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Rider Weight

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  • Rider Weight

    Hi everyone - I am putting myself out there so please be kind...

    I am 310lbs/5'8" and have been looking to get back into riding. I have been riding a huge percheron and am abiding by the 20% rule, being very cautious about what I ride and for how long/hard. I have been reading a lot about what type of horse would be best for me at my current weight and as I lose weight (down 40lbs!). Growing up, I rode a 14.3 grade QH mare at around the 250 range with zero issues. She and I would do 15+ miles in a day with no problem - she was lame for 3 days in the 10 years we had her and it was only due to picking up a rock and had a bit of a bruise.

    My question is this...what are your thoughts on a 16 hand, 1500lb gypsy cross? Short back, big wide legs. She is just learning so she has a long way to go to get conditioned and I am building my strength in my legs and core so that I can be balanced for her. What are your thoughts on QHs in the 15-15.2 range (short back, big beefy legs)?

    Again, I am trying to do the right thing and dont need anyone telling me about my health (I get it and am working on it).

    Thanks for any insight!

  • #2
    A lot is going to depend on how well balanced and fit you are as a rider.

    As teens riding daily, we were all more balanced, fitter, and in tune with our horses compared to when we are returning adult riders. That is huge for protecting the horses back. After all lots of big men who must weigh 250 lbs do just fine on QH in reining and roping and ranch work, but they are fit and balanced. On the other hand, a lesson horse can get broken down fast from the thumping and bumping even if all the riders are 99 lb tweens!

    Also keep in mind that draft horses are not built for riding and can have problems just based on toting around their *own* weight.

    A cob is probably a good choice. But honestly for you and for every returning rider out there, I'd say save your pennies and buy a broke balanced horse. I got into trouble, and every returning rider I know, got into trouble getting a green broke horse that wasn't 100% clear about his job. Our own lack of balance, lack of confidence in problem solving, and limited repertoire of training skills, is a recipe for all kinds of long term issues like balking, bucking, etc.

    I would suggest buying a horse that is already going well for a heavier rider, doing the job you want him to do.


    • Original Poster

      Thank you - totally agree with you regarding rider fitness. Its a scary thing and I definitely dont want to harm the horse or me. The gypsyx I am looking at is green but I have tons of experienced people ready to help me so that is less concerning. We probably have 6-8 months of ground work to do before anyone is getting on her back. Lots of ground driving and manners to learn.

      Thank you for the kind and thoughtful response


      • #4
        Again, those little 14.2, 14.3 hand reining quarter horses carry around 250 ish pound men doing highly athletic maneuvers. I think you will be fine, if you have people helping you, you will be able to build up your balance and strength as she gets conditioned and learns. You might still want to have other people ride her for you, especially in new situations, to get her confident, just to be safe. But if you take it slow, I think you will be just fine.


        • #5
          If you continue to ride another horse and work on your two point while you school the cob, you will be a much better rider by the time you back her. You might also consider big marching trail walks in hand as part of her ground work training and your own fitness!


          • #6
            I was 300 lbs and rode a 15 hh Morgan/Arab cross. My balance back then was not the best, and he did great with me. I was religious about checking his back and in the 8 years I rode him, he was never back sore, nor did he have any lameness issues.

            Around 250 lbs I rode my then 4 year old Morgan (he's 17 now) and he didn't seem to have any issues carrying me. His being young did finally goose me into getting serious about my weight loss.

            I think your cob or a good, solid QH wouldn't have any issues carrying you (every horse being an individual, of course).

            Good luck to you!


            • #7
              Check the diameter of bone immediately below the front knee. 9 inches of bone should be able to carry 196 lbs with no problem. Most cobs will have 9 or more inches.

              But as said above, your balance is also really important.
              "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


              • #8
                Good for you for being concerned with the wellbeing of your past and future horses! There is absolutely a horse out there for you at your current weight. The type of horse you are describing (i.e., drafty) is probably a great choice. Big bones, good conformation and hooves, and strong frame. I don't think height is quite as significant though. I rescued my last horse (a Friesian x TB, 16.2hh) who had developed severe kissing spine from years of carrying a very heavy rider and would have had to be put down if I hadn't rescued him and gotten him into surgery. He was a tall horse, but not particularly heavy-boned, and he had crappy feet too. My experience is obviously only one anecdotal situation, but hopefully a little helpful. Welcome back to riding!


