Today’s guest post is brought to us by Emma Rodwin. Emma reached out to me yesterday after seeing my article in Horse Nation, and was so inspired that she wrote a blog post about her personal experiences with body-image. Emma, thank you so much for contacting us and for writing this great piece!
Not being a serious competitor in my childhood, I was spared much of the very intense body image negativity that surrounds equestrian sports. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have my fair share of comments made about my body throughout the years. From my thighs, to my butt, to my breasts, it seems that trainers feel that they have free reign to say what they will about our bodies. In some cases this helps make us better riders. In most, however, it only serves to make us conscious of how our bodies are somehow “failing” us.
Riding on the intercollegiate circuit opened my eyes to all sorts of disparaging comments about girls and their bodies. Standing on the sidelines, I heard a barrage of comments any time someone who was fatter, shorter, or less well proportioned entered the ring. Girls and their coaches would say to one another, “Well, clearly she isn’t going to place, so maybe you have a shot, if you don’t blow it.” Suddenly, denigrating a rider has become a clever way to put down and add pressure to other competitors. It’s enough to make me want to give up on this sport all together.
But I never will.
Because I love to ride. I love to show. And I love to place. It doesn’t matter how much I weigh, or how many calories I eat in a day. I am strong because I work hard, I eat right, I exercise, I sleep enough, and I take care of myself. That is what being healthy means.
Now I’m a middle school teacher, and I see positive and negative body image scenarios play out every day in the classroom. Furthermore, when I teach lessons at the barn, I see those issues present particularly among the working students. They are beautiful girls, all between the ages of 12 and 15, which are probably some of the most vulnerable ages for body image issues to arise. Some of the girls are tall, some are short; some are skinny, some are curvy; some are more developed than others; some are gangly and awkward. But wherever they fall on the spectrum of size and shape, they are excellent and hard working riders.
My advice to them on a daily basis is this: the aspects of our bodies that we see as faults we need to see as strengths. They are part of who we are, and they don’t determine our worth as a person, or as a rider. When we embrace our bodies, and ourselves, we find out what kind of riders we really are—strong, passionate, healthy ones, who win in the show ring, and in life.
Emma Rodwin is a middle school teacher, riding instructor, and a recent college graduate. She has been riding for nearly 14 years, and has done a little bit of everything, including hunter/jumper, equitation, eventing, and dressage. Her great loves in life are working with Konor, an amazing OTTB, connecting with her students, and supporting her family and friends. In the future, Emma hopes to go to graduate school, become a certified trainer, and continue to ride and compete.