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Prospects: How Big Is Too Big?

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  • #21
    When my young Hanoverian had soft tissue injuries, the vets gave him a worse prognosis due to his large size, even before we learned he had DSLD. He was about 17.2 hh with proportionate feet, bone, and joints.

    Since then I've been really hesitant to consider 17+ hh horses. Around 16 hh is my ideal now even though I'm fairly tall and long-legged. My dressage coach loves big horses and probably thinks I look silly on the "little guys" but I'm okay with that.

    Originally posted by Willesdon View Post
    Practical thoughts: the cost of larger than average tack and rugs; grooming and tacking up such a tall horse; extra large stable; trailer large enough .... aside from being slower to mature and with possible soundness issues.
    I'm very much in favor of smaller horses these days but I will say that I leased a 18 hh horse for over a year and didn't really find any of this to be an issue. However, he was long-legged but short-backed so maybe it would be harder with one that's more proportionate. He wore 84" blankets, which are not rare or overpriced. He fit in my stalls (though he would not lie down inside) and trailer.

    I did learn the first week or two that I had to stand on my tiptoes to groom his croup, or when I got on I'd look back to see a strip of dirt along his spine.

    Despite his size, he's a very elegant and light mover. He could canter past you and you'd barely even hear hoofbeats. If I were to consider a larger horse I'd want one like that. This horse is 16 now, a Grand Prix dressage horse, and has always been super sound.
    Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm:


    • #22
      I would stay away from a horse that big. Long-term issues with soundness. My 17'2 mare never got to compete past 5 years old. She is too big and I cannot keep her sound. Just like large overweight people, they tend to have issues with knees and hips due to the weight on the joints. You don't see any FEI horses that big.


      • #23
        This goes against what most are saying, and it's very possible I just got lucky, but I have an 18' gelding who has hardly taken a lame step in the 7 years that I have owned him, and he's 19 now. I know this is just anecdotal evidence, but he's been the most lovely horse ever. Did the Big Eq, performance hunters, junior hunters, etc. with him. I will say he is very proportional and has thick and strong legs and big hooves. Maybe he's just a miracle horse But I can only think of two times since I've owned him that he's been lame. It is a different challenge... getting him in a frame and moving from the hind end is a workout and he goes in a big bit and requires a lot of work on the flat. But wouldn't trade him for anything! However, I bought him as a 12 year old, so he was already finished when I got him! Take this for what it's worth


        • #24
          Originally posted by monalisa View Post
          I would stay away from a horse that big. Long-term issues with soundness. My 17'2 mare never got to compete past 5 years old. She is too big and I cannot keep her sound. Just like large overweight people, they tend to have issues with knees and hips due to the weight on the joints. You don't see any FEI horses that big.
          I don't think that's right. There are definitely plenty of large successful FEI horses and many have had long careers. Lizziemary is both tall and long, Dicas is enormous, Cortez is tall, pretty much anything Francois Mathy Jr rides, Taloubet Z is tall and a stallion with a very long career, Kevin Staut has had a couple Edesa's horses that were large. Molly Ashe had Cat Ballou for a while. An of course, Azure and Gunder are both large Thunder offspring.

          I tried horses at the Philappaerts stables in Belgium and Ludo keeps that barn stocked with 17h+ horses for all his giant kids. I couldn't afford anything there that wasn't a bit older and they all had long careers jumping FEI.

          You can manage a large horse. Conformation matters more and you have to be thoughtful about maintaining fitness. It also really helps to not live somewhere with hard dry ground like CA.


          • #25
            Originally posted by monalisa View Post
            I would stay away from a horse that big. Long-term issues with soundness. My 17'2 mare never got to compete past 5 years old. She is too big and I cannot keep her sound. Just like large overweight people, they tend to have issues with knees and hips due to the weight on the joints. You don't see any FEI horses that big.
            Not to minimize your experience, but I think we have to be careful when extrapolating personal experience with one horse to all across the board. I've known plenty of sound 17.2 competition horses, and plenty of FEI horses are big. 17.2 isn't that huge.

            There's plenty of 15.2 horses who weren't ever sound enough to compete past 5 too.

            Does size play a role in overall soundness? I believe it does....but it's only one factor. A well-conformed, well-balanced, properly managed, properly ridden, properly maintained 17.2 horse has a much better likelihood of staying sound over a 15.2 poorly conformed, poorly balanced, poorly ridden, poorly maintained horse.
            Jennifer Baas
            It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. (Aristotle)


            • #26
              If you remove all of the possible soundness issues and the horse not being able to fit in some stalls or smaller trailers the real issue, to me, is that riders with short legs are going to be pretty ineffective when those legs are barely coming below the saddle flap. You end up doing everything with your hands.
              The other problem is finding a saddle that's big enough to not look stupid on the horse that a smaller rider isn't wandering around on.


              • #27
                Originally posted by intheirons View Post
                ...I have an 18' gelding....)
                18’ ?

                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • #28
                  Just to push slightly against the grain of all these negative posts, I had an equitation horse this size and he was a sound trooper his whole career. Did fine in normal stalls and trailers and shoes. He was on the lighter side, build-wise, and he required minimal prep and thus was relatively easy on himself. And the 3'-3'6" jumps I asked him to jump were super easy for him, which I think actually spared him some wear and tear over the years relative to one that had to make a bigger jumping effort.

                  I did keep him fit, use a good farrier, and manage him appropriately as he aged, but none of that was any different from what I would have done with a smaller horse. We stopped jumping him after a freak pasture injury at 18, but until that point, he'd been doing great with some adequan and hock injections every 12-18 months.

                  I can't speak to the statistics, and other posters may be right that you're at a somewhat elevated risk of issues. But I also don't think it's a run-away sort of flaw in a horse that otherwise meets your needs.


                  • #29
                    Originally posted by findeight View Post

                    18’ ?
                    Haha. Wrong shorthand. Woops!