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riders weight & horse ratio??

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  • riders weight & horse ratio??

    I've been hearing riders weight with tack should be no more than 20% of the horses weight. But other variables can come in to play such as the horses build, horses condition, how balanced the rider is, type of riding, etc.

    My husband's horse (Charlie) has re injured his suspensory ligament & in my heart I believe Charlie's riding career is over. Hopefully we'll be able to get him pasture sound so we're not faced with putting him to sleep. He's going to the vet's today for ultrasounds & xrays to let us know his fate. Everyone is telling me to just let my husband ride my 15 yo arab mare. I am NOT comfortable with this as she's somewhat light bone 14.3 H & my husband is 250 lbs (without tack) & rides on "his pockets" & to one side. I've had several conversations with him that he needs to shift his weight to the left & then he gets angry at me. Even our friends that we trail ride with say they're surprised his horse Charlie never has a sore back. Then there's the disagreement on saddles. I struggled for years finding a saddle for my mare that wouldn't make her back sore, finally I started riding her in a BMSS & she became a different horse, sooo much happier & pain free. But my husband refuses to ride her in a BMSS & insists on using his saddle. I can't help but get angry when we go to McD's & he gets a 20 piece chicken nugget for himself, I just sit there & think of my poor mare & what if he does start riding her.

    I hate to be selfish & not let my husband ride my mare but I also feel like I'm not doing what's in my mare's best interest if I allow my husband to ride her knowing in my heart it's not right. When we go out & ride it's for several hours over rocky terrain & lots of hills. My mare is not in shape right now she's enjoying life in our pasture for I've been riding my young horse getting him ready for his first CTR. I feel guilty that I have two sound rideable horses & my husband has none. Actually we have a older arab mare that is more suited for him to ride but she freaks out in our slant load trailer when I try to move the partition over. She was a rescue case we originally got for him to ride, I've been telling my husband for years now to work with her on her trailer issues so he can start riding her but he hasn't. He also has a yearling filly but obviously he can't ride her. I'm feeling all kind of emotions right now, I'm worried sick over Charlie's ankle, angry that I feel pressured to do wrong by my mare, frustrated because hubby won't work with the mare that's more suited for him, and sad for my husband because his horse is injured & he can't ride with us.

    The group of friends we ride with are CTR/Endurance riders so we've been conditioning lately for a ride we're going to in July. So even if I would break down & let my husband ride my mare she's no where near in shape enough to tackle the type of riding we're doing. I thought about looking around for a lease on a horse for him to ride until his yearling filly is a few years older. Maybe I'm over reacting & I should let my husband ride her, but I'd never forgive myself if something happened to her that I could've prevented. Sorry to vent on & on about this, thanks for listening.

  • #2
    I don't think you're overreacting at all.

    It sounds like your husband is a horseman of some experience. It may be very difficult for him to hear such criticism from his wife. Perhaps it would help to have a trainer or someone speak with him? That leaning is a bad habit.

    I think leasing a horse is a great idea, play on his strengths - maybe there is a young Quarter Horse in the area that needs some more miles? Did you look in the riders wanted thread?


    • #3
      YOU could work on the mare with the trailer issues and just present her to him as his riding horse?


      • Original Poster

        Wendy - I have tried working with this mare on her trailer issues. We suspect she was abused by a woman as she is very reactive around me but trusts my husband & the male vets. Her former owner was a woman who let her feet get so long they looked like slippers and was in mud up to her hocks, etc. Last summer when Annie (the mare) had an eye injury which required multiple eye drops several times a day she allowed my husband to do it without a halter. He said they developed a relationship after spending so much time together treating her eye. He was all gung ho then about working with her on trailering then it was like a fart in a wind storm once she was healed he lost interest. I guess I could try working with her again, what do I have to lose at this point.


        • Original Poster

          Ellebeaux- Yes, my husband is a decent rider with some experience but when it comes to any sort of criticism he lets it go in one ear & out the other. He'd be a scary good rider if he's listen to what others are suggesting. We often ride with our friend who is also my riding instructor & person who started my young horse. He's even tried saying something to my husband about lengthening his stirrups & putting weight more in his heels, but i hasn't worked. I thought maybe my husband would listen to our friend because he's a man too but he doesn't, very frustrating. I'm the opposite I love the critics I get on the trail, I feel so fortunate that my riding instructor is also our friend that trail rides with us. He takes what he sees out on the trail then tailors my lessons in the ring to what needs worked on. But our friend/instructor is very careful not to offer many suggestions to my husband because he doesn't want him to feel like he's under the microscope the whole time, after all we're out to have fun.

