Worried about my weight and my young horse
 
 

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Worried about my weight and my young horse

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        06-05-2014, 02:58 PM
      #1
    Foal
    Worried about my weight and my young horse

    Hi ladies and gents,

    I have really been worried lately about the effects of my weight on my 5 year old SSH gelding. He's 14.3 hands, probably about 1000 pounds, and is very narrow.

    I keep mulling over the 20% of a horse's body weight "rule of thumb" because over the winter I gained 20 pounds due to antidepressants and poor eating choices. I used to be a perfect 155 pounds (I'm 5'8" with a medium build and irritatingly broad shoulders) for years, but over the course of the past four years I've gained a LOT of weight variety of reasons. Right now I am 220 pounds, my highest weight EVER.

    It's got to stop. I need to be able to ride my horses. I bought a treadmill and am walking on it, doing exercise ball stuff, and am starting on Nutrisystem again - I lost 30 pounds on Nutrisystem in the past so here's hoping it works again! Still, I practically just started and am still 220 pounds and it will take time to lose the weight. I am worried about my horse in the meantime.

    Because my SSH is only five, I know his body, in particular his spine, is still growing and I am well over the 20% mark on him (my saddle weighs 20 pounds so that is 240 on a horse that technically should be carrying 200 at the most). I certainly did not plan on getting this big when I bought him.

    I love him to death and don't want to cause him health/growth issues. I am a "weekend warrior rider" so I do not ride every day. When I do ride, I usually spend about 30 minutes on the ground with him (still getting to know him) before saddling up and riding for another 30 minutes. We don't do anything too strenuous (mostly we walk, sometimes gait, rarely canter), and he doesn't show any signs of discomfort carrying me. I know that doesn't mean I might not be affecting him though.

    Anyway, here are some embarrassing pictures that were taken out on a windy day in a pasture full of cow poo recently.
    Oh, and my mother has the uncanny ability to get pictures of me just as I am leaning forward to pet the horse or stretching my back or when I am in the middle of praising the horse (I hate those pictures when they catch you in the middle of saying something lol) and that's what is happening in most of these pictures so I apologize for my form. We were mostly chillin' out so I know I am not in good form. And he is busy checking out the cattle here - he's not their biggest fan at the moment.











    I want your honest opinions. Am I too big for this horse? I want to do the best by him... and if I am going to hurt him by riding him at my current weight for the length of time I do, then I guess we'll just do groundwork until I've lost enough.
    Oh, and I know my saddle isn't big enough for me either. It's not my regular saddle - I use it on this guy because my usual saddle is too big for him.

    I have seen lots of debates about the 20% "rule" and don't know what to believe exactly. I just don't want to hurt my boy if it is possible right now at this weight.

    Please give me your opinions and suggestions about what I should do if I *am* too big for him at the moment to keep him tuned up and learning (just groundwork?).

    Thank you all! I am working on the weight but don't want to jeopardize my horse's health in any way at this point in time.

    Jenny :)
         
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        06-05-2014, 03:26 PM
      #2
    Green Broke
    I think you look fine based off pics alone... But that doesn't include your riding skill. A rider your size who is unbalanced and flopping all over is going to be a problem. A rider who is well balanced and quiet isn't going to hinder the horse nearly as much!
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    bsms likes this.
         
        06-05-2014, 03:42 PM
      #3
    Weanling
    As long as he is fit and in riding shape, stop worrying and enjoy your horse. You look just fine to me, and your horse looks like he has good weight-carrying conformation- shorter back, good bone, big feet. Honestly conformation, good riding, and horse AND rider fitness matters a lot more in the long run than simple pound-to-pound ratios.

    Put it this way, there are little skinny people in the gym who are fit as fiddles, and they might be able to lift 40% of their own body weight. There are big, overweight people in the same gym who could barely lift 5% because they are unfit, and also struggle because they're working against the extra weight on their bodies. Making a person or animal weigh more does not increase their ability to carry weight, nor does something being smaller decrease it's weight-carry ability.

    Using an example, most of the pony-trekking businesses in Iceland have a 220-230 lb weight limit for riders...and Icelandic horses rarely get above 14 hands. But they are fit, sound, and have the conformation to handle that amount of weight even though the 20% "rule" says they should have all died from broken backs 100 years ago.

    It's a debate that will probably rage on into infinity, but let the horse tell you if he's comfortable. If he's getting sore, having behavior problems, pain, or refusing certain actions when being ridden, then the weight may be a problem for him. In comparison to his weight, that's only a 6-7% increase over where you were at your ideal weight.
         
