View Full Version : Does size matter?

Aug. 4, 2009, 12:25 PM
Okay I was partially trying to get everyone's attention.

I keep talking to these kids, and they all keep saying that they are too big for their horses.

Now, in my opinion they are all nuts, they all fit their horses fine.

Riders-what is this size thing?

Trainers-Your opinion?


Aug. 4, 2009, 12:30 PM
I used to ride 16+ hh horses before I bought my own. After a nasty fall from a 16.3 hh lesson horse at a show, I wanted the smallest horse possible for a person my size (5'8" average weight). When I went shopping for my first horse, I asked my riding instructor what is the smallest horse I should look at. She said I could get away with 15.2 hh if the horse was really broad. So... that is exaclty what I bought. I enjoy being closer to the ground. I also enjoy not having to fiddle with my stirrup leathers when mounting.

Aug. 4, 2009, 12:34 PM
Unfortunately for me it is a size thing. I am 5-11 with a 36+++ inch inseam. I have a very short upper body and have the ability to make 17+h horses look like ponies. Usually anything under 16.2 is too small and does not take up enough leg.
But I have dealt with the 5-1 riders looking for huge horse they can not physically control or match.

Aug. 4, 2009, 12:37 PM
IMO, the less knowlegable people are, the more emphasis they put on the horse's size and feel that bigger is always better.

Aug. 4, 2009, 12:39 PM
They are just kids parrotting something they heard or read on the web and assuming they are too big for their horses.

I would not extrapolate that out too far or apply it too widely across the entire H/J spectrum.

Aug. 4, 2009, 12:41 PM
I grew up thinking that bigger was better. And I had a very skewed view of how I looked on horses - thinking that at 5'7" I really "needed" something 16.2 or better in order to look proportionate.

It took actually riding some smaller horses for me to realize not only do I fit and look fine on them, I actually prefer the ride a little bit. Much easier for me to see/feel where I am.

My own guy is 16.1 but I wouldn't be opposed to buying something from 15 hands up if I was shopping in the future. Of course, not looking to do lots of showing or anything, either.

Aug. 4, 2009, 12:48 PM
I knew a girl who was 5' and btw 10-12 years old who was riding a 17.2h horse because they wanted her to be able to do large juniors :rolleyes:

I wanted something over 16h but didn't really care. First horse that we got was 17.1h and he worked out just fine :) The next one (my current show horse) was 15.3h and also has worked out just fine :yes:

Aug. 4, 2009, 01:01 PM
I'm 5'5" or thereabout and am riding one that's about 15.1 and one that's 16.3. Previous horse was also about 15hh.

I think larger horses have definitely been a trend lately. I guess maybe it's easier to make the strides on something bigger, depending. But many average adults can ride ponies and can certainly ride smaller horses without it being obscene.

Aug. 4, 2009, 01:07 PM
I think it depends on how the horse is built not just his height. My horse is 18h and has a long back. I am 5'8 and he isn't the easiest to put together even with my height and length of leg.

Aug. 4, 2009, 01:16 PM
I think for the longest time across the board (h/j, eventing, dressage), bigger was better and that's what everyone wanted because that's what they thought they needed to win.

Then Theodore O'Connor came around (and no he's not the first little guy to dominate, ie Stroller, but the first in a long time on a large scale) and the popularity of the German Riding pony for the dressage folks especially, and now people are finally starting to realize that it's better to get something they actually fit.

I'm 5'1, and everything I own is 14.2 and under. One of my 14.2ers is only 2 though, so she'll probably actually be a horse.

Aug. 4, 2009, 01:30 PM
I think it was Steinkraus who said a tall rider looks no worse on a small horse than a small rider looks on a tall horse. My interpretation of that statement is simply that size is not that important.

I think what they really need to understand is that it is not the height of the horse that makes a rider look disproportionate, it is the girth or depth of the horse that usually determines that, covering leg is the answer. Really what are you going to do if you are a rider with a tall upper body, start buying really long horses, with a high head set?? I have a bunch of horses I ride from 16.1HH to 17.2HH and the only one I do not have to make "size" adjustments for is the 16.1HH horse.

I myself am 6'3" and have learned over the years that the really, really goods ones don't come around all that often, so when they do you have to learn to fit them, there simple are not that many great ones around to start trading them like cars with a growing family.

