I have a big horse.
Heck, he’s not just a big horse, he’s one of the tallest thoroughbreds I have had the pleasure to work with—and that’s saying something. “Kennedy” (Marilyn’s Guy) is a 17.3hh gentle grey giant, leading friends and blog readers around the world to affectionately refer to him as “The Elephant”.
“You’ll never go back once you go big and grey!” they say. And while I do find him beautiful, I also find his ogre-like frame exasperating at times. Take it from me, not only do you not need a 17hh+ horse, you also shouldn’t want the 17hh+ horse just for fun. Allow me to explain:
1. At least twice a week, I almost die while dismounting.
And this is only increased in the winter when my toes are frozen. Have you ever dismounted gracefully from a 10 foot roof top? No? Well that’s what I do every day as I slide down off of this elephant. There is no such thing as grace, and every single time the ground is mysteriously 8″ lower than I expect–leading to me rolling an ankle or just collapse.
2. Nothing fits him. Nothing.
This includes tack, boots, and even trailers. Kennedy barely fit onto my 2 horse Featherlite, and so with that in mind we purchased an extra tall/extra wide Hawk. With a collapsible manger and extra space he now willingly loads, but until then, his tail just hung out the back. And that’s just one thing. None of my standard sized horse equipment (bridles/boots/bits) fit him, leading to expensive shopping sprees all in the name of love.
3. He’s clumsy and extremely hard to bend.
You know how you watch those 7 ft. basketball players and giggle as they literally roll down the court with a 10 ft. stride? That is me on this horse. A two stride suddenly becomes a stride and a half, and a 20m circle feels as though we are compressing a body for 4th level dressage. Because let’s be honest, it’s hard to dressage when you’re an elephant.
4. It’s almost impossible to get on him without a step stool or fence line.
I’m 5’3″, and with my small stature comes tiny little legs. Normal mounting blocks do not suffice, and when I attempt to utilize them in a pinch at shows, I either rip out my pants or pull a hamstring.
At the age of 31, my flexibility is more limited than back in my glory days, and onlookers get a laugh as I attempt to climb my way up to the top of this beast. Therefore, wherever I go I either require a step ladder or a large man for a leg up (not to mention just to groom him!)
5. Fences never look as big as they are.
I entered Kennedy in his first Beginner Novice event (2’7″) a few weeks ago and immediately wondered to myself if they even had the fences set correctly after watching the videos. The 2’7″ fences barely came up to his knees and he rarely had to even exert effort to get up and over them. This might seem like a good thing…until you are looking for that money shot of pure brilliance and athleticism and every single fence looks like a caveletti!
I love this horse and I am so blessed every day that I get to be with him. I giggle each time that someone comes up to me at a show in shock and awe of how tall he truly is, as if I have been lying this entire time, but I am here to say that these massive beasts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Very few people need a 17.3hh horse, and even fewer can afford the lifestyle changes that come with them. So keep that in mind the next time that you demand something over 17hh when you yourself are a measly 5 ft. tall. These gentle giants are a blessing and a curse all wrapped into one, and quite often more trouble than they’re worth!
About the Author
Carleigh Fedorka is a Ph.D. student at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center. A Pennsylvania native, she moved to Kentucky after graduating from St. Lawrence University and has worked closely in all aspects of the thoroughbred industry. She spends her free time eventing as well as training, selling and rehoming OTTBs. Read more about her horse life at her blog, A Yankee in Paris.