Going to get varied answers on this one- some think it's perfectly OK, others not so OK. Me personally, I can't stand seeing minis being ridden by anybody, I don't care how small of a child. They are not like ponies and have stronger backs- years of downsized breeding have compromised the bone structure, and while they are perfectly capaple of pulling a cart, riding is a whole nother ball game...but for those that say it's ok to ride, a mini should not carry more than 25% of it's own weight, including tack, so 200 lb mini should only be toting around 50 lbs of kid and saddle.
Yes, I would say this is very wrong. That person should be ashamed of herself. Unfortunately there are far too many like her--I see pictures like this all too often. It disgusts me when I see a mini or pony being ridden by someone whose feet hang to the horse's knees....or lower.
Some people claim that there's nothing wrong with it, because they really only "rode" the horse for a couple of minutes, when the photo was taken. Whether that is true or not one can never be sure, but IMO it is wrong even if the person was on the horse just for the time it took to take the photo. In other cases the person thinks it is perfectly fine for an adult to be riding the mini, and they have no qualms about admitting that they do it "all the time"--or else they post multiple videos of the adult riding the Mini....or in one recent case the person posted videos of different people riding the poor little horse.
I agree this is not acceptable. Mini horses cannot safely carry that much weight, period. He may be tolerating the rider, but she is putting him at risk of sustaining a serious back or leg injury. Personally, I feel that this is a prime example of the ignorance that plagues the small equine industry. Not only does the general public (with little to no horse sense) see this as "cute" but sooo many "big horse" people get a mini under the "how different can it be" mentality and do not take mini horses seriously or respect them as equines. I have such a difficult time getting individuals to get past the "cute" factor and see minis as a valuable contribution to the equine world....and images like this do not help the case. Like the op said, my concerns too often fall on deaf ears. So many horse professionals assume all minis act poorly because there is such an excess of mistreated minis out there because no body trains them like they should. I get dozens of clients a year who need their mini overhauled because "it was cute to let him do that when he was a colt". It drives me nuts. It doesn't help that the internet is littered with photos and videos of people doing foolish things like this with their minis and it does not help the image of the breed. It is no different than when people play "donkey ball" and put full grown adults on mini donkeys and force them to play basket ball for laughs. People either do not have common sense or just dont care. Pray he does not collapse under her weight.
It's hard to educate people who don't have open minds for what is right and wrong. These people would think it's okay for a child to ride a dog. I cringe everytime I see the Doritos commercial with the dog rearing like a horse with the little girl on its back. I know some auctions let the handlers ride small ponies and minis to show how "broke" they are. When my son was a teenager, he was guilty of doing just that at an auction that he worked at part time. Well, at least until I found out, he certainly got a piece of my mind!
Oh gosh. How very sad for this horse. I bought a 10" saddle for my mares, and it was too long and heavy to my liking. I switched it with a 5 lb 8" saddle. Thank goodness my granddaughter is a peanut--10% for weight and height, so she should fit in it until she's 2.5 years. Then it's up to her parents to find a horse she can ride. ;-) I'm not putting any more than 40 lbs on my mares--and that includes the saddle.
Another thing I see that makes me cringe is kids riding minis and pulling with all their might on the reins to get it to "behave" as in stop or turn. Awful.
I'm going to stir things up, I know, but here it goes...
The person riding this horse is obviously much, much too big for him/her. It could be damaging to the horse, even if she rides for just a short time.
However, I do think that each horse is built differently and therefore, each horse has a different capacity for carrying weight. Furthermore, a balanced and educated rider will be less of burden than one that is off balance. In my opinion, a larger mini (say 300-350 lb and 36-38 inches) that has a good sturdy build can safely carry a child 70 lb or less, especially a child that has had lots of riding experience and has good balance. A 70 pound kid who flops around and leans all over the place is going to be too much. My horse is of this size range, and he willingly and energetically carried my daughter from age 3 to 11 years (she was very small for her age) at all gaits with no problems at all. My vet insisted that this was perfectly safe and appropriate. The total weight including the saddle was never greater than 25% of his healthy weight.
Having said this, I totally agree that an A sized mini with a delicate build is a totally different story.
I see this all the time on youtube where these teenagers think its cool or cute. There was one I saw jumping this poor little mini and of course they said the pony was fully capable, they would never doing anything to harm it so they didnt want to hear peoples comments about abuse because they were not abusing it.