          I may start putting my feelers out for a lease on a horse for a few months for him. Our neighbor has offered us a horse in the past when one of ours is laid up so maybe I'll call him, maybe he'll have a stockier type horse that needs some mileage. Thanks for the idea of looking at the riders wanted thread, that's a great idea!


          • #6
            There is no way I would let a man of his size ride a 15 hand arab. With tack you could be pushing close to 300 lbs. I would try to find a horse to lease for at least 3 years because he is too big to ride his filly even when she is 3. I would be honest with him and tell him that he is too heavy to ride your mare. If done with tact, honesty is the best policy.


            • #7
              How long, how many miles, how rough of terrain do you ride?

              The old rule is 20% weight for 8 hours. Horses that have to carry 25% or 30% weight can do it, But for much shorter periods or distances. Riding in the mountains at 9,000-10,000 is much different than trail around the farm at close to sea level.

              I sponsored an endurance race years ago. As new manager I laid out 50 miles of trail that also had over 8,000 foot of verticle elevation change and camp was a 8,200 foot elevation and we crossed several 11,000 foot passes. The Vet judge came to me and said I should take some miles out of the course because it was too tough. I replied that I was told the course needed to be 50 miles to meet the rules of an endurance race. He instructed me that 50 miles of flat trails is easier that 40 miles of mountain trails. He said take the miles out and just tell everybody they had rode 50.

              The point being, is there is more than weight involved in your decision. Your husband can ride your mare if its shorter distance or easy terrain rides. Would I put 30% on a horse and ask them to do 50 miles with 8,000 of elevation change. No. But I sure wouldn't worry about 30% for a ride around the farm property.


              • #8
                There are plenty of nice draft crosses and other big horses around. Many of them do better with a bigger rider rather than some 90 pounder who is like a flea on an elephant. If you can afford to keep one more horse, that might be a good solution that makes him happy, keeps your horse for you, and provides a great rider for some gentle giant.


                • #9
                  Im of the 20% camp. I am approached by buyers who weigh in the ranges of your husband, and politely explain that a horse/rider team should be proportionate.

                  For anyone weighing this amount, whether a well-versed rider or beginner, I would recommend a draft cross, or full belgium --many are quite attractive! and just darling rides .

                  Height is just as much an issue. A 6' tall person would do best to consider a taller horse, a heavier rider would do best to consider a stouter horse -- both? a long time looking!
                  and most likely deep pockets will be needed too.

                  Suspensory's rarely resolve themselves. Bows are different and once set are ok. I am sorry your horse has this issue. If you were to look at the classifieds in *the lancaster farming* online you will find many draft x's that are ride-ready, safe and reasonably priced.


                  some examples:

                  7 y.o. black & white Reg. Spotted Draft Mare, 17H, rides and drives very well. Erin C. Lundy (315)493-1051

                  7 y/o Blonde Belgian mare, works in the lines or jocky, $1,650.

                  there used to be a draft that ponied at the track -- couch with legs kind of ride ! and easy keeper too, so dont let the size fool you .
                  IN GOD WE TRUST
                  OTTB's ready to show/event/jumpers. Track ponies for perfect trail partners.


                  • #10
                    We begin with a question: where does the 20% rule come from? Why 20%, as opposed to 15% or 25%?

                    This rule was certainly not used by the various cavalries during WWI (and probably before and after that event).

                    The standard load of the British Cavalry during WWI weighed 280 lbs. (including the rider). This load did not include a steel helmet or winter clothing.

                    The standard load of the U.S. Cavalry was about 250 lbs., including the rider. Again, the steel helmet and winter coat was not included.

                    Loads of Continental cavalries were also quite large. The following description of an Austrian Army Cavalry patrol is found in a 1917 issue of the U.S. Cavalry Journal:

                    On another occasion in East Galacia, an officer's patrol of one officer and twenty men covered 342 miles in six days. The average load per horse was 300 lbs., and there were no sore backs. The mounts were of the stocky type, weighing about 1000 lbs., well bred, and from 15 to 15.2 hands in height.

