When I was in the throes of my multiple rides, I commented to my friend Nicole that Bronwyn "is the brains in the operation". The majority of the time, I feel that I can let her make the safest decision for the pair of us when it comes to footing or precarious paths. She did, afterall, just walk out of a collapsed culvert without hurting herself or losing me in the process. This video is a prime example of trusting your horse to make the best decision for the two of you as a pair. I don't know enough about jumping to know how or why they ended up in the mess going into that combination but it is clear that the rider decided that his interference was the last thing that this horse needed in order for the pair of them to be able to make it through together that with all of their appendages intact.
I get a lot of private messages and emails. Absolutely, by far and away, the most popular question is some variation of "Am I too big to ride?" and sometimes refers to a specific horse. I have often said that there is an appropriate horse out there for anyone who can get themselves into a saddle - it just might not be the horse in that physical state that they are riding at that time. If you ask a general equine interest forum, there is a lot of talk about the "20% rule", some people say the line is absolutely drawn at some arbitrary weight (usually 250lbs) - and I have even imposed that one on myself before.
I would be lying if I said I didn't, from time to time, see horses and riders that I did not feel were well matched (in one direction or the other, I have definitely seen riders that are riding horses that are WAY TOO BIG) - it is generally not my place to comment. The truth is that I feel there are way too many changing factors to consider when deciding if a horse and rider are a well matched pair for me to feel comfortable giving any solid guidelines, especially in a general sense.
We can talk about 20% rules and bone ratios and man fat vs. woman fat all we want, but I think we sometimes forget to give the horse some credit for helping to make this decision. Very often, the horse is the brains in the operation. They don't behave on emotion or selfish motives the way that we do. Though some horses are more stoic than others when it comes to pain or discomfort, they will not feign comfort in order to avoid hurting your feelings and likewise, they do not demonstrate physical problems with bearing your weight out of spite or any other emotion. If you are an attentive, aware rider, your horse very often will tell you, without any words, if you are too heavy or just right. So pay attention - just because you might fit the 20% rule (or whichever of the varying guidelines for weight bearing that you choose to follow at whichever time) doesn't mean that you can ignore pinned ears, constant moving off from the mounting block (that isn't related to training issues), surface pain, etc - but also, that horse that you are 20 or 30 or even 50lbs over the "rule that says I can ride" for might prick his ears forward, nod enthusiastically when you pull out your helmet, come rushing to be caught, and lift his back with ease under your weight.
I do think I have occasionally run into readers who are so obsessed with the numbers that they talk themselves out of riding a horse that is perfectly acceptable for bearing their weight. I'm not saying that we should ignore some of the guidelines that are set in place to help us understand where to draw the line when it comes to riding, but I am also saying that sometimes the horse that, by all accounts, should be able to bear your weight can't - because it has a long back, or because it is out of shape, or because it is too old or too young. And sometimes the one the rules say you shouldn't ride is a perfectly acceptable mount because of their conformation and physical fitness.
Nobody wants to be a bad horse owner, and I think it's pretty safe to say that we all love our horses. For many of us, the horse has been the one constant companion that we have had that has never passed judgement on us for not looking like a girl on the cover of Cosmo. None of us want to hurt our horses. Sometimes we need to set our pride aside and admit that the horse we are riding is not the right horse for us at that time, but more often, I think we need to set the "rules" aside and ask the horse to be the brains in the operation for a couple of minutes.