Fat Tourists Mean Bigger Horses

Popularity of heavy draft horses on the rise

Wranglers are struggling to keep up with passenger weight requirements.

Wranglers are struggling to keep up with passenger weight requirements.     Photo: Tslane888/Flickr/Creative Common

Western wranglers have a long history of profiting from tourists seeking to get a taste of the equestrian lifestyle, but over the past decade they've had more and more trouble filling saddles. Not for lack of business, but because the tourists who made their way out West were, well, too heavy to ride. The solution? Bigger horses. 

Draft horses, which the Associated Press calls "the diesels of the horse world," became popular during the Industrial Revolution, when they were originally used for heavy labor such as plowing and moving large machinery. They fell out of favor as automated machinery replaced most of their functions, but they've found a home in the West helping to carry the larger tourists, sometimes making up as much as a quarter of a rancher's stable.

"Little horses just aren't sturdy enough to hold up in a dude operation in the Rocky Mountains," says Kipp Saile of Rockin HK Outfitters, whose largest horse weighs in at 1,800 pounds.  

Draft horses, which are more expensive to stable, allow wranglers to remove weight limits on their horses, bringing in more business in the process. According to Russ Little of Dry Ridge Outfitters, his eight draft horses save him up to $6,000 in a season. "I felt bad about telling people they're too big to ride," he says.  

With more than one-third of America's adults now obese by CDC standards, any wrangler caught without a draft horse is going to miss out on some serious business.

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