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New Horsemen & Big Horse Breeds: A Bad Combination? – Part 2

By Jeffrey Rolo

If you haven't already read the first part of New Horsemen & Big Horse Breeds, I would recommend doing so first before reading the conclusion here.

I spent the entirety of the previous page explaining the mindset of a horse in relation to size, and provided an example where a smaller horse breed would actually be more difficult to manage than a huge draft horse. Now I'm about to play devil's advocate and turn everything I said before on its head… sorta.

Previously I explained that in a logical sense, a horse's size doesn't matter. The problem is we aren't always guided solely by logic, and as such we often need to work around personal "quirks" that may influence our personal perceptions.

If you are somewhat apprehensive about delving into horses, and that apprehension increases with the size of the horse, then quite honestly you probably should stick with a more compact breed that is also known to be gentle, such as a Quarter Horse. I can tell you all day long that a horse's size doesn't matter, and that breed attributes should be the primary quality for your consideration… but the bottom line is you should follow your gut instinct in order to be the most comfortable during your learning process with horses.

So if size doesn't intimidate you, it's all good, right? Yep… almost!

Although I wouldn't say it's more difficult to train a draft horse than it would be to train a standard horse breed, I will acknowledge that there can be some physical considerations… and no, I don't mean strength.

Mounting a draft horse is obviously more difficult, so if you're not limber, not tall, or are adverse to using a stool to give yourself a boost, you might wish to avoid a draft horse purely as a matter of convenience.

A new rider that falls off a draft horse while riding will have a larger distance to travel on their way down than a smaller breed, too. Falling from a horse is almost a skill in itself, in that a sloppy fall from even a short horse can cause serious injury, whereas a proper fall from a draft horse would minimize any chance of injury beyond losing one's breath for a moment on the landing. The likelihood of falling doesn't increase with size, and the distance may not really matter if you're simply unlucky during the landing… but when getting dismounted, every inch counts and thus a smaller breed might be more forgiving during such an accident.

On a similar note, although handling a draft horse is no different than handling any other horse (and thus not any more difficult), it does require an amateur be more aware of his surroundings and movements. If a Morgan Horse (neither small nor large – an average-sized breed) accidentally steps on your foot, it's going to hurt, but there's a good chance you'll avoid a serious injury. If a huge draft horse accidentally steps on your foot… well, it's going to hurt more! Their hooves are bigger, and they have a lot more weight behind them.

So although our way of handling a horse wouldn't change with a horse's size, there is a little bit more wiggle room for error within the smaller breeds. I wouldn't say they're easier, exactly, but perhaps a little more forgiving when a mistake is made.

Now while I believe everything I stated above to be true, I also want to stress that I'm intentionally trying to play the devil's advocate. In reality, unless you have a psychological fear of larger breeds, I would advise you to dismiss the size consideration almost entirely and instead judge the horse by its breed attributes as well as its individual personality and demeanor.

If you fall in love with a Clydesdale or a Belgian, don't let anyone tell you that you shouldn't pursue owning one due to inexperience or the erroneous perception of increased difficulty. You may need to be a little bit more careful around such a large horse, but the reality is if you're using proper horsemanship around your horse, your actions and routines won't deviate much, if at all, regardless of the horse's size.

It's all in the mind. This is true for horses, and it's particularly true for you. Your comfort factor, desire, and passion for a horse will far outweigh any minor size challenges that enter into play. If you feel there's a bond, then that bond is all that will matter in the end (assuming you practice proper horsemanship and your horse isn't a rare hard case).

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