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Discussion on Horse Height & Rider Height

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Username: Chip

Post Number: 44
Registered: 11-2000
Posted on Monday, Nov 14, 2005 - 5:29 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post


A 14 yr old , 5' 2" tall rider has helped to train 14-hand pony and has fallen dreadfully in love with it and wants to buy the pony. The non-riding parent of the 14-yr old is getting A LOT of pressure from the 14-yr old and the Trainer to make a purchase. Currently the rider is leasing the pony.

Do you think this rider might be a little tall for this horse/pony? The job of the pony would be in the hunter world (of which I have no experience so that's why I'm asking for advice).

Personally, when I look at a photo of the pair I think the pony is a bit small for the rider. The pony seems easily able to carry the rider, but the rider's feet, if dropped from the stirrups, would hang below the belly of the pony. Is that a significant size mismatch? How about just general impressions in hunter competitions - is that an important issue at local competitions?
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Suzanne Reed
Username: Sr26953

Post Number: 26
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Monday, Nov 14, 2005 - 11:06 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post


I can't tell where you live, but here in CA, this is what I learned when I started riding with an intent to show Hunters after 20-years of being out of the horse business - size and fit are important. It is not uncommon to see a pony with an outsized rider in the show ring, because rider's do outgrow their ponies but continue to show them until they get their next horse. However, it is a disadvantage. Hunters are very much about aesthetics. If the horse and rider don't "fit", it is a detriment to even the best round.

I am 5'10", bought a 3 yo 16 Hand TB (because that was considered big 20 years ago) and was told by my trainer once I had her under saddle that the horse is too small for me. Now that she is coming 5, she is 16.1 1/2, but she is "refined" (and I am slender too), so she is considered marginal. The ideal rider for her (where their feet would not fall below the belly line) is apparently 5'6".

So, your rider is probably too big now and the problem would only get worse as she grows. It is sad as I love my mare too, but as your rider is starting out in competition, she should probably be looking at a horse closer to 15.2 or even 16H if she is bold enough for a larger horse.

You are an honest seller to want the best for the pony and rider. You need to tell her that it is best for the pony too, if it goes with a rider that can show it to its best advantage. I would also emphasize the safety issue to the parent. An oversized rider is much more likely to catapult head first over a too-small pony if it ever stops at a fence.

Hope that helps,

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Username: Chip

Post Number: 45
Registered: 11-2000
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 15, 2005 - 8:40 am:   Edit PostPrint Post


Thanks for your helpful advice, it certainly makes sense to me.

Just for clarification - I'm actually a relative (not the parent though) of the 14 yr old and I'm posting here out of concern for the rider (ie I'm not the seller of the pony). I ride, but I'm totally unfamiliar with the hunter world.

I have a great deal of affection for my horse so I can understand how this child is very, very attached to the pony after having brought it along. Also, the trainer (who owns the pony now) is very "pro" on the pair.

I think the competition (winning) issue isn't that big a deal for this rider who just loves to ride and work at the barn. You mentioned a safety concern when a rider is too tall for the horse. I guess it makes you a little top-heavy - especially if a horse refuses a fence. Right? That, to me, IS a big issue. Also, as you mention she may grow another inch or two and things will only get worse - and that's a very good point.

I came to riding as an adult ... so all of these teenage issues are new to me (suitability/size, what will happen in a few short years when the child is off to college -- how will the rider ever part with the horse then?).

Thanks for your help. If anyone else has input based on their experiences I'd be happy to hear from you.


PS I know if would be helpful for others who want to comment, but I've decided not to post a photo of the pair in consideration of the child's privacy.
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Holly Wood
Username: Hwood

Post Number: 833
Registered: 3-2001
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 15, 2005 - 9:42 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

There are many tall, lanky cowboys who prefer a 14.2h horse over a 16h horse for the ease in getting on and off, when they are roping and doctoring cattle all day.
I understand that judges and many trainers in hunter/jumper competitions are often very focused on "the look."
I guess it comes down to the girl and what her main interests are and if winning competitions is more important than the relationship she has with the pony. Five foot two inches isn't very tall, and I'm not sure that a 14-year old girl will grow much taller . . .
The build of the pony, (fine or stocky) may determine the scope of training and length of time the pony will be able to compete over fences/jumps. Is the trainer willing to entertain other types of riding besides just hunter/jumper? I know for many of us, if we have a solid bond with an animal, then that bond is what we cherish most, and we will adjust our activities with that animal to accommodate the animal's well-being.
I once worked for a hunter/jumper trainer who only wanted riders and horses who could compete on the A-circuit . . . if the rider was out-growing the horse, she actually told them, "Either get a different horse or find a different trainer." One teen girl did exactly that. She had a wonderful pony named Sonny, and didn't want any other horse than him . . . She loved competing, but loved Sonny more, and she and her parents and her pony moved to a different barn where they could work together and with a different trainer and compete on a less stressful level (there was an option for doing a lot of dressage work there in addition to hunt training) . . . and Sonny stayed with his young owner until she was ready to move on and decided to buy a larger horse and lease Sonny, a seasoned school pony by then, to another young rider at her barn.
The "magical" bond between a person and a horse is something that changes us and is something we remember for the rest of our lives. It doesn't happen with every horse/human combination. What is the healthiest thing (emotionally and physically) for both the girl and the pony?
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Debbie Green
Username: Green007

