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Horses/I'm I too big for my horse


QUESTION: I have been saddle breaking my 6 year old 14.3 arabian gelding and he is doing just wonderful. No bucking, rearing or any other bad behaviors. We have gotten up to loping in my pasture. He bends his head, knows one rein stop, I can moves his front end and back end with leg and hand ques and just about everything else perfectly. I do have a concern though. I'm 6'0 tall and about 180 pounds. I'm I too big for him? It doesn't seem that he has trouble carrying me at all. He never has shown signs of discomfort and loves to be ridden but some random girl told me that I was way too big for him. I know I  shouldn't be phased by someone who doesn't know what they are talking about but what she said hurt me a little and I just wanted a second opinion.

         Thank you, Tatum

ANSWER: Dear Tatum,
Hmmm... as much as you may not want to hear this- your height would put your lower leg below this horse's belly line (unless you are riding with your stirrups too short)  in your photo- your stirrup is well below his belly.
At 14.3- you almost have a pony and at 6' tall - you are in model height territory. Your weight would not be a concern for a hardy Arab for OCCASIONAL rides but if you are his principal rider (and you can easily add another 40 lbs for tack)- this little guy is packing close to 200lbs. Further (cute face) he is very slightly built (and yes- Arabs are "my" breed- so it's not as though I am expecting him to be built like a QH)- he is framed more like a three year old than a six year old and while he may muscle out a bit-this will not change his bone structure, frame or build- he is quite narrow.
I rode a 14.3 hand 7/8 Arab for many years but I am 5'3" about 120. There were times I felt he was on the small side. My current gelding (also a 1/2 Arab) is just over 15.1 and I find that is about the ideal height for me. My Show Hack mare was 16.1 and although I never really had a problem- I knew my leg was not terribly effective way up on her side. I felt like I was perched on a giant. Generally- you want your heel on the horse's side when your leg is at rest.
Height aside- Diablo is small AND slight of build and I do believe that over time- you will see the detrimental effects of carrying this much weight. Again- if you were the occasional rider it would not be an issue. You WILL have people tell you it's no big deal- probably because they do not want to hurt your feelings but you seem to respect your little horse and it seems as though you are the kind of owner who would put your horse's needs ahead of your feelings. If you want another opinion- ask your vet- telling  him or her to be very honest and frank  with you.

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QUESTION: Thank you so much for you le help. I will take this into great consideration for riding Diablo. Currently I ride him about twice a week for an hour and a half AT MOST. Then I walk him out by hand. (Although I mostly walk and trot him when I ride him) is this to much or should it be once a week. I really want the best for him and I do not want to hurt him.

         Thank you again, Tatum

ANSWER: Dear Tatum,
An hour and a half is a very long time under saddle especially for a horse that (according to your original post) you are just staring under saddle. Yes- you could cut back your rides and shorten the duration- but ultimately- this is not going to help his conditioning or training to progress very well. I suppose this all begs the question- as tall as you are (I am envious) how did you come to end up with such a small horse? While you may have great affection for one another- your situation is, regretfully, not going to get better over time.
Your care and concern for him is heart warming. Perhaps there is someone in your family or of you acquaintance who is shorter who would love to help you with him. Nonetheless- unless driving him is an option for you- he is not ideally suited for you as a long term riding horse if that is the principal reason that you have him. It may seem odd to suggest this but I have had more than one horse as a pet. I once leased an ancient Thoroughbred- a frail old retired eventer who had more heart than common sense. He was unrideable because he had no idea he was nearly 30 and still thought he could take off X-country like a youngster. He was a lovely old gentleman with a sway back and terrible legs- and we shared a great friendship though I only ever walked him about, played with him in his turn out and groomed him.

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QUESTION: Well I came across him when I was looking for a new horse. His half brother was the first one I was interested in. Apollo is 8 years old. He is 1/2 Arab 1/4 quarter horse and 1/4 paint horse so he is about 16.1 hands. Apollo and Diablo where owned by a arabian farm that was selling a lot of horses beacuse they where moving locations so they offered Diablo with Apollo for half price so we bought him as well.  That is how I got such a short horse. My step sister is much smaller (about 5'5) so she could ride him but she doesnt know how to handle such a green horse but I could teach her. It's hard news to take but I'll accept it. Apollo is a great horse and is much better suited for me.

Dear Tatum,
Well- it looks as though you may well have a built-in solution to your situation. At 6' yourself and 16.1 hand horse should be just about the perfect height for you. Diablo will still be under your watchful eye. If you decide to show- there's always showmanship and halter. Some shows even have in-hand trail. It is refreshing to see someone with the god sense to put the needs of their horse ahead of their own. You are a wise equestrian.
Best wishes,
S. Evans


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Shelley Evans


I would be happy to respond to enquiries in the following disciplines: dressage, working western, hunter, halter (open and IAHA), hack and pleasure. I can also offer assistance with schooling and equitation issues.


Twenty years Class A show circuit including multiple championships.


Inside International

BA, MEd, Teaching Certificate (PDP), CEF Western Level I Coach, provincialy approved Hack, Equitation and Western Judge.

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