Have you ever had something happen, some turning point, that feels like it's been a moment in the making for a long long time?
That's how I felt recently, when I found myself on the back of a horse for the first time in almost 20 years.
It was a powerful series of events that brought me there, almost like signs - pointing me in that direction. But it was surreal.
I grew up loving horses. I loved being near them. I loved touching their velvety noses. The first time I got the chance to ride one, was on the beach when I was 10 years old. I cried. Pure joy.
A couple years later, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with a close friend who owned horses. I helped her muck out stalls and we got to ride the horses a little here and there. It was one of the most memorable summers of my life.
And then, when I was around 15 years old, my family went back to the beach and mom decided to take us on one of those beachside horse rides. My mom, dad, and little sister were already matched up and mounted on their horses and the horse handler was getting ready to find me one when he told me something along the lines of.... "You know, if you're too fat, you can hurt the horse when you ride.... I better get you a bigger horse." and then off he went to find me a "bigger" horse. I rode that day - and cried again. This time, not from joy, but because I was devestated to learn that my fat body could potentially harm these animals I loved so much.
I was somewhere between a size 9 and 12 at that time in my life. Chubby, sure, but hardly huge! And it never occurred to me that the dude was being a jerk. Maybe he thought he was helping me? Maybe he thought that his little comment would "encourage" me to lose some weight since I seemed to love horses so much? I don't know. All I DO know is that I never went near horses again after that day. I couldn't stand the idea that I might hurt them.
A couple of years ago, I stumbled across a fabulous body positive blog: A Fat Girl and a Fat Horse
The day I found that blog was the first day I allowed myself to think about horses since that day at the beach. Suddenly, I was face to face with the idea that the dude on the beach may just have been wrong. That maybe my body wouldn't hurt the animals that I love so much. This blog showed me that there were many plus size riders out there. There are many different kinds of horses out there and many breeds are perfectly strong enough to carry a curvy girl rider. I mean, just think about the men with all that armor back in the day - or some of those big ol' cowboys!! There was just a lot of stigma against heavier-set female riders - just as there is a lot of stigma and stereotypes in Yoga.
After that, I kept running into people who rode horses, owned horses, or loved horses. They seemed to be coming out of the woodwork. One day, when I was teaching a public yoga class I ran into a curvy girl who mentioned getting back into riding recently. We chatted a bit and then afterward I couldn't stop thinking about the idea that the possibility of riding again might exist. So I asked her if she'd give me some advice on where I could consider riding again... just to see.
This student called me one day to excitedly tell me about - of all things - a body positive place to ride just around 30 minutes from where I live. No way. But sure enough - there it was. The Grene Wode.
When I went to their website for the first time, I cried again. This time - with relief. They had pictures on their website of bigger-bodied people on their horses! Finally.
I took a friend with me and went out one day for a lesson and to meet the stable manager. Being on the back of a horse (a beautiful black Percheron named Tascha) again was amazing. Almost unbelievable to be honest. This experience has bloomed into a regular weekly lesson - and me offering Body Positivity Yoga classes at the stable! What a fabulous chain of events.
he picture at the beginning of this post is me with Tascha. You may not be able to see it - but I'm grinning like a fool.