A rather overweight gal used to scare the he** out of me because of her weight distribution. She carried more out front than on her butt and the fat deposits on the inside of her knees caused her lower legs to stick out sideways and forward. If her horse had stumbled or spooked a little she'd have been out of the saddle and likely hurt.
Many people do not have ideal conformation for riding. In fact, if you ask George Morris, the only people who are built correctly for riding (if you read his Jumping Clinic article) are those who appear to be built like 12 year old boys. Great! If you are a 12 year old boy, a 29 year old woman? I don't think so!
The rider you speak of, Saddlebag, would probably do better with a saddle with a more narrow twist and a very forward flap, like a XC saddle or a forward flap CC saddle.
I right now ride in (two actually, a medium for my mare and a wide for my gelding) Beval Natural CC saddles and they seem to fit the bill for that.
My legs are heavier (and I believe would be even if I were thin, my mom and I are built almost identically and she recently lost a lot of weight and even then her legs are heavier, even as a teenager when she was thin her legs were heavier), but with my current saddles, I do not have the problem you speak of.
More of a front view, these are older shots but I'm pretty sure Chip is the cutest thing that ever existed so I like to post them :)
There is another factor nobody is considering, besides the comfort of the horse, and that's the safety of the rider. I have put on a lot of weight and can feel my balance is not as good as at my proper weight. Overweight riders have a much higher center of gravity as the extra weight is disproportionally at or above the waist making a person top-heavy.
Simple physics would demonstrate that person is more likely to be thrown out of the seat with a lurch, bolt or stumble. If you want a feel-good forum that encourages people to be in denial of the scientific evidence the stress caused to horses with overloading, then you should title the forum as such. But if you really want to be safe and keep your horse happy and sound, you should follow the experts and research this rather than let a bunch of strangers saw "awe, you're fine" without any info to base that on other than your weight.
You are not too heavy to ride the appropriate horse at 247. At 5'3' you are probably top-heavy and would need a well trained reliable horse capable of comfortably carrying you and your tack. Most of the time, your horse is not going to complain when you and I would under equivalent pressure, because they are genetically designed to hide and mask pain in order to survive as a preyed upon herd animal. That instinct is alive and well even after centuries of domestication.
I have several thousand dollars of vet bills from a state veterinary hospital proving that irreparable damage can exist in a horse who was injured from overloading, even when a well respected trainer, the experts who frequent his barn, my own vet and a vet chiro could not find an issue. The horse demonstrated no obvious signs of pain, she only refused to take her right lead in training. That was the only clue. She has an irrepairable stifle stress injury she will have for life. I spent a year and a half trying to make her sound. None of the experts thought she was in pain. Your average horse owner would not have had a clue. Do you really know if your horse is suffering? Not likely, if they are not displaying signs.
Also, I have a crushed knee from a top-heavy related unseating when my well trained (and appropriately sized) qh stumbled at a lope. As a former barrel racer, and avid trail rider including competitive trail, I had never been unseated in my whole life. It was like I had a sack of feed strapped to my back when the inertia took over. I am a strong legged muscuar person. Now I have a disabled knee that causes me daily pain.
So I am a little put off by those in this forum who are saying it's fine to overload a horse. Please publish proof before you encourage someone into danger and injury for both horse and rider.
I completely understand where you are coming from but:
1. The 20% thing is a guideline not a rule, every horse is different and most often with a dedicated owner or trainer they can judge the abilities or discomfort (if any). Would I want to push it to the max and see if it was okay...probably not. Do I feel bad about putting someone overweight on my stocky QH...nope. Its all about personal choice and most importantly depends on the horse.
2. The center of balance/gravity thing you were trying to tell us about...well, again that may be your personal opinion and experience. I've seen skinny people with awful balance/good balance and the same for heavier riders. Physics only considers various constant forces and it simply can't be applied to the human body because there are too many possible variables...some people can compensate via muscle tone or having an excellent body awareness and sense of balance, etc. etc. etc.. I myself am somewhat thick and tall but I also lead an active life and don't consider my balance or center of gravity to be top heavy at all. In fact, I probably have better balance than most people....so much so that I have become an avid surfer....I promise I will let you know when my fat becomes a hindrance :P
You are making such wide generalizations about horse and people body types...that is where I think most people are having a problem with your comments. I am sure no one here would ever want to risk injuring a horse due to overloading and we all agree with you to some extent.
In any case, it is never good to hear about a fellow horse person who has been injured.
I too have an issue with heavier people riding and not considering the horse and its well being.
The area where the saddle/rider rests is NOT supported by the legs, it is suspended between the legs. Same as if I sat on a table in the middle. It is not going to be as strong in that area.
And seriously, when you have hospitals having to order extra heavy duty wheelchairs, AND hospital beds and gurneys, and operating tables because they have had them break/collapse and topple due to the weight of the patients, how can you not wonder about the effect on a horse?
Same with furniture companies for that matter. And toilet companies too make toilets now for people who weigh more.
Like it or not, the weight any of us carry, and I include myself in this too, makes us have a different balance, riding position, as well as causes problems with a horse. I don't care how good your balance is, or your riding is. That extra weight does take a toll.
And when recent issues of all the horse mags have had information on this, then why try and say it is an old rule.
Rather, it is because no one really wants to admit what they look like, and the damage they are causing to their horse, not to mention themselves.
And taking about saddle fitting? Why is it for so many the principles of saddle fit go out the window when they are overweight?
Many trail riding operations and packing operations too are having to look for horses with much bigger bone structure, and having to look into larger saddles because of the weights of the people wanting to ride.
And too many times I see seriously overweight riders, and not talking about just a little too much poundage, but horribly overweight, riding an obviously miserable horse, determined to "post" when what they are really doing is hauling themselves up out of the saddle off the horse's mouth. Then you need to realistically reassess your riding.
Yes, society is getting fatter as a whole....but I don't think those incredibly overweight people who have to be hauled about on those extra large gurneys and wheel chairs are going to be looking into riding anytime soon...right?
You just seem....a little jaded? This person is not to blame for the poor packing companies having to have appropriate horses.
And a person of any size can haul on the mouth of a horse when riding....
If you are going to pick on overweight people then you have to be equal opportunity and pick on the lightweight people too...:P
Also keep in mind that a horse that is accustomed to a lighter rider will sometimes have to build up their stamina to carry you as long as they did their lighter owners. This is not necessarily a bad thing. (280 lbs. And my horse carries me fine. But to build up his stamina carrying over a 100 lbs while we were groundworking and learning under saddle I used sand.)