The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


April 26, 2014

Head ’em up, move ’em out — more hide on the trail

— Obesity is a growing problem — really.

Media outlets have reported that people who are severely overweight spend more money on cars. The extra weight in the vehicle means fewer miles per gallon of gasoline and tire replacement occurs more often.

Airlines have debated whether to force extra-large people to buy two seats since they spill over into a second one anyway.

Poor diet and exercise habits have made the U.S. a big player on the world’s stage, provided the 2 X 4s holding it up don’t give way under the weight.

But how many people have worried about obesity’s effect on the tourist industry, more specifically dude ranches?

Hi Ho, Silver, The Associated Press has. And sway-backed horses everywhere are grateful.

More outfitters are adding draft horses to their stables. Yes, those industrial size horses that pull the Budweiser wagon, tow logs in hard-to-reach timber areas and drag weights for bragging rights at the local fair.

With standard size mounts such as quarter horses, Western ranchers told The AP, they had to limit riders to 225 pounds.

Russ Little, who provides trail horses at Harriman State Park in Idaho, estimated his annual losses at $6,000 if he didn’t use draft breeds.

Heidi Saile from Chico Hot Springs in Montana estimated her annual losses at $4,000.

The change allows business owners to improve their revenues and family members to capture the feel of the great outdoors together.

Baltimore resident Laura Ewing said she was a little concerned about riding draft horses when she and her 6-year-old son, Alex, arrived at one of the Western outfitters. As a heavy woman, she noticed the smaller horses back East. Those concerns rode away when she saw how sturdy the draft equines are.

Bryan Seck, the general manager at Sombrero Ranches in Estes Park, Colo., said the heaviest rider on his spread was 399 pounds. “As long as you can get on a horse, you can ride.”

Peggy Howell from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance said these business owners show their savvy by making changes to accommodate larger customers. She added that people of all sizes enjoy athletic activities.

It’s just good old Western know-how, some would say.

But it’s difficult to imagine Trigger as a Percheron with a 400-pound Roy Rogers in the saddle. They couldn’t get up those sagebrush mountains nearly as fast.

And Gene Autry singing, “Back in the saddle again because my old one broke under the strain.”

Or Hopalong Cassidy limping around waiting for knee replacement surgery.

Maybe Americans shouldn’t pack so much in their chuck wagons.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist who battles her own bulges.


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