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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

I'm new to the forum. I have been a rider, on and off, since my 20s. (I'm now in my 40s.) I have taken about a year off from riding (hunter/jumper) because of illness which has led to dramatic weight gain.

The last time I rode, it was at a new barn with a large female instructor. She was amazing, and I felt comfortable with her. I was ready to sign a lease on the lesson horse when the barn manager stepped in to tell me that I was "too big" for their horses. (I probably weighed 180 pounds at 5'7".)

Feeling humiliated, I didn't and couldn't return.

I'm now around 210. My weight has stabilized fortunately, but my doctors have suggested that maintenance may be my most optimistic goal over the long term. I have kept fit with bike riding and six or seven visits to the gym weekly (both cardio and strength training). I am strong enough to return to riding physically but not psychologically.

I have NO idea how to get back in it. I obviously cannot return to the last barn where I rode. And I'm too embarrassed to go to previous barns where I rode when I was thinner. I don't think I could lease a horse because I doubt an owner would even consider leasing to a "plus sized" rider.

I have considered buying a horse, but where I live it's a very expensive proposition. Also, I'm not really well-versed enough in horse conformation to determine whether a horse would be able to tolerate my weight.

Ideally, I'd like to start training in dressage. Perhaps this makes it easier or more difficult to re-enter the riding world? (I think my jumping days are over because I'm too old to be going over fences! I've lost my nerve.)

Any suggestions? I live in an urban area, so there aren't an unlimited number of barns, and riders and barn managers/owners tend to be a bit snobbier than average.
 

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I took about 6 years off riding when I tried to find a barn (I was around 5'9 and 230lb at the time). I tried a barn and did 2 half an hour private lessons. At the end of them I was told I would need to lose weight if I wanted to ride their because they had no horses that could handle my weight. Okay fair enough.. I was discouraged and I stopped looking because I obviously had some weight to lose. 2 years after that, my old instructor told me of a barn that had a nice family atmosphere. This time I decided to email them and be very honest with them. I told them my weight and height, I told them what experience I had and how long it had been since I had ridden last. They said no problem, they had 1-2 horses that would do fine with me. I have been riding there for 3 years and come March 1st I am partboarding my lesson horse :)

You just gotta keep asking around until you find someone willing to give you a chance. If you do decide to buy a horse this forum is a great resource, you can post the prospective horse and there are very knowledgeable people who can help tell you about its confirmation faults or strengths.

Don't give up on something that would improve your quality of life!
 

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After seven years of being out of horses, I recently jumped back in -- much heavier and older than I was when I'd had to stop riding, due to a cross-country relocation. My first step was to find a barn that would give me lessons, and I was very honest about my weight issues when I called to inquire. After a couple of months of lessons, I felt confident that I wanted to continue, so I purchased my own horse. During the PPE, I made sure to ask the vet's opinion about her ability to comfortably/safely carry my weight. "No problem," he said.

My advice is -- Call lesson barns and be honest about your weight concerns. (Most told me that they were more concerned about fitness-levels than poundage!) If you're biking regularly, you probably have a fairly good sense of balance -- which is really important. (A skinny person who is out of balance can do worse harm to a horse than a well-balanced fat person will.)

I hope you don't let your weight keep you from getting back in the saddle. You'll never be younger than you are today, and there's no guarantee any of us will ever be skinnier. In fact, getting back into horses may help "spur" on your weight loss/maintenance goals. :) Good luck and keep us posted!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hi all.

Thank you SO much for your supportive feedback. Because of your kind words, I've called two barns. Haven't heard back from them yet, but I am summoning up the courage to be honest about my weight when they do!

I really never thought I'd ever get back in the saddle again and I'm so excited that maybe I can!

In the meantime, do you all think I should be looking at particular breeds? I'm just dabbling around looking at horses to buy, but wonder if sticking with Fresians or Percherons, draft horses in general is probably the safest bet???

Thanks again everyone!!!!
 

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You could ride a stocky QH, Paint, Appy or some sort of draft cross.

You are 5'7 I think you said so find a height you would feel comfortable riding and find a mount with some good bone. There will be different breeds that match what you need, you don't need to limit yourself to Friesians and Drafts. Look for the horse with strong confirmation (thick legs, short back, good bone, etc)

If I were you, I would find out what height of horse I would be comfortable riding, then find out what popular breeds are used in the discipline I wanted to go in. Warmbloods are popular in dressage and you could find a really nice one that would be able to do what you wanted.
 

