Too Heavy For Your Horse? British Study Demonstrates Weight Impact On Ridden Horses

Caudal images of the four riders, from left to right, Light (L), Moderate (M), Heavy (H) and Very Heavy (VH) on Horse 2.
Credit : Supplied

Wednesday 03 April - 09h29 | Lulu Kyriacou

Too Heavy For Your Horse? British Study Demonstrates Weight Impact On Ridden Horses

A study lead by Dr Sue Dyson from the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket, England has been published  which demonstrates riders should find an approriately sized horse and use correctly fitted saddles to match their weight if they wish to prevent detrimental effects on their mounts.

 - Too Heavy For Your Horse? British Study Demonstrates Weight Impact On Ridden Horses

Credit : Supplied

The scientists  observed and measured four different riders under the supervision of a British Horse Society Intermediate Instructor, ride a variety of horses during the study which was conducted at the World Horse Welfare  stables a few miles from Newmarket.  The four riders were graded as per their weight into Light (L), Moderate (M), Heavy (H) and Very Heavy (VH) and all rode in similar saddlery.  The horses were assessed for lameness before commencing the experiements and and unexpected happenings such as spooking were taken into account.

​This was the first study to use riders of differing weights, previous studies have used the same rider and added static weight to them with a weight cloth. This was to provide more realistic data Any of the tests were abandoned if the gait of the horse showed lameness or other signs of pain.  A master saddler  assesed the horse's saddle fitting and made adjustments  for optimum fit.  The riders were also assessed for straightness in the saddle.

​It was found there was more detriment to the gaits in the mounts of the heavy  and very heavy riders although the study did note that some of this lameness may be down to saddle fit.  Although the study's results were indicative  that the heavier riders weights did have a detrimental effect of their horses, it concluded further reseach was needed.  The study concluded by saying, "The results of this study do not mean that heavy or tall riders should not ride, but suggest that, if they do, they should ride a horse of appropriate size and fitness, with a saddle that is correctly fitted for both horse and rider. Further work is, however, required to determine if horse fitness, greater metacarpal region circumference, breed, adaptation to heavier weights and more ideal saddle fit will increase the weight that individual horses can carry."

​The full study can be read here

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