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  1. #1
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    Default Rider's weight re: effect on horse

    Ok, let's get one thing straight, I would never argue "horses are beasts of burden, any horse can carry any person any time, it's their job to take what we dish out." As a kid, I had a fairly regular schedule about when I got to the barn where I boarded my 4' jumper pony. This was unfortunate in my eyes because a girl I considered too big for him routinely rode him without my permission, so yes I have some very strong feelings to the contrary that came about from hard experience. However, I think we have heavy (no pun intended) prejudices about weight that can lead to a kind of hysteria where logic and common sense bow out of the picture and things start to be seen as very black or white. I posted the following excerpt from an article called "The Weight Aid," published in Saddle & Bridle magazine, April '03, written by Bonnie Perreault, in another thread, mostly because I wanted to share a piece of professional writing by a professional horsewoman, about her experience of getting past some of her own short-sightedness, and to say to the OP, look at this example of this heavier woman riding brilliantly in some real class company. If somebody from the SRS ever asked me to school a horse to walk back to the barn, I'd fall over dead. But, someone had to object to the article on grounds of the possible cruelty to the horse.

    Leaving aside the question of that post's real purpose, let's examine the charge. First, let's look at what the article actually said:

    "I have a humbling memory of a female dressage instructor who I worked with, who was often the brunt of unkind remarks made by other professionals, including myself, because of her size. This person rode with a prominent instructor/trainer from the the famed Spanish Riding School during a clinic being held in this country. I had never seen my instructor ride before and it was an eye opening experience as to what elegance, in any size package can be, and just what the weight aid can produce for performance. I watched as the horse in training was put through suppling movements and the Austrian instructor kept demanding more from the rider. As each movement was accomplished it became more and more apparent to me that range of motion has nothing to do with your size and that because of her weight and fitness my instructor was able to give a more definitive aid. The culmination of the lesson was reached when the rider was able to achieve flying lead changes every several strides from a horse that had only been schooling simple changes. Although she was large, my instructor knew what she was doing, knew when to do it and could achive it with elegance. I learned a lot about respect that day. Hopefully, I've made my point here as well."

    Nowhere in here does the writer specify the exact size of the rider or the horse. So without knowing that, to assume that just because the rider is large, she has to be TOO LARGE for that horse, you have to assume that a highly esteemed professional from the SRS would put a horse - a GREEN horse - at risk that way. Frankly, I don't buy it for a New York second. I also don't think he would have kept her on there one second if she'd failed to deliver the goods or if the horse was unhappy. Instead, there was a successful result. Does it run along what you know about horse nature to achieve that much progress in that short a time with a horse that's stressed, uncomfortable, taxed beyond his means? It doesn't mine. Yes, we all know you can punish a horse into submission. But that generally doesn't happen quickly. Quickly implies freely, willingly.

    Now, the question was also raised, what if she was his "forever" rider, meaning (I suppose) maybe this cat from the SRS figured it was cool for the afternoon but it might be a whole different kettle of fish if it was chronic. Again, without knowing specifics, this is all academic, but let's take some broad based, maybe "typical" numbers as food for thought. How big does a woman have to be before she's considered "heavy?" 180-200 lbs? Am I right in saying that the average woman in that range is probably going to get flack from riding instructors about her weight, and "concern" about her horses? But isn't a 180 man generally considered pretty "fit 'n' trim?" Would a riding instructor talk to him about his weight? Don't men have to be substantially over say, 225 before they need a heavyweight hunter? (I forget the exact definition of this, but there used to be one when I was a kid and it was circumference in inches of cannon bone.) And there were classes for these horses at shows that I went to as a child, it was not like anybody was discouraging the big guys from riding. But part of my point is this - how much do you think the guys weigh that you see riding in top level competition? These are not petite bony men! And everyone knows, muscle weighs way more than fat. I will give you good odds most of these long tall chaps are well over 200 lbs. Yet nobody is screaming "too heavy for the horse, "where's that horse's essay about his forever rider," etc. about them! I just want to know why there's such a bloody difference between a 200 lb. MAN that can really ride and a 200 woman. And just GO ON and try to tell me it's not because one looks really sexy in those tight white pants!
    Last edited by mortebella; Dec. 31, 2008 at 07:03 PM. Reason: left out word



  2. #2
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    Default

    Most of the men I know who ride dressage go between 145 and 165 pounds. And they are quite slim and light of build. None are fat, none are heavy, none are overweight.

    Most of the men I know who ride are in eventing, one does dressage, eventing and gallops horses at the track, he is not over 145, I don't think he's even close to that. Another is an eventer and professional trainer. He's tall and very thin.

    I don't think trainers pick on women or want them to weigh less than men...I think they want them to fit and in good shape for competing, and for doing more advanced riding. I don't know any trainers who push overweight women to lose weight if they want to ride lightly and casually, on a suitable horse. The trainers I know, what they recommend for their students depends on the student's stated goals.