                • #9
                  Hi Op, congrats for being brave enough to ask the question, and for getting back into it.

                  Repeating a few others thoughts, fitness and balance is another factor in the weight equation. I’m a big rider, and after my knee replacement and subsequent lay off, I feel even bigger, because my body won’t do what it should.

                  I’m now back to walking, cycling, sitting on my balance ball, and doing my crunches. Even if my weight does not change I know my ability will, and the easier it will be on my boy.
                  "He's not even a good pathological liar." Mara

                  "You're just a very desperate troll, and not even a good one. You're like middle-school troll at best. Like a goblin, not even a troll." et_fig


                  • #10
                    Congratulations for getting fit and returning to horses!

                    I second getting a horse that is already a steady-Eddie, if you can. I also think there's definitely a horse out there for you and a stout QH type with good bone is not too hard to find. While I understand the 20 percent rule, I'm not gonna clutch my pearls if a considerate and sensitive large rider is on a horse that doesn't quite meet the 20 percent numbers. I live in ranching country and you see some pretty big guys on some smallish horses. No one bats an eye and those dang horses carry those guys over amazingly rough country all day long.

                    It's the greeness of the Gypsy horse you mention that gives me pause. She may be a lovely creature inside and out, and your careful training over some months with trusted mentors can get you far. And by that time, you may be even lighter and fitter than you are now. That's all terrific. I'm riding a green horse myself these days, and while she tries hard for me, and has decent training, she has greenie moments - startling when the ends of the split reins unexpectedly hit her barrel, for instance. And she herself is still learning to balance us both; we have moments at the lope that are not always pretty or centered or easy to ride through. Training the green Gypsy might be fun for you...or it may be more fun not to worry about her balance and confidence and her silly spooky greenie moments that could get wooly for both of you...and instead find an Ol' Paint former ranch or rope horse you can just get on and ride from the get-go.

                    You sound sensible and kind. I'm sure you'll make a good decision!


                    • #11
                      Congrats on the weight loss! I've always struggled with weight and know how hard it is to move the scale.

                      No real advise for you. Just wishing you all the best! Having good professionals around you is an excellent start!


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jessct View Post
                        The gypsyx I am looking at is green but I have tons of experienced people ready to help me so that is less concerning. We probably have 6-8 months of ground work to do before anyone is getting on her back. Lots of ground driving and manners to learn.
                        Other thing to consider is that you probably won't be 310 pounds anymore in 6-8 months. So that is also something to consider in your decision, and possibly give you motivation to reach your goals!

                        But.... I also echo the comments on if a greenbroke horse is the correct mount for you when are you just getting back into riding again. Would it be more suitable to find a been-there-done-that horse?
                        What are you wanting to do? Trail ride? Shows?

                        Originally posted by jessct View Post
                        I have been riding a huge percheron and am abiding by the 20% rule
                        The 20% rule is NOT a rule ..... it is a very, very generalized guideline that doesn't consider the points already mentioned above. So please do not worry about following that to gospel! A 120-pound rider that is POUNDING on the horse's back with every stride because they can't balance themselves is much, much worse than a 250 pound rider that is moving gracefully and smoothly in rhythm with the horse. And the "20% rule" doesn't touch that.

                        Just for fun.....
                        Many years ago, I was at a gaming show and ran the sack race with two different people. This is a timed event where you must make a full circle around 4 barrels while holding a gunny sack between the 2 horses. Fastest time wins. You cannot drop or let go of the sack or you are disqualified.

                        First video: One gal I ran with probably was around that 250 pound mark. I don't know for sure how much she weighed, but that's just a guess. For reference, my horse that I am riding is 16.1 hands. So her horse probably was around 15.2 hands and he was a stocky-type build -- suitable to carry her build. Despite her large size, she was a great rider (still see her all the time but she no longer rides due to back issues). Her bobble around the far side of the arena was not her -- I remember my horse bumped into her on the first turn. They paid out first through third place. We barely took 4th place by a few tenths of a second.

