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The WEIGHT issue

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  • The WEIGHT issue

    This weekend at one of our collegiate horse shows, one of my students had to ride off against another of my students for the reserve highscore rider award. She did a beautiful job (she is a novice rider) and came really close to beating my open rider who is one of the best in the region. She asked me what she did wrong and I told her that she looked really great and with a little more mileage she would do even better.

    For those of you who dont know, at college shows the riders are allowed to ask the judge questions about their ride after the show. So my happy little novice rider goes meandering over to the judge to ask her opinion on what to work on. The judges reply was that she had nice equitation but she would never win seriously unless she lost 5 pounds.

    This was a FEMALE, large R judge. This is college riding, and not the maclay finals. The kid was crushed beyond belief. This is NOT a fat rider, as a matter of fact I would not even call her overweight. She is a big boned girl, almost 6 feet tall, who is of average to below average weight.

    As a coach and teacher, I was seriously affronted. It may be that the judge meant well, but since she is a woman (we are ALL obsessive about our weight), you would think that she would have been a little more sensitive. I am not saying that it is any less offensive coming from a man, but men deal with completly different body type issues than women do. I personally know of 3 boy riders in our area in the last 10 years who won lots of medal classes and they were what I would classify as overweight, and yet, I dont think I ever heard anyone make a comment about how they needed to lose a few pounds.

    If anyone else has visited the A shows in the past few years, they have seen several skeletal riders. I made a comment to a very well known trainer about one girl and he said, Oh, well, we dont talk about the problem. I was shocked. Did everyone feel that if they ignored the problem then it would just go away. Or was it guilt at having started the problem in the first place.

    When is the last time that you ever heard a person who had to diet themselves to the bone to stay thin, telling someone that they needed to lose weight. Hooray for you if you are naturally thin, but dont destroy someones self esteem, because you were lucky enough to have "thin genes".

    I know that we have created equitation, with the tall thin rider in mind, but are we willing to sacrifice, what could be a childs life to an equitation championship. What is wrong with people that they are unable to accept people as they are.

    All our riders are very physically fit, and if I get a rider that is a bit out of shape, or large, we encourage them to join us in 4 weekly workout sessions to get in shape. Wouldnt it have been more appropriate for the judge to have said that she felt the other rider was more experienced and perhaps a tad more physically fit, and encouraged the rider to run or work out to become more fit. Calling someone fat, never solved any problems with riding. I feel it only creates more.

    Sorry this is so long. Please reply with your experiences and opinions.
  • Original Poster

    #2
    This weekend at one of our collegiate horse shows, one of my students had to ride off against another of my students for the reserve highscore rider award. She did a beautiful job (she is a novice rider) and came really close to beating my open rider who is one of the best in the region. She asked me what she did wrong and I told her that she looked really great and with a little more mileage she would do even better.

    For those of you who dont know, at college shows the riders are allowed to ask the judge questions about their ride after the show. So my happy little novice rider goes meandering over to the judge to ask her opinion on what to work on. The judges reply was that she had nice equitation but she would never win seriously unless she lost 5 pounds.

    This was a FEMALE, large R judge. This is college riding, and not the maclay finals. The kid was crushed beyond belief. This is NOT a fat rider, as a matter of fact I would not even call her overweight. She is a big boned girl, almost 6 feet tall, who is of average to below average weight.

    As a coach and teacher, I was seriously affronted. It may be that the judge meant well, but since she is a woman (we are ALL obsessive about our weight), you would think that she would have been a little more sensitive. I am not saying that it is any less offensive coming from a man, but men deal with completly different body type issues than women do. I personally know of 3 boy riders in our area in the last 10 years who won lots of medal classes and they were what I would classify as overweight, and yet, I dont think I ever heard anyone make a comment about how they needed to lose a few pounds.

    If anyone else has visited the A shows in the past few years, they have seen several skeletal riders. I made a comment to a very well known trainer about one girl and he said, Oh, well, we dont talk about the problem. I was shocked. Did everyone feel that if they ignored the problem then it would just go away. Or was it guilt at having started the problem in the first place.

