Willpower Over Horsepower

Last week I posted about my first ride on Aria and I even included the only picture that was taken. I was actually surprised that I liked the photo enough to share. Admittedly I’m not thrilled with how I look but as Teresa and P said last week, Aria and I look good together. I’m very flattered to hear that but in the back of my mind I definitely feel there is room for improvement on my end.

When I bought Aria I knew she was around 14.3 and when I sent her off to be trained she was millimetres away from being 15 hands. Knowing that and knowing she was probably never going to clear 15 hands unless I let her feet get really long, I took it upon myself to lose some weight. All the articles and studies I’ve read have recommended that horses not carry more than 20% of their body weight, excluding ponies, mules, and draft breeds. According to these articles that 20% should be a balanced weight that moves with the horse and not against it. One article that I read had research from a group in Cornwall, England that found that a load of 10-15% was ideal to satisfactory, which caused much panic. While an American group in the same article found horses that carried 25-30% of their body weight had more physical problems and showed significant strain along the spine and back muscles. I really do recommend that last article. It was an extremely interesting read.

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Me looking a little heavy but at least my leg doesn’t drop below the girth.

All that information really motivated me. I lost 30lbs after speaking to a couple nutritionists and using the meal plan found here* (because I’m lazy about meal planning). I had successfully kept the weight off for several months using the app My Fitness Pal. I say ‘had’ because I was recently put on prednisone and gain 10lbs almost overnight. Prior to the steroid weight gain I was hovering consistently between 205lbs and 211lbs depending on my water intake. Being able to stay consistent is important for long term weight loss. Not losing the weight too fast is also really important to long term weight loss.

However, even 30lbs lighter isn’t light enough for Aria. While I may look okay on her (personally, I think I look heavy, even if I don’t look ‘omg-get-off-that-horse heavy’) studies show that she’s taking a lot of strain. Because of this, my goal for the next few months—which is also totally motivated by the fact that I suddenly gained 10lbs—is to lose 40lbs. It’s a big goal. I fully expect it to take all year, but hopefully before Thanksgiving because I love me some stuffing.

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Trainer P looking a little tall.

I know weight and rider-to-horse ratios can be a sensitive topic. It does and doesn’t bother me to be open about my weight. I’m proud that I weigh less than I did but I can’t help but wonder if some people know how much I weigh and are too polite to ever say anything about my size when they see Aria and I together. Being overweight comes with enough self-inflicted insecurities without worrying about what others think but sometimes it can’t be helped and that internal monologue has to play out. However, if I thought my weight goal wasn’t achievable I wouldn’t have purchased Aria. I know it won’t be easy to lose the weight and it will never be a linear process, much like riding, but I once heard someone say: losing weight is hard but being overweight is hard too. Pick your hard.

That really resonated with me. Today my hard will be weight loss.

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Trainer R some how looking just right.

And I just want to mention before I wrap up this post. If it wasn’t for Aria, I would be okay with my body. I actually do feel very comfortable when I look in the mirror, excluding the past two weeks were the 10lbs gained was very noticeable. My only concern when it comes to my size is if my blood work comes back saying I’m unhealthy or within margins to become unhealthy. But I love my silly mare with her helicopter ears and that means I’m willing to make changes for her, as I except most of us would.

What do you guys think? Do you agree with the recommended max weight a horse should carry? Would you ever speak up if you thought a rider was too heavy? Do you think there is a way to approach the subject or is it too taboo?

* I am not recommending anyone follow the meal plan I linked without consulting a doctor first.

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12 thoughts on “Willpower Over Horsepower

  1. I have zero willpower. I think the human weight to horse weight ratio depends on the horse. Full grown adult men ride Icelandic horses (which are just ponies, but they get outraged if you call them that). I think horses with thin bones and weaker muscular structure need lighter riders. Fwiw, I think you look fine an Aria.

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    • Yeah. I lessoned on a few fjords when I first started with my trainer. They do just fine. One of the articles mentions thickness of legs and length of loins play a big part too!
      Aria has some skinny legs, so I get worried. Haha.
      And thanks for saying we look fine together. It’s nice to know its not a singular opinion.

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  2. Wow, “losing weight is hard but being overweight is hard too. Pick your hard”. This resonated so much with me.

    My family personally has had a lot of problems with weight related health issues. Both of my mom’s parents recently passed away after 5+ years of hospital visits from things that were either caused by being extremely overweight/unhealthy or were not helped by it. So my view on health is influenced by that.

    But everyone’s body is personal. Overweight isn’t the problem. Overall health is. In fact, our bodies like being overweight due to preparing for famine times.

    I think what the horse can or cannot carry depends on the horse and what activities you are doing. Also on the horse’s fitness. I applaud you for doing research and deciding what is best for you and your horse. And for being bold enough to share with everyone so we all can benefit from your research.

    PS. You and Aria are a cute pair. It will be awesome to see how you guys grow together.

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    • Thank you for sharing your family’s struggle with weight and their health. Health and weight don’t always go hand in hand (lots of ‘skinny fat’ people out there too) but when I struggle to do something because of my weight, it becomes very real that extra weight makes life hard.
      Sometimes I have to decide what I mean when I say ‘healthy’. Am I only concerned about my blood tests or do I care about my knees and asthma too? Lately my mobility and breathing have been compromised. Which means I need to change something about my day-to-day in order to get positive results.
      It wasn’t easy to hit ‘Publish’ and put my numbers up for everyone to see but I think it will help with some accountability. Plus I feel like health regarding weight needs to be a more discussed topic. I think in some cases staying silent is more unkind than expressing concern that comes from a place of love.
      Thanks for saying Aria and I are a cute pair. I really can’t wait to see where we are a year from now.

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  3. It is a sensitive topic. When I was getting ready to back Steele I realized I needed to lose weight. I lost about 30 pounds and it really made a difference in my riding ability. I may go up and down a few pounds but so far have managed to keep it off. I’m not sure if I would have been as motivated without horses (I HATE being hungry.)

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    • Congratulations! 30lbs is a big accomplishment. And an even bigger one is that you’ve kept it off.
      The meal plan I linked is quite a bit of food for me. Especially if I add in ‘3 colors’ of fruits or vegetables to the meal (ex: carrots, grape tomatoes, orange). It bumps me over 1200 calories a day which I need for riding and gives me a net calorie of 0 in most cases.
      Going up a down is normal if you monitor it from time to time so 5lbs doesn’t turn into 10lbs! I weigh daily because I have micromanagement issues. lol. I don’t recommend it.
      And, I also despise being hungry. Maybe horses taught me that. They’re always acting like they are starving!

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  4. I need to lose some weight too…not riding all winter and being broke= weight gain. Healthy living costs $$ unfortunately. I don’t think you look too big on Aria. I worry about that about myself as well, especially with Copper’s lameness issues.

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    • Healthy living can be expensive but I look for sales and coupons and try to eat what is in season to keep costs down. I totally get that it’s an obstacle for many though.
      Lameness is a big issue for me too. I would hate for Aria to be laid up because I’m causing too much stress on her feet or legs. Copper will let you know, and if not your vet would. 🙂

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