        06-05-2014, 03:46 PM
      #4
    Green Broke
    At 5, he is mainly fully grown, IMO. You are taking precautions by keeping sessions short.

    I think that the 20% rule is more for those that due strenuous or vigorous work.

    I'm close to 200 lbs and my wife's horse is about 950. My saddle is probably close to 50. When he acts up for her, I have to get on him and sort him out. We too are just weekend riders. I think you and your horse will be fine.
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        06-05-2014, 03:53 PM
      #5
    Trained
    If he was older I wouldn't worry at all, as a 5 year old, mmmm I share your niggles, but it kind of depends on the 5 year old, and how far advanced his growth is, and that one no one can tell without x rays of his plates.

    Next, I don't know how you ride, and that is important specially on a relative youngster.

    I think I am just advising caution, the fitter you get, and both weight and fitness are important, the better you will ride, so keep active.

    Quote:
    I am a "weekend warrior rider" so I do not ride every day. When I do ride, I usually spend about 30 minutes on the ground with him (still getting to know him) before saddling up and riding for another 30 minutes. We don't do anything too strenuous (mostly we walk, sometimes gait, rarely canter), and he doesn't show any signs of discomfort carrying me. I know that doesn't mean I might not be affecting him though.
    It might be better for both of you if you were able to do more with him, riding for less time more often would help him build the muscles he needs to carry a heavier weight. That is what I will need to do with my little Arab, if I ever get brave enough to ride her again, start with lots of walking in hand, to improve both our fitness levels, then when I do ride, trying to do 10 minutes or so every other day, and gradually build it up sounds like good way to go..

    You have a sensible view on this, and the fact that you are concerned means that you will watch him for any signs of worry about carrying you, and he is the best judge of his own ability. He is a handsome boy, I'm sure you are going to have a lot of fun with him.
         
        06-05-2014, 04:04 PM
      #6
    Foal
    Thanks for the replies so far, everyone!! I wish I had a video of me riding but I don't. Pooh. I'll just say I've ridden fairly hard for 23 years (excluding this year and the last) and I know I have good balance and I'm not flopping all over the place (Or else I'd better not be! . My sometimes-trainer will have my butt if I am, haha!)

    Quote:
    It might be better for both of you if you were able to do more with him, riding for less time more often would help him build the muscles he needs to carry a heavier weight.
    Golden Horse, your suggestion is wonderful. I will try to get on that!
    Golden Horse likes this.
         
        06-06-2014, 11:54 AM
      #7
    Yearling
    Firstly, beautiful horse, absolutly stunning.
    Secondly, I don't think you look too big at all. You're only going to get fitter from here and if you are truely concerned, do more ground work, take him for walkies to goggle at the cows. You have his best intrests at heart and are being very cautious for his sake so I'm sure you'll pick up on any problems long before they cause damage.
    30 minutes light riding (imo) is not going to ruin him :) Enjoy him!
    dernhelm1984 likes this.
         
        06-06-2014, 01:09 PM
      #8
    Foal
    Good advice from everyone. Just a couple of things I can think of to suggest.

    SSHs will grow through their seventh year, but most of his growing has been done. They are also a study breed.

    That said, growth doesn't mean fitness. Make sure he has good fitness, and see if you can find someone to help PROPERLY develop his musculature, including his back. In my experience, classical dressage techniques are the best for this, but that doesn't mean there aren't other methods that also work well. Hill work is good, backing up, anything that will get him to round his back to carry his rider and improve his hind end.

    I am not sure how heavy your saddle is. Western saddles can be pretty hefty, so that might be an easy area to remove seem weight.
         
        06-06-2014, 02:36 PM
      #9
    Trained
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Frieda    

    I am not sure how heavy your saddle is. Western saddles can be pretty hefty, so that might be an easy area to remove seem weight.
    While that is certainly true, it is an easy way to lose weight, it is not always a positive step for the horse. A well fitting western saddle will spread the weight over a larger area, and may actually be more comfortable for those of us with errrr more generous behinds. There is a balance to be found, weight is not the only criteria.
    bsms and dernhelm1984 like this.
         
        06-06-2014, 06:50 PM
      #10
    Foal
    Frieda, my saddle is a Tennessean Trail Saddle and weighs about 20 pounds. Does that help? It's about the lightest out there, I *think.* I could be wrong. (I am also thinking planning on getting a saddle from Sycamore Creek Saddles for him once I've lost more weight.)

    I was thinking about doing hill work with him too since we have a lot of hills where he boards, and we've just started to begin working on collection.

    EquineBovine, yes, we'll be taking some walks out to visit the scary cows!! Lol
    EquineBovine likes this.
         

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