So, Can You Ride Them? by Louise Westpfel

This is still I question I get asked about my heavy horses, in fact, here is a conversation I once had at a show …

Member of the public –  “so can you ride them?”

Me – “yes of course! They make fantastic riding horses”

MOP – “ah but only in walk and trot, they’re not allowed to canter”

Me – “I’ll be sure to remind them of that next time they’re charging around the field”

Whilst it’s funny, it’s still a common misconception; that heavies are only suitable for agricultural or driven work. People are so used to seeing them ploughing or pulling brewery drays that more still needs to be done to promote them as ridden horses, and that is my passion!

It’s why I started my Instagram account, to showcase what fun, versatile and, let’s face it, comfortable, ridden horses they make.

There isn’t much you can do with a light horse that you can’t do with a heavy, with the exception of perhaps jumping. Many people never jump their heavies, I personally will jump mine but only very very occasionally (a handful of times a year at most) and only very small.

I also don’t lunge them on a regular basis to prevent excess strain on their joints.

But in terms of everything else, my girls have done dressage, sponsored rides, inhand and ridden showing, hound exercise with our local hunt, and we just love competing in trec and agility!

They’re never going to be world beaters in a particular sphere, but they will generally have a go at anything you ask them to, and with such enthusiasm you won’t fail to have a smile on your face.

Their size and build do need to be taken into account when training.

They mature later than light horses so I prefer to leave backing until at least 4 years old and mainly just stick to hacking for the first couple of years under saddle.

When schooling, again allowances need to made, there’s no reason they can’t work correctly, but they are designed to be on the forehand and strengthening the hind end can take longer, patience and consistency is key – quality not quantity of work.

They can struggle in a school due to their size so I prefer to do most of my strengthening and schooling whilst hacking, there really is nothing better than exploring the countryside on a heavy horse!

They are incredibly honest, have a great work ethic, and just want to please. 

Yes they can be a bit more challenging to care for, that feather takes a lot of looking after, and many things light horse owners take for granted, such as stabling and transport can be complicated by their size but what you get back is definitely worth the additional effort!

I’m also passionate about helping the next generation of heavy owners, either with regards to care or showing turnout.

If anyone needs help or advice or just has any questions, please feel free to get in touch via my Instagram @for_the_love_of_heavies. I’d love to hear from you!



  1. Olga Danes-Volkov
    April 25, 2022 / 10:36 pm

    I. can confirm that not only does Louise look after her horses beautifully but she does indeed take part in all these activities. Versatile mounts!

    • verenabowyer
      April 26, 2022 / 2:47 pm

      such versatile mounts