Post Number: 162
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 15, 2005 - 10:16 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Holly said exactly what I was thinking in my head. Thats the answer!
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Username: Terrilyn

Post Number: 304
Registered: 8-2002
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 15, 2005 - 11:01 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Holly, your answer was beautifully written. Your perspective is always spot on!! Incidentally, I'm taking my 5'10" self to look at a 14.2-3H Paint gelding this Saturday. :-)
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Holly Wood
Username: Hwood

Post Number: 834
Registered: 3-2001
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 15, 2005 - 11:20 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

LOL . . . Go for it, Terri!
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Username: Oscarvv

Post Number: 703
Registered: 10-1999
Posted on Tuesday, Nov 15, 2005 - 7:05 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

My concern is that her feet are already below the belly and she is only 14 (still growing). Hunters are judged on suitability (among other things). So she may very well be penalized for looking big on the pony. It depends on the judge and level of competition.
What a tough situation.
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Username: Jeng

Post Number: 22
Registered: 7-2005
Posted on Wednesday, Nov 16, 2005 - 9:21 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I've fallen off 4 times in the last four years (not bad - touch wood). But each of those times has been off a pony being schooled (usually naughty ones). There is absolutely nothing in front of you or to stop you! (and oh the embarrassment to boot).

Difference is though is that I'm 5'9, 5'2 would be no problem at all.

Does she really want to do hunter classes?..or is that really the trainers speciality.

Over here all pony riders ride til' their 16, some of the boys in particular v.tall; yet they win away on their ponies in jumping, eventing etc.etc.
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Christine C. Mills in NC
Username: Chrism

Post Number: 1119
Registered: 4-1999
Posted on Wednesday, Nov 16, 2005 - 10:17 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I think this is one of those purchases people need to go into with their eyes wide open and with very realistic expectations.

It is a trade off of a good match for fun and learning vs. a good match for competitive results. If the 14 yo. is content with not being as consistently competitive in the hunter ring, that is okay. She also needs to understand that she may indeed outgrow the pony based on skills, desires, her increased height/weight, etc. and be faced with harder decisions, later.

A lease arrangement is very good for young riders as 1) it allows them to outgrow the horse (both via skills and size) and move up, 2) it is minimal financial risk to parents, 3) allows greater flexibility in the future as rider's interests/styles blossom. The downsides to leasing are 1) owner unexpectedly terminates the lease, 2) rider becomes attached to someone else's horse and they make decisions re care, boarding, riding schedule, etc.

Note that when developing riding skills, there is a great benefit to riding lots of different horses as each one feels different, has different issues/training, etc. A well rounded rider can sit astride many horses and work well with them. Both leasing and owning tend to head this training element off.

One lesson here is that horses are not poodles - you can collect dogs much easier and with much less financial impact. So, if this pony is "the one" it will be the one for some time.

Another lesson is that the rider/horse bond can be very strong.

I have a tendancy to look at equestrian competitions with a jaundiced eye - so many are "subjective" and reflect each judge's personal bias, no matter how hard they try to be objective. It can be conflicting for a child to seldom place in this type of sport because the "look" isn't there while riding her best friend.

As far as size, it is not just the height of the horse/pony, but how its barrel takes up the rider's leg and the conformation of the rider. I have shown a 15 hd wide barreled TBX in dressage - not a classic look, but she was quite the mover and when we had our act together, we could win against more traditional dressage pairs, professionals, etc. I think this is because dressage tries to have a standard, each movement is scored w/optional comments, and the judges go through extensive training. But, still, there is some element of subjectivity that can create a sense of bias at times. My goal for showing was to get the horse out and get feedback on how the judges thought we were doing - as well as try to qualify for finals and performance awards. A ribbon was icing on the cake. Since then, my sense is that all the horses in the dressage rings seem to be increasingly higher quality today, the bar is higher and it might be harder to do well with the non-standard mount.

That said, my 15 hd. well sprung horse has been my heart horse for 18 of her 22 years - and I am 5'9" with a 33" inseam. I have also found it much easier to start and ride my young horse, who is 16 hds and has a warmblood temperament.

One person's perspectives. YMMV.
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