“Beautiful comes in all shapes and sizes.“
Everywhere you look, there is a certain pressure to look a certain way when it comes to riding. You must be a certain weight, certain height, dress a certain way, etc. One organization is aiming to change that. Riders for Well-Being was founded on the principle that “[n]o rider should ever feel limited by the way he or she looks. Instead, they should feel strong, fit, and healthy for all equestrian pursuits.”
The founder, Kate Kosnoff, was born and raised in Indiana. She has been riding since she was 12 and owns two horses that she competes on the A/AA Circuit. She is also a sophomore at Denison University where she studies English Literature and extremely passionate about conveying the body positive message to equestrians of all shapes and sizes.
Kate was inspired to launch R4WB in March 2015 because she was “sick and tired” of watching younger equestrians from suffering from physical and mental issues because they felt they had to fit into a certain mold; ie. look and act a certain way to place well in the show ring.
“Unfortunately, our message is something that many equestrians relate to. Many people feel a sense of solidarity when they read the blog,” Kate said.
Her blog focuses on issues that face riders today when it comes to body image and promotes body positivity as do her social media accounts. You will never find R4WB subscribing to the idea of the “Big Eq” diet or the notion that one must be thin, tall, and underweight in order to pin in a hunter or equitation class at a rated or even unrated show.
Since its beginning, R4WB has received a warm welcome from the equestrian community.
“Countless equestrians have reached out to me, sharing their stories about body image and eating disorders,” Kate said. “I have received so much support, which gives me mixed feelings; it makes me so sad that so many women have suffered from low self-esteem and skewed body image as equestrians.”
However, despite the positivity, there is also negativity. While Kate wouldn’t say she has received direct hate, she has received some comments from those who don’t understand R4WB’s “reasoning.”
“One person said that they thought I was promoting obesity, which is certainly not true!” She said. “Riding is a sport, and it requires mental and physical strength, stamina, and grace. I am trying to create a more inclusive equestrian community that is accepting of all body types. Someone isn’t any less of a rider because he or she weighs more or less than you [do].”
Kate has never experience bullying herself, but she has felt self-conscious, especially during her junior years.
“I remember lining up for the children’s hunter flat and looking around and feeling so embarrassed about how my show coat bunched around my midsection,” she said. “I’ve never been ‘petite,’ so Riders For Well-Being was certainly inspired by my own experiences on the [C]ircuit.”
Riding certainly puts a ton of pressure on its participants, especially to be perfect.
“We are constantly bombarded with images of riders at the highest level of this sport – Olympic medalists, equitation finalists, and derby winners,” Kate said. “We see certain body types, clothing, and mentalities from these people, and we think that if we look like that or wear that show coat, we will have a better chance of winning a blue ribbon. We are always trying to find the perfect distance to an oxer or canter the perfect twenty meter circle.”
Kate said she thinks perfectionism runs “rampant” in the sport, and it is learned from a young age.
Despite Kate’s message and her reach to many equestrians, there is still bullying of those deemed “too heavy” to ride.
“Scientists usually say that a horse can comfortably carry up to 20 percent of its body weight,” Kate said. “However, some people are still critical of heavier riders, and I believe that if the horse appears to be healthy and happy, it doesn’t matter.”
Kate wants those who are bullied to know that the bullies are usually insecure with themselves.
“Beautiful comes in all shapes and sizes, and riding ability isn’t determined by the way you look,” she said.
When asked how R4WB has helped with body image and becoming body positive, Kate felt that the organization has “empowered riders to recognize their full potential, despite their outer appearance.”
She added, “I know how difficult it can be to ignore bullies, but by encouraging riders to love themselves first, we are changing the mindset of the equestrian community.”
Speaking of the “Big Eq Diet,” Kate voiced her opinion on this as well: “It’s ridiculous. I wish that term would just disappear from our vocabulary! Eat a healthy, balanced diet, drink lots of water, and treat yourself everyone once in a while. That’s what we should be talking about instead!”
While Kate does write her own material, she also has a team of “Positivity” or “True Beauty” ambassadors who also write blog posts for her. Additionally, riders will contact the blog asking to share their own stories. You can check out the content here.
Kate hopes that “the equestrian community [can] become less judgmental and more educated about body image and mental health issues.”
“We cannot ignore anorexia and bulimia or anxiety,” she said. “We have to become more comfortable with discussing these topics to create future generations of empowered, strong riders.”
Kate also emphasized that R4WB is also geared towards men who may also suffer from issues stemming from their body image and striving to be perfect, though they are less likely to express or show it.
Kate has recently mentioned the possibility of getting more into merchandise and less into blogging, but for now, those plans remain a secret until she graduates in two years. For now, R4WB will continue to focus on blogging and sell the already available merchandise, including embroidered baby pads and Shop Hunt Club tack charms – two of which are available through our giveaway made possible by Kate and her organization.
We are doing a giveaway starting midnight, July 31, so be sure to enter for a chance to win a saddle pad and a tack charm. Full details can be found here.