Guest Post: Liddy of @GPAsandParlanti

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I am so excited to post our first article written by a R4WB ambassador!  This is the first of many, so stay tuned. Thanks, Liddy!

I’ve been riding for 12 years, and I started showing on the A/AA Circuit on and off three years ago. I’ve always struggled with body image, always so aware of how my thighs weren’t as lean as the other girls, how my tummy maybe wasn’t as tight and trim as the other’s, and how my arms seemed to have a little more meat to them. It got especially bad when I started showing, I was handed books written by my idols so that I could learn more about what I was doing, and I hung onto every single word that came from my trainer’s mouth. At 12 or 13, already incredibly conscious of myself, I was reading tidbits on how judges prefer tinier riders and staring at passages that claimed skipping a meal could help me win that next equitation round. I was hearing things from my trainer like “I can’t wait till you get taller and skinnier” and “I hope you’re watching what you’re eating.” At 13! How damaging!! I was too young to understand what kind of BS this all was, and naturally all I wanted to do was please her. I began starving myself and working myself super hard, because I so badly wanted that blue ribbon, and maybe if I dropped a few pant sizes I could have it. This was extremely damaging for me, and not going to even sugar coat it, it sucked. It took me two years to learn that not only was my body wonderful and strong, that I was so much more than my trainer’s and George Morris’ outdated views. (Also, in their faces, I’m a size 30 and I won my medal last weekend :))))))!)
This is where Kate’s wonderful campaign comes in: a healthy body image is important on and off the horse, and I think it’s grand that she’s decided to make it known to the world. In the past couple of days I’ve learned that I’m not the only one that struggled and is still struggling with body image in this sport! This means that there’s definitely an issue present, and I think it’s our calling to fix it. It’s time to push the fact that every healthy body is the right body, especially in this sport! No more bringing other girls down because their body might be more round that yours, or calling someone out because their body doesn’t hold the same curves as yours. We’re queens, we all slay, and it’s time that we stop bringing each other down and start bringing each other up! That girl in the equitation with a big booty and short legs should get the same attention as the girl with a smaller booty and long, slim legs; may I add, not negative attention, positive attention. All of us are equals here, no matter our pant size, and it’s time that we start realizing that we’re all the right body type. The right body type is not what your trainer (if your trainer comments on your weight, get a new trainer), George Morris, or the judge determines; the right body type is where you feel comfortable and capable of handling your horse, as well as taking care of yourself. That is what is important. So next time you ride, realize your body type is the type. #RidersforWellBeing

THANK YOU!

bodyimage, healthy, ridersforwellbeing, thankful

I am absolutely blown away and so humbled at how much support Riders for Well-Being has received over the past few days.  The fact that it blew up on Twitter and my personal Facebook proves that there is a problem in the horse community that needs fixing.  In addition, over twenty people have expressed interest in being R4WB “ambassadors”.  That being said, stay tuned for several guest posts by these ambassadors over the next couple of weeks.  They will be sharing their personal experiences with body image and healthy living as equestrians, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.  If you are interested in writing and/or advocating for the cause in some other way, contact me if you haven’t already!  I cannot wait to see where this campaign goes, but I can only hope that with your help, I can make a true difference.

Also, special thanks go to @DejavuEq of Twitter for designing our fabulous logo!

Announcement: Riders for Well-Being Campaign

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Here’s the thing about body image: we all struggle with it.  Even if we didn’t have to worry about our own negative thoughts creeping in and making us self-conscious, riders’ bodies are constantly under a magnifying lens.  In fact, a few years ago, my trainer told me I would look better in my show coat if I “pulled a few pounds”.  In this sport, it seems that if you’re not thin, tall, and well-proportioned, you’re an outcast and won’t pin well at shows.  Why do we allow this to happen?  As a sport and as a community of equestrians, we idly stand by and let the vicious cycle of eating disorders, unhealthy diets, and bullying continue.

This stops now.

No longer will we teach young riders that they must look a certain way to compete on the show circuit.  No longer will we criticize the rider who is a little overweight and suggest he or she “lose a few pounds” or “give her poor horse a break”.

Starting today, we will embrace a new way of thinking.  We as equestrians will come together to promote being strong, happy, and healthy.  We will realize that “healthy” comes in all shapes and sizes and looks different on everyone.  We will stop telling each other to starve or eat more salad.  We will realize that for the love of our sport, we need to start making a difference.  I am calling this campaign “Riders for Well-Being”.  My goal for this campaign is to bombard social media with body positivity and encouragement.  I want to see riders banding together and supporting one another instead of tearing each other down.

