Pony Training/ Weight Limitations - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 31 Old 06-17-2015, 10:00 PM
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Excellent ideas- don't need to get on, find someone appropriately sized (as a small woman though there are plenty of more petite women out there I am comfortable on most ponies as said most are stocky which you would want) A larger pony may be better (14hh or so) as the kids will grow.

Depending on current and "end" weights/builds of your kids and ages you want as big as possible. Doesn't mean huge, just as close to be a good match to the "end" as possible I got my first horse when I was 12 and were she still around and sound I would feel comfortable getting on her today.

Kids don't need ponies just because they're kids too. You don't need a 16hh horse, but a nice safe 15hh horse may be just perfect.
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post #12 of 31 Old 06-17-2015, 10:47 PM
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We use a 300lb 10 hand pony to pack 80lbs dead weight. The vet said she would be comfortable with her packing that much. We have gone over some nasty terrain with her and she has had no issues.

My 120lb daughter rides an 800lb 12.3 hand pony.. he packs her around all day with no issues. He is rather stocky. He use to be a pony ring pony but was too smart and cranky for that.
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post #13 of 31 Old 06-17-2015, 11:45 PM
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Based on my study & experience, I was giving my opinion that 20% should be the outside limit. I never said it wasn't *possible* for horses to carry more, or that ANY figures on weight or such should be a hard & fast. As also mentioned, I don't think heavier riders doing a bit of (considerate) light riding on a too small horse isn't likely to cause issue. Just not ideal, can far more easily cause damage to the animal. That's not to say that a 10% 'sack of potatoes' or someone asking for high impact maneuvers - racing, jumping, etc - is going to necessarily be OK for the horse while a 25% considerate & balanced rider is necessarily bad... I feel strongly that a 20% outside *guideline* is a lot safer for the horse than 40% Whether some of them appear to cope with it is not what I feel the most important consideration.

Not sure on this(just what I've been told, made sense, but not looked into either), and would also depend on how horsey or donkey the mule, but donkeys I think are built to be more able to carry heavier loads without issue than horses, for their size.
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post #14 of 31 Old 06-18-2015, 12:47 AM
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"I feel strongly that a 20% outside *guideline* is a lot safer for the horse than 40% Whether some of them appear to cope with it is not what I feel the most important consideration."

Basis? For top performance, lighter is almost always better. But for GP riding, I've seen no evidence that indicates 20% has any significance. If it did, there ought to be some indication it is based on reality, and not myth.

Unhappily, 10%, 15% and 20% rules are being pushed - without evidence - and riders are worrying that they are too heavy to ride once they hit 150 lbs. Apparently most men should stop riding entirely!

When the US Cavalry wanted horses, they wanted a horse weighing around 1000 lbs to be prepared to carry 250 lbs of human and gear. That horse was expected to be able to carry that weight more miles in a month than most recreational riders put on in a year.

OP: This is one of the few pictures I have of Lilly. My youngest was riding her. She was 14.2 & weighed 775. When green broke, she struggled with her balance carrying my 180 lbs plus 25 lb saddle...for a few rides. Then she figured it out and never showed any other signs of difficulty. My daughter was probably around 4'11" and 90-ish lbs when this picture was taken. Lilly was such a sweetheart that my daughter rode her many times while Lilly was very green - and never had any problem with her. Maybe that will help as a reference point. I would focus more on personality than size. Some horses (Lilly) are hopelessly willing. Others (Mia - background, weighed 900 lbs) not so much so. Trooper (14.3 / 835 lbs) believes it is his duty to stay between a rider and the ground. That is the sort of horse you want to find. IMHO.


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post #15 of 31 Old 06-18-2015, 06:16 AM
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As you accuse me of basing this on 'myth rather than reality' bms, put your money where your mouth is and to show me all your proof & fine studies to support your assertion that horses can carry a lot more without undue strain?? My searching turned up little if anything to suggest any more than wishful thinking that it was easy on a horse to carry substantially more for significant work. A couple of articles that suggested 25% & one Japanese study suggested for their native horses, 29% was the outside limit. Be interesting to read more about how they came to these conclusions.

Funny you should say you haven't seen anything about the 20% bsms, especially when you talk of the US cavalry guidelines. I am not going through my notes now, so I just did a quick google, surprised that you said you couldn't find anything. I found a number of articles, in a very superficial googling, including statements about the US Cavalry guidelines, which backed up my memory that they too had also advised 20%.

As with most things horse, there are too few actual hard & fast studies done, but and mostly my ideas on that note come from workshops I've done with bodyworkers, anatomists, chiro's etc, who's examinations of damages to horse's bodies and who's anecdotal studies on client's horses have led to this guideline being advised. I would call it ignorance presumption to say it's based on myth.

Excerpt from one study I found online...
"When carrying 15 and 20% of their body weight, the horses showed relatively little indication of stress. It's when they were packing weights of 25% that physical signs changed markedly, and these became accentuated under 30% loads.