  3. #3
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    Default

    on the flip side of that though, I'm in cowcountry, and I see working ranchers who still spend quite a few hours in the saddle, and they aren't exactly light fluffy bunnies and their horses aren't exactly monsters.
    In my opinion, a horse is the animal to have. 1300 pounds of raw muscle, power, grace, and sweat between your legs - it's something you just can't get from a pet hamster.



  4. #4
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    I think a lot of people use this "effect on the horse" thing as an excuse to bash people about their weight. It's not really an opinion, it's just a cover for the real motive.

    But mostly, I see people argue around the real issues. They say "heavy people shouldn't ride because it isn't good for the horse," while they support, either actively or by silent acceptance, 100 different things that are much more harmful to a horse than an occasional ride by a heavy person. So why is this particular issue so important to people?



  5. #5
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    I've a weight limit for my horses and the limit is the same whether the rider is male or female.

    That is the norm in my experience and I've never come across any gender bias like the OP is suggesting.

    Note though that if there's a high bmi that means there's going to be obesity and the rider just isn't going to balanced and fit and so even though a particular large horse might be up to weight, I still may well refuse the rider the ride.



  6. #6
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    Actually a high BMI only indicates high weight. That doesn't mean obesity. Atheletes frequently mess with the BMI's charts because of muscle mass. They're fitter than most people and yet have BMIs indicating they're overweight or obese! When I'm fit I generally weigh a little more than I'd like to, even when the mirror and the clothes are saying I'm smaller, because I've got muscle mass adding pounds.



  7. #7
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    I was at a Norwegian Fjord Pony evaluation this year and as part of the evaluation each of the horses is critqued at length over the loudspeakers by the inspectors. One of the families who had several horses there was on the larger side. Now the ponies this family had were Fjords who were on the very drafty side. One of the inspectors during the critique of one of their horses chose this forum in front of several hundred spectators to give a lecture about how heavier people shouldn't ride and were going to hurt their horses legs in the long run. This family just stood there in mortification throughout the lecture in the middle of the arena. The evaluator was a tall, rail thin, prissy man who I would like to have given a boot in the tail! Those pony's were in no way being injured by carting around that family and the family was obviously having a blast with them. I think the whole thing was an embarassment to the fjord breed and if they had any sense he would no longer be an evaluator. Fjords are tough, sturdy little ponys that could probably carry their own weight



  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by danceronice View Post
    Actually a high BMI only indicates high weight. That doesn't mean obesity. Atheletes frequently mess with the BMI's charts because of muscle mass. They're fitter than most people and yet have BMIs indicating they're overweight or obese! When I'm fit I generally weigh a little more than I'd like to, even when the mirror and the clothes are saying I'm smaller, because I've got muscle mass adding pounds.
    BMI indicates weight in relation to height. It's actually a preferred statistic in terms of determining obesity.

    I talked about a high BMI indicating obesity. That's a fact.

    A high BMI of over 25 is considered overweight and unhealthy. I tend to use something a little higher than that and a pinch of common sense too when deciding if I'm going to allow someone to ride.



  9. #9
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    Well I use to be very skinny before the kids and the cancer issues. Lots of steriods later, I was 65lbs heavier then I was prior. Being diabetic on top of that..... well....... not fun.
    Before the weight I was much more athetlic and balanced on a horse. I am now too, but not as limber and quick as I use to be. It HAS made it more diffucult to do things. I am losing it, but now that I have been on this side of the table, I do not.... make fun or even look down to anyone who is overweight and want to do something. My doctor considers me obese (Im a size 14 and 6ft tall). But again, I was much quicker, limber and more athletic in the saddle as a size 6-7.
    www.spindletopfarm.net
    Home of Puerto D'Azur - 1998 NA 100 Day Test Champion
    "Charcter is much easier kept than recovered"



  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas_1 View Post
    BMI indicates weight in relation to height. It's actually a preferred statistic in terms of determining obesity.

    I talked about a high BMI indicating obesity. That's a fact.

    A high BMI of over 25 is considered overweight and unhealthy. I tend to use something a little higher than that and a pinch of common sense too when deciding if I'm going to allow someone to ride.
    So my BMI is 29 right now....
    So if I came to you, you would not give me a lesson due to that?
    www.spindletopfarm.net
    Home of Puerto D'Azur - 1998 NA 100 Day Test Champion
    "Charcter is much easier kept than recovered"



  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by TropicalStorm View Post
    on the flip side of that though, I'm in cowcountry, and I see working ranchers who still spend quite a few hours in the saddle, and they aren't exactly light fluffy bunnies and their horses aren't exactly monsters.
    Ditto to that. I'm at the ranch right now, and I can tell you that there are a LOT of 200+ lb cowboys riding all day on 15 hand quarter horses...on very uneven terrain. Granted, it's a different "discipline", but these horses still have to respond to aids, be able to walk/jog for miles, then, when they find a cow in a draw, hone in and get it back to the herd, etc.--which often means a lot of twisting, turning, wheeling, etc.