    When is the last time that you ever heard a person who had to diet themselves to the bone to stay thin, telling someone that they needed to lose weight. Hooray for you if you are naturally thin, but dont destroy someones self esteem, because you were lucky enough to have "thin genes".

    I know that we have created equitation, with the tall thin rider in mind, but are we willing to sacrifice, what could be a childs life to an equitation championship. What is wrong with people that they are unable to accept people as they are.

    All our riders are very physically fit, and if I get a rider that is a bit out of shape, or large, we encourage them to join us in 4 weekly workout sessions to get in shape. Wouldnt it have been more appropriate for the judge to have said that she felt the other rider was more experienced and perhaps a tad more physically fit, and encouraged the rider to run or work out to become more fit. Calling someone fat, never solved any problems with riding. I feel it only creates more.

    Sorry this is so long. Please reply with your experiences and opinions.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank you for an eloquent and passionate plea. I couldn't agree with you more.

      There were two seriously aneorexic/bullemic female riders in the GP ring at Wellington - and neither look like they will survive til next year.

      How many people will DIE from this stupidity? And, believe me, they will die. Or as the Dr with whom I was recently chatting about this said, "I'm surprised those two are still alive.

      "We don't talk about it" is norm: don't talk when someone is COMMITTING SUICIDE by starving themself - but blast them because they are normal happy people with big bones, muscular thighs, and breasts. Speaking of sick behavior on the part of judges and coaches. Gee, has it ever occurred to anyone that that round soft shape is NORMAL for a woman??? and in other societies, coveted??!!!

      Fitness is key - I know, because for the last 10 years (well, more), I have spent the majority of my time staring at a computer monitor. When combined with certain health problems, my body suffers. And while I did not lose weight during my 8 weeks in FL (actually, I do not keep a scale around, so maybe I did), I did gain a tremendous amount of riding fitness - and that shows.

      People - do everything you can to get FIT, EAT and eat right, and find the horse that compliments your size and shape. And DON'T show under judges who make stupid comments such as the one in the above post.
      co-author of 101 Jumping Exercises & The Rider's Fitness Program; Soon to come: Dead Ringer - a tale of equine mystery and intrique! Former Moderator!

      Comment


      • #4
        If that were my student at any level who received that reply, I can assure you that the judge would receive from me a very private letter explaining how she had done so much damage to this child who would have needed body remodeling to remove bone to suit her.

        Whether it is a virtue or a sin is for others to decide, but in my opinion whenever look becomes more important than quality and ability it is the judge who is in error, whatever the field or sport.

        I speak to you as someone who has had the opportunity to be skinny. I did not find it an asset. I speak as someone who was a model and I think that it is a crime when vanity supercedes ability. My children and grandchildren are beautiful and by contemporary standards might be the right build, I would be very unhappy for them if they grew up believing the looks were everything. What a pity that is! God! made us all different, if it was wise for us all to look the same why not just clone those few ideals for everyone.

        What a boring world this would be if every female looked like every other female and they were all size 2. Where then would excellence be?
        http://www.usAHSA.org and http://www.noreinstatement.org

        Comment


        • #5
          Denna,

          I was at the same horse show and not only did the judge tell the rider, you speak of, that she was overwieght but another girl that she pinned first! This girl was MAYBE 5'1", and did have a little weight problem but flawless equitation... she told her(in front of a lot of riders) that if she wanted to be competetive, she needed to diet. I qoute,"I hope I see less of you next year." I was appalled

          I am almost 6 feet tall I wear a size eleven shoe, I am no littlw woman [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img]. Yeah college has taken a toll on my figure but I am not a huge beast. I have had a huge difference in my placings due to the weight gain. I am just of a strong rider as I was when I was thinner, but I am not winning everything. I have gone from NEVER I repeat NEVER getting below a first in a flat class during an entire circuit to pinning thirds and fourths. I think it is the weight. I just dont fit the "mold".