The horses had noticeably faster breathing and higher heart rates when carrying tack and rider amounting to 25% or more of their body weight. A day after trotting and cantering with the heftier weights, the horses' muscles showed substantially greater soreness and tightness. ....

Interestingly, this research from the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute has concluded with the same weight guideline as the US Calvary Manuals of Horse Management published in 1920." (Ref Debra M. Powell, Karen Bennett-Wimbush, Amy Peeples and Maria Duthie. 2008. Evaluation of Indicators of Weight-Carrying Ability of Light Riding Horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 28(1): 28-33.)

This study doesn't consider joint and other damage that anatomists and pathologist have found and thought to be exacerbated by heavy riders.

Main point is, we are sitting on & often asking a lot of, a live animal who is not designed for riding, so we need to be very conscious & considerate of that. Just because horses *can* cope & perform for us, doesn't mean to say it's good for them, but being rational about weight carrying is one factor that can reduce risk to the horse in serving us.

& again, reiterating for OP, just because you may be a bit too big for a horse, a bit of considerate light riding of it is also probably not likely to do much real damage. And different builds of horse are better able to cope than others. Like riding a young horse - it's potentially damaging to ride an immature horse, but a light rider, doing small, easy rides on a well built, good sized youngster is also unlikely to do real damage IMO. Albeit I'm basing that on no scientific proof whatsoever, so you could say that belief's a myth rather than reality.
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post #16 of 31 Old 06-18-2015, 11:53 AM
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I had always heard that 25% was the max. Not sure which is true. I have a pony that was about 600 lbs. She had trouble with a short ride of someone that was 140 lbs. That was 23%. She is now about 500 lbs. And is much stronger. Better condition. So I think that most would agree that condition does play a part of this. However, I think 20 to 25 % is a good rule. 1200lb horse with a 300 lb rider and tack. Condition and muscle plays a big part of this. Every horse is a little different.
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post #17 of 31 Old 06-18-2015, 12:17 PM
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" I found a number of articles, in a very superficial googling, including statements about the US Cavalry guidelines, which backed up my memory that they too had also advised 20%. "

Bogus, as best I can find out. I've tried finding a US Cavalry publication with such a guideline and have never found it. I looked thru about a dozen that I had access to. A poster on another forum a few years back posted the results of his looking...he never found it either. He DID find it in a commercial publication that was supposed to be an abridgment of a Cavalry manual, but he couldn't find it in the actual manual itself.

However, as he noted, there WERE multiple guides telling the cavalry what sort of horses to buy and what sort of use they needed to be capable of - hence the 230-250 lbs load carried by a horse weighing 900-1100 lbs. Do the math, and you do NOT get under 20%.

That is also why, when the Army tried some endurance races, the Remount folks used a weight in that range:
"The second Cavalry Endurance Ride was held in 1920. The U.S. Remount Service, representing the Army, became much more involved in the ride this year. The Army wanted to increase the weight carried to 245 pounds and the Arabian owners agreed. The horses traveled sixty miles a day for five days with a minimum time of nine hours each day. The highest average points of any breed entered went to Arabians, although a grade Thoroughbred entered by the Army won first."

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There are also manuals discussing what a trooper needed to carry with him on his horse...and the total load ran upwards of 100 lbs.

"When carrying 15 and 20% of their body weight, the horses showed relatively little indication of stress. It's when they were packing weights of 25% that physical signs changed markedly, and these became accentuated under 30% loads."

I've addressed this badly flawed study many times. They put the horses on 4 months of pasture rest before starting, so the horses were NOT in riding shape. They then used them for 45 minutes every 2 weeks, enduring they stayed out of riding shape. The blood work showed signs of increased stress at 30%. Equine massagers rated horses as more sensitive after riding at 25%, and thus the level at which no stress was caused was the 20% mark.

But they used horses who were deliberately kept out of shape, and still the blood work didn't support a 20% limit. It took humans to rub backs and find signs of stress at 25%. Given the lack of support in the bloodwork and the biased structure of the test, I don't trust the equine massagers to have been totally unbiased in their assessment.

Worse, it made no attempt to look at stress where it counts: THE LEGS. Horses don't get put down very often for back problems. It is usually the legs that deteriorate under heavy use.

However, when it comes to back stress, based on my own observations, how well a saddle fits and how well it distributes weight is a bigger factor in 'back stress' than rider weight. So is rider ability. My horses indicated more discomfort to their back ridden in a jump saddle than a much heavier western saddle. Wonder why?



They also showed more back stress when my 100 lb DIL first rode than when I did at 180. Hmmm....

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to find a study that shows a 20% limit or an explanation for how it would work. Studies at the Tevis Cup found this:
"Rider weight independent of the animal BW had no effect on completion rate, or on overall placing. Among disqualified horses, rider weight had no effect on miles completed prior to elimination. This is in contrast to traditionally held beliefs, but agrees with previously published data collected at this same event (Garlinghouse and Burrill). Although work by Pagan and Hintz (1986) demonstrated that energy requirements increase with weight load, the relatively low intensity of sustained exercise during endurance competition may mitigate the substrate depletion and lactate accumulation observed in high intensity exercise. The results of this study would suggest that horses in good condition are capable of carrying relatively heavy loads, whether as rider weight or in their own body weight, over a 160-km course without the deleterious physiological effects seen in maximal exercise.

