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Rider weighs her weight

Published: 5/26/2011
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By Maddy Butcher Gray

This email arrived on my desk recently:

I am writing you to talk about something that breaks my heart in a million pieces. I have a nine year old Haflinger mare, Edie's Rose. She is a very frisky little girl! We do everything together: English, Western, jumping, barrels, trails, roads, parades. I love this horse more then words can express! I am confident on her after having over-sized horses my whole life. I like her walking beside me and not above me!
But there was a problem…
About two years ago when I was a senior in high school, I struggled with seizures. My parents took me out of school because they were so severe.  There were days when I was all alone in an empty house waiting for the next seizure or the next doctor’s appointment.
All the medications made it very hard to maintain my weight.
My horse was my only friend.
I have gotten so much hate from people saying I am too big to ride my horse.  I would get this about once or twice a week and would hunker down in the corner of her stall and cry my eyes out and tell her how sorry I am that I am so fat!
Writing this makes me cry. I don’t feel fat but I have been reminded weekly that I am too big to ride. She is 13.1 and 900 pounds. I am 5’5”, 173 pounds.
We are an unusual couple.

So, I was just wondering if you could write an article about how to tell if you’re too big to ride your horse. Honestly I don’t believe I am too big, because she would not let me on her. But I doubt myself.
I just wish there was some way to get the message out to people about how big is too big, depending on breed and build. I am sure others have the same issues as me. It truly, truly sucks.
Meagan Smith

Many thanks to Meagan for having the courage, humor, and tenacity to write and continue to ride.
I interviewed Meagan and learned how she has taken many measures and done research to make sure she wasn’t harming her horse:
  -- Steve Akeley, a solid horseman who works as an equine dentist and farrier, checked out Edie's Rose on a recent visit. Akeley felt she was doing quite well and noted no soreness.
 -- Meagan and her barn manager check over the horse regularly, especially by palpating along the spine for any back soreness. None has ever been noted.
  -- Meagan was right when she said, “I don’t believe I am too big because she would not let me on her.”  Said Dr. Rachel Flaherty, of Maine Equine Associates, “A horse will show it.  You can see it in their eyes.”
Other indications include a shortened stride and struggling with corners, uphills and downhills.
But even if a horse looks uncomfortable, it might not be attributable to a heavy rider, Flaherty told me. It could be a poor saddle fit, improper conditioning, or muscular/skeletal issues.
“Each animal is an individual,” said Flaherty.
Horse weight and rider weight need not be directly proportional. In other words, just because you weigh 200 pounds doesn’t mean you should be riding a Percheron.
To be sure, consult a veterinarian or horse professional.
Happy Riding, Meagan!

