Denied Lessons for Being 175lb - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 65 Old 05-14-2018, 02:47 PM Thread Starter
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Denied Lessons for Being 175lb

Hi everyone,

I found this board while researching weight and horseback riding.

I was hugely into horses as a kid and took lessons for about 2 years. Unfortunately, my mom wasn't able to afford them after that and I had to stop.

I decided this year to sign up again. I've always loved horses and I really yearn to ride. Plus, I've been trying to lose weight recently (down from 190) and every bit of exercise helps.

I found a barn that offers lessons to adults and kids. I called and asked for information. Great! Then they sent me their 'barn rules'. There was a height and weight chart in there. It said that for my height (5'3), one has to be under 165 lbs to ride. I was completely shocked. I really don't see what height has to do with it. And I know MANY people over 175 lbs are able to ride horses successfully. On the page, it mentioned that each additional pound is more strain on the horse's back so they can't have any riders classed as medically obese. Fair enough, but again, the common standard seems to be 20% of the horse's weight is fine. So I could even ride a fairly small 900 lb horse.

I really feel discouraged. I definitely won't be going back to that barn even when I lose the weight. I also don't think I'll be calling another barn until I'm 150 lb or so.

The silver lining of all of this is that I found this board. I have learned so much already and I plan to stick around for the long haul. So I guess even bad events can lead to good things!

Thanks for reading and feel free to share any thoughts, whether you agree with the barn or not.
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post #2 of 65 Old 05-14-2018, 02:58 PM
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If you were a man, they would likely have no issue... at 175 pounds, you should be able to ride nearly any decently-built horse. I would be thrilled to be back down to your current weight again-- I ride regularly and weigh more than you (thanks health condition) with no issues and comfortable horses.

I would suspect this barn has the rules in place because a novice rider tends to bang around more on a horse than an experienced rider, and 'school horses' tend to be put through enough with even a very light rider. A weight limit is common for trail riding rentals, etc. but generally height is not brought into it... and most of those limits are 220 or 240 pounds.

If you own your own horses, would the rule still be in place? Or is this strictly for lessons? Is this a show barn? Some show barns, especially those who work with riders of certain disciplines, will do anything they can to avoid larger riders are they aren't "pretty" on a horse. Been there, done that.

Keep looking for a barn. There are certainly ones out there where your current weight would not be a concern.

I'm sorry this happened to you.
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post #3 of 65 Old 05-14-2018, 03:11 PM
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That is BS. Some barns do have a weight limit (one I've seen before is 'riders up to 250lbs'), but that has nothing to do with height. If the rider is large in weight, then they use horses that they feel are more capable of handling the weight. Usually a lesson barn or trail riding facility has designated horses for larger riders.

My mom is about 170lbs, 5'7". She successfully rode her 14.3 hand, 1050lb quarter horse mare. Not a large horse by any means. Did not have any problems. I had a couple of times where some truly overweight, dare I say obese, people mounted up on her. She went into bucking fits with these two riders (very uncharacteristic as she was a sweet and mild mannered mare, very well behaved). I think that this was due to an undiagnosed kissing spine condition though, because normally horses don't have freakout bucking fits when they have too much weight put on them.

Please DO find another barn. IMO, you are not dangerously/ridiculously overweight, certainly not obese. Was this an 'english style' barn you went to? I have heard about english riding barns being very picky/fussy about weight. You might try going to a western barn. Or, if you are not comfortable with that, go to a tourist type trail riding business. They certainly will not turn you away. Going on a few trail rides can give you some horse time and build your confidence to go to a lesson barn again.

Horse and rider situations are always so individual. You certainly can't use a generic chart to determine what is OK and what is not.

"You can do something wrong for thirty years and call yourself experienced, you can do something right for a week and experience more than someone who spent thirty years doing the wrong thing." ~WhattaTroublemaker
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post #4 of 65 Old 05-14-2018, 03:14 PM Thread Starter
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It's alright, I'd rather they keep the best interests of the horses in mind. Even if they are a bit overzealous about it.

I really have no idea if they'd have a problem with it if it were my own horse. The link just says "barn rules" so perhaps they would still not allow it. :o

It doesn't seem to be a show barn. They teach a variety of styles but I chose Western since that's what I did before.

It makes a lot of sense that beginners are more prone to flopping around and they just want to be safe. I can say I'm balanced and fit for my size but many people say that even if it's not quite true. We can tend to be bad judges of our own fitness. So I totally get that.

It was just a bit odd. Honestly, I do think I'm going to wait to look for another barn until I reach at least 165 but possibly 150. I don't want to feel like my enjoyment is being hampered by wondering if everyone is judging my weight or not.
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post #5 of 65 Old 05-14-2018, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by AppaloosaFan View Post
Fair enough, but again, the common standard seems to be 20% of the horse's weight is fine. So I could even ride a fairly small 900 lb horse.
Just for clarification, the 20% rule of thumb also has to include all your TACK.