Body weight of the horse had an effect in that as body weight increased, failure due to lameness increased. Mean cannon bone circumference measurements of 19.25.71 cm were similar to values of 18.83.66 cm reported in Garlinghouse and Burrill. Circumference did not increase proportionately as body mass increased. These results suggest that increased body weight without a proportionate increase in the cross sectional area of the metacarpus increase the incidence of exercise-induced trauma and biomechanical failure.

The RW/BW for animals disqualified for metabolic failure was higher than those that completed the race. This would appear to support traditionally held beliefs that horses cannot successfully carry rider weights in excess of a given percentage of the horse BW, yet this is not supported by RW or BW results. There was also no effect of RW/BW on overall placing. Therefore, it would appear that the effect of RW/BW on metabolic failure is a function of decreasing CS in some animals, rather than an inability to carry heavier weights relative to BW.

Conclusions

The results of this study confirm that rider weight, either independent of, or relative to the animal BW is not a critical factor in predicting performance during a 160-km endurance competition. BW was also not a factor in horses disqualified for metabolic failure, but did have an effect on lameness."
If one thinks about it, it makes sense. The horse's joints are not stressed by the rider's weight, but by the total weight of horse and rider. A big, stocky horse adds its weight to the rider. That is why drafts are not really better at carrying a heavy person than smaller horses - they are already closer to the limits of their legs. And it is the LEGS that are most likely to go bad on a horse, not the back.

Further, increasing weight does increase metabolic stress. Think heat. But a stocky, heavy animal is less efficient at getting rid of heat. That is probably why big quarter horses don't do well in endurance racing. That is also why Siberian tigers are bigger than jungle tigers...retaining heat is a good thing if one lives in Siberia.

If you want to figure out what contributes to a long and useful life in a horse, the first thing to think about is what breaks down under heavy use. Why are horses likely to be put down? Leg problems cause a much bigger percentage of problems than back problems. Thus we need to look at what stresses the LEGS, not the back. We also need to use normal horses, not pasture puffs. And we need to try to eliminate the human element in the evaluation.

We also need to stop citing a mythical Army manual that, even if it did exist somewhere, contradicts what the US Cavalry did in buying, equipping and training horses. BTW - the guy who did more research on it found the British and German armies used a higher weigh requirement than the US.

"As with most things horse, there are too few actual hard & fast studies done, but and mostly my ideas on that note come from workshops I've done with bodyworkers, anatomists, chiro's etc, who's examinations of damages to horse's bodies and who's anecdotal studies on client's horses have led to this guideline being advised. I would call it ignorance presumption to say it's based on myth."

Sorry, but your anecdotal evidence doesn't match the anecdotal evidence I've seen on ranches. Too many old horses still being ridden long miles regularly, without signs of stress, by men who were way over a 20% limit.
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Last edited by bsms; 06-18-2015 at 12:23 PM.
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post #18 of 31 Old 06-18-2015, 12:30 PM
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I agree with others about how light riding probably wouldn't hurt the pony, and that most problems could probably be ground worked out of them.

I'd also like to second getting a Haflinger or 'cob' type. Haflingers usually stand between 13-14 hands, and every one I've seen was built thick, and would have no problem packing an adult. And the wider the pony is, particularly through the barrel, the harder it is to outgrow. One of the haflingers I rode was 13.2 hands high, I believe, and I'm 5'6", and she took up my leg beautifully.

If you could find a 14 HH haflinger, I'd wager that you'd be able to ride for extended periods, even if it'd look a little odd.

Loosie, I agree the 20% rule is a nice, easy number to use, but there was a different method used when people realized that the horses that were finishing first in endurance rides tended to be carry in excess of 20%. It involves measuring the circumference of the cannon bone, and doing some formula... Additionally, it bears to be noted that while shorter bones are *probably* stronger, what matters most is bone density, something that can't be easily measured. Foals and weanlings that were raised on pasture do have greater density than those raised in stalls, for what difference that makes. In theory, a longer, thinner bone could be stronger than a short, wide one, but without the density measurement to back it up, I'd go with the short, wide one.

I can't seem to find it now, but I remember posting it in the past... I'll post the link here if I find it. While it wasn't a scientific study, I remember thinking it valuable...
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post #19 of 31 Old 06-18-2015, 12:40 PM
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I'd suggest either for a year as you said you wont be buying for a year give your children lessons at the local riding school. Or you could buy a small Connermara. I have a connermara and my dad (6foot) has ridden her, she has no problems and is taller than she used to be. Hope this helped :) xx
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post #20 of 31 Old 06-18-2015, 12:41 PM
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A test on cannon bone size is mentioned here:

Heavier Riders' Guide

Overall, the advice at that link makes a lot of sense to me.

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