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.
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.
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.
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.