Over the last year, I lost about 40 pounds, gained an incredible amount of confidence, and, as cheesy as it sounds, became my own best friend. My body feels healthier and my riding has improved leaps and bounds. So why do I still feel like the fattest girl at the horse show?

It’s difficult to know how much of this feeling is in my head and how much of it is actually grounded in reality. But, as I stepped into the saddle and rode my horse through the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center today, I certainly felt as if people were thinking, “Wow, she really had too much chips and queso at dinner last night.”

Kate Kosnoff.

Here’s what it boils down to: we, as riders, are being hit with this body-shaming theme from both pop culture and the equestrian media. Like gymnasts and ballet dancers, equestrians are constantly reminded of what an “ideal” rider’s body looks like. It’s certainly subtler in equine-related publications and on social media, but it’s definitely there in the glossy photos we see and even in some of the judging at horse shows.

Being judged may be at the heart of the competitive equestrian sport, but that does not mean that competitors need to judge one another. The truth is that if you are truly bothered by how someone else looks in his or her breeches, you’re concentrating on the wrong part of this sport. Why snicker at someone else’s appearance when you should be focused on learning your course or cleaning your tack? We’re all in this for the love of the horse, so remember that for the next time you feel yourself giving someone the onceover.

I know this is easier said than done. As human beings, it’s so easy to make snap judgments about other people. We can make these assessments without knowing a single thing about the other person. For example, I’ve struggled with my weight for about three years, since my diagnosis with a chronic illness that affects the amount of fat my body is able to burn, but absolutely no one could know that just by looking at me.

We are all people with very real feelings. My midsection may not look completely smooth under my show coat, but that doesn’t mean I deserve to be treated any differently.

Though it’s happening slowly, I think that change is on the horizon. I hope that by the time my future children are old enough to start riding, they won’t grow up worried about their weight when they should simply be enjoying their ponies. And for goodness’ sake, eat the darn chips and queso and don’t feel guilty.

-Photo credits: Farah Butt Photography; Erin Gilmore.