Overweight rider: Conflicted about how to work with my horse while I lose weight - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 11-03-2013, 09:19 PM Thread Starter
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Overweight rider: Conflicted about how to work with my horse while I lose weight

Hi, forum! I'd like some advice on my situation with Sam. I've been worried since I got him (3.5 mos ago) that I'm too heavy for him. He's 10, a 15.1 paint with the breed-typical build. The seller told me 1,100 lbs, but the vet taped him at 975 this week and a healthy weight. I'm 5'5" and about 255lbs.

I bought him not intending to ride him forever at this weight, and I have so far only done light work with him. We started out really slow, and our routine for the last 6 weeks has been about 4 days of riding per week three with half-hour rides of ~80/20 walk/trot or walking on trail, and one 45-minute lesson about 40/60 w/t.

He doesn't SEEM to object to me riding. He came to me with a mounting block issue that was making it hard, but we fixed it in a few weeks. He also sometimes tries to refuse to continue working when there are other horses around or it's dinner time, but those episodes don't correlate with what we're doing and most of the time he seems quite happy to work. He walks out, trots at a nice pace and never resists moving from a walk to a trot. BUT I also realize he's a good boy and might behave this way whether or not I'm causing him discomfort.

This horse is my baby, and his welfare absolutely comes before my desire to ride, but if it is likely ok for me to keep riding as I am while I'm losing weight, I want to. That's what I'm hoping for advice on. If say I'm about 8 really committed months of weight loss from a weight where I would stop being concerned about the strain on him.

So for the meantime...considering the facts healthy adult horse, good build; rider with good balance but too heavy what would you recommend?

Should I continue as usual or cut to once or twice a week? Should I eliminate the one "work" (lesson) day? Should I only walk? Should I not ride at all and give him exercise through lungeing and ground work instead?

Please give me your honest opinions!

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post #2 of 26 Old 11-03-2013, 09:39 PM
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Endless discussions about that here, some of them rather heated lol.
I found a formula pretty helpful. Horse weight plus rider weight plus all tack divided by circumference of mid cannon bone divided by 2. Up to 75= excellent, up to 80 still good, over 80 too heavy.

Then there are studies...Tevis cup horses finished and passed vet test with 32% of their bodyweight.

others swear up and down more than 15% is abuse lol.
MHO... you're aware, and I doubt you would overwork him. Keep it slow for now and watch him, and work him regularly, he will build muscle and bone, you'll lose weight.

Last edited by deserthorsewoman; 11-03-2013 at 09:42 PM.
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post #3 of 26 Old 11-03-2013, 09:40 PM
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I think you should be fine, IMO. Especially if you have good balance and are losing.

"two things are infinite: the universe, and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the universe." - Albert Einstein
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post #4 of 26 Old 11-03-2013, 09:40 PM
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Honestly, imo, it depends on the build of the horse. If he is well built and has good bone/muscle I believe he would be ok with w/t. Also depends on what type of rider you are - it is easier for a horse to carry a balanced rider than one who is not so balanced. Pics of him would probably help, if you have any.
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post #5 of 26 Old 11-03-2013, 09:42 PM
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My best advice is listen to your horse.
I would take it easy with him, but don't loose sleep over hurting him.
Kudo's for you for wanting to do the right thing :)
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post #6 of 26 Old 11-03-2013, 09:43 PM
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Keep on going. Your horse is your best judge. From the sounds of some of your other posts, if Sam wasn't content, he would let you know. I'd avoid working on sitting trots, because that tends to be harder on a horse's back.

... Energy is an admirable thing, but the energy of stupidity seldom avails much..." - On Seats and Saddles (1868), Francis Dwyer, Major of Hussars (light cavalry)
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post #7 of 26 Old 11-03-2013, 09:52 PM
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A horse over 5 can carry up to 35% of it's weight providing the saddle is a good fit. That 35% includes all the tack and rider. Otherwise it is too hard on joints and tendons. Don't count on a horse letting you know it is in pain. Horses can be stoic about this. In the wild, predators will go after the animal they perceive as being weaker so horses have become very good about concealing it.
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post #8 of 26 Old 11-03-2013, 10:12 PM
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Just something to consider but you can do SO MUCH training/bonding on the ground. Do you have access to long trails? Put some packs on him and hike with him in hand. Don't have trails that big? Go for a walk or jog with him in hand. If you can get a couple of lessons for it, teach him how to ground drive.
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post #9 of 26 Old 11-03-2013, 10:20 PM
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You can tell a lot about their "opinion" on carrying your weight by watching their body language - ears and tail are a good start. An abnormal amount or tail swishing and ears flat or pinned when you're asking for much beyond the walk is a good indicator that he's not happy, despite the fact that he may be doing exactly what you're asking of him regardless of the fact.

Good luck on the weight loss. I lost over 60# a few years ago for the very reason of being able to start riding again - at my old weight there was no chance of me riding much at all, at least in any sort of proficient manner.
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Last edited by PrivatePilot; 11-03-2013 at 10:25 PM.
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post #10 of 26 Old 11-03-2013, 11:20 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much for the quick responses :)

I really value you guys' opinions, so I'm happy that it sounds like it's ok to keep riding lightly.

I'm a pretty balanced rider and very mindful of how I carry myself — always carful not to bounce or flop, and I post at the trot.

Desert, my barn has some short, beautiful, slightly hilly trails, but sadly rain season has started in Oregon and they're too already mushy to ride. I will try walking him in hand up and down the non-trail/driveway hill every day, though. That'll be a good warmup for big of us.

Here's a shot of him for build reference:
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