Stay tuned for further announcements about this campaign, and I hope you will become involved.  Please contact me with any questions or suggestions by commenting on this post, tweeting me (@bay_on_ce), or emailing me at kkosnoff@aol.com.

Spring Has Arrived

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Today marks the first day of Spring, and as a horse owner, that brings me much excitement and much stress.  I’m excited for show season, being able to put away my ponies’ blankets for good, and riding outside.  BUT, the spring season also means muddy paddocks (I don’t know about you, but it seems that my horses are professional rollers), SHEDDING, and flies.  As you may have guessed, the theme of today is grooming.  It’s important to get a jump start on good grooming habits now so that you’ll be a well-oiled machine by the time show season officially starts.  Below is a list of my favorite grooming and bathing products that are must-haves in my spring grooming kit.

1. A shedding blade.  You may scoff or roll your eyes, but no self-respecting rider should be without one.  Using a shedding blade daily from now until early or mid-May will help your horse transition from wooly mammoth to sleek and shiny show pony.  You’ll be thankful when his or her winter coat winds up on the floor, instead of all over your cute ROOTD.

2.  Ecolicious Waterless Wash Deep Cleaning Spray.  It’s a bit on the pricey side, but it works wonders.  When you don’t have time for a full bath, use this waterless “shampoo” to make your equine friend glisten and gleam.  Special bonus: it smells great, too.  I spray this on daily after I curry and brush, then rub in circular motions using a towel.  I ordered this from The Tack Shoppe of Collingwood, one of my favorite online tack stores.

3.  Dawn dish soap.  Yes, I bathe my horse with this stuff.  It gets really soapy and sudsy and leaves my horse’s coat shiny and healthy.  It’ll even bring out dapples if you use it often enough.  In my opinion, it works better than any shampoo that’s actually intended for horses.  It’s cheap, comes in a giant bottle, and will last you forever.  What’s not to love?

4. UltraShield EX Fly Spray.  Although we (hopefully) won’t have to worry about flies for a while, it’s important to have a bottle of fly spray on hand in preparation.  This stuff is the real deal–it has sunscreen, aloe, and repels dozens of types of insects.  You can even use it on your dog!

Colic Surgery: Where Do We Go from Here? Tips and Tricks on How To Rehab Your Equine Friend

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When I landed in the Newark Liberty International Airport after a two week long trip to Europe in August of 2013, I did not expect to turn my phone on to dozens of text messages and missed phone calls.  What happened next involved a lot of crying and sniffling (and being yelled at while going through customs).  I learned that my beloved Marley had been rushed to the Purdue University Large Animal Hospital that day and was currently in the middle of a colic surgery.  Definitely not what any horse owner wants to hear. The next seventeen days included a second colic surgery, an infected incision, and a massive blood clot in my poor boy’s neck.  The next several months included a lot of stress and many conflicting veterinary opinions, with some doctors saying he would never do anything more than trot under saddle.

Here are a few important things I learned during Marley’s rehabilitation process that I feel are worth sharing.  These apply to any major injury or surgery, not just colic.

1.  Be patient with your horse.  Under no circumstances should you ever disregard your vet’s advice by pushing your injured equine to do something he or she isn’t ready for yet.

2.  Understand that the recuperation process is hard on your horse, and react accordingly.  If the injury requires a prolonged period of stall rest, make sure to hand walk and hand graze your pony often.  Imagine being stuck in a box for any amount of time–you would go crazy too!  Investing in good toys or treats can also be beneficial; Jolly Balls and salt licks provide endless hours of entertainment and can help your horse beat the boredom blues.

3.  When it’s finally time for them to go back into work (YAY!), don’t get frustrated when your initial rides aren’t perfect or your horse misbehaves.  Instead, reward him or her for their patience and bravery.  The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed they’ll be, making everything so much easier.

4.  Make sure to monitor the injured area often, even after it has healed.  In Marley’s case, he has a large herniated area on his belly as a result of infection, and I check it every day to make sure it hasn’t changed in diameter.  Always, always, always err on the side of caution!  No horse owner has ever regretted being too careful.

Today, Marley is healthy and happy, and is back competing at the 3′ level on the A circuit.  Bringing him back from pasture pet to show horse has been such a gratifying experience, despite its ups and downs.