2015-12-15: Hi! You're probably here because you did a Google search for 'plus sized horseback riders' or you saw my content quoted elsewhere. There are a couple of things I'd like you to know.

I am still here! But I am living away from my horses and not riding often. I could tell you a lie and say that I am, but I have always endeavored to give you the truth here. As a result, I'm not feeling terribly motivated to write blog posts and I feel out of touch with the community.

I'd love for you to stay a while and look back through the archives. Visit the links listed below. We still have an active forum community and I post on the Facebook page from time to time.

I have tentative plans to try to get more involved in the horse world in 2016, and I will absolutely share whatever that adventure becomes with you, so keep checking back!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mailbag: Some Commonly Asked Questions

I've decided to do a new feature from time to time - I have a lot of really good conversations with many of my readers via Facebook messages or my email, and sometimes the same sorts of questions come up frequently. I thought that the best way to address these, with the permission of the writer, is to start a "Mailbag" feature and share some of our conversations and discussions with the rest of my readership. 

I am not an expert in ANY field, but I don't mind sharing my observations and opinions. If you have any comments or further questions, feel free to post in the comments! :)

Amber wrote:

Hi! I have just discovered your vlog and webpage. I am from Mississippi, and I, too, am overweight. I love horses and have always dreamed of doing barrel racing. On August 14, I had a weightloss surgery. I wanted to see if I could ask you some questions. I am a beginner rider. I owned horses as a young girl, and loved to ride. After being thrown off, I wasn't brave enough to ride anymore. Now, here I am losing weight, and I am wanting to RIDE! I cant get it out of my head that I am too big for the horse. frown My starting weight was 337. I am now 290, Praise the Lord. At what size do you think is good to get on a horse? Also I noticed your hose is kind of stock and well built. What type of horse and size do you suggest for an overweight beginner??? Thanks so much Amber

 First of all, congratulations on your loss. :)

As for your questions - it is pretty common for people to ask me for absolutes - what weight, what height, what breed is appropriate for a plus-sized rider. The problem is that there are many more factors than the number on the scale or the weight of the horse.

First of all, I always recommend having another set of eyes with you - even if you are quite experienced - to look at whatever horse you are viewing or trying out and give you an objective opinion. Especially when you have been out of the saddle for a while, sometimes emotion can overcome reason (this is how I ended up with a feral three year old draft cross mare when I finally went looking for a horse to ride after being out of the saddle for a year, instead of the quiet, solid, older stock horse gelding I was looking for!), and you might end up with something less appropriate.

We had someone viewing horses at our place and they insisted because they were a stockier person, they required a horse 'at least 16hh'. There was then a comment about how short Bronwyn's back is (in a negative way). The truth is that 16hh is a long way to fall! It is true that often a taller horse weighs more so they work out better for whichever arbitrary rider weight vs horse weight equation that you may choose to use, but often a taller horse is a longer horse, which often equates to a longer back which is not as good for carrying weight.

My big picks are horses that, conformationally, are compact and short backed, with good bone, good feet, and a short loin coupling (you can read a little more about length of back here). I find that this sort of horse is often found in stock horses (non specialized breeding, usually) or draft crosses, but not always.

A lot of people want to choose full drafts for plus sized riders - depending on the breeding, they can also be some of the most docile, good natured horses to deal with - largely based on their height and weight. Sometimes a full draft is not a good choice, because in my personal experience, some of the hitch bred horses can have quite long backs. They are, afterall, generally bred to pull weight, not carry it.

As for what weight to get on a horse - it largely depends on the horse - and the rider. I think the most important thing, for your own safety, is that you have been doing some sort of exercise prior. I am not talking about running marathons or swimming the English channel, but I do feel that a minimum level of physical activity, even if it is just walking for 30 minutes every other day, is one of the best ways to start off. Apart from the fact that moving your body is good for you in the first place, your muscles are going to have an idea of what is going on and anything that you will be doing will likely be engaging some of the primary muscles that you will need for riding (core, legs, etc).

I strongly recommend you find a coach who will work with you, understand the potential limitations of your weight and fitness level, and has an appropriate horse to start. When I started back to lessons, even though I had been running and doing other physical activity, it was a couple of months before I got a chance to canter. Still, the majority of my work is done at the walk and trot both in lessons and on Bronwyn as I continue to condition her (and myself!). I really don't have the level of fitness yet to ride for hours, hold two-point and post without stirrups, but I am working on it. I think it is really important to realize that you need to walk before you can run - literally.

Bronwyn is a draft cross - I have no idea what her breeding is. She is 7 years old and about 15hh tall. Some of my favourite features of her conformation are her short back, her heavy bone and sound feet and her general compactness. I have had some feedback that she has nice angles for a potential dressage horse, but unfortunately, I noticed none of that when I first viewed her, and four hours later brought her home - emotion overrode logic. I was lucky I ended up with the gem that I did!

The most recent side photo that I have of her from much earlier this summer before she began to acquire any muscle at all!

1 comment:

  1. Glad you don't make absolute pronouncements about weight carrying. Sometimes the benefit to a rider is worth asking a horse to carry "too much" weight for a short time. I am thinking of people with special needs whose mental and physical health can be improved so much from the back of a horse. In a perfect world the overweight rider would lose weight first but this is not a perfect world. That said, for overweight people who just love being around horses and don't need the extra benefit of riding, I would suggest driving. Even a very small pony can pull a lot of weight. There are driving clubs around the country where one can get advice, instruction, and camaraderie.