The bigger horses have allowed outfitters to eliminate weight limits.
"I felt bad about telling people they're too big to ride," said Russ Little of Dry Ridge Outfitters, which offers rides at Harriman State Park in Idaho. Eight of the 45 horses he has are part Percherons. He said a 225-pound weight limit these days would cost him $6,000 a season.
At Chico Hot Springs in Montana, Heidi Saile of Rockin' HK Outfitters said she and her husband, Kipp, removed the stable's 225-pound limit last year when they took over from different outfitters. She said the limit would cost her $4,000 in lost revenue.
"Little horses just aren't sturdy enough to hold up in a dude operation in the Rocky Mountains," Kipp Saile said, noting that about 15 of their 60 horses were Percheron mixes, the largest weighing 1,800 pounds.
At Sombrero in Estes Park, Colo., general manager Bryan "Kansas" Seck said they began making the transition to draft horses years ago because of rugged mountainous terrain and strength to carry a rider for longer periods of time.
But the larger horses also allowed them to eliminate their weight limit. The heaviest rider Seck ever put on a horse was 399 pounds.
"As long as you can get on a horse, you can ride," he said.
Laura Ewing of Baltimore noted that the horses back East are small and she was somewhat concerned when she arrived at Sombrero to go on a ride with her 6-year-old son, Alex.
"Because I'm a little heavier I rode a larger horse," Ewing said. "I was a little bit concerned at first, but when I saw the size of the horses that they have here, they're pretty hardy horses ... They're not ponies."
Another rider, who weighed 240 pounds, rode 1,800-pound Bam Bam, a brown Belgian draft horse with furry legs and a size 5 horseshoes — the smaller, traditional quarter-horses of about 1,000 pounds wear a 0 to 1. They rode up the trails dotted with elk, deer and chipmunks and breathtaking views of Longs Peak.