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The rules state the following in terms of suitable mounts:

[The DM has] the final decision on what is or is not a suitable mount. At its most basic level, a mount should have the following characteristics:

Able and willing to carry its rider in a typical fashion. (A camel is able and willing. A tiger might be capable but may not be willing. A giant might be willing but not truly able.) At least one size category larger than the character. Also, a flying mount can carry no more than a light load aloft.

Emphasis mine. However, what are the consequences of trying to mount a creature of the same size or smaller than the character in question? Especially if the would-be mount otherwise does have the strength to carry the would-be rider?

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Since you can't treat a creature of your size or smaller as a mount, trying to mount them would result in them just carrying you.

The benefits of mounting a qualifying creature is that you would get access to mounted combat feats and use of the Ride-skill to do X, Y, and Z. You will not get those benefits mounting a creature of your size or smaller.

Since you can't mount them, but they can still realistically carry you, they are essentially doing just that: carrying you. If you try to mount something that you cannot ride, they are carrying you Piggyback and it is likely comical to watch.

I'm not aware of any 3.5e feats that relax the size restrictions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The officially licensed product Dragons of Krynn includes the final iteration of the feat Mighty Steed that allows the mount to be ridden by a creature of its size category, but it take the Pathfinder feat Undersized Mount to allow a rider to ride a willing-and-able creature of its own size category (or bigger, obviously). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 29 at 14:15
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It doesn't say what the penalties are except for "Mount or Dismount Quickly". It is most likely left vague for your DM to decide.

The easiest interpretation is that such a mount counts as an "Unusual Mount", requiring special training and exotic equipment like an exotic saddle.

By that logic we can refer to "Training an Unusual Mount" on page 205 in the "Dungeon Master's Guide" for examples of special provisions that may allow it as a mount.

It says that a suitable mount is "At least one size category larger than the character." on page 204 in the "Dungeon Master's Guide".

It also restates it in "All About Mounts (Part One)" that a mount must be at least 1 size category larger than you.

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