Tuesday, June 23, 2015

You're Too Fat to Ride a Horse

No, no one has ever said that to me. And if they did I would make a mental note in my head to never have any contact with them again if I could help it. But I have heard it said to other people and it is apparently more common than one would think. I have also known people who were told they were too old to ride a horse or too weak to ride a horse. There is some truth in that if you are talking about a specific horse. I was talking about this to my trainer, Audrey yesterday while giving her horse, Ineke a massage and as I said that I added, "Well, there are people who are too weak to ride Ineke, I suppose!" Ineke is a fabulous horse and I absolutely love her (in fact, there was a period where I was taking lessons on her that I was begging Audrey to sell her to me!) but she is very big and very strong and very energetic. She's a big Friesan girl who is sweet and loving as can be, but also really enjoys life and movement and with the way she's built she has huge movements! So, if you don't have good balance and a strong core and really know how to ride a large, powerful horse it would be too much. But then I'd just put you on my Fjord, Geir who is also stout and very strong, but has a "babysitter" temprament and a long history of being a lesson horse so he knows how to just go slow and zone out and chill with a small rider or a scared rider who isn't very physically strong yet.

Much as I love my horse world that I live in, like everything else it is not perfect and there is a lot of competition between people and there are those who have beliefs about how things work that may not resonate with everyone. In fact, I'm sure my belief that anyone can ride a horse if it's the right horse does not resonate with many people!

I started thinking of this subject again over the weekend when it was brought to my attention that "when I'm ready" a person in my life is there to help me learn how to lose weight. I find that amazingly ironic since I'm a recovered anorexic. It kind of made me shake my head for a moment and wonder if I should mention, "Do you really think a recovered anorexic doesn't know how to lose weight??? Seriously???" It wasn't in the horse world, but it reminded me of people who have had experiences of being told they couldn't ride a horse well unless they lose weight.

Ah women's weight. WTF. As a chubby girl I can tell you with great confidence you don't have to be skinny to be a good rider. And I've seen some skinny riders who were very unbalanced and from a massage therapist's perspective were not doing their horse any favors. And yes, I've seen chubby riders like that too. But it's not the weight, it's the balance and core strength and you can have those two things without being skinny.

But if everyone just ate right and exercised we'd all be skinny! Right? That's what the diet companies say. That's what the diet magazines that masquerade as "health" magazines say. If Julia is chubby it must be because she eats poorly and doesn't exercise, right? Um. No. My day consists of getting up and going straight out to feed horses and clean paddocks before breakfast (often in my pajamas ...) then breakfast of toast with peanut/almond/or sunflower butter and coffee. Then a mid-morning snack of a piece of fruit, then lunch which is almost always non-fat plain Greek yogurt with berries and a half sandwich or salad. Snack is usually a granola bar or crackers and cheese. Dinner is usually a salad and some meat and sometimes some pasta or rice too. Dessert isn't every night but is something like a cinnammon roll or a cookie or brownie. My day consists of either riding my horses or (literally) running around after my students during lessons, doing work around the farm or garden, and cleaning up around the house or running errands. In the evening I try to remember to do planks (core strength is a big part of riding!) and attempt to do pull-ups (I have this ridiculous idea that I need to get strong enough to do pull-ups because I never have been). Yes, I could never eat dessert again, or not eat any carbs or stop eating fruit altogether and just eat protein and vegetables. And yes, I would be skinny. But I wouldn't be healthy. You can't just never eat carbs ever again. So, dieting is just not realistic for me and let's be honest, I don't "eat like a pig" and I don't eat unhealthy so why would I diet just because people think I'd have more worth as a woman if I were skinny again? Why would I want to do that to myself just because it makes some people uncomfortable with the fact that they will forever be dieting and I refuse to ever diet again?

Despite what Kate Hudson and other celebrities who go on about their "super-healthy" diets say, not eating carbs is so you'll be skinny, not so you'll be healthy. So, please, please, please people - stop equating how a person looks with how healthy they are.

In summary, you are not too anything to not try what you want to try. And I think it does not only other people but also yourself a disservice to look at someone and make a snap judgment on whether or not they are capable of doing something they really want to do. If you're sixty years old and have osteoporosis and not a lot of muscle strength I'm not going to send you to Audrey to ride Ineke, but that doesn't mean you can't ride a horse. If you can't mount a horse from a standard mounting block because of hip problems, or balance issues then you shouldn't go hop on a barrel racer or a straight off the track young Thoroughbred, but we can build a ramp for you to mount a quiet, calm horse and have a helper stand on either side for you to feel more secure if you're not balanced and it can be done. I hate to see people limited by being told they are too much of something or not enough of something and I think if there is enough of a desire to do something that is ultimately going to be good for you (like just about any form of exercise!) then it's worth finding a way to do it.

Ineke and me after our first lesson together last summer.


  1. I don't believe that it is possible for a healthy woman living under patriarchy to remain unscathed in her attitude about her body.. I don't think we should be ashamed or judgemental that we don't love our bodies or that we want our bodies or others bodies to be different. It's a badge of the time we live the gold stars of Judaism in Nazi Germany. A sad reflection on the times.

  2. I'm not ashamed that I don't love my body as is, I recognize it as a product of the society I live in. But I want to be happy in my own skin and encourage others to be happy in their own skin and I believe that is possible. It takes us from being "victims of patriarchy" to being "above patriarchy" - and that is the first step to defeating something that is so negative - defeating it in our own hearts first.