By Maddy Butcher
Say a Prayer for the Chair.
That’s what some waitresses glibly say when seating a heavy diner.
Now equine research is telling us to:
Say a Prayer for the Pony.
Or better yet, bring in the Percheron.
Dr. Hayley Randle and colleagues published their findings in The Journal of Veterinary Behavior.
They studied over 150 riders across England and found that only five percent fell within British equine vet guidelines for rider to horse weight ratio. (recommended at 10 percent of horse weight). Read more excerpts here.
The United States ranks significantly higher than England in obesity statistics. And by extension, one can conclude it has more overweight riders.
The study reasons, therefore, that the problem must be comparably worse for American horses. (Interestingly enough, guidelines here allow for a higher rider to horse weight ratio, varying from 15-20 percent of horse weight. Read more about that here.)
Randle is among a growing number of scientists suggesting that the human obesity problem can create a wide spectrum of issues for horses, including but not limited to:
- Back pain
- Behavioral problems (bucking, rearing, not following commands)
“People tend to think horses are such big animals, they must be okay, and not to take notice of the weight issue. But the health impact on the horse can be quite extreme, quite quickly,” Dr. Randle told The Daily Mail.
The finding verifies what many clinicians are seeing in arenas, especially where it impacts horsemanship skills and the horse-rider partnership.
“A rider that is not fit or not balanced is likely to misuse the reins or the saddle horn for balance,” said horsewoman Leslie Desmond. “Riders who are overweight and out of shape will compromise a horse.”
Desmond comments on balance, agility, and lightness as it relates to Body Mass Index. Check it out.
Horseman Jeff Griffith led a colt-starting clinic recently at the Iowa Equestrian Center. Nearly all of the 15 college-age students were overweight and needed mounting blocks to get on their horses.
“I hate mounting blocks,” he told the group. “If you are reasonable with your height, get on your horse! Keep getting on your horse off the ground. It might come in handy some day.”
NickerNews featured a guest column by a rider who took caution when considering her heavy status. Read the article.
So what do you do if you’re too heavy for your horse?
There are two ways to change the ratio:
- Ride a bigger horse
- Lose weight.
Or, as both scientists and clinicians suggest, consider driving a cart instead of climbing into the saddle.
Wondering where you stand? Enter your weight here to see how you’re sized up against the rest of the world population.