I have a big horse.

The day we got Kennedy off of the track…

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 is 17.3hh, he is grey, and he is a gentle giant–leading facebook friends and blog readers around the world to fall in love with him and affectionately refer to him as The Elephant.  

Big and grey they say. You’ll never go back once you go big and grey! And while yes, I find him beautiful, I also find his ogre-like frame exasperating at times.  So here I am to tell you why you not only don’t need the 17hh+ horse, you also shouldn’t want the 17hh+ horse for fun.

Big horses are scary

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 collapsing.

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. Luckily 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. 

Dressaging is hard

You know how you watch those 7 foot college 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 still try to 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.

Kennedy at Beginner Novice

I entered Kennedy in his first Beginner Novice event (2’7) a few weeks ago and immediately wondered 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′ tall. These gentle giants are a blessing and a curse all wrapped into one, and quite often more trouble than they’re worth!

21 Comments on “Big horse/little human problems

  1. Just think Zenyatta! She is 17.2hh . If Mike Smith could do it so can you! LOL Who needs one of those stuck up warmbloods for those big jumps? Somehow I missed you getting him. What’s his story? Does he have to do dressage for the competitions? How old is he? What is his racing name? I am interested in his pedigree. I know Zenyatta did not race until age 4 so she could grow into that enormous body. She did not travel well for exactly the same reasons. She just had a couple inches above her on those airplane flights. That is why she stayed in CA and did not travel all over the USA and the World (she could have beaten them all) Lots of luck with the BIG loverboy. Lord it must cost a fortune to feed him. You have my prayers to make this boy something really special. And getting older is a bitch.

    • This is Marilyn’s Guy (Yonaguska-Marilyn Merlot 2006). He was bred by Chesapeake and I fell in love with him as a 3yo lay up! After a very long and successful race career (GSW of almost $500,000 he was retired to Chesapeake and then Drew gave him to the man that owns my barn Jeff Larsen. I ride and compete him for Jeff as he is a very busy businessman! And I have met Zenyatta and Kennedy is quite a bit larger than her πŸ˜‰ He is being retrained for “anything” but we have been doing eventing and low level jumpers πŸ˜‰

  2. Have a 17.2 guy myself, I’m 5’4″. Love him but know exactly what you mean about 2’7″ fences. He doesn’t respect them either.

    • Kennedy luckily respects them! We just moved up to 2’6 after almost a year at 2′-2’3! If he was in others hands, he would have made a great 3’6 eq horse πŸ˜‰

  3. A friend of mine rescued a draft horse after he was a NY City carriage horse. He was blind in one eye and white from age. He was so gentle she took small children for rides. She is a pre-school teacher. I read up on The Elephant. xoxoxox

  4. I have to chuckle. My first horse was “big”, both tall and big barrelled. I am only 5’1″ and shrinking. So when the time came for me to get a new one after my daughter, who is a lanky 5’7″ took him to live with her one of the stipulations was that my next horse needed to be smaller. I did find the perfect fit and demeanor.

  5. I had a 17’2″ horse as a 6′ tall teenager. Suited me just fine!

    Not the pompous 5’3″ Pony Club instructor who bought him, though. She sold him to a jump trainer and he ended up on the Florida circuit. I regret not selling him to the one-armed big man at Iroquois as Mr. Murphy recommended.

    Your point is well taken.

  6. I feel ya….I’m 5’1″ with a 17.2 Oldenburg :-). Nothing fits my beast….and my tiny little legs barely make it past our dressage saddle flaps.

  7. Believe it or not, my 17h+ ottb fits in allllllmost all the same tack as my previous 14.3h Arab. Browbands are bigger, reins are longer. Jump girth is longer (but not dressage!). Otherwise tho. It’s pretty shocking haha that so much of the same equipment works for him! The same trailer tho? Haha. No.

  8. He is beautiful though. People will ask me how tall my horse is and I usually just say ‘tall enough’ because I don’t really measure them. However, i think she’s around 16.1. I could not do a 17.3 horse!

  9. Oh my gosh – he is so adorable. I love the big gray boys! I thought that BN fence was a starter fence for sure!

  10. Lol–mine is 18.2 draft cross, so I understand the tack struggle all too well! But, I’m 5’10, so I prefer the taller models

  11. I’m 5’6 and my “big” gelding is 16.2. I’ve already decided that he’s my last tall horse. He doesn’t require any super sized tack (minus blankets, obviously), but unless it is a super broke schoolmaster type, my adult ammy confidence level would prefer I not be perched so high above the ground. πŸ˜‰

  12. I Love your big grey horse! And he loves you too! No matter how big he is, he’ll do what you ask him to do. Imagine riding Zenyatta with 17,5 h! More, she’s living near you. Mike Smith said he could ride her with a finger.
    And he also needed a hand to mount her…
    I wish you happiness, joy and success with him. Sónia Graça.

  13. My guy is 16.1 – 16.2 which is more than enough for me at 5’2″. I’m thinking of getting a large pony next. Even at close to 16hh I frequently misjudge the ground (ouch).

    But ‘The Elephant’ is VERY handsome, so he’ll surely be worth the hardship for someone πŸ˜‰

  14. Did not plan on having such a big mare. She is 17.1 hh (Friesian x hano) but I adore her πŸ™‚ she is so kind and willing to do what I ask her to do. We do need to special order stuff though!

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