Good job asking questions! It is amazing how much you can learn from this forum and all of the knowledgeable people who come here.
I would think that a 15+ hands horse is a pretty ideal size for a 5'9" person. My horse is a very stocky 14.2 hands and I'm 5'7"/145 lbs and I feel that she's a bit too small for me height-wise but she doesn't have any trouble carrying me. I'm most comfortable on a 15.5-16 hand horse, personally. What you need to know that, depending on how good a horse’s conformation is, they can carry a maximum of 25% of their weight comfortably if they have a well-fitting saddle . That is including all of the tack, of course. For a 15+ hand Tennessee Walking Horse, who would weigh 1000 pounds easily, that is a maximum weight capacity of 250 pounds. That would put you at a very ideal size for a horse like that.
As far as your legs hanging down too much, I don't think that will really be an issue with a horse of that size. However, how your legs fit around a horse has much more to do with the shape of a horse's rib cage than it does with his height. A flatter rib cage tends to be easier to sit but will have a tendency to make your legs look a mile long (typically a good thing!) while a wide rib cage will swallow up all of your legs and make you look like a very short person. Tennessee Walking Horses are usually very long and lean and often have the former.
Now, I want to get into something more complicated here and I hope I don't offend you by saying this but I feel that somebody should say something. I know you didn't ask for help with this particular subject. It looks like it’s going to be excruciatingly long too but please hear me out and read what I’m about to say. There are so many pitfalls to avoid when you first get into horses. I was once in your position and there are a lot of things that I wish people had just told me instead of trying to be polite. They could have saved me a lot of trouble if they had just spoken up, so that's what I'll do for you: I don't think you should get a colt as your first horse. It's not that I think you can't handle it, If you have a truly knowledgeable teacher who can give you lessons and supervise it should be possible for you to bring up a foal even though you're a beginner. You would learn a lot but it would be really, really hard. Unfortunately getting a foal is not like getting a baby of another species, unless maybe you count a human baby. A baby horse is nothing like the mature horses that you're used to being around. They're unpredictable, uncooperative, and a danger to themselves and others. They don't mean any harm, but they will do the most unbelievably dangerous things at the drop of a hat. The cuteness very quickly goes away when they try to bite you every time you get out the brushes and you have to find a way to teach them not to without losing your temper or your fingers, or when you try to lead them from the paddock to the arena and they kick within an inch of your face because the car was in a different position than usual. My first horse, by chance, came to me as a three month old filly. I already had 10 years of experience by that time (although admittedly I was pretty young) and I was completely unprepared for what this filly could dish out. I started to look for every excuse not to go to the barn, and that's not something you want when you're just beginning to get into horses. It costs a lot of money to keep a horse for three years before you can ride it, too, and when the time comes it will cost a fortune to have them trained to ride and be safe for a beginner. Breaking a colt to ride would be one thing that a beginner could get themselves killed doing so you'd have to find a professional to do it and then watch them latch onto your wallet like an intestinal parasite. We’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars by this point. I had a trainer with me every step of the way to help me with my filly but It was still a long, looonngg learning experience that involved lots of personal injury, property damage, and heart ache. Finding a good trainer is of the utmost importance and unfortunately inexperienced people are often sucked into a lot of trouble here. There are a ton of horse people out there who train horses and give lessons. Almost all of them really think they know what they're doing but unfortunately there are those who, in fact, don't have a clue. The number of years they have spent with horses unfortunately doesn't mean anything. I knew someone who had fifty years of experience (fifty!) with horses and still didn't know about basic stuff like safe fencing, having a their teeth floated, or how to tell when a horse is in extreme pain. I know from personal experience; I spent twelve years getting several lessons a week from many people and I poured my heart into learning every bit of what they said. But they were all wrong about a lot of things, and my baby horse was nearly ruined because of it. It was the blind leading the blind and both of us were too inexperienced to know any better. I'm not saying that your trainer is bad, I have no idea what you or your trainer are like, but I want you to know that if something smells fishy it probably is and you should get a second and third opinion right away, and not from other people around the barn. You’ll need books and horse friends in other disciplines. The horse forum helps a lot, too. I just want to warn you that it's a very treacherous world out there for those just beginning with horses. If you and your horse aren't advancing, if the trainer's horses are hard to handle, if the trainer doesn't bother to learn anything new from other professionals and considers himself to be a 'master', try to find someone else. It will save you years and years of trouble.
Please don’t think I’m trying to say that you’re wrong or that I’m a better horse person than you because I definitely don’t mean that. I just really, really wish I could have read something like this when my parents wanted to buy me the cute baby horse at the stable down the road. I feel like you have a right to this information, even if you choose not to do anything with it. I just want you to know what you’re about to get yourself into.
What I would recommend for you to do would be to find a mature, reliable horse to be your first. The difficulty of raising a baby could very well be enough to put yourself off of horses forever if you've never had the chance to see how good it can be to have a horse that knows what it's doing. A well trained Tennessee walking horse that is good with trails and beginners is not hard to find and you can easily get one for less than five years of training a baby to that level would cost you. With a horse like that you could jump right into the best parts of horse ownership like going on trail rides with your friends, happily passing the horse off to the farrier without having to worry about the poor man having his skull crushed, and hopping on bareback and just wandering around the woods when you've had a bad day. You will still learn a lot. A mature horse still has a lifetime of lessons to teach you; in fact I am learning much more from my horse (who is now five and a half) now than I was back when all she did was refuse to lead properly. You can always get a foal and subject yourself to these things later when you have more experience. I cannot recommend this rout enough. Please consider what I’ve said. And thank you for making it through that massive wall of text for me.
Have a great day! I hope however you go about this it can be a good experience for you.
I am here to learn! :)
Last edited by WalnutPixie; 09-30-2012 at 06:02 PM.