Joe Fargis is a a great example. He was taller, and Touch of Class was very fine, and I do not believe very tall, so he had to learn to fit her. John Anderson is at least 6'7" and I have seen him ride horses that can't be anymore than 16HH, and he looks fine, is an excellent rider and has a ton of success.

And at the end of the day what is the difference between a 16HH and a 17HH horse, 4 inches, or 2 stirrup holes, and great equitation.

Aug. 4, 2009, 01:32 PM
Ok, I'll say it "Yes, size does matter!":lol:
But, not in the way it think everyone traditionally thinks about size. To me "size" incorporates more than just the horses height. It involves their barrel, their neck length & to some extent their back length.
The 16.1 school horse I rode fit me better than the 16.2 big barreled horse I owned. Why - my horse had a short neck & I always felt that, although he took up my leg better than the school horse, I was "top heavy" on him. The school horse & I just presented a better fit together.
Right now I'm currently riding my horse (17 hands) & one of the other boarders horses (he might be 15.3?) Nicest part about the smaller horse is I can comfortably use the 2 step mounting block:D:D

Aug. 4, 2009, 01:53 PM
while i wouldn't assume this to be true for everyone, i think that in some cases, it just might go hand in hand with many young girls and body image issues. the bigger the horse, the smaller you look as a rider.

i speak as someone who's been there. i'm five five, and try to keep my weight somewhere between 115-120. i have a healthy take on my self image today, but it wasn't always so. at one point i freaked out when i tried a horse that was 15.2 because i felt i "looked huge" - obviously that wasn't true. but it was how i felt, nonetheless.

just offering an insight. :) it's probably not the most common source of juniors wanting a bigger horse - but it might be a factor for a certain number.

Aug. 4, 2009, 02:02 PM
I like a bigger horse - I just feel better. But its a type I like- big, slow moving - call 'em lugs. A long enough step to crawl down the lines. I hate small dashy types.

My horse is a tall girl but she rides like a small horse. She doesn't have that big stepped lope yet. You crawl, you add a step. But she is easy to pull together and adjust. She's 17H, a bit narrow, but a deep barrel. She's about perfect for me comfortwise- anymore wide horses hurt my back.

I think my trainer is north of 6', all leg and looks fantastic on her.

I am 5'7 and think I look a little heavy for her, but a good height.

Aug. 4, 2009, 02:07 PM
I have always thought I needed a bigger horse. I rode a 16.1h narrow, upright TB in the short stirrup for three years. My next horse was also 16.1h, but with a much bigger barrel. By the time I was 14 (probably about 5'7" at that time), I felt that I was too big for him and needed a taller horse. My next horse was 17.1h and at 5'8" I looked perfect on him. Unfortunately he did not like jumping, so we sold him and I was offered another horse for free. This horse is 15.2h. He does have a big barrel and longish neck, so I feel perfectly fine on him.
So now I think that it is more the length of neck, rather than height, that balances out my extremely long torso.

Aug. 4, 2009, 02:14 PM
I am tall with long legs and I'm heavier than average, so yes, size matters to me somewhat. I like the shorter ones with a big barrel so I can get my leg on them properly and so I have fat to cling to when doing no stirrup work. :)

My horse is 16.2 and a little bit, typical leggy TB look, and I think I look about normal on him. Although it would be so nice to have that great no stirrups barrel.......

One horse I used to ride was 17.3 and BIG besides that. I used to get a lot of compliments on how nice we looked together. I think some of it had to do with how well we got along, but I almost look short in the pictures I have of me on him. Until I look at my friend/trainer at the time standing next to us. She's 5'2 and I think his head was bigger than she was. :)

Aug. 4, 2009, 02:14 PM
I think that size only matters if it is extreme. If you have a 4ft child and a 17hh horse, they are going to look retarded, same goes for a large rider and a small horse.

That being said, there are riders out there (William Fox-Pitt, Ian Miller ect.) who can ride smaller horses, and even with their height they don't look out of place because they are balanced in their saddle and maintain a good overall position.

So basically, if you can ride the horse to the best of it ability without it being unsafe or overly awkward, then there is no reason why a shorter person can ride a large horse and a taller person can ride a small horse, in my opinion.

Aug. 4, 2009, 02:30 PM
I am 5'1" and 17. I know I can't ride the big guys as well as the ponies and small horses, my leg barely reaches their barrels on anything larger than 16h.

