Saturday, August 27, 2011

Have you seen the size of cowboys....

When I was first asked to go riding, my greatest fear wasn't falling, it was hurting the horse. That my weight would be too much for them. That I would step in the saddle and would be so heavy it would pull it off the horse's back was all I thought about.

And I will be honest, I still hesitate everytime I go to mount about the saddle moving because of my weight, but I have come to see it as worrying whether I have the girth tight enough for my weight, not for whether I am too heavy for the saddle or the horse.

Part of the reason, probably the only reason,  I am still riding today, and am so passionate about it, was that on that first day, my riding instructor, Etta, didnt see my weight. She matter of factly looked at me and said "Have you seen the size of cowboys" and in her mind that was that. 

I was a rider, not a number on a scale! I wish the rest of the world saw it so clearly!

I have learned two things about weight and riding in the last 12 there is a lot of fat prejudice in the riding community and two there IS a horse out there for everyone to ride, regardless of your size, shape, physical issues. Riding is a totally accessible sport, no matter who you are, and the only ones that find the limits are the humans!

As a friend told me recently, horses dont care how pretty you are or how you look! But we tend to forget that and make judgements for the horses.

It would be easy for me to slip into thinking it is only prejudice against me, and truth I have gone there in the last few weeks. But then I am hit over the head with how it is everywhere. One of the most upsetting experiences I have had recently was sitting at a horse show and hearing another spectator say to the person with them, "God I feel sorry for that horse" as a plus size rider rode by. For the record the horse was MORE than large enough and the woman wasn't any bigger than me, yet these two people felt the need in a public forum to put down someone, who they didn't even know, who had the guts to go show and to follow their passion for no reason other than how it looked.

The ironic part to all this "fat talk" around riding, is that for me, the only time I don't think about my weight is when I am in the saddle. On the back of a horse I am just like everyone else, my body doesnt limit me in any way. It is also the one time the "noise" of my eating disorder isnt running through my head. And after I ride I have a much better relationship with food than I do when I have gone a while without riding. More than once while I was leasing Cheyenne when I was in place where eating was impossible I would pack my lunch and go sit and eat with her. Her lack of judgement of me allowed me to get past all that noise and stupidity I wrestle with around humans. And since ending my lease on her my food has been a mess again. I miss that safe place, but am working on finding another horse to have that soft landing spot with.

I have purposely up to now not blogged about the end of my lease on Cheyenne, I wasnt ready to go there, it has been a hard loss for me. But I feel today like I need to come clean, because my weight was part of the story. I said above, there is a horse out there for everyone to ride, but not every horse is for everyone. Often there are physical limitations of the horse that have to be considered. That was the case with Cheyenne. As an older horse she has back and arthritis issues, and very early on her owner started questioning if my riding her was too much for her. I'm not sure if we will ever really know that answer, how much was horse, how much was human. But for me even the question became dangerous, which is why I ended my lease. Not only out of love for Chey, if there was a 1% chance I was hurting her I would never willingly do that, but also because the question turned on the noise in my head. Every time she mis-stepped I started beating myself up. Every time she didnt want to head down a trail I jumped immediately past it being her being herd sour to it being she doesn't want to carry my weight that far. I found on my rides with her I was still in that dark place, and I couldn't do that to myself. As much as I loved her and still miss her, riding has to stay a positive for me. And watching her owner check her back the second I stepped off, having multiple discussions about how maybe she needed a lighter rider turned on a tape in my head that wasnt sending me in the right direction.

But with all that said, I would be lying if I said walking away has been easy. I have spent the weeks since making the decision in a terrible place with my eating. I have jumped back into ED behaviors I havent fought for 15 years. It hurts knowing that I had to give up something/someone I loved so much merely because I am fat, because I cant seem to lose these last 50 lbs. It has tanked my self esteem big time.

My saving grace has been my riding instructor and the horses at Woodloch. I have been given time with horses far beyond my lessons and just been reminded over and over, that it doesn't matter that one horse wasnt right for me, that there are a million horses out there who are. That I don't need to walk away from my passion because of all this, and also that so much of this is in people's heads not the horse's bodies!

Tomorrow I am going trail riding with a few friends, we will be everything in size and shape from little skinny to big and bearish. The horses will range from tiny to draft. And not one of those horses will care what we look like, how we are dressed, or what the number on the scale says. To them we will all be the same clueless humans who dont get that the grass and the butterflies are their mortal enemies and are going to eat us all alive. And I can't wait!!!!!!!!!!!

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