Who Has It Easier: Tall Eventers or Short Eventers?

Amy Nelson (left) and Lyndsey Humpal (right) at Hummingbird Stables

We asked Eventing Nation fans, who has it easier: tall riders or short riders? Turns out we ALL have a seat on The Struggle Bus. Some of us just have a little more leg room, and some of us can reach the overhead compartments.
Let’s compare:


Tall Riders Say: Pros? No stirrups? No problem. I have plenty of leg to wrap around the horse! Cons? Stirrups do have to be on the last hole to be functional, and I can’t hop on a naughty horse that a student/friend was just on. If I do … my legs dangle and I just forget about adjusting the stirrup altogether and let my leg hang. I need a long flap, or three inches of knee pokes out in front of my knee roll.
Short Riders Say: Pros? I can school my 9-year-old student’s pony and the saddle/stirrups fit just right. I have never uttered the words, “that flap is too short for me.” Cons? No stirrups? Big problem. I am perched up here with my short legs, that barely go halfway down the horse’s side. I learn great balance this way though! Some of us buy children’s stirrups (one reader admitted she STILL had to punch holes in them to make them shorter). Where are all these tall stork children??
Tall Riders Say: Pros? Horses that are tough to bridle can’t get taller than my wingspan. I can reach. I can hoist a saddle on any horse’s back with ease. Cons? The opposite is true. I’ve had to literally sit on the ground to bridle a horse who was so relaxed his head was dragging.
Short Riders Say: Pros? I can fasten a noseband in 2.4 seconds. It’s eye level. Ponies, relaxed horses, you name it. I’ve become skilled at training the hard to bridle horses, because, I’m not going to put up with bridling a giraffe. Cons? If my horse wants to avoid the bridle, he can. Not by stretching up … just by standing. I have give the ol’ heave ho to get a saddle on my horse. He is not impressed. Sometimes he gives me encouragement though by biting my back as I struggle.
Tall Riders Say: Pros? I can mount even a 16.2hh from the ground bareback. Cons? I need to make sure my girth is tight before I mount, as my size makes the saddle slide way more than a smaller rider!  I’ve ended up on the ground when I’ve gotten in a hurry and forgot to that final girth check.
Short Riders Say: Pros? If I forget to tighten my girth enough, it’s cool. My low center of gravity and small frame helps it not move too much until I’m secure. Cons? Normal mounting blocks aren’t tall enough, and forget mounting from the ground! Mount from the ground, bareback, Here, hold my beer. I once dropped my number in the woods on the way to the start box at an event. I was riding a 16.2hh 4-year-old OTTB.  I had to lower one stirrup all the way down, hop around as he kept moving, and it took 15 minutes to get on because there was no one to give me a leg up! I almost missed my warm up!

Short Rider Amy Nelson does the splits while trying to mount from the ground.



Tall Riders Say: Pros? Sometimes freakishly tall items are on sale! Cons? Nothing fits. Breeches are too short. “Tall” field/dress Boots are too short. If they fit in the height, they will never fit in the calf. I’m pretty most people aren’t 6 feet tall with calves as wide as a piece of dry spaghetti.

Short Riders Say: Pros? Sometimes freakishly small items are on sale! Cons? Nothing fits. Breeches are too long. I have to roll the ends up eight times and stuff them in my boots, and get bruises at my ankles where all the fabric bunches. “Short” field/dress boots are too tall. They pinch in the back of my knee, especially in the saddle, and I get bruises. If they fit in the height, they will never fit in the calf.
Tall Riders Say: Pros? If I drop my reins I can easily pick them back up. I can use my size to my advantage on an unruly horse, and I can use my size to promote respect on the ground as they see me at eye level. My legs wrap around the horse’s barrel and help with the lazy ones to get going. On many good sized horses, my feet hang below the barrel! Cons? Longer torso means my center of gravity is higher, so it’s much harder to ride out a buck or naughty behavior. I can’t ride anything smaller than 13/14hh, even if they need a trainer. Trail riding? Be prepared to take out EVERY. SINGLE. SPIDERWEB. (With your face.)
Short Riders Say: Pros? I can ride your daughter’s 11hh leadline pony to keep him in shape, all the way up to an 18hh behemoth. It helps my business that I can “fit” on anything! My compact size makes it tough to unseat me, and we make great jockeys! I don’t have to be as absolutely perfect with my upper body (William Fox-Pitt) to stay out of my horse’s way on cross country. He’ll forgive my little smurf hands if I make a mistake. Cons? These stumps I call legs are not wrapping around the horse unless he’s 11hh. Riding a draft cross is like straddling a sofa. Sometimes in the ring as a trainer when I warm up a child’s horse at a youth only show they think I’m the kid competitor. Once I fell off my horse at a show at my husband grabbed my loose horse (he knows if I’m still breathing, get the horse). The ring steward asked, “Do you want me to hold the horse so you can go check on your daughter?” “That’s my wife.”  (whispers) “She’s so tiny…”
As it turns out, as a short rider, I was under the impression that the grass was always greener. It’s surely easier for tall riders. And I’m sure tall riders think that about us little guys. The truth is, we all struggle. Every BODY is different. So put yours to good use. Go Eventing.
Did we miss one? Post your #shortriderproblems or #tallriderproblems!