The Horse Physio - Delivering care with expertise since 1992

26.2.2022 Equestrian Australia introduces rider weight rules

I’m delighted to say that Equestrian Australia have introduced rules on rider weight. Although this will of course be controversial, in my opinion it is a much needed ruling to progress equine welfare. We all have our horses’ well being and quality of life at the forefront of our activities with them. Sometimes new evidence comes to light that means we need to change practices that we have considered ok. Sometimes we’ve wondered what’s best to do or what’s the right thing to do, but there’s no evidence to guide us. Research into rider weight and it’s effect on the horse is ongoing, but the evidence at the current time suggests that the weight of the rider plus their equipment should be a maximum of 20% of the weight of the horse. Some studies suggest that 15% would be a better figure. Australia have led the world in introducing rider weight rules where for dressage and eventing, the combined weight of rider and equipment must be less than 20% of the approximate weight of the horse (as measured by a weight tape). This is great news for the welfare of the horse.

The Equestrian Australia website states:

“Guide to Horse Capacity – Size of Athlete

Guide on Athlete Size to reinforce the commitment to best practice striving for optimal health, safety and welfare of the athlete-horse combination. The Athlete Size Guide provides education and clarity and highlight awareness of Equestrian Australia’s expectations to Athletes, Coaches, Owners, Parents, Judges, Officials and the Public on the aspect of a horse’s welfare and capacity to carry weight.

International Animal Welfare guides include advocacy for horse welfare on this issue, and providing this Guide will give our equestrian community a reasonably accurate measurement of the maximum burden for a horse to carry.

The guide will support coaches in conversations with their athletes about carrying capacity considerations, as they currently do, about choice of mount and all animal welfare aspects of horsemanship.

Nothing will change in the assessment of a horse and its athletic performance by any judge.

The guide tailors the capacity of the horse across the entire height range, to a standard accepted internationally, and ensures appropriate mounts for humans of every age and size.

To date, the Athlete Size Guide has been adopted by the disciplines of Dressage and Eventing, and is being considered by other disciplines across Australia, and internationally.”

The document on the guide to ‘Horse Capacity – Size of Athlete’ states:

“The maximum load that a horse is expected to carry should not exceed 20% of the horse’s approximate weight. That is, the athlete and equipment should not weigh more than 20% of the horse’s approximate weight.”

Thank you, Equestrian Australia, and all the researchers who have done studies which have led to this point.

© Sue Palmer, The Horse Physio, 2021

Treating your horse with care, connection, curiosity and compassion

February 26, 2022
Sue Palmer