My own horse is a 15.1h TB but I make her look 16 hands and we fit together perfectly, I also ride a large and small pony which I am a bit big for but not terribly.

My Mare: http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/chichirme/Lady/20.jpg

Large Pony: http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/chichirme/Hunt%20Trial/fortunephp-1-1.jpg

Small Pony: http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/chichirme/Patches/1-1.jpg

Perfect Pony
Aug. 4, 2009, 02:41 PM
My mare is a hair under 15.2. She's a Hanoverian with a big barrel and an even bigger stride, bigger than many horses several inches taller than her. She is still poo-poo'd by any person/trainer that does H/J's. They call her midget. Some BNT have have been impressed with her, but still always say "too bad she's too small".

So yes, size DOES matter unless you have a horse like Strapless that can simply out jump them all...

Aug. 4, 2009, 04:02 PM
I'm 5' and very petite (think gnome...), and I feel more comfortable on a smaller, slab sided horse. It's fine, because they're generally cheaper and a little easier to maintain and buy "clothes" for. I do have a harder time putting together a larger horse, my legs don't reach down the barrel, etc. (Of course, Margie Goldstein isn't any taller than I am, and she could ride anything with hair and hooves, to be sure...so I guess that's not *really* an excuse)

My horse (15.1 TB mare) has a fairly easy time of making strides and is a very handy, nimble jumper. Plus, turns on her are a breeze. I've always preferred that to what feels to me like a lumbering gait of a larger horse. I'm sure we get downgraded for our size at times, but it's better than trying to ride something uncomfortable. Plus, she looks good jumping a 2'6" or a 3'
6" fence. So, she's perfect for the hunters fence ranges I'm aiming for in the showring.

PS - Love the Steinkraus quote Hawrse. Nice one!

Aug. 4, 2009, 04:19 PM
I have only owned a few horses in my whole life...one was a pony in the 13 hand range (had her when I was a kid). I sold her when I was about 5'4" (I was 12). I also rode a horse my family has had his whole life. He matured at 14.3 hands and is a Morgan so is fairly broad. I still own and ride him. I am 5'8". I look somewhat silly on him but he is amazing, so I don't really care. My two sisters, one of whom is 6' the other is 5'10" both ride him as well. We just ride him for fun and in schooling shows though as we know that even with short stirrups we look silly on him. My new horse that I just got is I think about 16.1 and he is also a little on the wide side (he is an OT appendix qh). I think I look great on him and my sisters look great on him too, though they can certainly ride taller horses too. That being said, I think size matters less than what people think unless you are pairing a horse and rider from opposing extremes (ittty bitty rider on huge horse or vice versa), but given what I have ridden I am probably somewhat biased ;)

Aug. 4, 2009, 04:24 PM
I'm 5'8'' and have long legs and a shorter torso. I am currently riding three different horses: two are almost exactly the same height and quite small at 15.1, and the other is 17.2. I definitely look better on the 17.2h horse, but I have shown in equitation with one 15.1h mare and jumpers with the other and done fairly well with both.

15.1h mare:

other 15.1h mare:

17.2h giant:

Aug. 4, 2009, 04:41 PM
I think size matters more in prospects, when you don't know if they will have the stride to make the lines, specifically the 3'6". I think that's why there aren't as many small warmbloods bred - the breeders have to breed for what they can sell.

However, once they are showing, size does not matter, talent does. A good small horse will not only win, they are very memorable. I'm a fan of the smaller horses, as long as they have a big step and a brilliant jump. Come to think of it, I'm a fan of the big horses with a big step and a brilliant jump as well. Call me an equal opportunity rider ;)

Aug. 5, 2009, 10:53 AM
Okay I was partially trying to get everyone's attention.

I keep talking to these kids, and they all keep saying that they are too big for their horses.

Now, in my opinion they are all nuts, they all fit their horses fine.

Riders-what is this size thing?

Trainers-Your opinion?


Well; a bigger horse does make those jumps appear much smaller in comparison! Does it not? :lol:

Aug. 5, 2009, 11:31 AM
On the AQHA i have heard the kids say that bigger is better because they won't be noticed if the horse isn't at least 16 hands. These little tiny kids on these big horses to get noticed.

