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When I clicked publish on a blog post describing comments about my weight at a horse show, I anticipated a reaction. Working in social media, I am very aware of how easily a conversation about body shaming can be turned around—the reaction becoming targeted and vicious. What I could not have anticipated was the flood of emails, comments, and Facebook messages that highlighted the real epidemic: our own fear and self-doubt.
In my late 20s, a medication reaction and related thyroid complications caused an almost 60-pound weight gain that I have wrestled with since. As I began to work toward my goal of showing again, I struggled with the impact of that weight gain on my riding. My balance had changed, I needed to improve my stamina, and I found myself much pickier about saddle fit – but those things weren’t holding me back. I was painfully, fully aware of the fact that I no longer looked like I felt a rider should. Getting over that mental block was a process that involved trusting my trainer, twice a week lessons, and eventually sucking it up and making myself take the plunge.
When I shared on my blog that my return to the show ring was accompanied by overheard criticism about my weight, the response from readers revealed that while I was certainly not alone, the voice inside our own head is consistently the most damning one.
“I too am an overweight equestrian, but have never had the nerve to put on the white breeches and show.”
“I’ve lost my confidence as a rider and have begun riding less and less. I can see the effect it is having on every area of my life.”
Riding is something that I’ve clung to throughout my life. When I moved across the country for college, when I got married, through my husband’s military deployments, and when I had my son—as my life changed the comfort and familiarity of the barn has been a source of strength and calm. As the comments and emails poured in about other equestrians’ experiences with body shaming, I was struck by how many people had allowed their fear of criticism and their own self-doubt to rob them of the joy that so many of us find in horses.
For more, pop on over to Horse Collaborative, who kindly hosted my thoughts today!
Do you like how you talk to yourself?