Is My Butt Too Big?

We inherently know that a horse can only carry so much weight. Duh! Any living creature can only carry so much weight before succumbing to the burden. If you ask most people who know at least a little bit about horses, the general consensus is that a horse can comfortably carry 15-20% of its body weight.

Here are two short articles about two different studies. The first strongly supports the 15-20% range; the second supports a slightly higher number.

I’m not convinced that either study fully appreciated the number of variables that come into play.

  • Horses are not designed well to carry weight to start with
  • That weight over time (short term time and long term time) is going to have an effect
  • That beyond the ability of the rider to balance with the horse, that the skill, or lack of skill, of the rider to increase the horse’s engagement consistently is a huge factor for weight carrying ability
  • That general conditioning of the horse is going to affect a horse’s ability to carry weight, and last but not least,
  • That the horse’s conformation plays a huge role as we’ve begun to discover after analyzing the toplines of our six candidate horses, and might also general constitution; will, personality, temperament…play a role?

I loved the mention of loin width in the first article and how horses that possessed more loin broadness suffered less muscular strain.  Somebody in the study connected some of the dots.  And I loved the mention in the Japanese study of the effect an unbalanced rider has on a horse.

Overall I think these studies are really just tips of the iceberg studies. They reveal bits of valuable information, but don’t take enough parameters into consideration.  Giving some basic duh! results isn’t particularly helpful in further educating people. The lighter, fitter and more skilled a rider, and the better managed, conditioned and trained the horse is, the easier and more efficient it is for the horse to carry the rider. This leads to longevity more so than making sure one doesn’t exceed a certain percentage point of their horse’s body weight.   Having a guideline like we’re given in these studies is, I suppose a good thing, especially for people who don’t have common sense. Though, I’d venture to guess that most of those people wouldn’t bother with looking up or following a guideline, anyway, so what’s the point?

My #1 size guideline is that my horse’s butt be bigger than mine.


46 thoughts on “Is My Butt Too Big?

  1. Very interesting. And look a how big the custom and adjustable saddle industry has become, just trying to keep up with the demands that are placed on our horses. And let’s not start on the treed vs. treeless. That would stir up a can of worms!

  2. I agree with the 15-20% of the horse’s body weight thing. But I also feel that you shouldn’t PUSH that 20% thing. Yes, they can handle it, but you’re pushing their limits. According to that rule (if my math is correct) me, weighing in at 115 lbs could ride a pony that weighs only 575 lbs and be fine. Now I don’t know about you, but I tend to not ride ponies that small. My own mare weighs approx. 1000-1100. I am only 10.4%-11.5% of her body weight. To me, ideal is about 10%-13% of the horse’s body weight. We’re already asking them do something they aren’t designed to do (carry something on their backs), so why strain them?

    Though there are many factors that go into how much weight a horse can weigh, like you said. Different breeds can handle different amounts. Shetland ponies and Fjords have been known to be able to comfortably carry adults despite their small statures.

  3. Another reason to ride western and hide it stuffed into the cantle! I was always one of those gals who had next to no butt, having been taunted for years that it was flat as a board. Can I rewind a few years?

    Being a QH gal, I feel that low center of gravity helps a horse immensely in what it can carry. A 16.2 TB and 14.3 QH can easily weight the same but the higher the weight is, the more leverage it has on the horse’s balance. Every time a large rider loses balance, the horse can be pulled off balance. The extreme visual of this is mounting. A bit butt needs a horse with a bigger butt, not a taller horse. Big butts on narrow horses…sorry, but it’s not very pleasing to the eye.

  4. Maybe somone has some particuarly “interesting photos out there… Kinda like the Wal Mart stuff , from behind, no faces please.

    I have current photos running in an on line add which indicate I probably fit in the 18% range, but did (YAAAHHHH! ) loose 5 punds over last week by cutting out the sugar and feel so much better as well. the mare I am riding has plenty of substance but is …. vertically chanlleneged at 14 and a smidge…

    • There is one on CL, Inland Empire, farm and garden. Search for: 17 yr old short trail horse

      It is up there right now, if anyone wants to look. Sorry, I cannot put it here.

          • Sorry, I am very unskilled on the computer. Maybe only people in my area can see the ad, but it shows a small horse with a rider with a HUGE butt, and it appeared the day of this article.

    • As solidly boned as that little horse seems to be that just seems like cruelty. Personally because I have longer legs and a short torso I look for horses with larger barrels. My horses range anywhere from 15.0hh to 17.0hh but they all have one thing in common, a large deep barrel. They probably wouldn’t look as suitable with someone who has shorter legs but for me it works.

  5. FYI, my “new” western saddle (areplacement for one of two stolen on my birthday 2011) is a 70’s show saddle and while I do not care for it a much as the Billy Royal that was stolen, it is sn equitation seat and is very comfortable for both me and the mare.

    Is there a way to post photos here? I actually have one that could be posted, face and all…

  6. Mercedes I have started a blog as I have a lot of opinions, and my guest submissions to Fugly went *poof* LOL. It is nothing like yours, so I didn’t think you’d mind if I posted the link here. OF course I am asking first-do you mind?

  7. Just to re-emphasize a point from the earlier discussion of ‘bone’, which also ties in with the strength of the loin in determining a horse that can stay sound, not because they are correlated, big bone, strong loin, but because so many horses today are too light boned for their work. A big modern draft, may have way inadequate bone for its own weight let alone add 20% for a rider and tack. Many bigger sized riders think they need a draft to carry that weight. That is an error from not understanding the ‘system’ that is the horse. A shorter, stouter, big boned horse with a strong loin is going to do better than many a larger horse. Too much of modern breeding has been aimed at taller horses, not necessarily better adapted to being ridden horses.

