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Too heavy for my horse?

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  • Too heavy for my horse?

    Sorry for the alter, but it's a sensitive subject and I don't want people to tip toe around it fear of hurting my feelings.

    It has come to my attention this weekend that I may be to heavy for my horse. He's a 16 hand quarter horse, medium build. I am short, but heavy, around 260 pounds, I carry a lot of it my butt and hips, so it's definitely not flattering.

    My horse is probably 1100 pounds, has seem to have done okay so far, I've been riding him for a long time. He saw the chiropractor this spring for unrelated issues and his back WAS sore, but the vet attributed it to his hocks being sore, which are now being treated.

    My saddle has been fitted by a professional, and I am careful to ride lightly. I do very low level eventing (beginner novice is as big as I go) and trail riding. I take lessons every other week and my trainer has not said anything to me, but I wonder if he is trying to be PC?

    I've been trying to lose the weight, obviously, but the person who brough this to my attention said I should stop riding my horse NOW, until I lose 50 pounds. Selling the horse for a new one is not an option, since he has a lot of issues, both physical and mental, I don't know of one person who would be willing to deal with him, it's too scary out there to let nice horses go, let alone just average, plain ones like my guy.

  • #2
    Look at it this way: 260 pounds is nearly 24% of your horse's body weight. Twenty-four percent of your body weight would be 61 pounds. Imagine being asked to run around and jump over things while carrying 61 pounds.

    I had a friend who was in much the same situation. She ended up causing considerable damage to her horse, even though she's a good experienced rider. It wasn't just the trouble with his back, but also his knees, hocks, and feet. Certainly your weight could be affecting your horse's back and hocks.

    I mean no offense by this; I know how hard it is to lose weight, and I lost 75 pounds after the birth of my son. But it's do-able, and for your horse's sake you must do it. You will be very happy you did.


    • #3
      While I agree that you should do what you can to loose weight for your horse as well as for yourself, I think that the person that told you you should stop riding was being cruel. If your trainer hasn't said anything and your horse seems to be fine than I think that giving up doing an active sport that you love is counter productive. You might need to find a nutritionalist and a trainer to help you, but it is possible to loose the weight, but you can do it. Sore hocks will, in fact, cause a horse's back to be sore.


      • #4
        Originally posted by fourmares View Post
        While I agree that you should do what you can to loose weight for your horse as well as for yourself, I think that the person that told you you should stop riding was being cruel. If your trainer hasn't said anything and your horse seems to be fine than I think that giving up doing an active sport that you love is counter productive. You might need to find a nutritionalist and a trainer to help you, but it is possible to loose the weight, but you can do it. Sore hocks will, in fact, cause a horse's back to be sore.
        Exactly! I have had people tell me I am fine to ride a horse. I dont feel comfortable doing so just yet. I am waiting to have Gastric Bypass soon. The ONLY reason is because I am afraid I dont have the seat / balance like I used to. I feel if your heavy, but you have a good solid seat, and you know how to ride, it should be fine. You seem to have your horses best interest at heart. You know your horse. Your vet knows your horse. Do what your heart tells you. And no matter what, losing any amount of weight is best for YOU!
        There's something about the outside of a horse that's good for the inside of a man.

        -Sir Winston Churchill


        • #5
          I'm in a similiar boat....

          I ride a 16 hand horse and weight around 225# so I know I'm a little big for my horse, but this horse I also have owned since the day she was conceived. Makes it even harder to sell, trade or anything like that.
          I'm also a 6'4 tall man, so their really isn't any weight I CAN lose without being skin stretched over bone.
          There was an article in, I believe, Hunter and Sporthorse about being over weight for the size horse you ride, it's big thing was balance. If your balance is good, your horse is better off, with you riding, than a poorly balanced person of correct weight riding. So I would say, if your trainer hasn't pulled you aside and said something about finding you a different horse, your fine with what you have.
          I would be willing to bet though, the person who said this to you, has had their eye on your horse for some time, and even VOLUNTEERED to work your horse while you didn't ride, HOPING you would either sell them the horse or gain more weight NOT riding and let them keep riding without having to buy him...
          " iCOTH " window/bumper stickers. Wood Routed Stall and Farm Signs


          • #6
            I grew up on a ranch- guys regularly rode medium/heavy build quarter horses around 15hh. I am sure you have to pay attention more to your balance to keep the horse moving well, but look online at videos of reining or arab circuit and you'll see big people on little horses.

            I have two horses. One is a 16.3hh 1500# percheron cross. The other is a 15hh 850 lb welsh cross. I can definitely tell that my weight (about 180) affects the little guy more, but it doesn't kill him. The big guy can't even tell I'm there.


