Sunday, January 3, 2010

A fat girl can do it too, or can she?

I just read a really enlightening article called "Winning the Fitness Battle" in this month's, January 2010, Practical Horseman. The article centers on international eventing rider, Becky Holder, and her realization about weight. She wasn't a large woman by any stretch of the imagination but she wasn't your "average" long, lean Olympian in size 26 breeches either. Here is a picture of her on her horse "Courageous Comet" in 2006.

Becky is quoted in the Practical Horseman interview as saying, "I was not as fit as I could have been, and I was competing to prove a point-- that a 'fat girl' could do it." In 2007 at the Fair Hill International, Becky had a fall that resulted in broken ribs and a realization that she had to be able to match the athleticism of her horse, or sell him. She said that "I had to think about what was holding me back and what was in my power to change."

These words really resonate with me. As you know from my boot struggles, I am a larger girl in a size 12. I have been the same pants size for years, so it doesn't bother me as much as the fact that I am Out. Of. Shape. With a young horse who is not yet under saddle and having given up the mare I was able to ride, I am getting no exercise at the barn. My previous excuse for not getting in gym time was that I was in school and always doing homework or sitting in class. I no longer have an excuse (although I am quickly filling up my nights with horse management courses on mondays, giving riding lessons on wednesdays and meetings for work on thursdays). I didn't want to resolve to diet as I do every year because, why add breaking a resolution to the already disappointing failure? Although my New Year's Resolution is to not kiss anyone this year that I have kissed in previous years (the explanation probably would deserve a blog of its own), I do want to get in shape before I start riding Granite. He turns in 3 on April 13th and will go into training. I hope to be riding him by May and to have him in some local schooling shows by fall of this year. To do this well, I think I need to get a grip on my athleticism (or lack thereof) sooner rather than later.

Becky Holder decided that her weight (or rather her health) was something that she could control. She began making herself a priority and cleaning up her diet. She made time for workouts even if they were very small workouts. I think this is something I am going to have to put in the forefront of my life as well. I have been in school literally since I was six years old. School was something I had to do for me and I made the time to do it. Now, getting back into shape is something I have to do for myself, but most importantly for Granite. He is such an amazing horse and, as D constantly tells me, all eyes will be on us. How can you not look at that big beautiful boy as he walks into the ring. And I will be lucky enough to have the spot on his back. I should deserve that spot by being in shape and being a rider who matches the ability of my horse. Just like Becky Holder, I need to do my horse justice. Below is a picture of her in 2008 after he lifestyle changes. She says that she threw away her scale when she began the process, so she can't say how many pounds she lost, but she feels better and she performs better, and it is obvious that she looks better too!

I ran 3.5 miles on Wednesday night and attempted to do the same on Friday morning which resulted in a sprained hip-- OUCH! So... I need to start slow and preferably with a plan. Despite not having the money, I ordered the book The Rider's Fitness Program to help me.

It includes exercises and workout programs designed specifically to help you ride better. It apparently even has some exercises to get you back in riding shape! BINGO! So I will take a page out of Ms. Holder's book and try to do my horse justice. I have 3.5 months. I have no specific number for a goal, but I would like to begin seeing a difference in the gym before backing Granite in April. Wish me luck!


  1. Tell me how you like that book! I am interested ;)

  2. Will do! My Bestest got "Pilates for the Dressage Rider" and I have coerced her into doing a "guest blog" about her experience with it also!

  3. That book looks really neat, I might have to pick one up! I liked this post very very much. I've struggled up and down with my weight too and a turning point for me was getting my upper level eventer. I HAD to be more fit in order to ride him effectively and sometimes just to plain stay on! I find that I am running into the same issues these days with Miss P too as she is a very physical ride as well (she's just a very athletic, sensitive horse which means I have to be extremely quiet in my position which takes a lot of core stability). Then, add in Pongo and I need STAMINA to take on two horses a day plus a full time job plus the rest of my life. I am right there with ya sista!!! Let's be sure to share any tips and tricks as we go along :)

  4. If you get a chance to read the whole PH article, you really should. I like the way that they went about stressing athletic ability and partnership with your horse, and they only mention weight as being a by-product of fitness (or lack thereof). In the back of the article they suggested multiple books specifically for Rider's fitness. I'll try to get the info and post about the books they mention shortly (I'm home tonight after the barn, so I may be able to make it for this evening's post). And like I previously mentioned, I was able to convince Bestest to agree to come blog about her new book. Shes a fitness guru anyway, so her perspective versus my 'chubby girl' thought process may be interesting!

  5. Thank you for visiting and following along! For me, fitness and healthy eating come first, and if I attend to that weight isn't really an issue - the scale is the least useful aid to improving one's body, I find. Good luck on your quest - you seem to have the right approach!