For the past few years Rider Weight has been a hot topic in the equine industry. In fact I have written several posts looking at factors which affect how much weight a horse can carry and what is a suitable weight for a horse to carry. An initial study this week has backed up what we already believed to be true by finding that heavier riders can cause lameness in horses.
In the study led by Sue Dyson from the Animal Health Trust consisted of 6 horses ridden in their usual tack by 4 riders of different weights in proportion to the horses body weight. During each ride the horses were examined on a number of factors including; gait, heart rate, respiratory rate and pain related behaviours.
The tests for Heavy and Very Heavy riders were ended early due to 5 of the 6 horses displaying temporary lameness and he 6th horse showing 10/24 pain related behaviours previously identified by Sue Dyson. None of the horses had lasting effects of being ridden by the heavier riders.
Interestingly, the study also suggested that height could affect how much a horse can carry, due to how the rider fits the saddle. One of the horses displayed discomfort when ridden by a test rider of a similar weight to his owner. The test rider was about a foot taller than the owner which caused them to sit back in the saddle, overloading the cantel and causing discomfort. So the importance of the saddle fitting the rider, as well as the horse, can also change how much weight a horse can carry.
This research is still a long way from proving the damage we believe a heavy rider can cause to a horse. However, the initial findings are very interesting and have raised more factors to look at in the future. But this should also be enough evidence to prove that the rider’s weight to horse’s weight ratio is very important and is something we should all be looking at.