My horse is 16 hands on the nose. He fits me perfect. His barrel is large and picks up my leg. I rode a 17 hand horse last night that my legs were at the same place. I also ride a 15.3 belgian/paint mix that makes my thighs hurt becuse he is so wide. All of them I look fine on.

I am 5'6 and not a tiny rider and could drop 40 lbs but not huge by standards.

Aug. 5, 2009, 03:25 PM
I've never liked big horses. I tried one out that was 17.2 and slab sided and I felt like I was sitting on a fence post. I didn't take him. My old mare was a 15.2 OTTB and my new mare is a 15.3 Oldenburg. I love it. I'm 5'8" with normal legs, so I fit perfectly on them, and I can reach their backs and see over them. It's so convenient for grooming and clipping.

To me, big horse=lots of hay and a soundness problems.

Aug. 5, 2009, 03:34 PM
It really depends on the girth and build of a horse, as opposed to the height. I'm 5'1'' and all of 90 pounds, so I can fit ponies pretty easily. I showed a medium pony 2 years ago and looked okay on him (a little big, but not huge). On the bigger horses, I look like a peanut... but I can still ride them well. My horse is 15.3 7/8 hands and I make her look huge because she's pretty solid. Put me on a large pony and I'm at home.

Medium: http://good-times.webshots.com/photo/2349276020054933411ZhsIwm

Large: http://pets.webshots.com/photo/2521580420054933411kklsNL

My horse: http://photos-b.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs004.snc1/2789_1162687391516_1357770419_30924385_711055_n.jp g

My trainer's eq horse, who is 17.1 hands: http://photos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-sf2p/v152/206/28/1357770419/n1357770419_30472655_119.jpg

Aug. 5, 2009, 03:37 PM
I would rather see a taller, bigger rider go around with a smooth, relaxed course and a happy :D pony versus a stiff, rigid rider who wears a size 2.

But that's just me

Aug. 6, 2009, 01:34 AM
Well; a bigger horse does make those jumps appear much smaller in comparison! Does it not? :lol:

I would agree for the most part but I rode a massive beast of a horse who was so bulky I didn't think he would make it over the jumps. Picture :http://photos-b.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs105.snc1/4590_1180965763544_1210194198_30509401_4939879_n.j pg
I felt tiny and not in control on him but I liked it :)

I showed a mare who was tiny in my opinion and apparently was only able to do 3' because of her height. I felt big on her.

And I also rode a 15.2ish horse who an old trainer said I was the perfect fit for. He seemed small but I liked how I fit him.

How do you think I look on them?

Aug. 6, 2009, 01:43 AM
For me, yes, size DOES matter. Ultimately, I'm 17 and I'm going to fit comfortably on ponies forever. I'm 5' and 100 lbs. But it's (sadly) time that I move up to a horse (not for good though! I will still ride ponies and plan on getting a hony when I'm out of college)

So, when I start horse shopping, I'm going to look for something under 16 hands. 16 hh is still big to me. Hey, I've ridden monster horses (well, monster to me. meaning 17.2 hh) but I don't enjoy it. I rode a 16.1 hh TB mare once for a while that i LOOOVED, especially since she had a narrow barrel. I didn't feel like I was on a huge horse at all! (until we were riding with other horses in the ring and she had half a heart attack. she was very young. and green. and wanted to kill me ;] then she felt quite big) But ultimately, I would decline a 16 hand thick warmblood, but would consider a 16 hand TB who's likely narrower.

My ideal size would be a 15.2 hh horse with a smallish/medium size barrel. I like having *something* to grab onto, but I don't want to feel like my legs are abnormally stretched.

right now, according to everyone, i fit "perfectly" on my large pony

he's got a big barrel, though. I have rather long legs (for my height!) so on a narrow pony, I look like a monster. But i can ride a wide small and look good!

Aug. 6, 2009, 08:03 AM
This has probably already been mentioned but body size, neck length and stride are the most important things IMO. I have a great friend that is 5'3" on a good day :) and she imported a 17.1hh tractor trailer that had an 11' stride on a good day. My mare is only 16.1hh or so, I'm 5'11" and 35" inseam, but she looks like a big barrel on sticks with a long neck to match and has planty of stride....it's really relative. I'd much rather have the jumps look a little bigger, but know I can get up to them then have a tractor trailer that I am constantly hoping I can get down the lines on....

