Big riders mean big horses on Western trails

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — As Americans get heavier, it's meant more of a burden for the horses at ranches in the West where tourists go for the experience of getting on a horse and setting out on an open trail.

Some ranches have imposed weight limits on riders -- but that could mean thousands of dollars a year in lost income.

So now, instead of limiting the size of the riders, they're just getting bigger horses.

The ranches say they're using draft horses, the diesels of the horse world, in greater numbers. At Sombrero Ranches in Colorado, they now have 20 draft horses, including Belgians and Percherons, and 25 draft-horse mixes.

Some of the bigger horses can weigh up to 1,800 pounds.

One Idaho rancher says he always "felt bad about telling people they're too big to ride." Russ Little says, "You just feel better about having a big person on a big horse."

A spokeswoman for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance says it's "wonderful" that larger people are being accommodated. She says more businesses should become "size savvy."

%@AP Links

159-a-08-(Bryan 'Kansas" Seck, general manager, Sombrero Ranches, in AP interview)-"to 230 pounds"-Sombrero Ranches general manager Bryan 'Kansas' Seck says little horses aren't sturdy enough for dude ranch operations. (24 Apr 2014)

<<CUT *159 (04/24/14)££ 00:08 "to 230 pounds"

162-a-07-(Laura Ewing, tourist from Baltimore, in AP interview)-"pretty hearty horses"-Tourist Laura Ewing says she enjoyed being able to go on a trail ride on a larger horse. (24 Apr 2014)

<<CUT *162 (04/24/14)££ 00:07 "pretty hearty horses"

158-w-37-(Sandy Kozel, AP correspondent, with Bryan Seck and T. James Humphrey, Sombrero Ranches)--Big riders mean big horses on Western trails. AP correspondent Sandy Kozel reports. (24 Apr 2014)

<<CUT *158 (04/24/14)££ 00:37

APPHOTO COPB104: In this photo taken on Monday, April 21, 2014, tourist Christian Styles, right, and Katy Little, left, both of Des Moines, Iowa, ride at Sombrero Ranches riding stables in Estes Park, Colo. Styles is on Joker, a Belgian draft horse, while Little rides Dodge, a quarter horse. The outfit uses draft horses along with quarter horses for tourists. The bigger horses are better able to handle the mountainous terrain as well as heavy riders. Stables across the West are employing more of the larger draft horses to accommodate people who have gotten heavier in recent years. (AP Photo/P Solomon Banda) (21 Apr 2014)

<<APPHOTO COPB104 (04/21/14)££