Upper end of horse's weight limit - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 05-26-2018, 02:20 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Western KY
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Upper end of horse's weight limit

My question is this--since I am on the upper edge of this horse's weight limit, what precautions should I follow?

My daughter & I share a 13-2HH 750-800 lb 6 year old Curly mare (part Curly Foxtrotter and part Curly stock horse/range mustangs on papers). She's got good bone & hooves as well as a short back. I'm attaching a photo of her with some of her winter woolies (and she has a ton of woolies since she's a Curly) still on as well as one from her bath yesterday to give an idea of what her build is like. I think she going to fill out some more and put on muscle since she just turned 6 in April.

I'm not technically 'plus' sized at 155 lbs & 5'6" tall, but according to my oncologist, my BMI is on the high/overweight side. I've weighed this since I finished having my children and after all the breast cancer surgeries I had, so don't think I'll lose it (I'm not really going to try). I don't look like I weigh 155 lbs to most people. In fact, I've always weighed heavy for my looks/build (one 'expert' weight guessing vet I worked with couldn't believe he was off by 15 lbs when he usually came within 3 lbs of estimating animal and people weight).

I'm working on building her muscles since she is a bit out of shape-so we do a lot of trotting. I'm starting to ask her to round/collect a bit more to help with her muscles and weight bearing as well. I use a decently fitting (as good as I can afford and get) synthetic Australian endurance saddle with a grippy gel filled pad. I use a mounting block. The mare is barefoot. I typically do light trail riding (some hills but nothing extreme, some stepping over obstacles, but no jumping, walking and trotting with rare canter moments) and some pasture 'arena' type training/work to develop a better top line and collection. So far we've only cantered a few times. I'm an experienced rider (Western gaming, bareback, jumping, dressage, roping, trail, Pleasure, etc in my 30 years of riding) that has developed some health issues that can affect my balance. I don't flop around, but I'm not like my 16 year old self either. Most of my balance issues revolve around dizziness and the lack of sensation in my feet from neuropathy, not tipping over. I tend to post or ride in 2-point when trotting for longer stretches.

I have a
of the very first ride I ever took on this mare. It was also the first time I'd ridden in 2-1/2 years. I don't use the saddle or arena in the video, but it should give you an idea of what I look like on her. FWIW she was balky for her owner in this
as well--there were some puddles in the corner of the arena. Although she balked more for me because I was trying to press her out of her comfort zone to evaluate her temperament. Here's a
of her more recently with my daughter riding her first trot. Thats me holding the lunge-line for reference (please be nice about our technique, such as it is). When I ride her now she moves out nicely at both the walk and trot. Her canter is awesomely smooth, but I keep it to a minimum due to her lack of condition and my weight.

I'm not looking to jump 4' or win the Tevis Cup or anything. I just enjoy riding in the woods & 'training'. I also need to be sure the mare doesn't get too lazy and develop bad habits for my beginner 8-year old daughter. I typically only ride her once a week with 2-3 'lessons' for my daughter per week as well. My daughter is still on the lunge-line at the walk and trot. My rides and my daughter's lessons typically last an hour or so, & are seldom/never on the same day or even consecutive days.

I'm hoping to get the mare trained to drive as well, then I can just switch to that instead of worrying over the weight limit. Getting a different bigger horse is not an option at this time. I just want to be sure to keep this one happy, healthy, and sound for the rest of her life.
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post #2 of 7 Old 05-26-2018, 12:52 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Virginia
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Have you put her on a livestock scale or are you using some other method to weigh her? I'd bet she's in the 600s.
My guy is stocky, 13.2h, scale currently shows 670 and he has a little more weight to loose.
I'm also 5'6, went up to 140 the last year or so. Personally, I have a weight I want to be at for my horse's comfort and my own preference, 130. I even use plastic stirrup irons and one layer stirrup leathers to shave off as much as possible.
My guy has no trouble lugging me around and the more we ride, the fitter he gets.

You can lead her on hikes to exercise her on days no one rides her, which will help condition her in a less strenuous way.
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post #3 of 7 Old 05-26-2018, 01:18 PM
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Location: southern Arizona
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He's 13.0 hands. Don't know his weight. I weight 170+ in my undies, and the saddle is 30 lbs. I don't ride him often, but he's carried me for 3 hours and finished trotting uphill to home on his own initiative.

A few weeks before this picture was taken, the vet estimated the horse below at 790 lbs. He looks bigger but is very slender. He's hauling over 200 lbs, which may have felt good to him. In his previous life, he had carried riders weighing as much as 265 in their socks - at a gallop:

As with all horses, focus on moving with the horse - in synch and in balance. If you feel him struggling, dismount. If he isn't struggling, don't worry too much. Lots of walking, some trotting and some cantering will be OK. Short rides, build up as the horse feels stronger.

