Size matters when it comes to lots of things. I need a bigger this and a smaller that. Size comes into play when we make decisions all of the time. I need a bigger house when the family grows. The car turns into a minivan. Oh no, not a minivan! We’ve all been there. The truck gets duals and a diesel when the herd grows, too. The half ton just won’t cut it anymore. Size does matter, right?
An observation I’ve made is that when it comes to horses’ size matters, too. I find it a bit funny when it comes to size that horses and riders often don’t match up very well.
I see time after time the short person with a sixteen hand horse that they have a very difficult time mounting. They’re always looking for a mounting block, stump, or rock to step up on so they can get on their horse. The horse and rider should be a match. Big people ride big horses and small people ride small horses. If you are looking for a pleasant trail ride without worrying about being able to get off of your horse for a break or opening a gate then you should be mounted on a horse that is easy up and easy off.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that there is no good reason anyone should make trail riding a job. There are lots of smaller and shorter horses available for the people that are, let’s just say it, short. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s just a fact of life, we can’t all be six foot tall or taller. I know that for a fact and I’m ok with that.
I know lots of women that think they need a big horse so they look smaller in the saddle and that’s fine. They just don’t need that horse to be so tall that they can’t get up in the saddle. I also know lots of folks that have had knees and/or hips replaced and have challenges getting into the saddle. That’s another reason riders should be matched to their horse and have an easy on, easy off mount. The idea that a fourteen hand eight hundred pound horse is too small to carry the average size person on a trail is just not true. I’ve watched lots of horses that fit that description perform very well. They come in all breeds and colors so you don’t have to limit yourself.
The Spanish Barbs I talked about in a past article are one of the breeds that are just the kind of horses I’m talking about. There are lots of Quarter Horses, Paso’s, Fox Trotters and many more that can fill the bill.
Rio, a great little Paso Fino, and Bill, my Spanish Barb are just two awesome examples of how “LITTLE” horses can do the job and handle the average size person on any terrain you wish to ride. There is no trail too long or too tough for these guys. Another good example is my mule Sally. She is fourteen two and weighs nine hundred pounds. There is
no place on earth she can’t go with ease while carrying a load most thirteen hundred pound horses would carry.
I’m sure there are several folks that have decided to stop riding because it was just too difficult to mount up because they hurt or have lost some strength. Age has a way of working on us and some things have to be accepted. There are also things we can do to help ourselves manage those challenges and find a way to keep doing what we love.
Match your horse to your needs by having him be the right size. If you are having back and hip issues then a gaited breed might be an answer. One of the smaller breeds of horses or mules might help, too. Several of the breeds I mentioned above are built a bit slimmer through the girth and therefore are narrower and don’t spread your hips and knees out as much. These are little things but they can be big things if you want to be comfortable on the trail.
Easy on, easy off should be just that. If you can easily place your foot in the stirrup and easily pull yourself up into the saddle then you are matched well with your horse’s size. If you can easily step down from your horse without feeling like you need a moment to feel your legs then you’re matched up well with your horse’s size. If you can’t get your foot up in the stirrup, grab mane, and grab your saddle in an easy motion then you aren’t matched up very well.
These things are important for you and your horse. There are safety issues to think about when you mount up. If you’re struggling to get your foot in the stirrup and have a hard time reaching the saddle or your horse’s mane to mount up, chances are you could get hurt. It only takes one time for your horse to move off without you to cause serious injury. Also, if you are struggling to mount up you’re probably not positioned correctly next to your horse and when you do get your foot in the stirrup and get hold of your saddle you are pulling your horse over and putting a lot of sideways pressure on him. This is uncomfortable for your horse and can be the reason he doesn’t want to stand like you wish he would.
Easy up, easy off has lots of advantages. It’s easier on your horse. It’s easier on you. It’s safer for you. And it’s more fun for everyone. If you’re matched up with the right size horse it’s all good.
Size matters. It always has and it always will. The sooner we all figure out the size we need, I’m talking horses here, the sooner we will all be happy comfortable trail riders. “IT’LL BE FINE” when we are matched up with our horses and figure out that SIZE MATTERS.
Doug and Jody Lindgren own and operate Hay Creek Ranch, Nemo, SD and HCR-A Z, Oracle, A Z. Both camps focus on guests vacationing with their own horses. Doug rides year around, training horses to be great trail horses.
Visit www.haycreekranch.net for more information about both locations.