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oh wow! sometimes, i forget how cruel people can be!!!

i completely understand the health issue making you a bigger person...but you're really not *that* big. i'm 5'5 and 210. i had health issues that caused me to "blow up", in a manner of speaking. like you, i do everything i can to stay fit. besides living a physically demanding life, i spend a lot of time on my treadmill, and i do yoga to help improve my balance.

i have 3 horses, 2 polish arabians and a half arab. but i'm only riding 1 arab and my part arab. the other arab still needs a ton of work. but the 2 that i ride, they don't seem to struggle while carrying me. i use synthetic tack to lessen the total amount of weight that they carry...plus my daughter doesn't have the upper body strength to lift a "traditional" saddle that high up.

is there any way that you could purchase your own horse, and work with the trainer that you felt comfortable with?? i saw that you said that you don't know enough about conformation. if you trust that instructor, maybe you could ask her to assist in finding the right horse for you...and continue with lessons on your horse, with that trainer.

i'm really hoping that you can continue to work with that trainer, and that you can find a horse that you're comfortable with! there are plenty of bigger riders, today. with you keeping fit, there's no reason why you should be excluded!!!!

hopefully, i was able to upload the pic of my on my half arab. he is a 17 hand national show horse (arab x saddlebred). chant doesn't seem to have issues or struggle...but i do worry about him because he does have a longer back.

don't give up!! and please try to speak with the trainer that you are comfortable with. she knows your area, she knows horses...she would be your best resource...but do update us on things are going :)
 

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I have found, in my travels, that English-centric barns can be much more squicky about weight than Western barns. It may be that the type of horses preferred by Western riders (QH, Paint, Appaloosa, etc) make better weight carriers because of their conformation. I can't imagine a normal-sized horse that can't carry 180 lbs!

Part of it is that some people who have never had a weight problem don't have any idea of what can and can't be handled by a regular horse. They've got no experience, so they panic. As well, the H/J world, in my experience, is not friendly to anyone on the larger side due to a heavy focus on style and turnout. Maybe other people have had different experiences, but as for what I have seen personally, I always felt unwelcome in places like that when I was younger.

I would say make sure to call some Western places too, most of them I've found are much more accommodating to heavier riders. You see 200+ pound men riding 14-hand QHs all the time, many of them doing heavy ranch work for long hours at a time. A chunky "bulldog"-style stock horse would have no trouble carrying you, especially since you're an experienced rider. Even some members of the gaited breeds such as TWHs, Missouri Fox Trotters, Icelandics, etc have conformation that is well-suited to carrying weight.

Or you could just do what I did a few years back and buy a mule! :lol:
 

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I hope you hear back soon and your journey back to the saddle is a good one. As a nurse of 20 yrs I will say that fit people come in all sizes. Sounds like you are already being physically active and that is a good thing. I am sure you will find a horse that fits you.
 

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perhaps, if any have doubts, you could offer to demonstrate to them your ability to ride without mashing the back of the horse.

it's always a matter of degree. i mean, a truly heavy rider cannot take too much exception if she is not allowed to ride a horse thought to be unable to comfortably bear her weight. we have to be realistic. but, as someone said, 180 to 210 lb. men ride all the time on average horses, and no one bats an eye.
 

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My gosh people are idiots! You are not too heavy to be riding a horse. If their horses couldn't carry your weight, I feel like there might be something wrong with their horses, ie out of shape, too long backed. Have you seen some of the guys that rope? Not only are they huge, the horse is carrying a heavy roping saddle and stopping a decent sized animal that doesn't want to be stopped.

I have ridden most of my life, at my heaviest, I was 234lbs, I rode a large mare with good bone, but that wasn't always the case. I never sored up a horse.

I am glad you found a barn and an instructor! Looking forward to hearing how it went!
 

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Hi all.

Thank you SO much for your supportive feedback. Because of your kind words, I've called two barns. Haven't heard back from them yet, but I am summoning up the courage to be honest about my weight when they do!

I really never thought I'd ever get back in the saddle again and I'm so excited that maybe I can!

In the meantime, do you all think I should be looking at particular breeds? I'm just dabbling around looking at horses to buy, but wonder if sticking with Fresians or Percherons, draft horses in general is probably the safest bet???

Thanks again everyone!!!!

Draft horses aren't always bred for riding conformation, so even though the assumption is that heavier riders should have a draft it isn't necessarily always the case. In my personal experience, focus less on the breed than on the way the horse is built. I have always been a plus sized rider, and for years I owned and rode a TB that looked more like a foundation stock type mare. She was fit and never suffered from a sore back. It wasn't until I sold her and she was retrained as a barrel racer that she had joint issues! You want to stay away from long backs, those long delicate pasterns on some of the light breeds, and horses with major conformation issues. Also, some horses are more surefooted than others and seem to carry weight far easier. (ever seen a big cowboy on a 14 hand mustang?)
 
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