An article from March 2019 on the Noelle Floyd website has been re-shared on Facebook again recently. Written by Stephanie Peters, an A Circuit hunter rider who is tired of being told she can’t ride due to her body size, it talks about how being told that that one is big means that larger people should not even pursue the sport and that sand that our sport glamorizes the “ideal” body time of tall, thin riders. Peters shares her personal story of a brain tumor that caused to continue growing past the time she should have stopped, and it goes on to talk about how horses have been her sanctuary and savior over the years. She ends up saying that horses don’t judge us on our size or looks and that the horse world needs to be more inclusive. I didn’t find it particularly inspiring or much more than pointing out the equestrian world needs to be more inclusive, but this is my favourite quote:
If it’s horses that you love, like me, if you’re different, like we’re all different, if you’ve struggled to find acceptance and truth in this world, like most of us have, I want to tell you that you are worthy. You are able. And you have every right in the world to believe in that one thing that brings you the most joy.Stephanie Peters
Personally, I have found that the comments on the article are often more entertaining than the article itself. For this article, shared on the Noelle Floyd FB page, it had the usual comments of “great article, I can relate”, to some more discerning readers who disagreed that the article truly examined the issue of size in the industry and merely glossed over the issues. And then it gets interesting. People started asking why that it’s acceptable for a 250lb man to ride a horse but not for a woman who is 150lb, arguing it’s a double standard. People bring up there are 200lb+ cowboys who ride relatively small horses on working farms and the horses don’t suffer. And then there are the trolls who confidently flat out say “if you’re over weight, you shouldn’t ride, period.” “If you weight more than 20% of the horses weight you shouldn’t be in the saddle”. “If you can’t jog for 15 minutes without getting out of breath, you have no place in the barn” (paraphrasing now).
Of course I couldn’t not weigh in (haha! Pun intended.) I got a few likes (2 of which are actually my friends! Thanks guys!) and one random like (cool!).
I mean, my comment pretty much sums up how I feel about this. But my goal of Gin and Tiny Jumps is to be a community for plus size riders where we can support each other (and maybe commiserate a bit too), and share our struggles and successes that riders who haven’t had to worry about their weight. Or worried what others thought of them wearing that shirt that’s a bit snug, or second guessed themselves for riding just because they have to custom order tall boots because they can’t find any on the shelf that fit.
I also understand that EVERYONE feels this way. I hear girls who I would never classify as big or overweight say they don’t like how they look, the feel fat (okay, that one just makes me shake my head and say try actually being fat, you’re a size 2, you always find clothes that fit) but they’re entitled to the same struggles and body image issues us plus-size riders tend to feel we’re entitled to monopolize.
The whole argument that you shouldn’t ride because you’re big will never go away. Just like it will never go away in advertising and why we still talk about it when a larger-than-normal-but-is-actually-just-normal-size-person being featured in the mass media marketing campaign. But the horse world is particularly difficult to break through that barrier I feel, especially in the hunter/jumper/equitation world. Maybe it is because you are LITERALLY judged on how you look in the hunters and equitation that lends itself the paranoia that you’re standing out and being judged if you’re anything bigger than a size 6 (and maybe you are by those that have drank the Kool Aid and could have their own Mean Girls movie).
I look around the eventing world in light of this body-shaming/body-positivity world we live in and feel we’re a bit more progressive. You’re out here! You’re doing great!! We’re all in it together! is more the attitude I see. I see riders of all shapes, sizes and colours (no aliens so far that I could detect, but they’re welcome too with an Ontario Eventing Association membership) I don’t have an answer, but I think Stephanie’s article is a good way to start the conversation.
Where do we go from here? How do we make the change to be more inclusive and less judgmental and elitist? Is there change happening already? I’ve shared an unflattering photo of me from this summer. I struggle to truly like any photos lemme riding, I have a 3rd boob that shirts tend to cling to. I hate how I look from the back every bra I try, I have back boobs too! But I’m a work in progress mentally and physically and maybe one day I will actually look at my horse first instead of the bits of me I don’t like.