    Watching cowboys move cattle into separate pens (based on their weight, etc.) is like watching the best dressage. These horses are AMAZING.

    I want to be fit, etc. But I'm also not going to kill my horse by packing 20 extra lbs.



  12. #12
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    But isn't a 180 man generally considered pretty "fit 'n' trim?"
    My husband is 6'5" and 225lbs. If he turns sideways you cant see him. So 225lbs on a tall man is not anything.
    www.spindletopfarm.net
    Home of Puerto D'Azur - 1998 NA 100 Day Test Champion
    "Charcter is much easier kept than recovered"



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by STF View Post
    So my BMI is 29 right now....
    So if I came to you, you would not give me a lesson due to that?
    It depends. How tall are you? How heavy are you? What riding have you previously done? How fit are you?

    I think I most likely would if you're a rider unless you were VERY heavy. Like I said I use higher than 25 and do have up to weight cobs and hunters.
    Last edited by Thomas_1; Jan. 5, 2009 at 06:42 PM.



  14. #14
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    I just want to know why there's such a bloody difference between a 200 lb. MAN that can really ride and a 200 woman.
    It really depends on how tall they both are and how fit. I trained for years with a woman who was huge. Almost six feet tall and probably 180. But all muscle and super fit. She is a Amazon of a woman. When she got on my horse, my horse listened. She was a much more effective rider than the petite, 5"2' trainer I subsequently rode with. The petite rider was much more accomplished showing wise, but she couldn't get on just any horse and ride it well. I do believe size and weight help a lot when riding. But fitness plays a big part in it as well.

    My personal opinion is that if you know you are too heavy for your horse, you have a responsibility to do something about it. The same as you are responsible for his food and shelter.



  15. #15
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    To me the real problem is that many equestrian professionals lack the skill, experience, or observational ability to match properly horses and riders. Many seem to rely on prejudice or formulas that don't take into account both the horse and the rider as factors in the equation.

    His Greyness carried all 250 lbs of 6ft 5in me around for twenty six years with no problems and Baby Belgian has been doing the same for the last four. Fortunately I learned to ride as an adult at a stable where the owner had a great ability to match horses and riders. He had enough horses that I was put on a number of different horses as I learned and gained experience. So when the time came for me to buy my own horse I knew exactly what kind of horse suited me.
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    But all the finest horsemen out—the men to Beat the Band—
    You’ll find amongst the crowd that ride their races in the Stand



  16. #16
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    Aren't a couple of the top jumper riders pretty big men? I cannot remember names, I just remember hearing that from an announcer during a televised GP competition. I cannot imagine that a heavy rider would do more damage to a dressage horse than to a jumper.



  17. #17
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    Rider ability is more important than weight. At some point, weight will interfere with the rider's ability to ride well, but as long as the person can get on the horse and work with it, it shouldn't be a problem. There is a line there--there are some ponies I just won't get on, because they're too small for me. But there's not a horse I know of that I wouldn't get on, and I'm not small. My not-quite-16hh horse prefers having me on him than wee little kids who can't ride. (I've ruined his lesson horse abilities--he used to happily cart around small children who were balancing on his mouth... now he just gets annoyed, lol.)

    As far as a gender bias... I don't think it's exactly a gender bias.. more that men are typically taller and therefore weigh more than women. A 6' man who weighs 200 pounds is something totally different than a 5'3" woman who weighs 200 pounds. The gross weight is the same, the riding ability may even be the same, but the short woman LOOKS heavier, and so may be subject to unfair remarks.



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by STF View Post
    So my BMI is 29 right now....
    So if I came to you, you would not give me a lesson due to that?
    and no matter what the horse?

    My horse is 17hh and 1500 lbs. I'm fairly certain I could weigh another 50 lbs (as many who ride at my barn do) and he'd be entirely unconcerned. I can not imaging being concerned by someone riding him unless they were pushing 300 lbs.



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by STF View Post
    So my BMI is 29 right now....
    So if I came to you, you would not give me a lesson due to that?
    depends wether you ride like a sack of spuds or are adgile to go along with your height and weight



    for exsample i will give a basic sernerio

    some people complain when they get on there horse it shoots of forwards as it wont stand still
    ie mouting block

    if you plonk yourself down in the saddle be you a small rider or a larger, taller one the horse will re-act the same way as in scoot forwards

    if you was more adgile and eased yourself into the saddle and lifted your leg a tad higher than his back the horse wouldnt shoot forwards

    balance is the key to be in tune with the horse and having a horse match your own ability or caperbilites and size as some will say they are xyz when in truth they are not
    its also down to being honest with yourself



  20. #20
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    Cool

    It's a case of what you can do with the weight you've got.

    If you get in your own way, need to be hoisted huffing and puffing into the saddle, you cannot possibly be a balanced rider. If you are heavy, fit and very active, you haven't a problem.

    I've seen extremely thin riders who were disasters in the saddle.
    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.



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