Do we have a double standard for assessing rider weight?

With the launch of Good Horse and our new weight calculators I thought it would be an opportunity to bring up a topic that comes up from time to time and can really upset a lot of people. And that, as you might have guessed, is the topic of rider weight.

If you aren’t familiar with the science behind rider weight limits, this article is a good starting point. However this isn’t what I want to discuss today. What I want to talk about in this blog post is the double standard some of us – perhaps inadvertently – apply to men and women when it comes to rider weight.

The truth is that a muscular man can weigh just as much as a larger woman. Take a look at this guy for instance:

Terry Crews on a horse. Terry is well known for his love of horses. He is also pictured on a horse at the top of this article on the set of the Today show.

How much do you think he weighs? Searching the internet for an estimate, I’ve found that he probably weighs around 111kg. Now of course Terry chooses to ride horses that can carry him comfortably. But I think it’s fair to say many of us would not feel that he is too heavy for most horses, despite the fact that, in reality, he is quite limited when it comes to suitable mounts – try putting in 111kg on our suitable horse size calculator.

A woman of a similar weight would be much more likely to face criticism. The trouble is that we don’t tend to judge the size of men the same way that we do women. Just because a man doesn’t look big, doesn’t mean he weighs any less!

I think that before we jump on women who look bigger we really need to check ourselves and ask whether we would make the same comment about a man of the same weight. If not, we have to wonder why that is. Either that weight doesn’t exceed the horse’s limits or we are unwittingly applying a double-standard that is based on little more than our knee-jerk reactions.

Additional note

No one wants to feel that they are too big for the horse they are riding. We all need to be honest with ourselves when it comes to this issue. Whether we are worrying about our own weight or assessing someone else, the ultimate concern should be for the horse’s welfare. But at the same time we can be nice about how we approach the topic! The reality is that we don’t normally have an accurate idea of other peoples’ weights and generally speaking a less antagonistic approach is going to get better end results for the horse!

If you are genuinely concerned about a horse’s welfare due to their rider’s weight – male or female – perhaps a good way to broach the subject is to gently help the rider access some impartial resources such as this calculator and the article mentioned above which discusses the science. This will give them what they need to assess their horse’s weight carrying ability and suitability themselves. Most horse owners want to do the right thing and will respond accordingly if they discover that they are not well-matched. 

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