          I think we need to look at postion NOT weight. That is ridicoulus and painful. I have been very hurt by this steriotype. I have lost a lot of self confidence due to it and it needs to change! Does anyone have any other comments...sorry I babble. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img] Rolex
          ~~Lisa~~

          www.caringbridge.org/fl/aiden

          Comment


          • #6
            Having competed in IHSA and AHSA shows, I am appalled at your story. I cannot imagine a judge, let alone female, saying that to a rider.
            Growing up doing the big eq I know how people act and what trainers say. My trainer never said anything to me about my weight, but I always heard stories of other trainers making coments to their students, even demanding their students to lose weight, even if they were thin.
            It also upsets me when people judge based on body type. I had a lot of difficulties because I had shorter legs and arms than everyone else. Therefore I didn't have that "look" that was necessary to win. I think many of the AHSA judges look for the tall thin riders, but the good IHSA judges, I'd like to think, don't let that effect their judging. In my opinion, IHSA shows are a totally different ballpark. After competing with my team, I almost dread going back to regular AHSA shows. I believe IHSA shows truly judge the ride, not how expensive your horse is or what clothes you wear or what body type you have. But your story doesn't exactly demonstrate that, which is upsetting. I think many of the judges out there need to start judging the rider for their abilities, not based on their trainer, their clothes, their $100,000 horse.

            Comment


            • #7
              It really saddens me to learn how widespread this attitude has become in our sport. Right now on the BigEq bulletin board, there is the suggestion that Georgina Bloomberg should be doing the equitation simply because she's skinny." Where is this mindset coming from?
              I hope that something is said to this judge regarding her inappropriate comments. I confess I'm not too clear on how the IHSA works, so I don't know if this is possible, but I'd certainly think twice about inviting this judge back.
              Fitness is what should matter- not how skinny someone is or isn't. Weight should only matter if it seriously endangers horse or rider.
              I agree with everything that's been said. What can we do to change this mindset and instead get people to appreciate healthy, fit bodies?

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                First of all, to weatherford, one of the riders that you saw in Wellington, in the GP ring, has been a skeleton for at least 4 years that I know of and she is who I was talking about in my first post. She actually looked as if she (thank god because she looks so much better), gained some weight since the last time I saw her. So hopefully, finally someone said something to her, or tried to intervene and get her some help.

                Second of all, is there a way to speak about this problem at the AHSA convention? Does anyone who reads this board know how to go about getting this subject on the agenda. This is a really touchy subject, but one that I feel needs to be addressed.

                Not to make light of all that Joe Dotoli is doing with the helmets, but isnt the health of our children, nutritionally, just as important as headgear issues.

                How can people who are so concerned about not letting people fall off and get a fatal head injury, stand around and watch our children starve themselves to death. Is there someone in our country who could or would become our spokesperson on this?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Being a horseshow mom of a 13 year old girl, this kind of thing really saddens me. My daughter will never be tall and thin. She is 5'4" and 115 lbs. Not much fat, but plenty of muscle. If I ever hear of a judge saying these sort of things to my child, I will do everything within my power to see that that judge is nowhere near my child again. Ditto the trainer. Fortunately, her trainer is a gem.

                  Can the show organizers be contacted about this? Could a circuit start a "black list" for judges that make weight a criteria for winning and not invite them back? Maybe as part of a judge's training, they need to learn about eating disorders and the damage to one's health? What about a letter writing campaign to AHSA?

                  It seems like there is plenty that we could do, we just need to get organized and get the ball rolling.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think it is disgusting to see mostly skinny riders in the equitation.I am glad if you are just naturally skinny,God gave you that right,but people who starve themsleves to death just for the blue ribbon(most of the time there is no cash profit!)should not be able to ride horses!It is dangerous to be too skinny,you usually lose muscle and then you want to sit on a 1,500+lb animal,give me a break,you can be seriously injured if not killed!I feel sorry for those judges who can do nothing but sit on their butt and judge people how they look and by how they ride, they shouldn't even be called judges but they could be called monsters!I am not from a family blessed with being skinny,but the far oppisite.I have worked hard not to be overweight and I think that if I ride well,screw the judges that think otherwise!I asked to look at the judges score cards once and the girl who got first every time had a lot more faults than I did(and more than other riders as well),so I asked why I placed 2nd behind her in my classes if I scored better and he told me that I didn't fit his "perfect-rider"desciption.So I told all my friends and now we don't go to any shows that have him judging(we have complained to show management also),the result-he no longer judges any more of these shows!We as a whole need to let our voices be heard,equestraian sports are headed to bad times if this "skinny"trend doen't stop!!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      It would seem writing a letter to the judge wouldn't make any difference. Writing a letter about the comments to the AHSA should be done immediately. I would also like to see a national movement on this issue so the matter can be brought formally to the AHSA - if someone wants to put together a petition...well let's get going. They could be left at tack shops all over the country and I have no doubt we would have thousands and thousands of signatures.

