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Till & Talk: The hard conversation with heavier guests during a trail ride

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Hi Kelsey: I have trail horses for the public to ride, and I have a weight limit for the animals. How do I explain this in a way that heavier guests wouldn’t be offended at? — Leah K.

Leah-

You’re going to offend somebody whatever you do, so good luck would be the first thing I tell you.

A couple ways you could approach it …

From a scientific approach — horses can carry a maximum of roughly 20 percent of their body weight. This all depends on the horse’s age, distance being traveled, terrain, etc, of course. Maybe your rule of thumb for your horses is different. Whatever you decide is the safest for your horses, bring the science of why you have chosen that specific number.

Or approach it from an animal welfare and human safety standpoint: Your horses are yours. You own them. You feed them. You water them. You care for them. You are with them everyday. You know them from the bottom of their hooves to the tips of their ears. You spend a lot of time and money on these horses and while your guests are with you only a short period of time, you have to think of the longevity of these horses and what is best for them.

You cannot ask a horse that isn’t properly sized to carry a larger bodied person. It would be a risk to not only the animal, but also to the person. The horse would be more prone to tripping and falling, and you don’t want that for human or animal.

In the end, know you’re going to offend people. They are going to get upset if you tell them they can’t ride, but you have to take care of your animals. Most are going to understand and be reasonable about it. Know at the end of the day you have done what is best for your horses, and that’s the most important thing. Good luck!


Image by the USDA, Flickr

Dear Kelsey: Is a field of sunflowers a worthwhile investment? People keep asking me to grow some for their wedding. — Katie T.

Hi Katie!

How exciting that people are approaching you! You know the market is there.

Some things I would consider before going all in:

  • Is the money you will be earning from weddings and other photo opportunities be enough to cover your costs?
  • I know around my area, there are tons of people that stop along the road and take photos of and with the sunflowers without permission. If you’re looking at making your money by the photos, how are you going to ensure people aren’t taking them without permission?
  • If you’re not planning on the photos/events covering the costs, do you have the equipment or the ability to rent the equipment to harvest the sunflowers when they reach maturity. I just read that the sunflower market is looking at an upswing, but it takes a specialized crush plant to take delivery of harvested product. Do you have one close enough to be feasible for you?
  • If you’re having people on your land, what does your insurance cover?
  • There is a benefit of sunflowers from a soil health standpoint, but it needs to fit into your crop rotation. Do you have the nutrients available to grow the sunflowers?

What an awesome opportunity you have been presented with. I wish you the best of luck with whatever decision you come to.


Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer and the author of Till & Talk, a regular AGDAILY column that answers reader-submitted questions about modern agriculture and rural life. Kelsey grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. She and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments. 

To submit a question, email Kelsey at tillandtalk@gmail.com.

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