This post, no matter how I try to shine it up, is going to come out a bit raw. It seems like every other day something pops up on social media, poking at this sore spot. After every ride, the question is there. The day after a ride, as I check Tarma, palpitate her back, ask her to lunge around a bit and show off her moves, the question is there.
I violate some folk’s precious 20% rule every time I put my foot in the stirrup. Tarma weighed 975 pounds at her yearly check up, and with tack and gear I’m around 260-270 pounds. That’s closer to 27%. According to the internet, I’m causing irreparable, long term harm to her by asking her to carry such a load. The stark fact is, I know I weigh more and have less fitness than at other parts of my life, and it does affect her. What I say next may sound like excuses to those die hards who say horses should never carry more than that hard number, but it works for Tarma and I so far.
Weight is not the only part of the equation for me. Fitness and strength building, both her and mine, well fitting tack, daily turnout in a huge pasture, dialed in feed, regular farrier work, regular vet checks and quarterly chiropractic/body work appointments are all part of keeping us heading down the trail. The only time she’s come up sore was after our longest ride last summer, which was almost 14 miles of all walking and I needed a narrower tree on the saddle. Some light adjustment and exercises after a month off and she was good to go.
Last weekend I had a friend take a video of us trotting by, mainly to show off my Artic Skirt. I also grabbed a few screenshots as below and compared her stride length and cadence at liberty versus with me, and even my own not super educated eye can’t tell much of a difference.
I’ve previously lost 65 pounds and run a half marathon and will again. My current lack of fitness and extra fluffiness is directly due to post baby weight, grief, and pandemic related stresses. That’s all understabdable and I’ve given myself the grace I need to handle it. I’m slowly putting back together the good habits I had to loose the weight for the surrogacy, and part of that was having an iron clad goal within reach. This time it’s a bit more diffuse, I want and need to be stronger and a bit lighter to have a solid season of adventures with Tarma, including the John Wayne ride and possibly our first endurance ride.
My friends and I discussed not riding during this period, or withholding it until we hit a certain goal weight. In consultation with our vets and farrier and trainer’s, we keep riding in well fitting tack and focus on that critical strength building. Riding is so good for our mental health, and we each have a lot of folks depending on us, including our horses.
I won’t know about long term harm or the lack thereof until she’s 25 and still sound, which is my goal. There’s a rabbit hole that you can fall down with weight limits for horses, which ends in PETA type thinking, which is that all animals are better off without us in their lives at all. I firmly reject this belief, humans and animals can coexist and have solid relationships that benefit both parties. There is a balance to be struck between their needs and our wants, and while it takes work and adjustments to find it, it’s our job as their caretakers to make the effort. It also looks different for each partnership, and shaming and guilt tripping rarely helps the animals or people involved. There’s plenty of things I did when I was younger and concepts I was taught that I’m still in the process of rejecting and unraveling…and some I keep and use to Tarma and Benny’s benefit today. I spend a bit more energy fretting and worrying and checking on Tarma’s mental and physical wellbeing than my own. At the end of the day, I’m comfortable with the pact I have with her, that she carries me on adventures safely and I do everything I can to ensure she’s prepared for those.