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As Americans Get Bigger, So Do Horses and Saddles

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In the rugged cowboy country of western Colorado, master saddle maker Bob Klenda has noticed a troublesome trend since he started stitching leather in 1961: The typical horseback rider has a much bigger posterior.

“When I started 50 years ago, 14 inch saddles were common and a 15 inch (saddle) was considered a big seat,” Klenda tells ABC News.

Now, Klenda says, 15 ½ to 16 inch saddles are standard.  The custom saddle producer even makes one or two 17-inch saddles among the dozen he turns out each year.

“Those were unheard of back in the 60′s and ’70′s,” he says.

The super-sized saddles reflect the fact that Americans are fatter than ever.  More than a third of us are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“The saddles are bigger and so are the butts,” says Lucille Nieslanik, owner of Broken Heart Ranch in Haugan, Montana -- a former dude ranch that now caters to hunters.  “When I was growing up, people walked more and just did more physical activity.”

Nieslanik says the saddles and customers “have definitely gotten bigger” since the business opened in 1976.  Now, she is careful to match up horses with customers so the animals are not strained.

But even the horses are getting bigger to accommodate fatter Americans.  Saddle-maker Klenda says dude ranch operators in Colorado are breeding draft horses with smaller stock so the animals can safely bear the strain of ever-larger riders.

At the K-Diamond-K guest ranch, 125 miles north of Spokane, Wash., owner Kathy McKay tells ABC News they are breeding Clydesdales -- made famous in those Budweiser commercials -- with quarter-horses just to make sturdier animals for bigger customers.  Otherwise, McKay says, overweight riders “really take a toll on those poor horses.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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