I just spent 3 days with two of my girls at the PA Horse Expo. The question of riding miniature horses was one the top question we heard while there. I told people that the total weight of child and equipment (including shoes, clothes, saddle, pad, etc.) should not exceed 70lbs. And if the child's legs fell at or below the belly, then I would not do it.
Finally, I told everyone that I personally believe these little ones of ours should not be ridden at all. My 5 will never be trained to be ridden as long as I have them.
As a horsewoman, that first picture offends me too.
However, I don't have the tiny minis and I've always based the riding on the size of the mini/pony to the size of the rider AND WHETHER OR NOT THE RIDER HAS SOME LEVEL OF FITNESS TO BE ABLE TO CONTROL THEIR RIDING/MOVEMENT while in the saddle. Personally, if the pony or mini is too small to wear a saddle that would be appropriate to the rider, the rider is too large.
At different stages, I couldn't tell you what my children weighed as I don't remember - but their feet generally didn't hang down that far. I DID base the riding on their sizes AND their ability to MOVE with the pony. I once had a boy that weighed the same as our oldest daughter, ride our pony while giving "pony rides" at our neighbor's Barbecue. He was several years younger and much shorter - so his weight was more compact thru his body. However, he also had little "fitness" and no control over his muscles. After struggling to get him into the saddle (that was eye opening! & he "plopped"). He was pudgy and "soft" BUT his "size" still fit well w/i the same 13" western saddle that our daughter rode in. Our stallion, AJ, (45 + inches tall and once taped at 575 lbs) worked reasonably well. The boy had to have almost as much help dismounting as he did mounting. He literally had no balance - and was very upset with each walking step that AJ took at first. He gradually relaxed and settled, though. Later, he wanted a 2nd ride and against my better judgement, I said OK. AJ thought differently as the boy "plopped" again (I did cringe). After two steps, AJ promptly sat down just like I've seen many a Donkey do!! He didn't budge until we got the boy out of the saddle and clear - at which point AJ just as quickly stood up. I thought I understood - but to be sure, I had our daughter mount him and actually ride him around the yard where we were giving pony rides (partially our back yard and partially the neighbors' - in town about 8 miles away from the pasture we leased for our herd). That was the first and LAST time that AJ ever did that - over quite a number of years doing various pony rides and lessons. Several much older and larger children and even a couple of small adults rode him BUT they had fitness and control over their limbs. They knew how to balance and they had empathy. I believe AJ knew that. Their size never was an issue.
That said - one of the things that most knowledgeable horse folk look at is the ratio of horse size to rider size. It isn't just weight/bulk but also the length of the torso and the legs and it's all about balance. I have as much problem with a tiny rider (especially a youth) up on a full size horse as I do a large/tall rider on a small pony/mini...
In European countries, the minis/ponies are built very differently. Indeed, a pony in most other countries the same size as some of our Shetlands and Miniature Horses are twice the weight and twice the substance. You can still find grown adults going to "a job" while riding that small equine - who works for a living. I'll restate that - our American bred Miniature Horses and Shetland Ponies are built completely different than their non-American bred counterparts "across the pond".
Most Miniature Horses and small Shetland ponies are simply not built for that size of a rider as pictured...
and yes, I too, run into problems explaining that that's not how you work with miniature horses and small ponies. However, our ponies and "minis" are all ridden at some point in their lives (or have been so far). In the end, for those of us who consider ourselves knowledgeable horse folk, it's education, education and more education and sometimes it's still like beating your head against the wall.
Most of our "Minis" are not that refined either. Here is a picture of one of our Shetland mares. This is Shado - our 2nd purebred Shetland foal. She was born in April 1997 - just a handful of days after we arrived in NC from MT. At the time of this picture, she was 4 1/2 years old and measured 35" at the withers. Have no idea what she measured as a "mini" - she is a registered Shetland only... Sierra turned 8 yrs old about 2 weeks previous to this pic. Again, I don't know what her weight was at the time. If you take the saddle off of "Shado", Sierra's legs will be much closer to her body and hanging further down. They DID go almost all the way to "Shado"'s knees - and neither "Shado" nor Sierra liked bareback riding (as a pair - Sierra did fine with other ponies - all larger than Shado).
Paula: You make some really great points! I think the crux of this particular problem is that too many people who may come to own a miniature do not have the common sense or knowledge to recognize what should work and what won't. That's why I personally tell people that if they want a horse for their child to ride, find something that's going to meet their needs for many years, not just a year or two (at which point they do outgrow them). And I only give this advice if asked directly.