At 6'8" and about 255lbs, am I too big to ride horses?
September 11, 2017 7:49 PM   Subscribe

I rally hope that's not the case, because my wife and I think horseback riding would be a wonderful hobby for us. Draft horses really big, aren't they?
posted by BadgerDoctor to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total)
Nope: even Shaquille O'Neal has a horse that he rides! Generally a rule of thumb is that horses shouldn't carry more than 20-25% of their own body weight for sustained activity; but just as important is how they are built: sturdy horses with shorter backs and solid legs are a better bet for heavier riders. Some draft horses aren't actually the best for carrying riders (if they're bred for pulling not carrying), but there are many stockier breeds, and even some short, pony-sized horses, that could carry you if your feet don't drag on the ground!

If you're looking for lessons, you may have to call around to different stables to see who has a horse available for larger riders (and because of the heavy work that many lesson horses do, many commercial places have lower weight limits to offset this). But many commercial barns do have one or two horses for larger riders; generalizing, Western places are often more accepting of larger riders than English style barns.

Riding is a wonderful hobby. Good luck with your search and have fun!
posted by TwoStride at 8:00 PM on September 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

According to this, you just need to find a horse that weighs at least 1275 pounds. (If I did the math right, which I may not have).
posted by pinochiette at 8:00 PM on September 11, 2017


Thank you very much for your answer.

Do any specific breeds tend to have "shorter backs and solid legs?"
Likewise, what are some of the "stockier breeds" of horses?

posted by BadgerDoctor at 8:11 PM on September 11, 2017

Badger, are you looking to buy or just take lessons? What kind of riding do you want to do: mosey along on trails, get into jumping, etc? Another good option for heavy riders is to get into driving--horses can definitely pull more than they can carry!

Off the top of my head, a brief rundown of breeds: Haflingers and Icelandic horses are pony-sized (standing at less than 5' at the shoulder, so tricky for 6'8" legs, perhaps) but are known for carrying riders of 300lbs. Quarter horses--the western cowboy horse--tend to be stocky and sturdy (the, uh, impressive guts on the Olympic gold medal-winning American reining champions is a frequent point of discussion in the riding message boards I frequent). Breeds that we romanticize as being "knight's horses" (Friesans, Spanish breeds) are good at carrying larger weights as well, and increasingly the boom in "sport drafts" (I, a fat rider, am dreaming of getting an Irish Sporthorse/Irish draught, myself) are probably good bets as well. Draft-Thoroughbred mixes, especially Percheron-TB mixes, seem to be fairly popular and good over jumps--I've seen a few when daydreaming and perusing sales sites. But also, I had a stocky pure Thoroughbred ex-racehorse when I weighed around 210 and he galloped me over jumps at speed without a lame day in his life. So really, it often comes down to the individual horse and what you want to do. Contacting a professional horse trainer and being honest about your size and your ambitions will be really helpful for your search. If you're interested in mostly casual riding, at least to start, there's an entire sales category of "the boyfriend horse"--shorthand for, "safe and can carry a guy who's big and tall and not experienced." :D So call around and ask who has a boyfriend horse you can try.
posted by TwoStride at 8:26 PM on September 11, 2017 [12 favorites]

A draft horse or draft cross should absolutely have no problem. I ride warmbloods (a bit lighter type of horse, but not as light as a thoroughbred, Arabian, etc.) and my trainer, who is extraordinarily accomplished as a rider, is your height.
posted by karbonokapi at 8:51 PM on September 11, 2017

There's a very active Facebook group (nearly 10,000 members) called The English Plus Sized Rider (not just for English riders any more) and it's a great resource for finding stables local to you that have appropriate policies and horses. If you do Facebook, join the group and post a request for recommendations. Because that's really where you need to start if you're new to horses: working with an instructor at a local stable. Buying a horse isn't something you should worry about for quite a while, but if/when you get to that point there are certainly options available! (I weigh 240 but I'm only 5'5"--I currently ride a thoroughbred that's built more like a quarter horse and a Norwegian fjord that's like a large pony/small horse sized draft).
posted by drlith at 9:16 PM on September 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

If you're a beginner then you'll be taking lessons (or going on a guided trail ride) and they'll have weight carrying horses for beginners and will tell you up front what their weight cut off is. This will vary from barn to barn depending on what lesson horses they own. Don't be offended but do explain that you are tall and let them know how in shape or athletic you are. Good horse people are very protective of their lesson horses. 225 is definitely not too big to ride, there are professional western riders who weigh that easily, it's quite big to ~learn~ to ride as weight is more of a problem for beginning riders than skilled riders as beginners flop around. A lot. So from the horse's point of view, and the owners, a heavier person with good core strength and an even distribution of weight above and below the waist is preferable than a less heavy person with very little muscle who is top heavy.

Don't try to find a specific breed, just find a reputable place and go with what they recommend. It's doesn't matter when you're starting out at all. You do want to pick a style of riding which is probably western or english in most of the US. But a lot of it is transferable if you switch.
posted by fshgrl at 10:15 PM on September 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

My mother weighed more than 250 and rode a quarter horse. It was a sturdy mare, but not especially big.
posted by OrderOctopoda at 4:22 AM on September 12, 2017


My 6'9" 270+ husband rode a pony in Puerto Rico. The horse was fine although annoyed. The only drama with that horse was that it was on the shorter side (only 13 or 14 hands) and my husband's feet were in the way when the horse started moving fast. He also did a trail ride out in Colorado and the horse was a good sized Quarter horse, roughly 16 hands, and husband and horse did fine. I'd say you could easily ride any of the taller Quarter horses, Walking horses, or Saddle horses. Just be up front with your trainers about your height and size.
posted by teleri025 at 6:58 AM on September 12, 2017

Seconding TwoStrides's recommendation of quarter horses. They're unglamorous but sturdy and tireless.
posted by orrnyereg at 7:41 AM on September 12, 2017

You certainly could ride a medium-sized horse (let's say ~1200-1500lbs, 15-16 hands), but being 6'8" you may find your leg length works better with a larger horse (17 hands and up) as your feet won't be dangling so far below the typical level. The weight is really not an issue as long as you're not trying to ride a pony. Draft horses are the default example of "large breeds" but 17 hands is not particularly exotic and there are plenty of quarter horses and others that big.
posted by allegedly at 9:26 AM on September 12, 2017

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