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post #4 of 7 Old 05-26-2018, 03:56 PM
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I don't think what you're doing with her is likely to hurt her but she is quite short backed which means that the saddle size to fit you is likely to be going beyond the point of her rib cage.
I used to ride my children's ponies if they needed a wake up call from time to time and also the ponies that we used to sell but I'm only 5ft 3 and in those days never weighed more than 120 pounds and was more often less than that
This is a pretty good site with illustrations to show what I mean
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post #5 of 7 Old 05-26-2018, 04:37 PM
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Location: southern Arizona
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Bandit's saddle goes past the last fixed rib. Cowboy's go WAY past. Arguably, all western saddles do.

All western saddles extend over the loin

Don't know if it is a problem for English saddles.
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post #6 of 7 Old 05-26-2018, 08:26 PM
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I also would think the horse would weigh less than 700 lbs at that height. My 14.2 hand mare weighs 770.

What to be aware of...you have a lot less room for error with saddle fit and exercise tolerance. I'd evaluate her back carefully for pain after each time you ride her, press down especially above the lumbar area to see if your weight plus the saddle is giving her any back issues.

Realize that exercise will be a combination of aerobic and strength for her, more like you hiking with a heavy pack on. So speeding up will have to be for shorter distances and hills will become more strenuous for her.

If you watch and listen carefully to the horse, she will tell you how she is doing. Listen to her breathing, is she ever breathing hard or not recovering immediately after a short canter? See if she starts to seem reluctant to go out or needs a lot of pushing, and you might be overtaxing her.

Also be aware that the larger the rider is in comparison to the horse, the easier it is to unbalance the horse. Notice how tall your torso is above her body, and if she loses her footing around a corner that will pull her balance off more. Cantering will be safest on straight lines and with good footing. Also be careful going down steep hills.

My mare ended up with severe knee injuries from having a heavy rider. When she stumbled, she was unable to throw her weight back up so she went down to her knees, and slid down the gravel for several feet. This took the flesh off her knees down to the joints. The rider was about 240 lbs and she was about 850 lbs.
I thought it was fine because the mare didn't show any signs of difficulty and we were going on a short ride. But I should have been more careful about the footing and terrain, and we should have ridden on flatter surfaces and softer footing just in case.
The injuries affected my horse for the rest of her life.

I've also seen a 13.2 hand horse pulled over by a 5'9" tall rider, and I've unbalanced my own 14.2 hand mare several times around fast corners and fallen.
These are just considerations to take for your safety and the horse's.
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post #7 of 7 Old 05-26-2018, 11:08 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Western KY
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So far she's shown no signs of hesitation going out for a ride with me in the saddle. She comes home wanting to trot more. She doesnt sweat or breathe hard after a ride either. In fact today I had to work pretty hard to keep a trot/walk instead of trot/canter on our groomed trail. I'm riding in what would be a 14-1/2" (if measured like Western) synthetic Aussie endurance saddle that has good gullet clearance and even sweat patterns. It has nylon 'leathers' and plastic stirrups. She's not showing any signs of soreness when I check daily (I'm a little OCD about her welfare).

I don't actually know if she's 13-2 or 14 HH. I haven't measured her or weighed her. Her breeder/former owner told me she was 13-2HH & about 750 lbs. She also told me that she considered this mare's weight limit to be about 160lbs. She breeds & trains Curlys for beginners (most people with horse allergies are beginners because they've never had the chance to ride before). She also runs a trail riding ranch, specializing in people with allergies. So I'm basing my estimations on her statements.

We do a lot of in hand work in addition to the lunge-line lessons for my daughter. It's possible I'll lose weight as we continue since I do a lot of walking as I give my daughter (& son) lessons. Often our lessons include me leading them on 'trail rides' as well as the more usual lunge-line lessons. Of course I'll never be able to lose my long torso. I work very hard at staying properly balanced and positioned near her withers. I avoid steep hills (particularly going down them) and/or sharp turns. Of corse there's only so much you can do to prevent some things from happening. I'm thinking that if she muscles up like I want her to, she'll be better equipped to carry me. We've only had her for 3 months & spent the first month & 1/2 on the ground exclusively.

Here's what we looked like today. She's a really fun ride, but I treasure her worth as my children's pony more than I need to ride. If I have my way in a few months we'll have a second Curly that's listed as 14-2HH and built like a QH.
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Last edited by BiologyBrain; 05-26-2018 at 11:13 PM.
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