How Much Can A Horse Hold? (TOP 5 Tips)

The maximum weight a horse can carry is 400 pounds based on the 20% rule. Most horses can safely carry 20% of their body weight. So a large draft horse weighing 2,000 pounds can theoretically safely carry a 400-pound person.5

  • Horses can comfortably carry 15 to 20% of their body weight. They can carry up to 30% of their body weight but at that point it becomes a strain. Don’t worry, they still have horses for every size rider!

Can a horse carry a 300 pound person?

Q: Can a horse carry a 300 pound person? Some horses can carry a 300 pound rider, but your balance is also important. If you don’t have a good balance then it’ll be very difficult for even the largest horses to comfortably carry the weight.

Can a horse carry 30% of its body weight?

Horses carrying 25% and 30% of their body weight had higher heart and respiratory rates during exercise, and muscles that were more sore a day after exercise. So, in short, a good rule of thumb is that an average horse can carry 20% of his bodyweight (keeping in mind this is tack combined with the weight of the rider).

Can a 500 pound person ride a horse?

The maximum weight a horse can carry is 400 pounds based on the 20% rule. Most horses can safely carry 20% of their body weight. So a large draft horse weighing 2,000 pounds can theoretically safely carry a 400-pound person. However, 20% of body weight is a safe, research-based estimate. 5

What horse can carry 400 pounds?

The Suffolk Punch horse is usually between 16 and 17 hands tall with a weight of 2,000 – 2,200 lbs. This means the Suffolk Punch could easily carry a rider and saddle weight of 400+ pounds.

Do horses like to be ridden?

Most horses are okay with being ridden. As far as enjoying being ridden, it’s likely most horses simply tolerate it rather than liking it. However, many people argue that if horses wouldn’t want us to ride them, they could easily throw us off, which is exactly what some horses do.

Can a horse carry a gorilla?

The rule of thumb is that a horse can safely carry 20% of its own weight, tack included. A 200 lb gorilla would be no more difficult than a 200 lb man for a horse weighing in at or over 1000 lbs, which is pretty average horse size.

Can you be too fat to ride a horse?

Considering Weight There is debate about this percentage, but the general rule is that a horse should carry no more than 20 percent of their weight. 2 Remember that this weight also includes the saddle and other riding equipment, in addition to the rider. An overweight horse cannot necessarily carry a heavier rider.

How much can a 16 hand horse carry?

Typically stand between 16-16.2 hands and weighing around 1,400-1,500 pounds, Cleveland Bay horses can carry around 280 pounds. That is equivalent to around a 260 pound person with a saddle that weighs up to 20 pounds.

What horse can carry my weight?

As a general rule, a horse can only comfortably carry up to 15–20% of its own body weight, though this may differ slightly from horse to horse. For instance, a horse that weights 500kg can comfortably carry a load of 100kg.

How much weight can a 500 pound pony carry?

A pony can typically carry between 10-20% of its body weight.

Is 60 too old to learn to ride a horse?

Well, the good news is that you’re never too old to ride a horse! * As long as you can manage to get in and out of the saddle, you’ll be able to embark on all the equine adventures you could wish for. Read on to discover our advice for learning to ride a horse as an adult!

How much can a donkey carry?

An average donkey of approximately 11 hands high or 160 kg can carry up to 50kg (8 stone) on its back or can pull up to twice its bodyweight on level ground.

How much do saddles weigh?

Saddles can weigh anywhere from 10 – 60 lbs. English saddles are lighter, usually between 10 – 25 lbs. Western saddles can range from 25 – 60 lbs. The weight and style of a saddle will be a determining factor in how well you can perform as a rider.

How Much Weight Can a Horse Carry?

While the majority of healthy horses are capable of carrying a rider and a saddle, they do have their limitations. In recent years, experts have established a weight threshold at which a rider is too heavy for a horse to comfortably carry. According to the experts, their conclusions are based on thorough data gathered from eight horses that were ridden while carrying ranging from 15 to 30 percent of their total weight. The horses’ weights ranged from 400 to 625 kilos, depending on their size (885 to 1375 pounds).

Physical indicators altered dramatically when they were packing weights of 25 percent, and they got much more pronounced when they were packing weights of 30 percent.

Following a day of trotting and cantering with heavier weights, the horses’ muscles showed much more discomfort and tightness than the previous day.

In light of these findings, the authors of the research urge that horses should not be loaded with more than 20% of their body weight at any given time.