                    Here are more interesting exerpts:


                    If you click on any page number it will take you to the whole book. There is a very interesting discussion on the "ideal" cavalry horse.

                    There is no question that loading up a horse increases its work load and increases the risk of injury to both horse and rider. Yet it’s equally clear that focusing on poundage, to the exclusion of all other factors (quality of the horse; quality of the equitation; quality of the husbandry; quality of strength and fitness of the horse; etc.) does no favors for either horse or rider. Indeed a narrow focus on weight ratios, alone, is far more likely to cause injury to the horse and/or rider than prevent them.

                    Whether or not the 20% rule has any basis in fact is a question I’ve not been able to answer in spite of some diligent research. It is generally quoted as “gospel” everywhere but not supported by fact anywhere. There is a large body of evidence from earlier mounted campaigns that demonstrates that horses loaded well beyond the 20% standard have provided excellent field service.

                    Note that this is not an endorsement of loading up a horse like you’d load a mule (or a pickup truck). Rather it’s recognition of the limits of the 20% rule and a direct challenge to the almost religious adherence to it by some folks.

                    Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Guilherme View Post
                      Note that this is not an endorsement of loading up a horse like you’d load a mule (or a pickup truck). Rather it’s recognition of the limits of the 20% rule and a direct challenge to the almost religious adherence to it by some folks.
                      What do you mean by this? Are you referring to loading up a mule with a pack weight or riding weight? I'm not challenging your statement, just curious about your statement since I have a mule who has just recently been started under saddle.
                      Proud owner of a Slaughter-Bound TB from a feedlot, and her surprise baby...!


                      • Original Poster

                        Well I spoke with one of my former vets yesterday on the phone about this subject & he agreed it is certainly a sticky topic. He said he has had to tactfully tell clients their horse & them are physically a mismatch. His suggestion was to let my husband ride my mare for a short period on the trail & she'll let him know if it's a go or not. I highly disagree, as my mare is one of those horses that seldom complains & will just do. So I'm not taking that route.

                        On another note we picked Charlie up at the vets last night & ultrasounds show it's not his suspensory. In fact they can't find anything which they said I should take as good news because if it was something serious they felt it would've showed up in their exam. Charlie is to be on stall rest for 5 days with bute 2x a day, cold hosing, standing wraps & topical cream Surpass. Then Tuesday we're to trot him out & see where we're at & call them back. They're thinking about adding shock wave therapy to his treatment & since the vets are baffled they're going to make some phone calls. There's swelling on both sides of the ankle which makes them think they're may be fluid in the joint pockets but it's not regular blood filled it's like jelly. Good news is he has nearly full range of motion & trotted out almost soundly & at this point he's pasture sound, which is really all we can ask for. The vet said he is no longer going to be able to do 25 milers but they haven't written him off as a trail horse quite yet. They feel there's the possibility there may be some scar tissue in there. The vets interestingly pointed out too all his lameness issues are coming from him horsing around in the pasture, not while being under saddle on the trail?!

                        So for now it's a wait & see thing with lots of finger crossing. Thanks for allowing me to vent on here, it has helped tremendously. Last night I did talk to my husband on the way to the vets my concerns with him riding my mare & he seemed to understand. He said he'd like to get down to 200 lbs before he rides my mare & that I could live with, maybe...


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jenm View Post
                          What do you mean by this? Are you referring to loading up a mule with a pack weight or riding weight? I'm not challenging your statement, just curious about your statement since I have a mule who has just recently been started under saddle.
                          The "mule" reference was a bit of "poetic license" in that we have many phrases in English that refer to loading up or working mules. Around here you'll hear people say, "work him like a rented mule." Remember the old country song "Don't Worry 'Bout the Mule Just Load the Wagon"?

                          Maybe I've lived in the rural South too long.

                          Piling on weight willy nilly or not at all being concerned about it is not a very good idea. Obscessing about it is also not a very good idea. There's a Golden Mean here, and it may or may not be 20%. More likely it's balancing the qualities of conformation, equitation, husbandry, fitness and strength (horse and rider), etc.

