The other day I had to have a serious conversation with a client of mine about her weight!
The conversation came about because she had sent me a video of a horse she was thinking of buying and had asked for my opinion about the horse. Having looked at the video of a very rangy four-year-old Warmblood, I realised I had to be brutally honest with my client. I told her that right now the horse was far too weak for her and would not be able to support her weight for another 18 months – and possibly longer, depending on the horse’s growth rate and the client’s ability to lose weight.
These days there are people who will come to your yard and let you know if your *horse* is overweight… but they will not tell you if the *rider* is too heavy for the horse. They have weight tapes and can tell you if your horse is on the way the being laminitic. But they will not assess the rider in the same way.
It does not take a genius to work out that the size of the horse dictates the maximum size of the rider. Except in Thelwell, we do not want to see tiny ponies burdened with massive riders! So here is a simple guide: the total load carried (rider plus tack) should not exceed 10% of the horse’s body weight.
If the rider is too heavy, telling them can be tricky. On this occasion the vet had said that the horse may have been overladen… but did not specifically point to the rider’s weight issue (at least not judging by the rider’s reaction when I mentioned it). I always adopt a holistic view: I look at all the factors that may be affecting a horse’s well-being and identify the key ones that can be addressed in order to deliver an improvement. In this case the rider’s weight was clearly a major consideration, so I HAD to speak up about it. Of course I tried to be diplomatic but that is not really my strong suit – complete clarity is essential when talking to owners about their horse’s health and treatment and I tend to be quite, er, *direct*.
So the conversation was rather awkward for both sides! I may even lose this client now – there are some things that people just don’t want to hear; and it’s easy to ignore someone if you no longer employ them. I’ll promote the welfare of the horse over the ego of the rider any day though! And in such a clear-cut case as this, it would be difficult for me to treat the horse when there was a fundamental problem that would never be addressed (or even acknowledged). If she *does* take my advice though, and not ride the new horse until it is ready (or even buy a bigger horse!), I know that she will have a longer, healthier, happier relationship with her horse.