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RE: [RC] [Consider This] How Much Weight Can Your Horse SafelyCarry? - heidi

The thought struck me in reading this that once again too much is being read into an inaccurate extrapolation from one species to another.
First, consider this:  The 10% and 15% recommendations are made for children--immature people.  We would not consider putting the sorts of weights on the backs of our yearlings and 2-year-olds that we easily put on mature horses, and as adults, we can safely carry weights that might be damaging to the immature spines of youth.  Due to the age issue alone, these percentages have no bearing on how we load mature horses.
Second, consider the differences between species.  The equine spine is constructed with an upward arch (look at the vertebral column itself, not the profile of the horse's back) which enables it to bear weight fairly efficiently.  (Think of the slight upward arch of the bed of a flatbed semi truck, or of a bridge, or of an arched rafter.)  In the human, a backpack causes downward compression forces that are not very efficiently offset by the mechanical construction of the spine. 
Third, and related to #2 above, the horse is a quadruped and the human is a biped.  Coupled with the spinal construction, the horse's means of locomotion is more efficient for carrying weight over distance.  The human is very unspecialized for this kind of work--the human's great specialty is the brain, which equips the human to figure out other ways to get things done.
Fourth, Marsh brings up an excellent point about conditioning!!!
I think the work being done by various agencies regarding the safety of heavy backpacks in kids is excellent--but be careful in carrying over specific numbers to the equine world, because there are a lot of variables that make the horse far more able to carry weight safely and well that kids simply don't possess.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [RC] [Consider This] How Much Weight Can Your Horse Safely
From: marshall Bates <muleman60@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Sat, November 15, 2008 8:16 am
To: considerThis@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Merri <mer@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

Consider this: Most of us have spent goodly amounts of time and money so that we have decent fitting saddles to properly carry the loads we expect our mounts to carry. How may people insist that their children have well fitting backpacks and that they are properly carried? Ask any experienced back packer or ex military person about the importance of that.
In Lorraine Travis's book "The Mule" a study from 1988 on animal based transportation shows the following examples of suitable loads and speeds for a few different species:
Animal                Load (kg)                         Km per 7 hour day
Horse                     60                                   39.2
Mule                      90                                   91.0
                           136                                   58.0
                           181                                   46.2
Donkey                 54                                    39.2
LLama                  40                                     31.5
Another consideration in this discussion- conditioning.
We normally do a lot of conditioning on our mounts. How much conditioning do most kids get these days?  Most schools (at least in NC) have eliminated Physical Ed, so that unless the child is involved in sports most of their conditioning comes from carrying their burden to the foot of the driveway where the school bus picks them up and then for short walks between classes.
Marsh the muleman

Have you hefted an average school-kid's backpack recently? Years ago, when some of us were in school, we carried maybe two or three textbooks at a time. Nowadays, however, with many schools eliminating lockers for security reasons, students often carry all of their materials, all day long. One 2004 study of 3,498 middle-school students found an average backpack weight of 10.6 pounds, with some ranging as high as 37 pounds. Not surprisingly, 64 percent of the kids said that they'd experienced back pain, which correlated directly to the amount they carried. That is, the more the backpack weighed, the greater the likelihood the student would report pain.

In response, several health organizations advise that student backpack weight be limited--the American Chiropractic Association suggests that kids carry no more than 10 percent of their body weight, and the American Occupational Therapy Association recommends 15 percent. If equivalent guidelines were adopted in the equestrian world, the loads placed on a 1,000-pound horse would be restricted to 100 to 150 pounds.

Of course, horses routinely bear far heavier burdens without apparent difficulty. But that doesn't mean that there's no cost...


Posted By Merri to Consider This at 11/14/2008 01:57:00 PM

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