Together with the horse, we’re Olympians.
Together, we’re scholarship athletes.
We’re a legendary duo, crossing continents, scaling mountains, swimming rivers, and outsprinting nearly every other species on the planet.
But somewhere along the line it became OK to partner-up with our horses as overweight, out-of-shape humans. Increasingly, the horse community seems to give heavy riders a free pass, an enthusiastic blessing even.
- We don’t want hurt feelings.
- It’s more important that we ride well and treat our horses nicely.
- Who cares if we’re heavy?
Those were some sentiments posted in response to the BestHorsePractices Rider Weight article. It reviewed research by a pair of English scientists looking at the issue as it relates to horse wellness. It found that horse injury and “bad behavior” (rearing, bucking, etc.) were associated with an increase in human weight.
Commenters brought up excellent points.
Namely, that rider weight shouldn’t overshadow the need to have lightness, balance, and a proper fitting saddle. I couldn’t agree more. Read a NickerNews guest columnist’s Point of View.
But for the sake of a reasonable discussion on rider weight, let’s assume those variables are controlled.
In other words:
Take two riders with equal balance, lightness of feel, and properly-fitting saddles. Would the horse do better with a 100-pound partner or a 200-pound partner?
Clinicians are worried.
They see more and more riders compromising their ability because they’re overweight and unfit. They worry these riders won’t be handy getting out of a jam. They worry about the horses.
The only successful heavy athletes I’ve seen lately are golfers, bowlers, and the occasional relief pitcher. Riding requires significantly more effort, agility, and athleticism than swinging at or throwing a ball. And heavy athletes are most certainly rejected from other sports where lifting or carrying them is required (figure skating, ballroom dancing).
All things being equal, let’s think about our weight and how it impacts our horses, say nothing for our own safety, health, and ability to be agile in the saddle.
Admitting the problem can be the first step in remedying it.