Monday, October 3, 2011

A "small" rant

I can't contain myself. I surprisingly, haven't really ever ranted on my blog, but today I feel so compelled. It's an accumulation of reading many blogs and discovering a stereotype or perhaps a discrimination out there that runs rampant in the horse world.

Short horses.

WHY do people feel that there's this firm rule on what height of rider can be paired with a certain height of horse?!

I understand 2 legitimate concerns:
1) Horse carrying capacity. Horses can only carry a certain percentage of their body weight (est. 20%). Which really, has more to do with the horse's weight then height.

2) The rider's calves need to come in contact with the horse's side in order to provide proper cues (though not an absolute must, since paradressage riders have proved this point moot).

Really, the second point only really applies to the DEPTH of the horse's chest and abdomen, since long legs may add height but do not provide a surface for leg cues.

Likewise, a short legged horse with a deep girth, ridden by a tall rider, would STILL have sufficient area to apply the leg aids, and would not have the rider's legs dragging on the ground. I suppose not having your legs dragging on the ground is the third valid concern about a short horse...Really though, my experience is that unless you're 6 and a half feet tall on a legitimate pony (under 14.1hh), there's little chance your legs will be dragging.

Which means, 90% of the people out there are PERFECTLY capable of riding any horse over 14.1hh (and probably some shorter then that too).

So WHY does everyone believe that they can't?

I have read and heard, over and over "Oh, that horse is too small for me". "Rider too tall for horse", "Oh, I can only ride horses over 16hh". None of these statements are true.

I don't think, I've never heard anyone claim, I would be flabbergasted to hear, that my MoonSox is too small for me. I'm 5'9". He's 15.1hh, if that. I've happily ridden horses only 14.2hh, and my legs still fell at their abdomen.

Can I fit on a 17hh horse? For sure! My legs are long enough that I'm still making good contact. I also need a step ladder to get up there. He also thinks that 2' fences are cavalleti!

My point in this whole rant, is that the so called 'short' horses are being forgotten or passed over by people too stuck on looks or determined to meet some foolish societal 'rule' that states anyone over 5'4" must ride a horse over 15hh, anyone over 5'7" must ride a horse over 16hh, and anyone over 5'9" must be on a horse at least 17hh. Which makes me wonder what height of horse is required for those who stand over 6'? 18hh? Are we now just going to breed monster sized horses, because society deemed it so?

I can honestly say, perhaps I'm a little biased, as I do love the little horses. I love being able to leap on and off easily from the trail. I love never needing to ask for a leg-up. I love that I can mount my horse bareback in the middle of the pasture. WITHOUT standing on anything. I love that when I fall off it's a short way to the ground. I love that my horse can never keep his head out of my reach! Don't get me wrong, I love the tall guys too!

But yes, I'm biased. But I really, honestly wish people would give these guys a chance too. 15hh never used to be 'short' before all the giant warmbloods and draft crosses entered the world. Every horse, regardless of size, has something to offer its rider. Perhaps, rather then judging the horses by their height (within reason), their coloring or their breed (also within reason), we need to find the horse that's "right" for us. Because none of the rest of this stuff matters then.

And that's my rant. ; )


  1. Awesome! Gives me confidence for starting to ride Penny. I am almost 5'9, and she is 15.1 (ish). As someone who has always been "attracted" to tall horses, I was a bit hesitant at first, but I think she is the perfect size for me :)

    And, I must say, you look absolutely dashing on Moon! He is SO gorgeous.

  2. Well said!! I think people just like big horses. I am currently looking to buy an large/oversized pony and I am very excited about it. :)

  3. It's a matter of fashion, not reality - particularly in the dressage and hunter/jumper world. I'm almost 5'10", and I have 3 horses - one is about 16 hands (and he's primarily a trail horse so he's actually too big to easily get on and off from the ground), one (a TB) is 15.1 and my third is 14.3 and he's the one with the biggest barrel. I ride them all and my leg fits just fine. In the western world, you'll see plenty of small horses with substantial barrels.

  4. Great post, I 100% agree. Really, it's all in people's heads. They don't NEED a 17hh horse, they just WANT one, because that's the current fad. The bigger the better, they say.

    Not me though, Missy and Moon are about the same size--she's 15.2, and I find her big enough for me. I'm only 5'5", and while I'm extremely "leggy," I would not feel comfortable on a 16hh horse. Mostly, I just feel like the shorter my horse, the closer I am to the ground when the inevitable falling off happens:P

  5. Thanks for shedding some light on the subject! I own a Haflinger, she is 13.3. I do love the little horses, too! A lot of the more "serious" riders do not take my horse (not pony) seriously, but to me, she is amazing!

  6. I know Handsome is too tall for me. When I ride shorter horses, I feel more connected with the horse, give aids more clearly and can drive the horse up in front of my leg more easily. I'm 5'3" and I wouldn't get a 16hh horse again.

  7. Great post. I completely agree. I am 5'2" and happen to have a 16.3 ottb (Pie) a 16.2 ottb (Sovereign) and a 15 something ottb (Foggy) but my first two boys grew after they came to live with us. I would have been perfectly happy if they had remained smaller. I don't know if Foggy will grow now too, but either way, I am fine. My mare was a "large pony" at 14.2 and she was the very best horse ever. Good things come in small packages - yes!

  8. I prefer shorter horses. They are easier to get on!

  9. I'm 5'6" and Lilly is barely 15 hands... I think she's the perfect size for me. I do hear a lot of comments about horses being too small and have even had people say about Lilly, "if she was taller, she'd be the perfect horse!" She's the perfect horse already! :)