So if you have a 30 pound saddle and a 5 pound saddle pad, plus your 175, means you would need a horse that is at least over 1,000 pounds.

But that rule of thumb is flawed because it doesn't take other factors into account, like the build of the horse (muscles, bone structure, fitness, etc).

Regardless, I'm sorry that you were turned away. Ultimately, it is their barn and their rules. Perhaps their lessons horses are smaller horses, and that's why they have a weight/height limit?

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post #6 of 65 Old 05-14-2018, 03:18 PM
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It makes perfect sense because a knight, riding into battle with full armor and weaponry, would be well less than 165 pounds. /*sarcasm*/

A skilled overweight rider will be lighter on a horse than a sack-of-rocks skinny beginner, but you really can't judge them too harshly until you see the horses they have in their portfolio. They wouldn't have a bunch of warmbloods and drafties if 98% of their revenue comes from giving lessons to children whose legs wouldn't reach below the saddle on those horses.
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post #7 of 65 Old 05-14-2018, 03:50 PM
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I'm a male. Weight fluctuates. The Battle of the Bulge will end when I die, not sooner. This morning, without tack, so to speak, weighed 172. With tack, so to speak, and even using an Abetta saddle, about 200 lbs.

No vet has ever estimated my horse at over 820 lbs. Let's say he's now 850. So...23.5%. 25% if I use my leather saddle.

Today's ride was 80 minutes. We did a lot of off-trail walking. We did trotting in deep sand in the desert washes. I asked him to climb out of the wash in a few spots steeper and taller than his previous experience, which he did without hesitation. Powered his way up at a walk like a 4-wheel drive tractor. We cantered on some uneven trails.

I'm not a beginner, but truth be told...I'm not God's gift to horses either. In fairness to the business, my horses get a lot more time off than lesson horses. In fairness to my horse, though...he is almost freakishly slender:

The business may have had problems in the past, including people claiming to be much lighter than they really are. They may have decided to err on the side of caution for their horses' sake. I cannot fault them for that. But you are not too heavy to ride. Just need the right horse and a reasonable goal - plenty of walking as you learn your balance, for example.

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post #8 of 65 Old 05-14-2018, 04:23 PM
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Just thinking out loud, maybe they bring the height into equation because of the saddle sizes they have? Not to be insensitive, but weight distribution on a short and a tall person of same weight will be different (speaking as a short person here).
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post #9 of 65 Old 05-14-2018, 05:16 PM
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I would give them a call and tell them what you weigh and how tall you are. It COULD be a general thing they put out there and possibly might make an exception. I have a feeling IF it really is a "if you are this tall - you weight this much or less" they might be considering it a balance issue? Safety blah? It could also have to do with how they run their program. Some places will use the same pony for 2 or 3 lessons in an evening so it might get ridden three hours a day.

I think you could also try some other barns. Don't give up though and congrats on the weight loss! Keep it up!
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post #10 of 65 Old 05-14-2018, 05:30 PM
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Personally i've never been sold on the 20% rule. I think someone pulled that figure out of a hat and made it gospel. Like the old food pyramid which turned out to have no sound basis but the world based their food intake on it slavishly.

The majority of horses these days are worked way under what they are capable of, and that without 'overworking' or over burdening them.

Even school horses who probably do more than most, certainly in a well run establishment, are not usually overburdened.

So for a one hour lesson if a rider is heavier it is not going to hurt a horse of reasonable fitness, and you should always be making decisions for each individual animal within your daily plan anyway. So if one horse seems to have worked too hard in one lesson then rest it longer. Quite often people fuss about the weight of a rider but the horse hasn't even broken a sweat.

Comes back to basic common sense and an awareness of your horses.

@AppaloosaFan I just worked your weight back to kilos and you are lighter than my ideal weight! I don't see that height has much to do with it. A sturdy pony would carry you easily so a horse would.

I feel too big on a spindly light horse, but it can still carry me. My thoroughbred is used to a lighter rider than me (for racing) so I think he got bit of shock lugging my weight at first but it is certainly not an issue, just a matter of getting different muscles fit.

and @mmshiro is right about the knights and armour. Wouldn't the pc brigade have a field day today!!

@Horsef just thinking about that. You have two people the same weight who ride in the one saddle. One person is taller than the other. The saddle is in the same place so technically the broader person is going to spread the weight more !! maybe its tall people who need to stop riding

. . . but I see what you are trying to say. I think if the saddle fits the horse and rider and is well padded, it is mostly about fitting the right horse to the rider. After all the rider is there for a lesson to learn not to bump around!

When the world says "give up". Hope whispers "try it one more time"
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