The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Horses latest to be super sized


Sharna Johnson

CMI Columnist

So you want to be a cowboy.

More specifically, maybe you just want to hop in the saddle and lope off across the open range or pick your way up a craggy hill to look across the wide expanse at sunset from the back of a trusty steed … and yes, wear the hat.

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But you’re not thin as a rail, or slender as a reed and even if you could pull it off, you fear “hopping” in the saddle would be a quick route to an animal cruelty charge.

Worse yet is the fear that the horse will groan and slowly fold to the ground, one buckling knee at a time until it turns its neck to look painfully at its back before letting out a long, final snorty sigh.

While a horse probably wouldn’t immediately buckle and collapse under the weight of a heavy rider, an improper pairing of proportions could certainly spell problems for the animal – none good and some emerging over the long term while others, such as muscle fatigue and soreness might show more quickly.

Insensitive though it may seem, it’s true; everything has its limits – elevators, bridges, roller coasters and, yes, even horses – can only hold so much.

The generally accepted guidance in the US – harkening back to the cavalry days -- is for riders to weigh 20 percent or less of a horse’s body weight.

Putting that in perspective, it would be the equivalent of 150 pound adult carrying a 2-year-old child on their back – not so bad unless they are made to do so while jogging, running, possibly leaping over hurdles, chasing cows and picking their way up a mountain for lengthy periods of time in a variety of weather conditions.

By comparison, in the neighborhood of 1,000-plus pounds, an average sized riding horse should be able to carry 200 to 250-so pounds, which covers a vast majority of people.

However, weighing more doesn’t necessarily mean a person can’t wear the hat and watch the sunset from the back of a horse – it just has to be the right horse.

And luckily, such animals do exist.

Watching the size of their customers grow as Americans get bigger on the whole and having to turn them away for the sake of their horses, some dude ranches and riding stables in the western states have adjusted to better fit their clients by adding gentle giants to their stables.

Weighing in sometimes as high as a ton, draft horses – Belgians, Percherons and the like — can carry nearly double the weight of their lighter counterparts and on top of all that, the bigger horses are known for their sweet dispositions and easy going personalities.

With waning popularity tied to their expense and bigger appetites – 2,000 pounds doesn’t happen on a diet, so yeah, they eat a lot, and naturally all their gear has to be supersized -- America’s growing girths might just pay off for the big guys as they find renewed purpose.

But in the process of filling a niche market, they also mean bigger riders don’t have to be turned away and get to experience the West along with its wide open skies and unrivaled sunsets the only way that counts – from the back of a horse.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: [email protected] or on the web at:


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