    The old cavalry standards for size and type of horse as well as its weight bearing capacity reflected practical experience in keeping horses functional under difficult conditions. I don’t ever want to go back to using horses for war, but as always with humans, they take their wars and weapons seriously.

    • It’s crazy how some people won’t even look at a horse unless it’s 17h because they’re tall. A 16 hander with a bigger barrel can eat up a whole lot of leg.

      • Yes this obsession so many people have with tall horses is strange to me. I think a lot of it stems from the “I’m the king of the castle” mentality. Bigger is better, etc. Not saying there aren’t some great tall horses, but most people I know that have 16-17 hand horses would likely have done much better to spend that same money on a smaller, better-built horse.

      • I’ve never understood that obsession. I’ve ridden everything from a 14.2hh Morgan to a 17hh Quarter horse and I’ve discovered that I am most comfortable on horses that are about 15-15.2 hands. And I’m 5’9″.

        • Me either. My friend, 5’8″, is competing my 14.2 mare in a derby series this year. We think they look fantastic together and this little horse can rock it.

          • Ya! This is me on the mare I rode while my girl was laid up with a puncture wound:

            She’s a 14.2hh Lipizzan. Doing flat work was fine with her and we looked great together. Jumping was really awkward, though XD

  8. From the first article:
    “Interestingly, this research from the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute has concluded with the same weight guideline that the US Calvary Manuals of Horse Management published in 1920.”

    I thought this was interesting. I have the feeling that better and larger studies will come to the same conclusion as well.

    • Lakes, having seen posts about obese riders and weight and arguments about whether someone is ever too big to ride and specifically on US forums, I’ve the feeling that some will keep doing studies until they find the answer they want 😉

  9. OT but since this is a confo-oriented blog…..does anyone else who gets H&R think that this month’s analysis is WAY off? I rarely miss these, maybe 1 a year, but this month needs a Mercedes intervention IMO.

      • Confomare1

        Would love to see if you agree with the analysis of this mare. Who knows, I may have egg face afterwards.

        • Can we get a close up shot of the other two horses to compare? The author may be right that Mare C is the best of the three. I have to say, though, there’s too much mentioning of inconsequential traits and personal preference traits, and not enough focus on the nitty gritty for me to take the article or author seriously – even if they got the ranking right. “I’d choose a pretty-headed stallion with more refinement and muscling…” is about the most ignorant statement a person could say when discussing a suitable conformational pairing of stallion and mare. Adding: Especially when there’s a serious question if this mare is even close to being breeding quality, which I’ll argue all day long, every day, that she’s not.

          Saying, “She appears to have a relatively short back…” is BS. Is it short or isn’t it short? We know for a fact there’s a measurement and a range to determine that…do it!

          The front leg structure of this horse is not ‘average’ unless you’re used to only seeing and being around horses who are calf-kneed, with a short humerus bone that is super horizontal because the point of shoulder is too low, and pasterns that are too upright. Let’s not even mention the horse’s footsore stance.

          I could go on, but you get the point.

          • Yay! We do agree on most points! I too think the mare is sore and not just ‘stretched out’. What do you think of her pelvis and it’s rearward ’tilt’ and hind legs somewhat behind her? How about the lumpy muscle on the underside of her neck, in a relaxed (not head high) position? It’s like this mare was picked solely because she’s more halter type than the other two. They are far from perfect but I would personally choose either one first as a riding horse.

          • It’s not a great photo and a photo of the photo make the points even harder to see. I’m not fond of her haunch either. Her muscling is poor, definitely in part due to her structure.

            The author seems to prize certain irrelevant traits (such as refinement and head prettiness) over functional traits and the ability to stay sound. That’s retarded, imo. It’s not at all helpful to people, but more importantly it’s not at all helpful to the horse.

          • I couldn’t get a decent scan of the other mares’ large pics, editing didn’t help enough. You should get a judge’s card and clean up the Stock horse breeds. How enlightening would that be for all?! 🙂

          • What bothers me the most is how ‘conformation experts’ like these are teaching newbies that halter traits (personal disdain) are desired. Between the posty, short hind legs, upright pasterns, bubble butts, miniscule hooves and pencil necks that win these days, how can anyone in breed shows even begin to distinguish form to function? When did a pretty face dupe a horse’s ability to stay sound? Plus they can’t move to save their lives. Of course, these ‘experts’ have all kinds of credentials to list after their names….some mighty important ones too. (snark/cough)

          • blondemare mentioned a “bubble butt” and that reminded me. I was talking to an Internet friend about our horses and what traits we liked. When I mentioned I found the massive QH butt on the otherwise TB body of my mare both amusing and adorable, he mentioned his gelding having an “apple butt”. What exactly is an “apple butt”? Is it another term for “bubble butt”? Does anyone happen to know? XD

          • The horse’s haunch can be shaped differently and ‘apple’ is one of the technical terms and accurately describes the shape…from behind the haunch looks like an apple. There is also ‘rafter’ and ‘T’ shaped haunches.

  10. Since Mercedes ok’d it I am posting my blog link…it’s thoughts about things that drive me (and a lot of us nuts) and conversation, in no way competition as I do not have the knowledge of confo by any means LOL. I’m just an opinionated horse person. Anyways if you visit let me know what you think 🙂

  11. One of my biggest pet peeves is fat riders. My opinion is not popular, but I’m not changing it. Riding well requires a certain amount of fitness to be fair to your horse, and excess flesh gets in the way of that. I strongly feel that no horse should carry more than 250 lbs, including the saddle. Riding is a privilege not a right. We weren’t all built to be basketball players either.

  12. By no horse I mean not even a draught should carry that much. My horse is 1200 lbs and I feel that I’m at the higher end of her range because I’m 130 lbs.

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