It’s interesting to note that this research from the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute has come to the same conclusion as the US Calvary Manuals of Horse Management, which were first published in 1920.

Guidelines for weight-carrying capacity of horses

Following the 20-percent guideline and taking into account factors such as fitness, conformation, exercise level, and equipment, you may calculate the acceptable carrying capacity of your horse. Understanding your horse’s weight-bearing capability will help you to ensure their wellbeing and a long-lasting connection for many years to come.

Common activities where horses carry weight

Horse owners in the United States frequently employ their animals for both leisure and competitive riding purposes. According to a recent government census, the most common use of horses in the United States is for enjoyment (47 percent), which might include everything from trail riding to arena training. Farm and ranch work, which might entail sorting livestock, carrying equipment in packs, and dragging carts or timber, came in second with a quarter of the vote. We must take into consideration the welfare of our equine companions while asking them to partake in these activities with us.

Researchers have looked into the optimal weight bearing capacity of horses in order to assist in determining what this should be.

How much weight can your horse carry?

In 2008, researchers at Ohio University examined the effects of rider and tack weight on the performance of horses. While carrying weights weighing 15, 20, 25, and 35% of their bodyweight, the horses’ heart rate, breathing rate, rectal temperature, loin muscle condition, and overall health were all measured. Using an average adult light riding horse, the researchers discovered that they could comfortably carry around 20 percent of their optimal bodyweight.

This outcome is consistent with the value recommended by the Certified Horsemanship Association and the United States Cavalry Manuals of Horse Management, both of which were published in 1920.

What affects how much your horse can carry?

| Researchers in Ohio discovered that the breadth of the loin and the size of the cannon bone are related to the animal’s weight bearing capabilities. Horses with broader loins and larger cannon bone circumferences experienced less muscular discomfort as the weight of their load was raised. As a result of this discovery, the 20-percent rule appears to be an excellent starting point. Another research looked at Arabian endurance horses who were carrying between 20 and 30 percent of their body weight at the time of the investigation.

  1. smaller cannon bone circumference).
  2. In addition, despite their small stature, Icelandic horses are sometimes seen hauling adult riders on their backs.
  3. They discovered that the horses did not experience muscular pain after one to two days of labor and that the majority of them were able to operate aerobically (with oxygen) until they achieved a weight load of 23 percent of their body weight.
  4. When oxygen is scarce, the horse must seek alternate paths, which can result in the accumulation of lactic acid and the pain of the muscles in the process.
  5. The reduction in stride length, on the other hand, had no effect on stride symmetry.
  6. In addition, as compared to a horse with long legs and a long, weak back, this horse will have a lower center of gravity.
  7. Weight bearing ability may also be affected by the fitness and balance of the horse and rider.

When a horse is out of shape or out of balance, he will lack the strength to properly elevate his back and support the weight of the rider while keeping his or her own balance.

In addition, an inexperienced rider can throw off the balance of a horse as they attempt to maintain proper riding posture while simultaneously combating the consequences of muscular exhaustion.

These activities should only be attempted if the horses and riders are in good enough condition to do so.

Your saddle should be properly fitted to your horse’s back so that the weight of the rider is distributed as evenly as possible without pinching or creating muscular tightness.

A balanced, smooth surface for weight bearing should be achieved via trimming the hooves.

Consult a respected equine specialist such as your farrier or veterinarian for guidance on whether to add shoes or protective boots to horses whose hooves are wearing down faster than they can regenerate or for horses with thin soles before making this decision. In 2019, the situation was reviewed.

How Much Weight Can a Horse Carry? (Weight Limit to Ride)

Despite the fact that horses are enormous and strong creatures, they have their limits. Any overloading can result in damage and a reduction in their capacity to function. What is the maximum amount of weight that a horse can carry? This is an important topic to ask whether you are new to horseback riding or an experienced rider who wants to learn more about the horse. Let’s have a look at this.

How Much Weight Can a Horse Carry

The key to a safe and enjoyable ride is to keep an eye out for stiffness in the horse’s muscles. When transporting a human weighing more than 20% of the animal’s body weight, you should be aware that the animal will begin to experience substantial strain and suffering. Consequently, the maximum weight carrying capacity of the horse, including the rider and saddle, is 20 percent of its maximum carrying capacity. Keep in mind that the average western saddle weighs around 50 pounds (22.7 kg), whereas the average English saddle weighs approximately 20 pounds (9 kg).

Furthermore, stockier horses can carry more weight than the typical horse, making them more ideal for riders who weigh more than the average.