            • #7
              I would say that there is no way you can say his back is only due to his hocks. If your horse has issues maybe this is a good time to go back to ground work and do bonding. Maybe rather than go for trail rides go for trail hikes, where you bring the horse but walk on your own feet. If you are going to ride maybe invest in a good gel pad or something to help cushion the horses back when you do make mistakes(we all do).


              • #8
                my aging brain is slowly turning to oatmeal mush...I recall reading something about horse weight-carrying ability and the position of that author was that, structurally-speaking, a smaller horse, with a shorter back, is often better situated to carry more weight than a larger one with a longer back (ie an unsupported span). anyone ever read this and remember the complete story?.....


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Ashby View Post
                  Look at it this way: 260 pounds is nearly 24% of your horse's body weight. Twenty-four percent of your body weight would be 61 pounds. Imagine being asked to run around and jump over things while carrying 61 pounds.
                  You'd be in the US military.

                  Ask your vet point blank. Write just what you did here.

                  25% is about the limit. But consider how many tall guys ride 14.3 Arabians or 15 h QH. Go look at some pictures of icelandic horses. It depends a lot on how your horse is built.

                  And it's all about what is the best option for this horse within the choices available. Would he be better off standing in his stall while you lose 50 lbs? Probably not.

                  Think about management issues that you can control. For example, he needs to stay fit - no taking a week off and then riding him hard. Watch the footing. Don't sit on your horse's back standing around for long periods of time. Do low impact conditioning like walking up hills, if available.

                  50 lbs sounds like a lot, because you're a human. But would you stop working him and be worried if HE gained 50 lbs? Would he be more or less able to carry you with that extra 100 lbs on his frame?
                  If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                  • #10
                    Here is the thing, why is a 200-220 pound women likley to be dubbed to big to ride when lots of men weigh that much and more. The heavyier women I have seen ride do a good job because they are conscience of their mounts. I havent seen one horse that was obvously having trouble with that weight.

                    In all honestly, you are probably fine, I would try to drop some weight though, riding is alot more fun when you are fitter and are carrying less. And while it is easyier on you and your horse if you drop some weight, I wouldent say your putting him at any immediate danger.
                    Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned. -Author Unknown


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by poltroon View Post

                      50 lbs sounds like a lot, because you're a human. But would you stop working him and be worried if HE gained 50 lbs? Would he be more or less able to carry you with that extra 100 lbs on his frame?

                      Exactly, thats why I think that whole 25% thing is rubbish.Since when do heavyier horses carry weight better? Its like saying, well you weigth 150 pounds, therefore you should have no problem carrying two feed bags at once.These things arent so simple to be figured out with percents and mathmatics, the rider needs to be addressed, the horse needs to be adreesed, it isent all generic. Its like that stupid BMI craze that went on.
                      Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned. -Author Unknown


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by fourmares View Post
                        While I agree that you should do what you can to loose weight for your horse as well as for yourself, I think that the person that told you you should stop riding was being cruel. If your trainer hasn't said anything and your horse seems to be fine than I think that giving up doing an active sport that you love is counter productive. You might need to find a nutritionalist and a trainer to help you, but it is possible to loose the weight, but you can do it. Sore hocks will, in fact, cause a horse's back to be sore.
                        I don't think this person was trying to be cruel. Depending on how this person said it to you, I think they were probably trying to be kind to your horse and to you. I had a similar conversation with a friend and believe me, unless you are a hard hearted witch, it takes a LOT of courage to actually be able to say that to someone. Just think about it, how hard is it to start that conversation?! Your trainer may not be the sort of person that feels comfortable having that conversation, even if you ask. If you do want to broach it with your trainer, you could perhaps turn it around and say something like "I've been thinking that perhaps right now I am too heavy to ride XXXX and should lose some weight before continuing on" - and see whether he says "you're absolutely fine" or whether he says nothing or "good idea" - might be an easier way for him to be honest (either way).

                        Personally, yes, I think you are too heaving to be riding your horse at this point in time. I think this has nothing to do with heavy guys working horses that are too small for them. Who's to say that they aren't too heavy for their horses too, but have just not been as considerate as you are in thinking about it and wondering whether you are causing a problem. The back problem may be nothing to do with you riding, but I applaud you for it being a wake up call to think about whether there might be ancillary issues with you riding, especially if he has back problems.

                        Good luck with your decision.


                        • #13
                          It's impossible to tell from a short note if anyone is "too heavy" for their horse. It's way more than a question of hands or percentage of horse weight.