                          mysaygrace, your vet gave you a very rational and very safe alternative and you seem to have rejected it based upon your own personal feelings. This does an injustice to you, your husband, and your horse. I'm not a fan of "natural horsemanship" but I do believe that the horse in front of us, not the horse we see in our mind's eye, should be what we choose to work with. If the horse carries the man without incident then all's right with the world. If after the test you find some soreness or other problems then you know what you're dealing with and can make alternative arrangements. For now you're "neither fish nor fowl" and don't know what you have or don't have. That's certainly your decision as it's your horse but shutting doors because you fear what might be behind them won't lead to an efficient solution in an efficient time.

                          Touchy subject, indeed.

                          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                          • Original Poster

                            Guilherme - "but shutting doors because you fear what might be behind them won't lead to an efficient solution in an efficient time." I never thought of it this way. You're right I sit here & worry so much about the "what ifs" and maybe it will all work out & I haven't taken that chance to see what my little mare is capable of. I do have a tendency to go thru life very cautiously to prevent the "what ifs" & sometimes I guess that isn't living at all.


                            • #15
                              yeah, but the cavalry horses weren't lightly built 14.3 hh horses- I can see a stocky solid QH type at 14.3 hh being able to carry 300 lbs., but not a fine-boned lightly built horse.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by mysaygrace View Post
                                Guilherme - "but shutting doors because you fear what might be behind them won't lead to an efficient solution in an efficient time." I never thought of it this way. You're right I sit here & worry so much about the "what ifs" and maybe it will all work out & I haven't taken that chance to see what my little mare is capable of. I do have a tendency to go thru life very cautiously to prevent the "what ifs" & sometimes I guess that isn't living at all.
                                There's nothing wrong with caution. It saves on medical bills.

                                You always must weigh the risks against the benefits in any project. Some folks are more conservative than others and that's OK. It most assuredly does NOT mean they are "living less."

                                Do what you think is right, but don't fool or lie to or confuse yourself. There are lots of others to do that for you!!!

                                To quote the immortal Davy Crockett: Be sure you're right, and then go ahead.

                                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                                • #17
                                  Just think about the stress on your own joints when you are carrying extra weight. Any way you think about it, unnecessary weight is bad for us, horse or human.

                                  You can suggest to your husband that a great way to get that weight off fast would be trail running or walking. He can have a horse in hand and help the horse condition, too! That way you could all go out to the trailhead together, at least


                                  • #18
                                    The horses of the turn of the century were NOT like the horses today --- of Any breed.

                                    Im old enough to say that in my childhood I rode foundation QH's from *out west* ----- that do not exist any longer. Even the horses shipped east are far from the type of foundation horses seen ...30-40-50 yrs ago.
                                    Apps! Paints! Huge changes in those breeding programs.
                                    TB's were the US Cavalry choice and yes, did carry 300lb men and gear --- you wont find (average) tb's today that can stand up to that.

                                    mysaygrace, why doesnt your husband consider getting his own (new)25miler horse? and retiring Charlie to a program more suited to his current work load abilities?
                                    I think just simply staying proportionate would be enough without nitpicking percentages, or exacting numbers. A rider has to feel comfortable and balanced when riding, the horse needs to feel capable of managing their jobs as well.
                                    IN GOD WE TRUST
                                    OTTB's ready to show/event/jumpers. Track ponies for perfect trail partners.


                                    • #19
                                      I think you should trust your own instincts. Only you know your mare, her abilities, limitations. You are the only one who knows how your husband rides also. I would think at 250 pounds he would feel very under-mounted on a small boned arab mare. I think your fear of injury to her is justified because you have a lot to lose if she is hurt. Nobody else giving advice here is affected one way or another. I am glad your husband was open to your concerns. Hope it works out well.

                                      Has he ever ridden a small horse before? It could be one ride around the pasture on her would be all he needed??!!


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Candyappy - my husband's first horse was a 15 H arab mare, she had lots of bone to her & hubby was lighter back then. I do know though once he got Charlie who's close to 16 hands he liked that feeling of riding a bigger horse. My husband is not a tall man only about 5' 9" tops, he has short legs & never looked too large on his arab mare. I'm just hoping his yearling filly grows into a horse that he can ride & be comfortable on & she can handle the work load. I still wish he would've bought an horse that was ready to be ridden now but he really wanted this filly. Guess we'll have to wait & see.