Study: Increased Rider Weight Doesn’t Significantly Impact Horses

While adding up to 25% more rider weight didn’t negatively affect the horses in this study, researchers cautioned that it could in the long run.

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Study: Increased Rider Weight Doesn
While results suggest adding up to 25% rider weight doesn’t seem to negatively affect horses, researchers said that might not be true over the long-term. | Photo: iStock
Oh, holiday sweets—so hard to resist! But if you’re feeling guilty about indulging in fudge and fruit cake, rest easy in knowing your seasonal snacking hasn’t put your horse’s welfare at risk. According to a Danish study, a few extra pounds aren’t going to cause your horse additional stress—at least not temporarily.

“Adding up to a fourth of the rider’s body weight doesn’t seem to cause significant changes in horses’ behavior, cardiac activity, or gait symmetry in the short term,” said Janne Winther Christensen, PhD, of Aarhus University, in Tjele, Denmark.

“This is contrary to what we expected,” she explained during her presentation at the 15th annual International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) conference, held Aug. 19-21 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. “However, it remains to be seen what happens with increased weight over the long term, as well as at higher exercise intensities.”

In their study, Christensen and her fellow researchers observed 20 horses longed and ridden by their usual riders in a basic dressage test in three gaits. They equipped the riders with metal weight bars fitted into a vest strapped onto the riders’ torso to increase their personal body weight by 15% and 25%. The scientists recorded the horses’ behavioral and physiological parameters during longeing and ridden dressage tests, with and without the added weights

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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