The Struggles of Being a Short Rider

Above: Meg Carlson (5’1”) perfectly exhibits the shorty struggle while grooming Lord (18.2hh).

By TPH Brand Ambassador Callie Hildenbrand

When working with horses, it definitely helps to be tall. For those of us who aren’t so vertically gifted, doing everyday tasks around the barn and at shows can be challenging. If you can’t relate to any of these struggles, you’re one of the lucky ones. To all my fellow shorties, this is for you.

Meg Carlson putting in Lord’s earplugs. Thankfully, he doesn’t seem to mind them.

You always need a mounting block or leg-up.

16.3hh Warmblood? Absolutely.

15hh Quarter Horse? Yep.

14hh pony? Probably, to be honest.

Grooming, washing, and clipping are so much harder than they should be.

Did you really brush all the dirt off your horse’s back? I guess you won’t know until you get on and it’s too late to fix it. Oh, and don’t even get us started on the struggle of reaching that antsy horse’s ears, even with the stepstool. Do you go through the embarrassment of asking for help or just continue struggling?

Tacking up any horse that’s taller than you is … interesting.

You better hope nobody saw you discreetly “toss” your saddle onto the horse because there’s no other way. That horse probably also gave you a hard time with the bridle, just for the fun of it.

Walking the course can be quite a stretch. Literally.

Keeping up with your long-legged trainer on the course walk is exhausting when your natural steps are more like pony strides. Our course walk is more like a “Wait, I have little legs” scamper.

You’re not much help when it comes to packing and unpacking the trailer tack room.

“Hey, I need some tall people to come grab this tack trunk up top!”

*Backs away in shame*

We need a ladder to get in the trailer, a giant leap to get out and have to hop-hang everything, while we’re in there. You know exactly what we’re talking about: When you take a jump, trying to swipe your bridle up to the hook.

You’re the go-to person when there’s a naughty pony that needs to be schooled.

That little 12 hand Welsh might be cute, but if they need a 17 year old shrimp on them, it probably doesn’t mean they’re the easiest ride.

Getting stuck with the top saddle rack is beyond inconvenient.

When all of the bottom racks in the tack room are taken by the riding school kids, you will probably have to rely on your friends to put up and take down your saddle. And if there is nobody around, you’ll just have to get creative.

Riding the barn’s lazy giant requires more energy than you probably have.

When your legs barely reach halfway down his side, “wrapping your legs” around him is basically impossible, even though your trainer thinks otherwise.  More leg? We can’t give this big guy more leg because it requires leg we don’t HAVE.

Saddle shopping is really not a pleasant experience.

While most people would be super excited to purchase a new saddle, the process of finding one that fits your leg and your horse is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. And a little embarrassing, when the salesperson pulls out a pony saddle “just for reference.”

Whether you are a short rider or a tall rider, we all have our struggles. My best advice is to always keep a good sense of humor and a few barn friends around to give you a leg up when you need it.


Meg Carlson putting on Lord’s halter (or at least trying to).


Previous articleThe Road From Reservation to Pony Finals
Next articleA Day in the Life