                        Second video: In contrast to the other person I did the sack race with that day. A little girl on wicked fast little pony. We won the sack race and took first place. She's maybe..... 80 pounds? Maybe? (and a hell of a little rider, I may add) So there was a huge weight difference (and yes, horse difference) between my two partners but it only amounted to not even a full second on time. I want to say we were 10.7 sec with the heavier rider and 10 flat with the smaller rider, if my memory serves me correctly.

                        So maybe not relevant to your situation OP, but that little pony was ridden by adults too and he was successful well into his 40's. Never had a problem. And I know the heavier rider did not abide by the 20% rule and that horse too was ridden for many, many more years and was a great horse.

                        So probably .... just throw the 20% rule out the window. That might be better.
                        It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.


                        • #13
                          I agree with the poster who said to look for a horse that is already doing what you need it to do and proven successful. I I watched a stout, 1500 lbs tank of a little horse that is super eager to please but just coming back into work after a lobg break tumble to his knees while trying to jump a line of 2 small cross rails . The rider weighs about 250 and is generally a good rider but sometime falls out of hunt seat onto the horse's forehand if she's getting tired. This horse could carry a rider of her size quite easily when he's fit. Being out of balance himself, he couldn't catch and balance her weight as she felll forward after the first fence and down he went. It wasn't confidence building for either one of them. The gypsy mare could turn out perfect for you or it could be a poor match. I personally wouldn't feel comfortable banking on so many unknowns.

                          COTH has a blogger that is a larger figured rider. Something that jumped out at me while reading her blog posts was how much time she was spending trying various "well, maaaaYbe if..." horses, culminating in a scary accident that shook her confidence in riding. Then, on a visit back to VA, her trainer put her on a huge, lovely, confidence-building gelding that she loved and she had a great time riding. And I could 't help but wonder - why not buy that horse? He'd proven that he was quite capable of doing what she needed and she'd felt joy riding him instead of trepidation. This is too expensive a hobby to settle for much less than a partner that you can't wait to get to the barn to ride!


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Willesdon View Post
                            Check the diameter of bone immediately below the front knee. 9 inches of bone should be able to carry 196 lbs with no problem. Most cobs will have 9 or more inches.

                            But as said above, your balance is also really important.
                            Diameter or circumference?
                            Rack on!


                            • #15
                              Agree with everyone who suggests avoiding a green horse. And so nice to see how supportive the comments have been. I have been told on this site that at 215lbs I have no business riding any horse, or even sitting in a wagon pulled by one :-(

                              I am an English rider and I think in the Western world people are more used to seeing larger riders on smaller horses.

                              I also agree that body type, conformation and bone is more important than just the height of horse. So the type you are focusing on sounds ideal, but please consider looking for one that is already well-trained and will be easy and fun for you to enjoy.


                              • #16
                                Keep on riding!!!


                                • #17
                                  Here’s my argument for a more seasoned horse- The back muscles used to carry a rider are developed over the working life if a horse. Once these muscles are tired, the horse is no longer carrying its load on the muscle, but rather on the connective tissue of the spine. This is a great setup for a back injury.

                                  These muscles take years of correct work to strengthen. A horse that has been in work for 5 years will be much more muscle strength on which to carry a rider without fatigue. A seasoned and fit horse will also have far better balance and stronger supporting muscle and connective tissue. This all lends itself to better long term soundness, less chance of accident and injury.

                                  With th a horse that has been in work, you have evidence that the horse can actually stand up to being in work.

                                  I’m glad you’re asking these questions. Look at the recommendations you’re getting. This might not be the moment for the pretty young thing. You’ll likely save a lot of money buying a finished, fit and sound horse. Bet you’ll have more fun with it too.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Rackonteur View Post

                                    Diameter or circumference?
                                    You are correct: circumference
                                    "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Thank you all!! Great advice and such a kind community


                                      • #20
                                        I'm your weight but taller at almost 6 feet, I normally ride a 16.3 AQHA who I fit just fine. The right horse is out there for you, figure out what would make you the happiest and pick a horse that would fit that goal. Don't waste time on something that 'may' work. Also take a good look into saddle fit both now, and in the future when you have a horse. Most standard western saddles are 15 or sometimes 16 inches. They do make 17's and they are well worth the price of having a balanced well fitting saddle for both you and the horse. The better your saddle fits you the easier it will be to ride correctly.