Aug. 6, 2009, 12:23 PM
I think what they really need to understand is that it is not the height of the horse that makes a rider look disproportionate, it is the girth or depth of the horse that usually determines that, covering leg is the answer.

Exactly. I'm 5'7" with a short upper body and average length legs. I can ride 15h to much bigger and look fine, depending on the horse's barrel. I currently own two 16.2h horses (first was 16h when I bought him right as he turned 5) and because of their slab-sided conformation, I almost look bigger on them than I do on the 15.3h horse I ride...and the multiple 15.1 handers I've ridden. I also usually have to lengthen my stirrups on the wider barrels because they take up more leg.

Another factor in looking right on a horse, one that is often overlooked in the obsession over leg length, is how tall you are through the upper body. People with short torsos are going to look better on a wider variety of horses. Longer torsos overwhelm a horse much easier. IMO, ideal rider conformation is short torso with slightly longer than average legs.

Aug. 6, 2009, 12:28 PM
My mare is a hair under 15.2. She's a Hanoverian with a big barrel and an even bigger stride, bigger than many horses several inches taller than her. She is still poo-poo'd by any person/trainer that does H/J's. They call her midget. Some BNT have have been impressed with her, but still always say "too bad she's too small".

I'm pretty sure, given the chance, GG would prove them wrong. At least if she's got a similar stride and jump to her half brother. :winkgrin:

Aug. 6, 2009, 12:32 PM
I'm 5'8'' and have long legs and a shorter torso. I am currently riding three different horses: two are almost exactly the same height and quite small at 15.1, and the other is 17.2. I definitely look better on the 17.2h horse,

15.1h mare:

I think you look best on this one. :winkgrin: (The other 15.1 picture is hard to judge.)

Aug. 6, 2009, 12:46 PM
I'm going to chime in, because this is exactly what I'm going through. I'm 15, about 5' 7" or 5' 8", with long legs and an average torso. I weigh about 115. My horse is a solid 15.3, but is a slab sided tb with a short neck. I look a little big on him, but not enough to stop me from showing him. My friends horse is 15.1 but with a slightly bigger barrel and a longer neck. My legs long long on her, but my torso fits perfectly. I also school a medium pony with a huge barrel and a very short neck. My torso looks really big on her (when I jump my head is almost in between her ears :lol:) but my leg looks the same on her as it does my 15.3. I want my next horse to be a solidly built 16.2.:)

Aug. 6, 2009, 12:51 PM
I'm 5'3 and have a 14 hand pony. We're perfect sized...he's a cob in every sense of the word, and I am too! LOL :D

Aug. 6, 2009, 09:29 PM
im 5'4" and all leg. and i ride a 16.2 hh long, narrow, warmblood. i fit perfectly! i prefer tall narrow horses. i also ride my trainors horse occasionaly who is about 15.2-15.3 and super fat and i fit well on her. but i have exercised a large pony (14.2) who was narrow and i felt huge on him!

Aug. 7, 2009, 09:29 AM
For hunters, judge makes his first impression when you enter the ring. Presentation. If a rider is a bit small or a bit tall, I don't think it matters. If it is very obvious, I think you've got prove you and beastie are a good match.
Jumpers makes no difference


Aug. 7, 2009, 12:10 PM
I'm 5'7'' and average weight with long legs. I ride anything from my trainer's larges to big, chunky 16'3 ++ beasts. I've always thought that when I bought my own horse, it would need to be 16'2 +. My current mare is 16hh on a good day, and we fit each other extremely well.

Some pictures for reference:

Me on my trainer's very skinny large:

A 15'1 lesson horse (I make him look like a pony!):

My mare (not the most flattering pic of her, but it shows my size relative to her):

Aug. 7, 2009, 01:47 PM
If "suitability" is one of the judging requirements, then yes, size matters. If there are two equal performances by two ponies, and one rider looks like Shrek sitting on a shetland pony, then the smaller rider (that fits the pony better) should pin ahead of Shrek.

What's suitable varies from discipline to discipline. In western disciplines, it's perfectly acceptable to see a 6' man on a 15 hand horse, even though his legs are hanging down past the horse's barrel. But for a childrens' hunter, you'd want a couple inches between the rider's heel and the bottom of the horse's barrel. Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks.