Being exceptionally tall has many advantages, but what about when it comes to sporting endeavour, in particular when it comes to equestrian sports. So just what are the plus and minus points of height when it comes to horse racing, show jumping, dressage, 3 day eventing etc. How can a rider use extra height to gain a competitive advantage over an opponent who has a different physical make up. Let’s look at the key attributes of the taller sports person. Being taller implies longer limbs, in turn meaning longer reach. This is a tremendous advantage in many sports, but not particularly for any horse related sports, where the emphasis is usually on balance, technique and seeing a good stride for jumping purposes.
Being tall is a significant disadvantage for any aspiring young race riding jockey, mainly because they will be too heavy to succeed at this profession. Jockeys who race on the flat generally ride at between 8 and 9 stone weight and therefore are rarely taller than about 5 foot 8 inches. It is a physical impossibility for an exceptionally tall jockey to make the weight for flat race riding. Riding over fences is a little more forgiving, with these jockeys generally being a stone or two heavier than their flat race riding counterparts. However even if a tall jockey can race ride at the required weight, his physical attributes are of no particular advantage over his shorter rivals. In fact one could argue that the taller jockey is more easily unbalanced and finds it more difficult to maintain the shorter riding position, favoured by all modern day jockeys, where the stirrups are positioned higher up on the horse, leading to the jockey maintaining a crouched position.
The news gets a little better for other equestrian events such as show jumping, dressage and cross country events (or 3 day eventing, which consists of all of these disciplines). For these events weight is not so strictly a factor, except that it will slightly inconvenience the horse to propel itself with a larger weight on it’s back. The emphasis in these type events is more on understanding your horse, balancing, controlling and making it jump the obstacles. Unfortunately there are no particular advantages that the taller rider can bring to bear in these events. Polo is perhaps the only equestrian sport where one could make an argument that the taller rider doesn’t have to bend so much to make a strike and hence has a slight advantage over a smaller rider.
Like many things in life, being tall has many advantages and disadvantages. Being tall in equestrian sports however is in general a disadvantage.