Am I Too Heavy to Ride?

If you’re on the ‘heavier’ side of your ideal weight, yet yearn to experience horse riding, or get back in the saddle, Konna Baza Sakar can make that happen…

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If we’re honest, almost all of us are on some level, unhappy with our weight, know we probably lead too sedentary a life, and let’s be honest- who wouldn’t like to lose a few pounds? 

As people around the world continue to get heavier, rider weight is becoming a serious equestrian issue and one which has been the topic of several recent scientific research papers. 

But what is too heavy? And, if you really want to horse ride, yet you feel your weight might be an issue, what are the solutions?

 

How to measure rider weight?

In the olden days, we used to measure (in inches) the horses cannon bone just below the knee, then add up the horse, rider and equipment weight (in pounds) – and divide it by the circumference of the cannon bone.

Ideally this number should be between 75 and 85.

More modern research, however, has shown that ideally horses should carry  between 10 and 20 percent of their body weight. So a 600kg horse should carry a rider under 120Kg.

However, debate is still rife within the equine industry and primarily centres around horse ‘build,’ bone density and height.

For example, traditional heavy horses such as the Shire and Clydesdale- although very tall and no-one could argue- very heavy, are actually pretty poor weight carriers for their size, thanks to their conformation designed to pull rather than lift and the speed in which the large heavy breeds were developed.

At the other end of the scale, the tiny Shetland pony, is actually a very good weight carrier for its size, given its stocky build, short back and ancient heritage battling those island winds.

Interestingly, the small Icelandic and the extremely fine Arabian are both extraordinarily good weight carriers- for their size, all thanks to their incredibly good bone density.

 

Our ‘Biggies’

Almost all riding centres in Bulgaria have a weight cut off between 90kg and 95kg, however, at Konna Baza Sakar we can, and do, regularly accommodate riders up to 100kgs or 15.7 stone.

While none of our horses are particularly tall, (all between 14hh and 15.2hh), several are incredibly stocky, smaller draft type crosses and have been chosen for their rider weight carrying abilities.

Our weight carriers are all around or over 500Kg (meaning we hit the 20 percent rule at 100Kgs), plus they are short-backed, extremely stocky and have exceedingly chunky  cannon bone measurements.

In addition, they are all kept working fit and have regular check-ups and maintenance work with our fantastic vet/chiropractor/back guru- Elitsa. (Read here to find out more about our horses.)

 

Additional Support

Saddle fit is also important, and for our weight carriers we have well fitting saddles and a mountain of additional support in the form of numnahs and pads- should we require them. 

All our horses are trained to stand at our solid and stable mounting block. This not only means riders are not rushed and uncomfortable in mounting- but there’s also no additional pressure to one particular side of the horse’s back in the process. Read more about our safety features here.

All our horses are barefoot and trimmed and maintained regularly by our extremely knowledgeable and experienced trimmer Vanya. Their diet and management is based on the methods of natural horse-care, meaning their feet are solid, strong and well-formed. (And, for any ‘bad-hoof-days,’ we have an ever growing selection of hoofboots)

They also live out 24/7 as a herd in a mixture of track and mob-grazing systems. This means their diet is rich and varied (meeting their daily nutritional needs) and they are moving constantly- keeping bones and muscles fit for purpose. Additional feeding is based around chemical-free meadow hay and lucerne and additional local soaked whole grains when required.  (Read more here about our natural horse-care.)

With a nature reserve right on our door-step, we have a staggeringly great selection of trail riding options. And, when we accommodate ‘heavier’ riders, we ensure our routes offer good and sound footing, with minimal rocks, mud and terrain.

 

Tips for Heavier Riders

A well-balanced 100Kg rider, with an above basic level of fitness and good coordination, is a lot easier for a horse to carry than an 80Kg person who can not move with the horse, can’t remain balanced and uses their reins to balance.

If you are ‘heavier,’ and passionate about getting back in the saddle, there are several things you can do to make it easier for your horse…

  • Try to fit in some regular exercise, not only will it help your horse- but it will make riding more enjoyable for you too, no one enjoys being out of breath and aching all over after each ride. Something as low-key (and completely free!) such as regular walking improves fitness, circulation, leg strength and coordination.
  • Remember to breath! It might sound stupid, but if you are nervous and /or stressed, you will most likely catch and hold your breath. Tensing up and stopping breathing, not only makes your horse anxious, but also makes you more difficult to carry, so let it out, smile and remember- you are enjoying this!
  • Take some lessons, work on your balance and coordination and learn to move with your horse. 
  • Invest in comfortable clothing. Riding wear is designed to allow movement, protection and support while on a horse. Jodhpurs: If you really can not find a good fit, (or dread entering a horsey-shop changing room) then you could consider some well fitting sports leggings, (although they will not offer the same support on the inside knee). Boots: opt for short-style jodhpur boots and spend time finding some well fitting short chaps- these don’t need to be expensive and come in an assortment of materials.  Other clothing: look for modern sports materials which will not restrict movement, and cause chaffing or rubbing around the neck and upper arms. And of course, what experienced riders of all sizes already know: INVEST IN A GREAT SPORTS BRA! (You won’t regret it!)
  • Lastly, please don’t be offended if a stables asks about your weight or even asks to weigh you. A good stables should do this privately and with minimal fuss or attention drawn, just remember: it’s not actually about you, they are thinking about their horses!

 

What if I’m Over the 100Kg Rider Weight Cut Off?

If you love horses and want to work with them from the ground, your weight is unimportant. We run several workshops and ground lessons, which anyone can join. Why not try learning some natural horsemanship, enjoying grooming, helping handle and care for horses- it’s all totally doable regardless of your weight.

In addition, why not try carriage driving? With a well-balanced vehicle and good fitting harness- weight pulled is easier on a horse than weight on its back. Learning to drive is exciting, fun and a fantastic way to experience the great outdoors and horses without giving a second thought to your weight! (To find out more about our carriage driving tours and lessons, read here.)