Rider Fitness contributors:
Russ & Marsha Jones, accomplished riders from Wolverine, Michigan
Stay tuned for upcoming features from:
Beth Austin, renowned physical therapist
Christina Savitsky, founder of Buckaroo Balance
Jim Thomas. 6’4”, 185 pounds
Jim Thomas runs the Bar T Ranch in Pittsboro, North Carolina. He has started scores of BLM wild horses and competed in multiple Extreme Mustang Makeovers. He travels and conducts clinics year round.
When I contacted Thomas, he happened to be reading a Cavalry manual from the 1800’s. It advised riders to not weigh more than 15 percent of the their horse’s weight. When you consider horses’ confirmation back then, he said, the situation is much worse for today’s horses.
“Back then,” said Thomas, “They were built to pick us up and carry us all day long. They were stockier. The hip to whither length was shorter. Nowadays, a thoroughbred or similar horse might be bigger technically, but will still have a problem with a heavy rider. Comparably, it may weigh the same as the old draft cross of the 1800’s, but will have longer legs and a longer spine.“
“Fitness is a personal choice. It doesn’t matter how much I harp on it. At the end of the day, clients might hear me and just choose to drink a diet soda, but never make any real change.”
He continues, “most folks will say, ‘I need to get a bigger horse.’ They won’t say, ‘I need to lose some weight.’”
Thomas finds myriad issues with heavy riders including mounting and posting.
He likes to recommend mounting blocks, but his motivation is not to enable the heavy rider.
“I like mounting blocks because they are better for the horse. It’s the best way to get on the horse for the horse’s sake. There is no torque on the withers if you mount properly.”
When mounting, Thomas said:
- Think Rein to Mane
- The horn is not there to help you get up.
- Float, don’t drop, into the saddle.
Thomas has a brilliant test to determine if you’re mounting lightly and being good to your horse: Try mounting without cinching the saddle.