Never allow a young or aged horse to carry an excessive amount of weight in order to avoid damage.

Proper Horses’ Sizes for Particular Riders

What is crucial for safe riding is that the horse’s size is appropriate to your own height and body weight. For example, if you are significantly larger than the horse, you will find it difficult to maintain your balance for the whole horse ride. When you are too short for the horse, on the other hand, you will have difficulty using your legs efficiently. For example, improperly wrapping the horse’s legs around the horse’s body might cause the horse discomfort. The breadth and barrel size of the horse will be acceptable for you to ride securely only if you wrap your legs over its sides in the appropriate manner.

weight limit to ride a horse

As previously stated, 20 percent reflects the greatest amount of a person’s and equipment’s total weight that a horse is comfortable carrying. Riders should not weigh more than 15 percent of the horse’s total weight in most circumstances.

Weight limit to ride a horse

Horse’s weight Weight carrying capacity – 15% Weight carrying capacity – 20%
700 pounds (317.5 kg) 105 pounds (47.5 kg) 140 pounds (63.5 kg)
800 pounds (363 kg) 120 pounds (54.5 kg) 160 pounds (72.5 kg)
900 pounds (408 kg) 135 pounds (61 kg) 180 pounds (81.5 kg)
1,000 pounds (453.5 kg) 150 pounds (68 kg) 200 pounds (91 kg)
1,100 pounds (499 kg) 165 pounds (75 kg) 220 pounds (99.5 kg)
1,200 pounds (544 kg) 180 pounds (81.5 kg) 240 pounds (109 kg)
1,300 pounds (590 kg) 195 pounds (88.5 kg) 260 pounds (118 kg)
1,400 pounds (635 kg) 210 pounds (95 kg) 280 pounds (127 kg)
1,500 pounds (680 kg) 225 pounds (102 kg) 300 pounds (136 kg)
1,600 pounds (726 kg) 240 pounds (109 kg) 320 pounds (145 kg)
1,700 pounds (771 kg) 255 pounds (115.5 kg) 340 pounds (154 kg)
1,800 pounds (816.5 kg) 270 pounds (122.5 kg) 360 pounds (163 kg)
1,900 pounds (862 kg) 285 pounds (129 kg) 380 pounds (172 kg)
2,000 pounds (907 kg) 300 pounds (136 kg) 400 pounds (181.5 kg)
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In any case, if you want to know what horse kind will be able to appropriately transport you, you should consult one of the online calculators.

An Ideal Horse for Riding

These are the characteristics that are most frequently taken into account when selecting a horse for riding:


It is vital to concentrate on breeds since some of them are more thin, such as the Arabian, while others are stockier, such as the Haflinger, and so on.

You should select the one that is the most appropriate for your riding abilities and your own preferences.


Confirmation refers to the form or structure of the horse, as well as its proportions. When acquiring a horse, it is important to consider its intended use because this impacts the weight bearing capabilities of the animal.


A horse that has not been properly taught will demand a lighter rider since it is not as balanced as a horse that has been properly trained.


A horse that has never been used for regular labor and has not been allowed to run freely for an extended period of time is likely to be in bad condition. As a result, it will be better ideal for riders who are less in weight.

Body condition

The amount of fat present in the horse’s body is referred to as its body condition. A horse that is underweight or overweight will always require a lighter rider since its carrying capacity will not be at its maximum level.

Horse’s age

The carrying capacity of a horse is also determined by the horse’s age, since the very young and old animals demand a lighter rider.

Horse breed that fits particular rider height

Rider height Horse and pony breeds
Short rider, up to 65 inches (165 cm) Haflinger, Appaloosa, Fjord, Dales Pony, Highland Pony, Irish Cob, Hanoverian
Average rider from 65 to 70 inches (165 – 178 cm) Irish Draught, Percheron, Fresian, Irish Cob, Haflinger, Fjord, Draft Cross, Cleveland Bay, Quarter Horse, Lusitano, Paint, Hanoverian, Knabstrupper, Holsteiner, Morgan
Tall rider, over 70 inches (178 cm) Clydesdale, Irish Draught, Percheron, Draft Cross, Cleveland Bay, Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Knabstrupper

Rider’s age

When acquiring a horse for a younger rider, selecting a horse that is taller or stockier is the most appropriate option for the situation. It will be proportionate to the rider’s potential adult height and weight. A shorter horse, on the other hand, is more ideal for seniors since it makes mounting and dismounting easier and reduces the chance of injury.

