The Measure of a Horse


    Chance before

    When I bought Chance and brought him home this summer, I went through a major downsizing in the horse and tack department.

    My old horse, Teddy, was a robust 16.2 hand Dutch Warmblood.  Just about all of my tack and equipment was large, extra large, oversize or biggish.

    When I bought Chance, who barely makes 15 hands, I didn’t even have a halter small enough to fit him. My co-worker Lesley lent me her mare Grace’s outgrown halter so I’d have something when he arrived, although it turned out the seller was kind enough to leave me his old nylon halter and lead rope. On my first tack shopping expedition I wound up with a yearling size leather halter for my new 3-year-old and from there began my amazing tack-shrinking odyssey.

    The bridle was my next mission, so I borrowed several from friends to try on. Full size? Way too big. I moved into the cob sizes. Still too big! I wondered if I’d have to venture into pony sizes. But, as I eyeballed bridles at my local tack store, those looked far too tiny. So there I was in never-never land. However, a visit to a second local tack store yielded a cob size bridle that looked on the smallish side, and hallelujah, it fit. Best of all, it was only seventy bucks, and included reins. (For additional good karma, it is even made of eco-friendly leather and I’m pretty impressed with the quality.)

    Chance summer 2009

    The girth was a little easier. Western cinches and dressage girths are a little more forgiving to size, and I was able to borrow a regular English girth as well. Fortunately, saddle fit wasn’t a problem, so we were finally geared up with basics in the riding department.

    After a decade of riding mostly warmbloods, I call Chance “the little guy” and “little man” or refer to him as my pony. Even though you’d think I’d be used to his stature by now, the ground still comes up to meet me about a foot before I expect it when I dismount. I’m finding there are some benefits to riding small, though. Chance is a lot easier for me to put together under saddle. I could mount from the ground if necessary (I’m on the short side myself), although I prefer the mounting block to preserve his back and my dignity. My trainer claims the small horses are easier to keep sound, which I hope proves true. So far, so good.

    This fall when I got ready to buy Chance’s blanket wardrobe, I discovered my little horse had grown. I measured him for a blanket when he first arrived because I knew there was no way Ted’s size 82 and 84 blankets would fit. The tape came up at a petite 68, so I started comparison shopping and keeping my eyes open for any good deals that might come along. Fortunately I waited to buy anything, because over the summer Chance grew into a healthy size 75.
    When I look at pictures from then and now, I can see how much he has muscled up and developed in the six months we’ve been together. He may possibly have grown a bit taller, too, although I didn’t put a stick him beforehand. (He’s 3, so might still be a growing boy.) That old nylon halter doesn’t fit anymore, and the nice leather halter I bought has been let out a few holes. He has made so much progress in his training, too. I can’t wait to see where we are in the spring. I am planning on having big fun with my smallish horse. Although his physical growth and development is impressive, more than anything the little guy has grown into my heart.

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