                          Indeed the taller a horse the less it's likely to carry successfully as bone density decreases with height in light horses. Similarly, if a horse is already carrying a lot of it's own weight how much "excess capacity" does it have to carry a rider?

                          While I have some "heartburn" with some of her approaches, Dr. Deb Bennett has written extensively on this and has some very practical advice. She runs a website called the Equine Studies Institute and has done a lot of writing on equine subjects.

                          A U.S. cavalry colonel once observed that "it's not the kilometers with horses, it's the kilograms." I, too, fight the "battle of the bulge" on a regular and frequent basis. It's best for my horse that I win. Sometimes I even do.

                          One choice for the larger rider are the Fjords or Icelandics. They were bred to carry big, ole, scandahoovian males and are pretty tough.

                          Personally I'm leery of the drafts and draft crosses. The draft horse is conformed to pull a lot, not necessarily carry a lot. Consider that aircraft are built light but strong to carry a lot and locomotives built heavy and strong to pull a lot. Not a perfect analogy, but one worth thinking about.

                          Good luck with your horse.

                          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                          • #14
                            I can't say whether you are too heavy for your horse or not, though a 260-lb woman is plenty heavy. I just want to say that comparing a 260-lb woman, obese woman to a 260-lb, fit cowboy is NO COMPARISON. Sure, it may be the same weight, but I don't care how well you THINK you ride, an obese woman does not ride as well as that fit cowboy (heck most fit women can't ride as well as a fit cowboy!)

                            I was pretty heavy when King and I were jumping, and he is not as big as your horse. No one ever said anything to me about needing to lose weight to ride him. Having said that, however, I know better now. And so do you.

                            Maya Angelou says that "when we knew better, we did better." I think it may be time to take this wake up call, get off the horse and walk alongside. Cut out all the fast food, all the junk food, all the soda pop. Drink tons of water. Count calories. I'll bet, at 260 lbs, you can lose 30 lbs fairly quickly just by cleaning up your diet and getting 60 minutes of exercise per day. If you walk alongside instead of riding, you can probably get your horse time and your exercise time in at once.

                            YOUR back will thank you, too.

                            And, good luck! No shame in being overweight. Maybe a little shame in sticking your head in the sand and pretending that it doesn't matter. It does. And you know it.


                            • #15
                              I am not about to judge whether you are too big for your horse as I haven't a clue how he is built nor how well you ride. I think that losing weight is a great idea, but I also think that you should keep riding as it is great exercise. Alternating it with days of taking your horse for trail walks would probably help a lot. Personally, I would cut the jumping for the time being, but that is just me. Good luck.


                              • #16
                                I had say something like that to me a couple of years ago. I am about 30 pounds overweight and yet was deeply hurt by the comment which is IMO completely no one's business but mine. In your case, your horse, your weight, your personal challenge.

                                Make sure your saddle is well fitted and that you ride very centered and balanced but whatever you do keep riding. And do try to lose some weight but believe me I know what that is like. I fear that the emptiness you would feel from not riding your horse would not help your weight loss efforts.

                                Buy yourself a pedometer and absolutely do not go to bed at night until you have 10000 steps on that bloody thing every day every day every day.


                                • #17
                                  I've seen some incredibly heavy people at shows. On the ground they looked so heavy I promised myself to watch their ride. 95% of them were beautiful riders, so nice that I never noticed their weight! I'd kill to ride as well as they do Their horses looked happy and relaxed, definitely not stressed by the weight they were carrying.

                                  Losing weight would be good for you tho. It's hard, but you can do it....and good luck!


                                  • #18
                                    Obviously you think its a good idea to lose weight, as you are the one seeing that it is affecting your horse. What anyone else says is inconsequential, and you do yourself a disservice to ask people their opinions. Most of the opions you will get on this subject will be those which make the person feel better about themselves, as is evident in many of these posts, which discuss justifying or feeling ok about their own weight problems.

                                    The facts are, you CAN loose weight, it is hard, but you can do it. Lose a hundred pounds and you will be amazed at how strong you are and how much of your health you will regain which you had previously plagued you. Think about it this way: You wight 260 pounds now. Should you lose a hundred pounds? Sounds like alot? Should you not? Next month you might weigh 270. This winter you might gain another 30 pounds. Then you will need to loose 130 pounds. Better get started now, and if you want to stop riding until you loose sixty pounds, your horse will do better, and you will have a goal. Riding does not provide the kind of exercise you need to lose weight. You need to go to the gym and do at least 40 mins of cardio a day. You can talk yourself out of it, but that is where you will loose weight, and if you don't, you will stay the same.