The Best Horse Breeds for Beginners

Equine companions that are simple to teach and retain positive memories of their training are the most suitable for inexperienced riders.


Morgans are a kind and fearless breed that is always willing to satisfy its owners. It will put out great effort in working with any riders and will be consistent in determining their needs.


Because of its lively demeanor and proclivity to roll around in the mud, the Friesian is sometimes compared to a Labrador Retriever (Lab). In addition, because horses are loyal to their owners, it is the perfect option for riders who desire a long-term engagement with their mount.


Many beginning riders are intimidated by the prospect of riding a large horse, therefore the Icelandic horse is a good compromise. A rider, particularly an inexperienced one, will find it more comfortable because of its height and the smooth rendition of a rapid stroll that it offers.

Tennessee Walking Horse

Its walk is so smooth that you may comfortably have a cup of tea while riding it. Additionally, it is a fantastic answer for individuals who have saddle soreness after a lengthy riding session.

Connemara Pony

Connemara Pony started out as a farm worker and eventually became more. Due to the fact that this horse stands around 14 hands or 56 inches (1.42 m) tall, it is ideal for accommodating shorter equestrian riders. Despite the fact that it is a pony of a smaller breed, it is an athletic animal that will become a faithful companion in future contests for you.

Welsh Cob

Welsh Cob horses were developed via crossbreeding between the Welsh Mountain Pony and bigger breeds such as Arabians or Thoroughbreds. The fact that it may be used in a variety of disciplines makes it popular among European riding schools.

The Best Horse Breeds for Plus-sized Riders

Despite the fact that horse size and strength can vary within a single breed, some horses are regarded to be the ideal choice for plus-size riders due to their size and strength.

These horses have good, firm hooves, thicker bones, and are often larger and stronger than other breeds.


Appaloosas belong into the group of shorter horses, making them more suited for riders who are shorter or larger in stature than other breeds. They tend to have placid demeanor, which allows them to be an excellent fit for riders of all skill levels. Traditionally, this breed has been employed in western disciplines like as cutting and reining, among others.


As a result of their height and the size of their barrels, Clydesdales are the greatest horses for tall and plus-sized riders. However, despite their outgoing personality, they are not appropriate for all riding styles. Although they are not very adept at jumping, they are an excellent choice for pleasure riding on trails, pulling, and driving duties.

Dales Pony

In addition to being tall and having enormous barrels, Clydesdales are also the perfect horses for tall, plus-sized riders. Despite their pleasant demeanors, they are not appropriate for all sorts of riding situations. The fact that they are not very good at jumping makes them an excellent choice for trail riding, pulling, or driving.


Despite the fact that most of them aren’t particularly stocky, Hanoverians are suitable for riders of all sizes. Because of their exceptional athletic abilities, they make excellent sport horses. This is why jumpers for dressage and competitions are made out of them.

The Horse’s Purpose

Another important consideration when acquiring a horse is determining whether or not the horse is fit for the discipline in which it will be utilized. Horses of a lower stature are more suited to barrel racing or gymkhanas, whilst taller animals are better suited to dressage. Furthermore, some disciplines need a greater amount of horse labor. This covers elements such as how frequently and for how long you bike, as well as how strenuous the ride is. The greater the intensity of the effort, the less weight the horse is capable of towing at a given time.


Because the average rider is becoming heavier, it is important to ensure that the horse does not get overburdened. As a result, if you keep your animal’s weight within reasonable bounds, its performance in the duties you assign it will be improved. As a consequence, you will have a long-term partner in your endeavors in the coming years.

8 Best Horse Breeds for Heavy Riders (Over 250 pounds)

If you weigh 250 lbs or more, you can still enjoy horseback riding as long as you ride the appropriate horse for your weight. The safety of the horse and rider should always take first, which is why it is critical to pick the correct horse breed that is capable of carrying hefty riders. Please keep in mind that we are not providing medical or veterinary advice on this website. Always consult with your veterinarian before riding to ensure that you are riding your horse in a safe manner.

Finding the Right Horse Breed for Heavy Riders

As a general rule of thumb, a horse can comfortably carry 20 percent of its own body weight during horseback riding. As a result, if you weigh 250 pounds, you should strive to ride a horse that weighs at least 1,250 pounds. This will assist to assure the horse’s safety as well as his capacity to perform his job. The ability of a horse to carry a large amount of weight is also dependent on its ability to maintain balance. Fit and balanced riders are more likely to have an easier time supporting their horses than uncoordinated riders who might throw off the horse’s balance and induce tiredness.

