The weight debate

The image that I chose to talk about is one that challenges one of the popular stereotypes of the jumping sport. At first, one would see a person riding a horse. The horse appears to be jumping over a hedge. The person is wearing a hat and matching outfit with a riding crop; behind them is a cloudy sky. Looking more descriptively into this picture, the person could be described as overweight, due to their larger body type and rolls of skin depicted on their face. The horse could also be described as overweight as well because of its larger physique and rolls of extra skin all over its body. When one thinks of a horse, usually it is of a tall, lean, muscular animal.


Jumping is seen and known as a high class sport; everyone is to act and dress a certain way to be respected. Due to this, anyone who is not “dressed the part” or looks different is looked down upon, espcially when you get more into the bigger shows. One big aspect of this involves weight. This is not only due to the way that one is expeced to look in competitions, but this is also a controverial topic among the riding world when it come to the weight ratio between a rider and a horse. Is it really wrong to believe that a rider should look as trim as the horse? While some believe that horses do all the work in this sport, those who ride know that is not true. The rider needs to be just as fit and trained, if not more so, than the horse in order to prevent any falls or accidents to either the horse or the rider.

Some riders will tell you that the weight ratio between horse and rider needs to be at about 10% of the horses weight. Others may tell you that it depends on the experience of the rider and the build of the horse. Similar to the idea of a social construction. The “people” have expected this and it has since become the norm. But either way, weight has always been a talked about topic within the riding world. As harsh as it sounds, a bigger or overweight rider does not look as fluid and professional as one who is more trim.This may all come down to personal opinion, but even when researching a for a picture of a jumper who was “overweight” gave me nothing but this photoshopped picture. It is just not common. Just as in running or swimming there is a prefered body type, there is one in the jumping world as well. A shorter, thin, and lean physique is favored than any other type. This is not only for looks, but the lighter the rider is, the more the horse is able to do. This idea is similar to the idea of the “body as a machine”. One’s body needs to be fit and trained in order to move when and how it needs to when jumping with the horse. Someone who is not in shape would not be able to properly participate in this sport. This picture plays with the ideas that those in the riding community have about the way a horse and rider should look.

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3 Responses to The weight debate

  1. riderofchaos says:

    I consider myself to be “round” shaped and I ride ponies. Although I do not jump very often, and not competitively I do ride nearly everyday on one of my two ponies (13.1h and 13.2h). I am often met with people who are shocked an adult would ride a pony (before I gained my round shape) and even more so that a round adult would ride ponies. But historically many pony breeds were used by adults and in heavy work. Anyway, just thought I would chime in as a large lady riding a pony!

    • infinitelyash says:

      I know many people don’t realize that ponies can handle more some standard large horses. They do pretty well! Thanks for your input!

  2. Sarah McCullough says:

    I’d enjoy hearing you say a bit more about how these weight expectations relate to the social constrution of norms. You touch on this, but a more full explanation using the image would really fill out the argument (no pun intended). This could help to explain the point you make about how a trim rider looks more “right” than a heavier one. Social norms are part of what makes the aesthetics of a sport. Some things come to look and “feel” more right than others based on socially constructed expectations.

    Remind me to share some of the work on companion species by Donna Haraway with you. I think this will be a better connection than the body as machine idea.

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