There are a lot of shiny, pretty things that go along with riding horses. Tight t-shirts, sequined show tops, fitted pants, knee-high boots. Admit it—it is awfully hard to miss the ads for the hottest brand of jeans or color of breeches. They’re everywhere, and they always feature a lithe ideal of a model: slender, slim-calfed, well-proportioned.
And yet, really, if you took a broad look at the riding population the world over, you’d find horsewomen (and men, too) of all sizes and shapes enjoying equestrian sports at all levels. The truth of the matter is statistics show that the physical “norm” when it comes to body size has increased, and while many may wish to look a certain way in riding gear or on the back of a horse, the likelihood of meeting those expectations is getting more and more difficult all the time.
Lifelong horsewoman and writer Melinda Folse knows all about the challenges most women face in a very general way when it comes to body image—admit it, who hasn’t thought once in her life that her bottom was too wide or too flat, her legs were too short or too thick, her boobs were far too big or way too small, or her waist simply too well padded? All this self-criticism and mental anguish has nothing to do with horses. But why then must our self-dissatisfaction follow us into the safe space our barn is supposed to provide?
“If you haven’t already noticed, this whole weight and body image struggle is a symptom of something much deeper going on inside each of us,” writes Melinda in her new book Riding Through Thick & Thin.“The real answer is not in those size-6 riding breeches you may think are your end game. Nor is the prize we’re seeking going to be hanging on any wall or adorning any trophy shelf. What we’re really going for here is something you’ll store inside you, and once you earn it, no matter where you go or what you do, on or off horses, you’ll ride better, stronger, and lighter than ever before—it is yours to keep.”