If you have any doubts about whether or not your horse is capable of properly supporting you, you should get guidance from a veterinarian.

8 Best Horse Breeds for Heavy Riders

Riding larger breeds of horses is frequently the best option for riders who weigh more than 250 pounds. A horse does not always have to be taller in order to be more durable, but they should be built with strength in mind. The ability to bear additional weight will be greater in horses with a stockier body than in polished, lean types. The circumference of the cannon bone is frequently used to determine the strength of a horse. Because the cannon bone is a weight-bearing bone, horses with bigger cannon bones are frequently able to sustain greater weight.


Clydesdales are huge horses that stand between 16 and 18 hands high and make excellent riding companions for larger riders. In fact, they are becoming increasingly popular when it comes to riding horses for show and pleasure. Because of their stocky physique and kind dispositions, they are suitable for riders of all abilities. With an average Clydesdale weighing between 1,600 and 1,800 pounds, they have a carrying capacity of around 320 pounds. That is approximately the weight of a 280-pound rider wearing a saddle weighing around 40 pounds.

Thiscold-blooded horse breedis known for being kind and loving, which makes them excellent riding mounts for beginners and experienced riders alike.


Shire horses are one of the largest horse breeds in the world, and they are both strong and docile. They may make excellent riding partners, despite the fact that they are not often considered of as such by horse enthusiasts. With an average Shire weighing between 1,700 and 2,000 pounds, they have a carrying capacity of around 340 pounds. That is approximately the weight of a 300-pound rider wearing a saddle weighing around 40 pounds. Despite their massive size, they are rather agile, which makes them excellent mounts for riders who want to be on the go.


The Friesian horse is an excellent riding partner because he is elegant, graceful, and powerful. It is well-known for its energetic gaits and attractive carriage, as well as its long hair and feathered hooves In most cases, an AFriesian will have 15-17 hands on the table. For a Friesian to properly transport a rider weighing 250 pounds while also carrying a saddle weighing around 20 pounds, the Friesian must weigh approximately 1,360 pounds. Horses of this breed are well-known for their versatility, since they are frequently displayed in categories like saddle seat, hunt seat, western, dressage, and driving, among others.

Please also have a look at our post, “8 facts you didn’t know about the Friesian horse breed,” for more information.

Irish Draught

Irish Draughts are about 15-17 hands in height and weigh between 1,300 and 1,400 pounds on average. In order for an Irish Draught to properly transport a large rider weighing over 250 pounds while also carrying a saddle weighing around 20 pounds, the Irish Draught must weigh at least 1,360 pounds. Their powerful physique, along with their athletic disposition, make them excellent partners for all sorts of riders, whether they are tiny or of bigger stature. They frequently perform well in dressage and jumping, and they make wonderful show or pleasure horses as a result.

The Irish Draught is an easy-going and resilient horse that makes a wonderful riding partner. They are well-known for their level-headed demeanor and their incredible endurance. Learn all you need to know about the Irish Draught breed by reading our Irish Draught breed profile guide.


Photograph courtesy of Criadero Sumatambo The Percheron breed is renowned for its strength and dedication to its task. These gentle giants are most usually employed for driving and farmwork, but some of them may also make excellent saddle horses if they are properly trained. Percheron’s typical weight is between 1,800 and 2,000 pounds, and they have a carrying capacity of around 360 pounds. That is approximately the weight of a 320-pound rider plus the weight of a saddle that is around 40 pounds.

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Despite the fact that they are not traditionally considered of as riding horses, many heavy riders have discovered that they make reliable mounts.

Spotted Draft Horse

When fully loaded, a typical American Cream Draft can carry up to 300 pounds. It weighs between 1,500 and 1,600 pounds and stands 16-17 feet tall. This is about the weight of a 260-pound rider with tack that can weigh up to 40 pounds combined. Despite the fact that they are a rare breed, the Spotted Draft Horse has earned a reputation as a magnificent riding horse. The amazing coat patterns on these wonderful drawings make them stand out from the crowd. Spotted Drafts are more nimble than other popular draft breeds, and they are calm and ready to please their owners.

Cleveland Bay

The Cleveland Bay is a magnificent riding mount because it is large, strong, and graceful. They are well-known for their beauty, endurance, and reasonable temperaments, which make them excellent horses for riders of all ages. Cleveland Bay horses, which typically reach between 16 and 16 and a half hands tall and weigh between 1,400 and 1,500 pounds, can carry up to 280 pounds. That is the equivalent of a person weighing around 260 pounds with a saddle weighing up to 20 pounds. These magnificent horses must be bay, with black tips, and the only white that is authorized is a star marking on their forehead.

