girl (self described) I am fully aware of my body, my insecurities and my life long struggle with weight (therefore I’m not poor, sweet, and unknowing). My horse is one of the few moments of freedom from this. My horse is my escape, the moment where I feel complete and worthy and not defective. Yes I won’t pin in the hunter ring like the other girls, I already know that, but just let me enjoy my show, and tell me “Great Job”. I’m already over-scrutinizing the professional photos noticing my stomach and legs and how horrid my chin looks in a collared shirt like that.
I know you’re trying to help me by telling me I’m fat, trying to guilt me into losing weight, selling the horse and feeling like a horrid horse owner for even sitting on my horse’s back because of my weight but I guarantee it’s been done before, and I don’t need it from the anonymous Facebook gallery!
This brings me to my life story, one that takes me being incredibly brave to tell of my childhood and I’m sure there are many other riders who experienced this struggle their whole lives too but aren’t ready to let the hurt out. I’ve always been big, though not necessarily “fat”; my dad’s a 6′ football player kind of guy and I look that way myself. I’ve never ridden a pony, I started on a hunter quarter horse because from day one at 8 years old I was too fat to ride any ponies. So from day 1 of horses I was wrong, imperfect and fat. My instructor was amazing, she never once told me that and never for a second let me figure it out. I rode my first real “mare” and we bonded, we understood each other and that was enough for me, I knew she had my back. Riding became my passion and my freedom from the world.
Age 12, totally self conscious of my stomach, on my beautiful saint of a lesson horse
My instructor supported me all the way to college. I was never really allowed to feel too big for a horse because I moved up from Meg, the QH to my life long passion of OTTB’s. Frisco’s Phantom or Frisco carried me through lessons, and sometimes I was happy to be the fat kid because I could hold on, and ride him before one of the beginner adults came in for her rides. (He meant so much to me that at his retirement he came to live at my farm and stayed here at peace till he left this world) By fate and coincidence I came to own my first horse, and part of owning him was deciding that he was a physical “fit” for me. Well despite being 16, thinking I was fairly “hot” and having a boyfriend I was pretty insecure about my weight still. Tiny was the best teenage horse a girl could ask for; he was a hoot! I got him totally unbroke from a rescue who takes in circus animals, all he could do was lunge. He was 18h of beautiful belgian that I broke myself (Broke being a loose term, I kinda just hopped on bareback and started teaching him what I knew and somehow he didn’t kill me or throw me…ah to be 16 and fearless).
“Tiny” and I at 16
However even when I thought I had my insecurities under control, the monster of real horse bullying reared its ugly head. Every Christmas I decorated stockings for all the horses, and all my friends and I would fill each others stockings with treats for our horses and each other. I always hit the Dollarmart for the big candy canes to give out. Well, Tiny’s stocking had probably a carrot or two and I had added a candy cane myself, but when we arrived on Christmas day to spend time with out horses, they were gone. Gone were all my treats and someone had replaced them with diet bars, like Slimfast and Atkins weight loss bars. THANK GOODNESS my mother taught me how to have some tact and be brave. I quietly put them in my box and refilled the stocking with treats for my horse. When everyone else left, I sat in that stall and cried my eyes out to my horse. It hurt so much.
After a two year dealing with more weight issues at military college where I didn’t meet height-weight standards but you could see my hips and ribs, I finally hit my breaking point. Enough was enough, I’ve always been big, I’ll always be big, even at an unhealthy body weight (if I was a horse I was at least a BCS 4) I was still just a size 14 in jeans and my hips don’t go any smaller. I quit and transferred to another college, started eating for me and living for me. I tried a few horses but after years of searching I found my mare. One of the biggest selling points for me… she didn’t make me look fat. She’s a beautiful, well bred, Thoroughbred who can carry me, my legs don’t even reach around her belly and I feel confident. Don’t get me wrong I still over scrutinize photos of us riding but at least there’s less for me to beat myself up over.
My big mare and I, feeling pretty confident
My point in spilling my entire life story of horses and weight struggles is that those of us who are “overweight”, “fat”, “fluffy”, or any other word, know it. When my doctor tells me that I should lose some weight (in a tone like she’s having to break it to me that I’m fat) I just kinda look at her funny because I’m trying to figure out where in this process she determined that I ever thought I was at an ok weight to begin with.
With our own self-knowledge and doubts and fears, I hope that you can see why a comment like that is SO hurtful and SO unnecessary on a social media platform. Yes, I’m overweight. No, I’m not particularly proud of it. But most of all I’m doing something about it, seeking support and would appreciate yours! I’m part of FB groups like “Eighteen Hands” where larger riders can find support while dealing with this. My show BFF and I do Weight Watchers together (Try that while eating at a horse show!). My husband eats all the yum things I cook from the WW website to show his support. So with all this positive energy working towards my true health, remember that one nasty comment, one anonymous, repercussionless, careless comment like that on a social media site can destroy all this good and send me back reeling into the bad.
If you want to support me and others just like me, then find a nice way to tell me if you must, or just tell me that my horse is pretty That’s enough for me.
With lots of fluffy love to all the other riders out there,
Lisa and Claire