Let’s talk about a sensitive subject!

And I warn you, as a 6 foot woman with a predisposition to a broader base line, I am going to be brutally honest, so if you are sensitive about your weight, perhaps you’d better pour yourself another glass and move on to the next post.

I’ll never forget how excited I was the first time I heard Queen’s song “Fat Bottomed Girls“. I thought it was a “real” song, written for “real” women- and I still do!  (I’m not going to go into it’s real meaning that is for another blog entirely) The sad reality is though that a lot of us, whether as a result of childbirth, injury or just plain laziness and over indulging in our favourite red more than a few times a week are heavier than we wish we were.  This potentially causes a problem for our horses, Friesian or otherwise.

There has been a lot of talk lately about exactly how much weight can or should a horse be forced to carry and a number of articles published suggesting figures as high as almost 30% of their body weight all the way down to as low as 10% of their body weight, which in some cases limits the horse to a saddle and a willy wag tail resting on it.

I really appreciated the Japanese study recently written about by The Horse.  It talked about measuring the symmetry of a horses gait when carrying weight, and they topped out the weight of a rider and tack at 29% of the horses weight.   This study was done with Japanese horses. Now if you have Friesians, they are known for being on the heavier side of things themselves, and a lot of us joke about making sure that our fat bottomed girls have bigger butts than us. But if we are going to come close to maxing out our horses carrying capacity then there are a few things that we want to know first.

First and foremost, we owe it to our beauties to be as fit and athletic as possible when riding them.  A fit and well seated rider regardless of weight will always feel better on the back of a horse than a sloppy and unbalanced one.  We should always be aiming to be well under their maximum carrying capacity, not breathing a sigh of relief because a study has come out that allows us to indulge a little more without feeling guilty that we might be hurting our horse.

If you think that you might be approaching the too heavy mark, you need to know exactly how much your horse weighs.  There is a big difference between a 500kg 5 year old and an 800kg 10 year old; and is your horse 800kg of rippling muscle and strength, or rounder than the enormous round bale they just managed to consume in a week?  All of these factors are going to contribute to the weight that your horse is able to carry.  To weigh your horse, if you don’t have in floor scales like most of us, float your horse to the nearest public weigh bridge.  They will often weigh your horse for you for little to no cost.

Failing actual scales, the other method is outlined below:

Weight in kilograms equals

  • the girth in centimetres squared (that is, multiplied by itself),
  • then multiplied by the length of the horse (in centimetres) from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock.
  • This number is then divided by 11,000 to give the final result

Here are a few important points to consider:

  • Has your horse finished growing?  Friesians are slow maturers, often growing until they are between 5 and nearly 7 years old.  It is strongly advisable to not put your horse under too much pressure if he or she is still a youngster, even if according to the scale you are within range for his weight.  Introduce him or her slowly to work.  A couple of times a week for half an hour at a time to begin with.  Otherwise you risk permanent damage.
  • Is your horse fit? If he is left to his own devices to exercise, chances are he is not as fit as he could be sitting in his comfy paddock munging on fresh green pasture all day long.  The occasional run along the fence line or kicking of the air is not really enough to build any significant top line.  Introduce him slowly to work, do lots of ground work with him, building top line and muscle so that before you decide to jump on his back, he has had a chance to build his muscle up.  Who knows, you may even strengthen your own muscles or improve your own fitness level by working him.
  • Is your horse sound?  I know it sounds ridiculous to remind you, but if your horses feet aren’t trimmed neatly, (or shod properly in the case of shoes) placing additional weight on his back is only going to cause problems where none exist. Likewise for body work. Any aches and pains are only going to be heightened by a tubby rider.

I have created a table to help you work out your height to weight ratio for you and your horse.  I have deducted 15kg for tack, boots etc- cause lets face it we all weigh ourselves nude first thing in the morning, and this isn’t how we ride. Hopefully this will inspire you to be the best that you can be for your horse, and also bring your horse up to a brilliant standard for you to ride and enjoy riding.

Horses Weight in KG 400 450 500 550 600 650 700 750 800 850
10% less 15kg 25 30 35 40 45 50 55 60 65 70
15% less 15kg 45 52.5 60 67.5 75 82.5 90 97.5 105 112.5
20% less 15kg 65 75 85 95 105 115 125 135 145 155
25% less 15kg 85 97.5 110 122.5 135 147.5 160 172.5 185 197.5
29% less 15kg 101 115.5 130 144.5 159 173.5 188 202.5 217 231.5

I’m not about to tell you how to lose weight or get fit.  That isn’t want this post is about. There are plenty of other crazies out there doing that already, and for some of us that change just isn’t able to happen.

So what other things do we need to consider?  How about the saddle? Saddle fit for both horse and rider is incredibly important!  After I had my children I went to buy a new saddle.  I jumped on the first gorgeous one I saw that was my usual size and was mortified at how poorly it now fit. I have learnt so much about saddles fitting since then and now understand that it is just as important to fit you properly as it is the horse.

Fryso (the saddle specialists for Friesians) offer a couple of alternatives for the more buxom broad. The Fryso Lux saddle has a very strong tree and it’s hind gussets flair out providing and even distribution of pressure across the back muscles and relieving pressure on the spine.  It’s deeper seat can be custom made to accommodate those of us who don’t look like a super model.

I think that we can safely enjoy our Friesians knowing that they are strong enough to carry us like they had wings!

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