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Rider Fitness

An Equestrian’s Weight Loss Journey

A high-risk pregnancy became a health wake-up call that touched every area of Kylie’s life, including her riding and equestrian endeavors, leading her to a weight loss journey.



I have loved horses for as long as I can remember. At the age of 2, I was at a company picnic with my parents when I spied pony rides at the bottom of a hill. Without a second glance at my poor mom and dad, I took off running down that hill as fast as my chubby 2-year-old legs could carry me, screaming, “Need to ride the pony!” the entire time.



That pony ride lit a spark that has burned bright for the last 34 years. I began riding lessons when I turned 7, and at the age of 16, I became the proud owner of an old, grumpy red dun Appaloosa named Phoenix.

Kylie with her Dutch Harness Horse before her surgery.

A Wake-Up Call

My life as an equestrian was not without its challenges, however. I spent a good majority of my life overweight, and in the equine industry, that can be met with a myriad of backlash. I rode anyway. I made sure I always had a horse that could comfortably carry my weight and I did what I loved the most.

In 2019, I found out that I was pregnant. I also found out at a doctor’s appointment that I was at the highest weight I had ever been. High weight can lead to pregnancy complications, and that is exactly what happened to me. I developed a pregnancy complication called ICP, which stands for intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, brought about by my undiagnosed nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

This serious complication can cause spontaneous stillbirth, and because of that, I was induced to deliver early and had my son at just 34 weeks gestation. I spent a total of nine days in the hospital, and he was in the NICU for an additional 10 days. That experience opened my eyes regarding the seriousness of my weight and my health more than anything else ever had.

A Major Change

Soon after, I began the process of getting approved for bariatric surgery. After six months of psychiatric evaluations, nutritionist appointments, cardiac testing and B-12 shots, I was finally approved and scheduled for surgery.

In August of 2021, I had gastric sleeve surgery, which involves the removal of around 80 percent of the stomach. Many people view weight loss surgery as an “easy way out,” but those people would be wrong. It wreaks havoc on your brain and your body.

Imagine the mental strain of being addicted to food and then suddenly not being able to eat it. I had to change my entire relationship with food, exercise, and how I looked at myself. However, I am happy to say that in the 15 months since my surgery, I have successfully lost 180 pounds.

In the 15 months since her gastric sleeve surgery, Kylie has lost 180 pounds.

I have felt the benefits of weight loss in all aspects of my life, but none more so than when riding my horses. I’ve heard others say that as equestrians, we shouldn’t expect our horses to be athletes if we aren’t willing to also be athletes as well. But I never understood that concept until I felt how much easier riding was after I lost weight and got in shape.

New Perspective on Riding After Weight Loss

Before losing weight, I would trot two or three laps around the ring before needing to walk because I was so out of breath. I would feel like physically passing out after jumping a course. I was in decent shape for my size, but I was not physically in shape to ride the way I needed to be.

I’m not saying that a person needs to be skinny to be an effective equestrian, but they should be in the best physical shape possible to be an effective and strong partner for their horse.

Now I can trot around with my big Dutch Harness Horse for quite a while without feeling winded at all. I even bought myself a tall but fine-boned off-track Thoroughbred as a project horse.

After her weight loss, Kylie can ride much longer without getting tired or out breath.

Beyond the weight loss, I have developed a love for fitness and nutrition. Yoga and cardio dance classes have become favorite additions to my week, as well as a passion for lifting weights that I never knew I possessed.

I’ve also gone back to school at the age of 36 to pursue certifications in personal training and strength training, as well as a master’s degree in nutrition. I’m hoping to begin a career focused on helping other equestrians reach their health, fitness, and weight loss goals.

I’m truly grateful that I was able to take the steps necessary to improve my health, my skills as an equestrian, and my life.

This article about Kylie’s weight loss journey appeared in the AR issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Kylie Standish

Kylie Standish is an equine freelance writer and lifelong horse lover with a passion for equality among equestrians.

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