It seems that the human obesity epidemic is hurting horses as well as the obese people themselves. Yes, obesity causes a lot of problems including burdening the NHS in the UK with a ton of associated health issues costing billions in pounds. The Times reports that ‘heavy riders are a growing problem’. This must be a reference to both large non-obese people and obese people but I’d suggest that the latter is the primary problem by far.
The website horsetalk.co.nz reported “The results show that a high rider-to-horse bodyweight ratio can induce temporary lameness and discomfort in the horse. In simple terms, if the rider is excessively heavy for the horse in question, it can have a negative impact on the performance of the horse.”
Some major events are introducing scales to weigh the riders as some are too heavy for the horses. At the Royal Three Counties show in Malvern, Worcestershire, last June, a dozen riders were asked to dismount as they were too heavy.
The show applied a new rule stating that riders must be ‘suitably mounted’. That sounds like a polite euphemism to mean that riders must not be obese! Only the word ‘obese’ is a bit upsetting.
Next year the show plans to introduce a weight limit. The show’s welfare officer, Amanda Stoddart-West said that about 5 percent of riders were asked to dismount in one day as they were too heavy.
Some people were determined to ride their animals and we had to ask them repeatedly to dismount. Some of them are them are clearly too big for their horse. Others are adults riding their children’s ponies for them which as well as being a welfare issue also gives that child an unfair advantage.Amanda Stoddart-West
She co-founded an animal welfare group called Suitably Mounted. It addresses the above-mentioned problem of obese riders and riders that are unsuited for a particular horse.
The British Equine Veterinary Association say that riders should weigh no more than 15 per cent of the horse’s weight.
Riders more than 20 per cent of a horses weight must dismount at the Great Yorkshire show while the Royal Three Counties show is considering a similar rule.
We saw several larger riders especially on show ponies and we thought we needed to do something. It’s getting beyond acceptable.Betsy Branyan – Royal Three Counties show secretary.
[Royal Three Counties should be] applauded for not tolerating mismatched horse-and-rider combinations, which are an obvious affront to horse welfare.Tony Tyler – deputy chief executive of World Horse Welfare