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5/27/2011 Rocky
Meagan, you and your horse are strong in heart and in your bond, and that will take you wherever you want to go together. I would be very proud to ride with you.
5/27/2011 alan
Thank you for being so considerate for your horse. Tell people, "when she complains, I'll let you know..."
5/27/2011 Michelle M
To Meagan - as Maddy stated, you should be commended for a wonderfully written piece regarding a not-often-discussed subject. And, KUDOS to you for your genuine concern for the well being of your horse! I have seen too many situations where the rider has been sort of oblivious to what looks like obvious discomfort in their horse. Little attention is paid to improving saddle fit and/or the rider?s ability & balance, which could go a long way to offset weight concerns. On the other hand, I?ve seen many ?overweight? riders who are ?light? in the saddle and ride with balance and harmony, on horses that seem relaxed and comfortable. Meagan, continue your desire to do the right thing for your can?t go wrong with that! Edie?s Rose is a lucky horse, and there is something to be said for those ?unusual? partnerships! ~Michelle
5/27/2011 Nancy in Parkdale
Megan, People often say damaging things without putting thought to them. Thank goodness for our equine friends. You are a sweetpea for being concerned enough to face this painful fear and find out for yourself if there was a real issue. Sounds to me like you are far more thoughtful than many young ladies your age and I am sure you have a much happier horse on every level. That is what matters :-) Happy trails!!!
5/27/2011 Molly Stark
Meagan - You are NOT alone! - I too (at age 40)worried about my weight. I almost didn't purchase my Morris 6 years ago because I thought he was too small and I was too heavy to ride him. I did the same thing - asked the vet and all else who would listen...3 years later I got sick, dropped 65 pounds and thought YIPPEE! Well some of that weight has come back on due to another illness..You've got one life to live in the here & now, and I believe Dr. Phil said it best "find your spark...and go with it". Keep riding,keep smiling, trust your horse, have fun and treasure every moment.
5/27/2011 Lisa Judd
You look great on her Meagan and she has a beautiful soft eye and her ears are forward, she looks very happy to be your partner. Congrats to your special relationship and happy riding! You checked out your concerns so no need to listen to any negative comments!
5/27/2011 LT
Meagan, Thank you for asking this question. I too have put on weight and often wonder if my horses could "handle" the weight. Helpful information to have. Keep on riding!
5/27/2011 Tanya D.
Meagan, you say that you weigh 173 lbs, most men of average height would weigh more than that, and many tall women could as well. I'm 5'11" and weigh 165, and have ridden all my life. I have NEVER even considered that I would be too heavy for my QHs. How many men do we see riding cutting horses, which tend to be smaller in height and bone structure than other Quarter horses? I absolutely think that your concerns are unfounded, and I'm so sorry that other people have been making you feel this way. Whether or not your weight is a health issue is between you and your doctor, but you are not too heavy to ride!!
5/27/2011 Denise A. smith
I have owned horses for 30years.I have been training for25years.The weight a horse can carry is almost completely dependant upon the horse.I used to have an appaloossa that was 15.2 weighed 1100lbs.but he would almost buckle w/ a 200lb rider.1 of the horses I currently have is 13.2 weighs 670lb & easily carries me.I am 5foot 3 I weigh 183 lbs.She carries me without any difficulty.It all depends on the horse.Dont let mean uneducated people ruin your time with your horse.She would make it known if she was being asked too much.Halflingers are sturdy little horses.I say RIDE enjoy yourself & dont let anyone get you down.
5/27/2011 Bruce
Meagan, there are too many folks both horsey and not who think they know everything. at 6'4" tall and almost 300lbs I went the big horse route and after Both knees were replaced I gained more weight. Nobody else in my family felt comfortable riding her and by the time I thought I was, she wasn't. We found her a great home and I'm on the hunt again and every time I find a stocky 15.h-15.2 my "friends" say I'll look like the fat guy on a moped. All I want to do is trail ride and not show. Thank you for having the guts to ask the question and you have changed the way I will chose my next ride.Best to you.
5/28/2011 Sharon
Hi everyone! I am overweight and have wondered, like Meagan, if I would be TOO HEAVY to ride a horse or does it depend on the size and kind of horse? I weigh 300lbs. so would this be considered too heavy? Thank you for your help and kindness and especially for not judging us and reminding us we're FAT!
5/28/2011 Paula
I have read somewhere, don't remember where, that a horse can carry 20% of its weight. Thus a 900lb horse can carry 180lbs. Megan is 173lbs so well under the formula. If they are both happy..... Go to it Meagan and God Bless.
5/28/2011 DS
I too have read that a horse can carry up to 20% of its weight on it's back. And they are right you fit her perfectly. On the other hand, I know someone who has lost weight recently but used to be over 300lbs, and barrel raced her 900lb 15.1 QH. I do not think, nor did I ever think it was right for her to be riding that horse. I just had a baby, and now weigh more than I ever have at about 175lbs and I am just over 5'. My horse is 15.2+ and weighs about 940lbs, I think a lot of times I am too heavy for him, but when it gets down to the mathematics and statistics, I am okay on him. I commend you for coming forward and sharing your story!.
6/11/2011 zainelee
I think that your horse would tell you if you were too big, so try not to let mean people get you down. You sound like you have your mare's health and well-being first in your mind, so keep doing what your doing!!
6/14/2011 Ann W. Firestone
Good for you Megan! You obviously care greatly about your horse and your relationship. I run an donkey and mule rescue in NH. The rule of thumb for riding a donkey is that they can carry 25% of their weight including tack. Donkeys are built differently than horses, some being very slight on toothpick like legs and some are very blocky and have strong, sturdy legs so there is a bit of wiggle room to the rule. You look great on your horse and your horse looks quite happy. I would not let what others say get you down. You know your horse!!!! If he were unhappy he would let you know. You stay right in the saddle!!!! Happy Trails and thank you very much for voicing your feelings.
I have seen you ride, this past week end and it is a shame that you would ride your horse on the beach like that. In my opion you are heavy for your horse, the saddle does no fit properely. Galloping the way you do is going to cause your horse some serios issues if it hasn't already. I feel very sad for your horse, please reconsider your riding and maybe get a larger horse.
1/2/2012 Meg Smith
TO whom ever wrote the comment on 10/24/11 So please contact me! Look me up on facebook Meg Smith or by e-mail THANK YOU
I totally agree with the above comment. Poor horse.
7/13/2013 Julia
i think your perfect for your horse!!:) don't worry about it. i think my horse is too small for me. I'm 5.4 and ride a 14 hand horse. your perfect, don't worry about it:)

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