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I also don’t believe in the blanket 20% rule. There are studies to show both concepts. So, when the science itself disagrees, it is time to look at practice. The practice of riding horses at over 20% of their weight is quite common. I think general riding ability does play a big part in success, as well as the most important aspect of confirmation. Practice proves this, in my opinion.

I think you would be fine riding the Shetland, but if you are young, I wouldn’t plan on being as small as you are for long. This is the hard part about small ponies to me (the riders outgrowing them). Nothing stops you now, but if you are looking for long term, I would prefer investing my time into something I could continue on.
 

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Hi, I’m generally small and I’m wondering if I’m to big for a Shetland? I’m 4’9 and weigh about 88lbs. Does anyone know if I’m to big? Google hasn’t helped to much so I would greatly appreciate it if someone told me if I can fit on a Shetland or not! 😊
I would say that you would be ok to ride a shetland pony for only a little bit :)
 

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The picture posted of the OP and her shetland racing, suggests that she's a balanced, experienced rider, which is going to cause less problems and stress than a heavy beginner bouncing and sagging on her back. The pony is older but I'm guessing that the OP isn't planning on doing strenuous work so shouldn't have any issues. I'd be more concerned by the people larger than the OP riding her but there's usually physical and tempermental warnings that an animal isn't coping.The fact that she's asking the question means that she is aware of her weight and will keep an eye on it so that the pony remains comfortable.


@Old_Man_Doc - I was thinking about American Shetlands and their upper limit,11.2hh, using our descriptions. I'm familiar with our shetland thanks, but I'll be clearer in the future.
 

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Yes, distinct types but max height for all is 46 inches - even the foundation type, is what I was pointing out. That is one reason I suspect they call it a type.
 

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Do you have any evidence to back that up? Or is it an opinion?
The researchers found that an average adult light riding horse could comfortably carry about 20 percent of their ideal bodyweight. This result agrees with the value recommended by the Certified Horsemanship Association and the U.S. Cavalry Manuals of Horse Management published in 1920.
 

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The researchers found that an average adult light riding horse could comfortably carry about 20 percent of their ideal bodyweight. This result agrees with the value recommended by the Certified Horsemanship Association and the U.S. Cavalry Manuals of Horse Management published in 1920.
According to the study you are referring to, horses completely out of shape after four months of rest can carry 20% of their body weight without showing signs of muscle soreness or stress. So the 20% rule applies if you plan to pull a horse from pasture rest and go for a trail ride. The study was on only 8 horses, and all it really showed was that horses asked to carry more weight than that when out of shape end up having sore muscles, produce lactic acid and have muscle breakdown.

This is basic physiology for most mammals. It would be the same for you if after four months of rest, you began a hiking program even carrying no weight. You would produce lactic acid and muscle waste products, your muscles would be sore for at least 48 hours as the horses' muscles were, and your body would show signs of fatigue. The amazing thing is that unlike us, horses could do the exercise without being fit and carry up to 20% of their body weight without showing signs of stress. They only worked the horses one day every two weeks, so the horses had no chance to become more fit as the study went on.

The Cavalry had good reasons for their recommendations. The horses had to go 20-30 miles a day in saddles that were not fitted to them, over rough terrain, and having horses carry less weight meant less problems from tack and back soreness. It should not apply for example to a rider walking and trotting in a well fitted saddle in a groomed arena for 30 minutes.

Horses’ Weight-Carrying Ability Studied - Kentucky Equine Research
 
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