New study on rider weight

The ever-sensitive issue of rider weight has been further complicated by another new study’s findings. Danish researchers have found horses can comfortably carry an additional 25 percent of their regular rider’s weight.

According to HorseTalk.NZ, a European research team based in Aarhus University in Denmark studied 20 horse and rider combinations over the course of a low intensity, dressage test, reporting no adverse effects in the horses.

The horses were asked to complete the test with their regular riders, before doing it again carrying an additional 15 to 23 percent of their regular rider’s weight.

The four-day study saw horses work initially without riders on the lunge-line, to collate control data. They were then asked to complete a five-minute dressage test with their normal riders, before performing it again with an additional 15 to 25 percent of rider weight added via weight belts.

The study saw researchers monitor the levels of cortisol in equine saliva, heart rate and its variability plus behaviour and symmetry of gaits, during the weight increases.

The stress hormone, Cortisol did increase with exercise in all activities, however the researchers noted, “cortisol levels increased in response to exercise, but we found no effect of the weight treatment…behavior, heart rate and gait symmetry also did not differ between treatments.”

“We conclude that increasing the weight of the regular rider by 15% and 25% did not result in significant short-term alterations in the measured parameters.”

The researchers did highlight that this was only a four-day trial, and that the long term effects of increased rider weight have yet to be studied, saying, “additionally, there may be long-term effects of an increased weight load, and further studies are required to study long-term effects on horse health and performance.”

Are you too heavy for your horse? Find out here, with this handy rider weight calculator: