too many injuries, too heavy and too late for riding?
I have been reading this forum for a few weeks in my quest for direction on this, and am hoping to ask members for their guidance and advice, if they would be so kind.
Following a debilitating car accident at 16, I gave up the idea of horseback riding lessons, something I'd intended to pursue once I could pay for them. Due to a shattered right femur, hip injury and cracked pelvis, my orthopedic surgeon said that horseback riding would put too much pressure on the leg and hip. I was so happy to be done with surgery, out of the hospital and able to walk at all after a long period of rehab that I dropped the idea without a fight....but every time I saw, and especially interacted with a horse, I was saddened to my core. I told myself to be grateful for what I had and not grieve something I never did.
Fast forward 30 years (I'm on the wrong end of 46 now), and my husband and I went to Kentucky, so that I could see the horses. As luck would have it, we ended up at the Horse Park, where a very easy trail ride is offered - on very docile horses. I screwed up my courage, waited until no one was around, and asked the staff member if I could give it a try. I didn't detail the injuries; I felt, for the first time, an overwhelming need to not define and limit myself according to them. I don't know why it was so hard to ask; I think it's a demonstration of how daunting and permanent a lack of belief in oneself (and the dated pronouncements of a surgeon) can be. Thankfully, I asked the right guy; not only did he select a wonderful horse for me, he (gallantly and discreetly, without causing me undue embarrassment) hefted my overweight butt into the saddle so quick I didn't know what happened!
But I do know what happened next: it was life-changing. Except for the moment of my son's birth and my wedding day, I have never been happier in my life than I was for the hour of that ride. I felt at peace with the universe, and that I had a place in it that I had never envisioned - a place of joy, discovery and connection with the animal and natural world. I suppose I have always been so grateful to survive the accident physically that I never dared hope for more.
I came home determined to pursue lessons, and have found a teacher with decades of experience who understands my injuries well, as she has recovered from her own and has a medical background to boot.
Here's the hitch: I think she is worried about me - and I don't know if maybe, it pains me to say, she is right to be. Although my doctor says I can give it a try, I'm 5ft, 6inches and 250lbs, although muscular and toned from the swimming and weights I've always done to keep my mobility. At this weight, though, I fear I'll never be able to mount from the ground without pulling the saddle. Although my teacher has let me use a 3-step block, I just make it unassisted. I have a weak right leg, still limp when tired and suspect I'm not as well-balanced/coordinated as is desirable. She feels strongly that being able to mount from the ground and dismount without assistance is an immediately necessary step to learn, for safety's sake. Although she's very kind, and maybe I'm just insecure and overly sensitive, I think she'd privately rather I either give it up - or come back 50lbs lighter, and maybe better able to ride well because of it. I surmise this based on specific behaviour: she wants me to come on a pay-as-you-go plan (others at her stable pay for an 8-week session at a time); she has a staff member hold the horse when I mount; she asks me how I'm doing very frequently while on the horse; and, when I ask if she thinks I can do this, she says that only I can know that, and she just wants to be sure I am not hurt. She has also given me run of her stable and offerred generous access to interacting with her horses regularly via their care, assisting at shows, etc. She's a lovely person and this is her livelihood - I can come to no other conclusion except that I am a very marginal potential riding student.
I'm a tough cookie, and I'm in my big-girl panties - literally and figuratively- every single day, so I'm turning to you for your honest thoughts and advice, if you would be so kind. I know you all get the weight thing, and although you're clearly horse experts where I'm completely green, I can see from this forum that you would also get why concluding that I really can't do this after all makes it hard for me to breathe.
I fear that if I give this up now, I'll never go back. Let's face it, it took 30 years the first time! But do I push my teacher (and me) to proceed right now, as I am?
Thanks for reading my story, and in advance for any thoughts/advice you can offer.
Welcome to the forum.
I, personally, don't think there is any stopping you now. You've voiced so beautifully the love most of us have for the feeling of riding a horse.
Best wishes in everything you do!
Welcome to the forum! At the place where I work at the barn owner had a serious accident and she still rides. I guess its a matter of willpower. But about the weight. Our limit is 225 lbs and any more than that you risk the horse's health.
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I understand where your instructor is coming from, but I know MANY people (myself included) who cannot physically mount from the ground. In my case, not only is it a weight issue (right now, due to medical problems, I'm 5'7" and 240lbs...I'm use to being between 165-180lbs), but my left knee doesn't hold up well to the stress of pulling my weight up in that manner and I have limited range of motion in my left shoulder, so I can't physically reach up to the pommel of the saddle on my 16.1hh gelding. I use a mounting block (or stairs...or a rock...or a downed tree) to mount and I, along with most people I know see absolutely no issue with it.
Here's another thing to consider. Think of the pressure being put on the horse's back on one side if you mount from the ground. I would never dream of putting my boy (or any horse, for that matter) through that. It can throw out their back and cause all sorts of problem.
So, it looks like you have two options:
1- Step away from trying to find lessons for now, find a barn that will let you volunteer to care for the horses (therapy barns are great for this), lose the weight, and go back when you feel you're more physically fit.
2- Find another trainer who isn't as concerned about you being able to mount from the ground.
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Even if you were lighter it is much easier on the horse to mount from a block so you should use that anyway. I might also suggest getting a driving horse so you can enjoy horses but sit in a cart.
I mount from my tailgate... lol.
We use mounting blocks for everyone regardless of height/weight. While one or two private owners may mount form the ground, they usually only do so if the mounting block is being taken up with students getting ready for a lesson; in that instance it is just a time saver.
There was a study done way back when, don't ask me WHEN I saw it, about the pressures of mounting form the ground vice a block..what it did to the horse. To make a long paper short, essentially it came to the conclusion that using something to get the rider higher up to mount was better than mounting from the ground, on a regular basis, as it was easier on the horse's back, and the rider for that matter. The other issue is that some people mounting from the ground or block, unless specifically told not to, tend to "thump" down on the horse's back when they first mount. It makes me wince every time I see it no matter if the rider is heavier or lighter.
I am a heavier rider as well, always have been and it has always been a major struggle. As was indicated, while show people tend to be on the thin side, working cowboys on their horses and even western riders showing can be larger men and their smaller horses carry them just fine...it is all in how the riding is done (balanced vs unbalanced). Quarterhorses are a stockier breed and can handle the heavier weights in many cases if they have the conditioning.
If this is something you love so very much, sacrifice should be in order. Be willing to work out lots and lose the weight, for yourself and the horse. Use a mounting block when you need it and I too had a bad accident, a car hit me as a pedestrian. It took a lot of work, but I love to ride. Do squats, they work wonders when it comes to mounting. Don't give up!!! It becomes a lifestyle! Good Luck!
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