                      As I've stated before on another thread on this subject - MOSTWOMEN are not built like adolescent BOYS! Those who believe they should be ....need to see a shrink. We have enough skeleton female riders out there now - so grossly underweight you wonder how their heart muscle is functioning - and those skinny skinny male trainers making nasty comments about weight haven't helped either.

                      I think it's interesting that the Chronicle has an editorial on attracting people to our sport....well HEY GUYS WAKE UP...a sport that blatantly ridicules a rider, not for their talent or their ability but simply for their weight isn't exactly the kind of sport that will attract the masses who ARE NOT SKINNY BOY BODIES!!!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I am glad the weight issue reappeared because I have an interesting side note to add.
                        In Time Magazine this week, there was a chart of the Body MAss Index(BMI) of Miss America since 1920. The trend line was a 45 degree angle downward. Not too surprising, except for teh addition of a line which is the WHO's cut off point for undernutrition. Since about 1965, only four Miss America's were above that line. The only positive note is, it appears 1998 was the second heaviest Miss America ever and 1999 was one of the ten heaviest...
                        The report came from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hi All,
                          I'm a 'r' judge and officiate at both AHSA and IHSA shows. I have never judged a rider based on their weight - to me, that would be like judging someone based on their religion or ethnic background. It is simply prejudice! If a judge can find nothing to mark down on a rider but their weight, I seriously wonder about their abilities. I know I will probably get flamed for saying that, but think about it.

                          In 1991-1993 when I was learner judging to get my AHSA license, I heard a number of big 'R' judges say some very inappropriate comments about female riders' weights - of course no comment was ever made about the male riders. However, I also sat with some judges who were 100% fair and non-political - and pinned the best rider despite their weight or who their trainer was. But the point is - there are judges out there who are prejudiced against heavy riders, no matter how talented the heavy rider is.

                          I was actually thanked by a trainer last year at a Long Island IHSA show because her student pinned first in a big, competitive class. Of course her student pinned first - she had a great leg, light hands, good posture, and overall good horsemanship. The student was also about 70 pounds overweight.....which led to me being thanked. The trainer explained that this rider, albeit a very talented and correct rider, never wins because of her weight.
                          Would this rider be a better rider if she lost weight? Well, that's not for me as a judge to decide - I'm only supposed to judge what is in front of me at that very moment, and judge it fairly. I'm not a doctor - I'm a horse show judge.

                          This issue, and many like it in our industry, make me angry and incredibly sad. And because I don't play politics, count strides, or penalize heavy riders, I will probably never receive a promotion to big 'R'. But that's okay - I like the horse show world I exist in - where most horses are still pets and ponies get hugged even if they put in five strides in a two-stride combo.

                          Sorry for the long post, but this issue struck a raw nerve with me.
                          *Hallie*

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Hallie,

                            I am so glad that there are judges like you out there. Thank you for being a fair and caring person. Can we clone you?

                            Seriously, I think that you have hit the nail on the head when you said that it is the judges business to judge the riding that he/she sees, not what could be better "if".

                            [This message has been edited by LOUISE (edited 04-03-2000).]
                            If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
                            Desmond Tutu

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              When I rode in the IHSA, I had a judge make a comment that I was "Unfortunate to have pulled the wrong type of horse for my body type, A short-stocky horse and a short-stocky rider make a bad picture!" OK, after that, my then coach (almost 6' and very thin) told me that she would not have chosen me for the team if I had tried out when she was choosing team members because of my height and weight. Can you imagine, being 20 years old and hearing this?