American Cream Draft

Despite the fact that the American Cream Drafthorse is a rare breed, it has a large following of admirers. These lovely horses, who are distinguished by their cream coats, are the only draft breed to have originated in the United States. The American Cream Draft is around 15.1-16.3 hands in height and weighs between 1,600 and 1,800 pounds on average. They are capable of transporting riders weighing up to 320 pounds (including 40 lbs of tack). Their distinctive coats range in color from delicate cream to a deep golden, and they are well-known for having amber eyes, which are a hallmark feature of the breed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible for a horse’s back to be damaged when riding? Riders who are well-balanced and do not weigh more than 20 percent of the horse’s body weight should not cause back problems in animals who are well tack and properly balanced. As long as these guidelines are followed, the majority of horses will not get back issues as a result of riding. What Kind of Horse Is Capable of Carrying a Large Rider? The ability to carry a hefty rider on a powerful, well-muscled horse with solid legs of greater size is common.

  • Is it possible for a horse to carry 300 pounds?
  • Always consult with your veterinarian before getting on a horse!
  • Despite the fact that there is no established weight limit, few horses are capable of securely transporting more than 300 pounds.
  • The weight restriction might range from 210 to 300 pounds, depending on the facility and the horses that are available.
  • Generally speaking, your weight should not exceed 20% of the weight of a horse’s total weight.

Please keep in mind that we are not providing medical or veterinary advice on this website. Always consult with a veterinarian before attempting to ride your horse to ensure that it is safe for you to do so. You may also be interested in:

  • A Horse’s Capacity for Carrying
  • Horse Breeds’ Height and Weight Chart
  • What Is the Average Weight of a Horse
  • Differences between Shires and Clydesdales

How Much Weight Can a Horse Carry?

It is critical to understand how much weight a horse is capable of carrying before you saddle up. Despite the fact that horses are generally portrayed as powerful creatures capable of sustaining big loads, they do have limitations in terms of how much they can safely transport. It is critical for the horse’s safety and well-being to understand the weight constraints on how much they are capable of tolerating and supporting. The fact that equines are strong animals does not imply that they can readily carry great quantities of weight, though.

For example, a horse weighing 1,000 pounds might securely carry 200 pounds of weight on its back.

Weight-bearing capacity is determined by a variety of factors, including conformation and fitness, workload, equipment, and hoof care.

You don’t want the horse to have to carry any more weight than it is capable of comfortably supporting for its own health.

What Factors Affect How Much a Horse Can Carry?

Despite the fact that the general rule of thumb is to carry no more than 20 percent of a horse’s body weight, some horses, depending on their conformation, may safely bear greater weight. An horse that is compact and hardy can often sustain more than an equine that is long-legged and thin. Consider the Icelandic horse, which is a breed of horse native to Iceland. They normally stand 13 – 14 feet tall and weigh between 730 and 840 pounds, depending on the breed. Despite their little stature, they are frequently seen transporting adult passengers.

With their strong cannon bones, short backs, and well-muscled bodies, they are able to safely hold far more weight than the typical horse.

If the rider is athletic and well-balanced, Icelandics and other horse breeds with comparable conformation can typically sustain a rider who is 25 percent of their own body weight.


The level of fitness of both the horse and the rider is critical in determining how much weight a horse can safely support. It is possible for an unfit, imbalanced horse to struggle to carry even 20 percent of its own body weight. An out-of-shape horse will lack the necessary strength to lift their back and assist their rider when necessary. They will frequently struggle to attain the proper balance and will frequently experience discomfort as a result. An unfit rider who lacks proper balance can create discomfort and stiffness in a horse’s back.

Furthermore, because it is out of shape, a fat horse will not necessarily be able to carry 20 percent of its own weight. Furthermore, when some horses grow older, they may not be able to carry the same amount of weight that they could when they were younger.


The amount of work a horse is required to do will also influence how much they can carry. It is far less physically difficult to walk for twenty minutes on a level surface than it is to take an hour-long trip across mountainous terrain. When a horse is going around an arena, it may appear like it is OK to carry more than 20% of its body weight. The time, terrain, and increase in pace, on the other hand, necessitate greater work from the horse. When horses participate in strenuous activity, they frequently have difficulty carrying more than 20% of their own body weight.