                                    Good luck. Asking other overweight people what they think is giving yourself permission to keep compromising your horse's health, and minimizing your weight problem. Hope you get motivated and do this according to your own convictions, and not look for other people's thoughts.
                                    Last edited by AnotherRound; Aug. 4, 2008, 08:24 AM.
                                    Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.


                                    • #19
                                      "a smaller horse, with a shorter back, is often better situated to carry more weight than a larger one with a longer back (ie an unsupported span)"

                                      I have been re-habbing a 16'3hh TB who was pretty much wrecked by his previous rider whose weight fluctuated between 260 -280. She was an experienced rider and jumped this poor horse who had been a former GP jumper. No way should she have been riding that horse at all considering the length of his back (very long) much less jumping him. She claimed to LOVE LOVE LOVE that horse and yet I had to rescue him out of a field where she put him when he couldn't move any more. He wouldn't even walk to water because his body hurt so much. Just because he was able to carry her over jumps for several months didn't mean that he should have been doing it, and it sure didn't mean he could do it and stay healthy for very long.

                                      I know how difficult it is to lose weight, but if we are really honest with ourselves, we have to realize life is all about choices. If you choose to ride and want to do cross country and jumping, then you have to make different choices about what you eat and drink and how often you ask yourself to move and jump. You must move more and eat less, and that's the only formula needed. If you can't do that, then you have to realize that you are choosing to sacrifice your horse's health if you ask him to carry you over jumps. I have seen the aftermath of someone who couldn't take her weight loss seriously, and I am very surprised that this horse had the will to come back. When I asked him to load up and come home with me, he had almost gotten that look in his eyes that horses get when they want to die rather than suffer more. All because his owner thought she could NOT change her eating and exercise habits and still somehow be a competitive jumper. The two do not go together, and if more people would realize that rider fitness is a huge component of long-term horse health, we might have less early onset damage that never should have occurred in the first place.

                                      Could you just ride the horse on the flats for a while and work on modifying your diet and exercising more? Could you add a long hand walk to your routine before or after your rides, or in place of some of your rides, and gradually work up to jogging? Rather than longeing, walk or jog along side him--ask yourself to do as much work as you ask out of your horse. How many chores do you do by hand? Do as many as you can by yourself and work up a good sweat. Park far away no matter where you are going. Get a step counter and aim for 10,000 steps a day. MOVE MORE, EAT LESS and realize that as you become lighter and more fit, your horse will be healthier in the long term no matter what. I would recommend getting a registered dietician to help you develop an eating plan and working with a personal trainer or coach to help you develop a fitness program. It's all got to work together...you can't just jog 30 minutes and then eat a whole bag of Cheetos (not saying you do this, but the person who wrecked the TB did things like that) and expect to lose weight. Professionals can help you set up a plan that will work, but then you have to do it and that's where you have to choose whether you want to continue old patterns that are compromising your own health first and your horse's second, or whether you really want to become healthy and fit. 260 plus tack is a lot for any horse to carry, especially over jumps. Period. Horses do it, but most of them won't last long doing it.


                                      • #20
                                        I think that focusing on whether your weight caused the horse's physical problem to determine whether you should keep riding him at your current weight is somewhat of a mistake. The fact is, your horse HAS a physical problem now -- sore hocks and back -- so the issue is really, whether 260 lbs is too much for an 1100 pound horse that has sore hocks and a sore back to carry -- NOT whether that weight is too much for a sound horse to carry. I also think there is a difference, as far as the horse's comfort is concerned, between an overweight woman and a man (or woman) who is fit but happens to weigh the same because of height / muscle mass, because the weight is distributed very differently on an overweight person, for one thing.

                                        I recognize that some people have metabolic or other issues that make them predisposd to gaining weight more easily than others, but at 260 pounds I would think that you have a very good chance of being able to lose at least some of that weight with some effort -- you don't have to be a skinny minny. And you don't have to exercise strenuously, either -- walking, for example, is excellent exercise and adding just a half hour a day of walking at a decent clip, combined with some reasonable (not draconian) diet changes may really help. A very close friend of mine went from 265 to 140 when we were in college and ultimately became a very well-regarded nutritionist. It took her four years to lose the weight, and I saw it close up so I know how hard it was for her to stay motivated, particularly at the beginning before she really saw any results, and one "bad day" made it very tempting to give up. Also, I think it is important to remember that you are not your weight; it is just an attribute that you can change like changing your hair color (albeit with more effort). If you let it impact your self-esteem, it becomes much more of a challenge to address.
                                        Roseknoll Sporthorses