                              I know that I'm not a small girl, 5' 1" and about 120lbs. I really am not fat but carry lots of muscle. I also made a decision that year, to prove everyone wrong about my riding abilities vs. my stature. I went on to win two IHSA classes and place 2nd, 3rd and 4th my other years. I also won an IHSA Alumni class and got a 2nd and 3rd other year that I rode. So, I didn't do too badly and proved to be a very dependable rider for my team.

                              For the most part, many IHSA judges are fair about juding the RIDERS ABILITIES. But those few that make these rude weight comments make kids feel awful about their self images. How very wrong to do to the kids of today!
                              http://community.webshots.com/user/linden0815

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Hi, all! Right on, LOUISE! Hallie, can we clone you? Pretty please? With a cherry on top? We need more judges like you in the show world! I admit, I am 5' and about 154. And, I have NEVER been pinned down for being overweight! Although, I have only showed in small shows for the last two years, I constantly get pinned in the TOP 4, and the judges like my RIDING, not my WEIGHT! [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif[/img] I know this b/c my trainer has overheard the judge say what a nice rider I was! Without any mention of my weight AT ALL! SCREW JUDGES WHO THINK THAT YOU NEED TO BE 5'8 AND 90 LBS TO WIN! How stupid! Riding SHOULD be based on riding alone, not riding and weight combined! Just my thoughts.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Yes, I think it is sad that people have to STILL be judged not only in the outside world, but in the horse world as well about their weight! One of my friends is struggling with bulemia because she "doesn't want to look like her family". I think that is sad. Hallie, you are not going to get flamed, quite the opposite actually. You pinned it for questioning a judges ability if they have to turn to such nastiness to judge a class. And Marimee, YOU GO GIRL!!! Right on for holding your chin up and proving yourself, that was the perfect revenge! I bet that skinny minnie trainer stuck her foot in her mouth! There are overweight riders who ride beautifly and skinny riders who ride horribly, to me it's black and white. Whoever rode the better course or test should win, plain and simple.
                                  Is minic a rinne bromach gioblach capall cumasach
                                  An awkward colt often becomes a beautiful horse .

                                  Comment

                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    At exactly what forum at the AHSA convention could this subject be addressed. Does anyone know? If there were enough people who voiced their opinion, then perhaps it would have some sort of affect.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      I feel deeply for the young woman involved in that horse show. How ignorant of that judge. PLEASE write a letter, not only to that judge, but forward a cc to the AHSA and the Intercollegiate Association. I would not be afraid to mention his/her name either. Alot of us on this board and others run horse shows and I certainly would NOT want anyone like that destroying the self esteem of my clients and coustomers. If I heard that comment I would have addressed it immediately AND involved the Horse show manager and the president (or equivalent) and had it out right then and there..(privately of course so as NOT to embarrass the rider any further)That is so sad that in this day and age of tolerance and celebration of diversity that someones weight (or the lack thereof in some cases) still is the basis for open and hostile commentary by all those that percieve themselves as "holier than thou".
                                      The thing about smart people, is they look like crazy people, to dumb people.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        dennaj -- It is terrible that your rider had to have such an experience. Sadly, women can sometimes be even more harsh about weight than the men.

                                        Hallie -- brava for you. If only we had more like you. I sincerely hope you do get your "R" license; you and others like you are much needed at that level.

                                        Goodness knows, this is not the only sport (or profession) that focuses on a girl's/woman's weight and appearance. The gymnasts, ice skaters, divers, and dancers, to name a few, have horrendous problems with anorexia and bulimia because weight is such an issue with their sports. That focus on weight has led to tragedy in too many instances. At least in riding there are many areas where those who do not fit someone's idea of "the ideal" body type can compete and be successful, but in those areas like Eq where that destructive attitude prevails, we must fight against it.

                                        Just FYI in case some of you didn't see it and are interested, somewhere buried in the threads from a few weeks ago is one titled "Riding and Body Image" that also dealt with this topic.
                                        "I don't want to sound like a broken record here, but why is it that a woman will forgive homicidal behavior in a horse, yet be highly critical of a man for leaving the toilet seat up?" Dave Barry

                                        Comment

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