Equipment and Hoof Care

The capacity of a horse to perform is dependent on the fit of his equipment and the care of his hooves. A horse can get lame very quickly if not given the proper care. Saddles should be correctly fitted to horses so that the horse’s weight is distributed evenly and there is no pinching. Horses that wear saddles that are not properly fitted might suffer from major back issues. The health of a horse’s hooves is also critical to the animal’s capacity to carry a lot of weight. Their hooves should be trimmed on a regular basis in order to ensure that they are properly kept and healthy.

Short and Long Term Effects of Too Much Weight

When it comes to some horses, you can see immediately away whether they are having difficulty supporting the weight they are carrying. It is possible that some horses will not instantly display indications of distress, but that they will develop issues over time. When a horse is carrying an excessive amount of weight, its breathing may become unnaturally heavy. If they are carrying an excessive amount of weight, they may also exhibit shorter strides and a lack of symmetry. When they get home from work, they may seem sore or exhibit indications of pain.

They may even develop chronic pain, joint difficulties, and arthritis as a result of their lifestyle choices.

What Size Horse Should I Get?

For thousands of years, humans have rode horses and relied on them to transport large objects. However, in order to guarantee the life of our equine friends, we must be considerate of their limits. It is always a good idea to adhere to the rule of thumb that a horse can carry 20% of its own body weight or less. However, because every horse and rider is unique, it is necessary to analyze each horse individually in order to determine what is best for them. Thanks to Criadero Sumatambo (on Instagram: @sumatambo and on Facebook: @sumatambo) for this photo.

All you have to do is make sure you’re riding a horse that has the ability to carry you.

When it comes to heavier riders, being taller isn’t always the best option.

Large horse breeds with a robust, compact physique are frequently capable of carrying a greater load than smaller horses. Larger riders may find Irish draughts, Warmbloods, draft breeds, draft crosses, and even certain robust Quarter Horses to be the most suitable horses.


What Is the Best Way to Tell if You’re Too Big for Your Horse? To determine whether or not your horse is capable of carrying you, you must first determine the weight of your horse. Horse weight tapes may be purchased for those who do not have access to a horse scale. These tapes will tell you how much your horse weighs. When you weigh yourself, divide it by 20 percent of your horse’s weight to determine whether or not you can safely ride your horse on a flat surface. What height should my horse be in relation to my height?

  • It is possible for you to cause balance difficulties for your horse if you are too top-heavy for him and are not correctly balanced when riding.
  • Is it possible for a horse’s back to be damaged when riding?
  • However, if a horse’s equipment is not properly fitted or if it is carrying excessive weight, it may suffer from back difficulties.
  • Some horses are capable of towing a 300-pound rider on their backs.
  • Important Safety Reminder: We recommend that you always consult with your veterinarian about how much weight your horse can handle, especially if you are unsure.

How Much Weight Can a Horse Safely Carry?

If you are considering stocking your saddlebag with provisions or if you have begun to gain a few pounds, you may be wondering how much weight your horse is capable of comfortably carrying. It can carry around 20% of its body weight, but there are several additional elements that influence your horse’s capacity and comfort that you should consider before consistently placing the maximum load on your horse. Continue reading as we cover topics such as breed, fitness, conformation, and more to assist you in making an educated selection.

How Much Weight Can a Horse Carry?

Image courtesy of Alexas Fotos and Pixabay. In the event that you haven’t acquired a horse yet and are looking for one to ride, the 20 percent rule is a decent place to begin your search. The majority of riding horses weigh around 1,000 pounds, which implies that the combined weight of you and the saddle cannot exceed 200 pounds. Saddles may weigh anywhere from 10 to 60 pounds, thus a larger saddle will require a rider who weighs no more than 140 pounds to safely operate it. In the event that you weigh more than 185 pounds or need to transport a large amount of supplies, you may want to consider renting a draft horse.

These horses will be more costly, slower, and more difficult to saddle than a riding horse, but they will be able to carry a significant amount of additional weight.

Horse Conformation

Image courtesy of Kevin Carvalho via Conformation refers to the shape of the horse, particularly the saddle area, and it has a significant impact on how much weight your horse is capable of towing or pulling. Horses with broad loins and robust back legs are less likely to suffer while carrying heavy loads, and they recover more quickly after tough activity. A horse with these characteristics may be able to slightly surpass the 20 percent guideline, but a horse with thinner rear legs may only be able to achieve 17 percent or 18 percent.

