Horse study 'load of rubbish', say vets

Heavy riders can cause health issues - study

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 11:55 01/04/2013
Elaine Rutherford
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

TEN PER CENT: Elaine Rutherford, co-owner of North Loburn Equine Centre, weighs 52 kilograms and her horse Grace, pictured, weighs 524kg.

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Christchurch vets have rubbished a British study that suggests riders weigh no more than 10 per cent of their horse, saying riders would need to be ''midgets''.

The study, published last month by the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, found that only one in 20 riders is light enough for their mount.

Anybody weighing more than 20 per cent of their horse's weight was considered to pose a welfare risk to the animal, the study said.

It claimed that carrying excessive weight could cause health issues including lameness, where horses struggle to walk, and behavioural problems such as bucking and general irritability.

Corin Murfitt, head vet of CG Murfitt Equine Vets, said if the 10 per cent ratio was true ''all riders would be midgets''.

''A lot of riders weigh about 70 to 80 kilograms,'' he said.

''A lot of huntsmen are particularly big guys.''

Murfitt had never treated a horse for issues caused by a rider's weight.

Steve Lucas, from Belfast Vets, had also never treated horses for problems caused by a heavy rider.

''If we look at your average horse it weights about 500 kilograms,'' he said.

''That means you should be 50kg. That is a load of rubbish.''

The only riders who might scrape in at the 10 per cent ratio were professional jockeys, who ''are perched up there like a cork on a bottle", he said.

Hamish Ranken, partner at Canterbury Equine Clinic, said he had never come across welfare issues caused by carrying heavy riders.

Ranken said a full-laden thoroughbred race horse would carry about 50kg to 60kg in a race.

However, horses themselves would weigh roughly 420kg to 480kg.

''That is over 10 per cent and look at the size of a jockey - they are ridiculously small,'' he said.

Sarah Blackburn, owner of Ravensteed Equestrian Centre in Belfast said a rider's ability and fitness level should be taken into account when choosing a mount.

''The rider's ability, the type of work the horse is asked to do and the duration will also affect how much weight it can comfortably carry,'' she said.

''An unfit, beginner rider who is lacking in balance will damage a horse much quicker and to a greater degree than an experienced rider with good balance.''

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- The Press

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