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April 17, 2018 3 Comments
Ouch... did I just offend the whole world? Did I really just ask the question that so many people don't dare ask? Am I being insensitive, or just... realistic?
Here's the common sense reality: Ask yourself, "Could I do what I ask my horse to do, while carrying a pack that weighs the same percentage, pound for pound, as I do compared to my horse?"
It's probably true... you can carry a heavy load and survive just fine. But for how long?
A horse that weighs 1000 lbs. can carry a load that weighs 500 pounds (for a very short while). That's 50% of their body weight. When I say short while, I mean short while. Like 20 minutes of walking while on flat ground. That's not unreasonable. You could carry 50% of your body weight for a while too. But when you add speed, extended time, or undulating terrain... the ratio needs to change dramatically.
The industry standard for leisure riding is 20% of the horses body weight, tack included. A horse could carry more, but shouldn't. At least not for any length of time. The ideal weight ratio for performance horses is 15% or less. That means if your horse weighs 1000 lbs. You shouldn't weigh more than 150 lbs, tack included. Clearly, when the rider weighs less, the horse can perform easier. Just like if you carry a smaller load one day compared to the next. The advantage is so great in fact, that many performance categories require light riders to add dead weight to the saddle to make the playing field more equal.
I have a few horses, one of which is 1200 lbs. I weigh 210 lbs. with all my tack. I am therefore 17.5 percent of my horses body weight. I'm right on the edge of too heavy if I want to compete and win, in the long term, without stressing my horse. Of course that depends on the competition. I know too many cowboys and girls that ride horses that are too small. I think this is cruel, as a generality. I know a horse can handle more in the short term, because I used to ride fifty mile endurance races on lighter horses, and we often won those races. But in the long run, my horses broke down.
Looking back, I wish I'd known better. I should have been looking for stronger horses to balance the weight ratio better. I know some people get by with a smaller and lighter horse. And I know a few horses that have aged very well, carrying heavy loads their whole life. But as a general rule, why stress the horse? Instead, if at all possible, lose a few extra pounds so your horse has less to carry. Or find a partner that is strong enough to carry you for longer.
In saying all that, if you only intend to walk around, and mosey down an easy trail twice a year, you might be just fine. If you only have the funds for one horse and you picked a smaller horse, you'll still be OK, as long as you work on your balance and your horses posture correctly to help him carry heavier loads. You'll have to be aware of how he moves under your weight. It's a good idea to take a short video to analyze how he reacts to your signals and speeds. If, in the end, you feel compelled to ride your horse less because you're too big, that's a good thing. Now... start looking for that horse with the brain, and physique, that can carry you for the rest of his life without risking injury due to your own size.
Food for thought!
Would love to hear your comments.
For more help check out my book Leadership and horses.
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