Challenges For Plus Size Riders

Winter Temperatures are Especially Challenging for Plus Size Riders: This Is A Call to Action!

By Katherine Shelton

 Photo by Sharyl Shelton

Photo by Sharyl Shelton

When the typical horsewoman thinks of winter, they usually worry about blankets, clipping, extra feed, finding muck boots, fleece lined breeches, puffer vests and raincoats. The clothing ads push the hottest styles, the newest trends, and the fanciest brands. 
For plus size equestrians, this time of year is all about finding apparel alternatives. 
This is because even the basic clothing options out there for someone above a 2x (let's call that a 20/22 US) is near impossible. Stylish, affordable riding apparel above that size? Zilch. 
Often, as a plus size rider myself, I find I shop for riding apparel more often in department stores, searching for fleece leggings that might endure  barn-life rigors for a few weeks. 
The first thing I should address is that I know what you are thinking- "Above a 2x? Should that person be riding?" My answer to this is absolutely! With a well suited horse and a logical riding fitness program for horse and rider, there is no harm in a plus size person riding. 

For example, I ride a well matched lease, and I am between a 2x and a 3x depending on the brand. The image shows me at my first ever schooling show in September 2016 where we competed in Introductory A and B with scores in the mid-60s. 
It took me 6 months of lessons to feel my skills were up to par, even just for a schooling show. Then it took 3 months of shopping, returning things that weren't true to size and finding last minute options to feel I was outfitted somewhat appropriately to show. Alas, I still ended up dealing with ill-fitting choices because they were the best I could find in the limited plus size market. 

Plus sized equestrians find it difficult to locate high quality, reasonably priced riding wear- but especially so in the winter! To find dress boots alone is a challenge, but to find a quality, affordable storm boot or insulated tall boot for a 19" calf just won't happen in the current market. The same applies to thermal breeches past 2x- there are few out there, if any, and they are going to cost an arm and a leg if you find a pair.
We are lucky that there are some companies out there working on creating expanded plus size lines, however because they have to start small and build their lines, the prices are often out of reach for the average equestrian. 

In closing, what can be done to expand this area of the market? As a plus size rider, make your wishes known! Email companies often to request your size, your desired styles, colors, materials and features. Include your budget for each item so they know what their customers are willing to pay. Call out companies who offer no plus sizes, and push them to open to the market they are missing out on. 
There is a class of riders who have been finding department store alternatives or have been riding in their ill-suited summer wear for decades. It is time.  Keep riding, folks! 

Kathrine Shelton