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Horse Breed

Image courtesy of Piqsels The stockiness and muscular mass of some horse breeds is genetically determined as opposed to other breeds. They will be able to carry greater weight and may be able to overcome the 20 percent threshold by a large margin. Some breeds, such as the Paso Fino breed, are capable of carrying up to 25 percent of their body weight with ease.

Horse Health

Image courtesy of dendoktoor and Pixabay. It is possible that your horse’s health will play a considerable role in deciding how much weight he can carry. The ability to move big weights in a horse suffering from disease may be impaired, while an elderly horse with arthritis may be unable to do so and may experience discomfort when a heavy load is placed on its back. There are a variety of additional health concerns that might impair your horse’s carrying capacity, such as weariness. Proper nourishment is also essential to provide your horse with the energy it requires to do the task at hand, as well as ample relaxation once it has completed the task to prepare it for the next one.

Rider Experience

In order to avoid fatigueing or throwing off the horse’s balance, an experienced rider should transfer their body weight and climb into the saddle as fast as possible. This will improve your horse’s capacity to handle high loads and reduce weary. It will take a lot of energy to struggle to climb on your horse, especially if you are close to your maximum weight.

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When it comes to loading your horse, you need also consider the terrain you will be riding on. Muddy ground and an uphill road will be difficult for your horse to walk on, and it may not be able to carry as much weight as it would be able to if it were going on flat and firm ground. Additionally, rocks and uneven terrain, as well as the heat of a summer day, can make it more difficult to transport big items.


If you’re searching for anything to haul large goods around the farm, you might want to start with a draft horse so you can be sure you’ll have the power you need. In the event that you have a riding horse that is becoming older or if you are gaining weight, you’ll need to keep an eye on the horse to determine whether it is having trouble. Weighing the horse and yourself on a regular basis is important, and the 20 percent guideline should be followed. Your time on horseback should be reduced as you get near to the limit of your endurance ability.

If we have been of use in making your horse more comfortable, please spread the word about this guide on how much a horse can safely carry on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

He has a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Adelaide (who declined to be pictured).

Original from the United States, Ollie possesses a master’s degree in wildlife biology and relocated to Australia for the purpose of pursuing his job and interest. Ollie has since discovered a new passion for working online and blogging about animals of all kinds.

How Much Weight Can Your Horse Safely Carry?

Have you ever carried a typical schoolkid’s bag around with you? It was not that long ago, while some of us were in school, that we just had two or three textbooks with us at all times. Nowadays, however, because many schools have eliminated lockers for security concerns, students are frequently required to carry all of their stuff with them during the day. One survey of 3,498 middle-school pupils conducted in 2004 discovered that the average backpack weight was 10.6 pounds, with some kids carrying as much as 37 pounds.

  • In other words, the bigger the weight of the backpack, the greater the possibility that the kid would complain of discomfort.
  • The burdens imposed on a 1,000-pound horse would be confined to 100 to 150 pounds if the same restrictions were followed in the equestrian community.
  • However, this does not imply that there is no expense.
  • Our investigations focused with energetics, specifically how to measure the costs of carrying a large amount of weight, according to the study team’s leader Dr.
  • The effects of weight on horse biomechanics, metabolism, and prospective soundness were among the topics covered in the research.
  • Wickler adds that his results might have far-reaching ramifications, including those for recreational trail mounts and backyard horses, among other things.
  • National Center for Health Statistics reports that the average height and weight of the American population has increased over the past several decades, and the number of obese individuals has increased as well, as has the number of overweight people.

The majority of the time, the answer is “It depends.” However, raising your horse’s awareness of weight concerns can go a long way toward keeping him healthy and sound for years to come in the future.

The muscles they need to run, jump, fly, and climb out of harm’s way, as well as the hoof and horn, tooth, and claw they use to wage their conflicts, must all be carried with them.

Growing and sustaining such tools, on the other hand, necessitates the use of energy, which must be obtained from readily available food supplies.

As Wickler explains, “Human engineers will overbuild in order to anticipate extremes.” “For example, an elevator with a stated capacity of eight passengers or a weight limit of 1,500 pounds may be constructed.

However, biological systems do not behave in this manner.

When a horse carries a rider, it is this “reserve capacity” that is responsible for bearing the additional weight; nevertheless, the horse must alter the way he moves and uses his muscles to accommodate the additional weight.

The amount of oxygen the horses used while trotting on a treadmill while wearing face masks was assessed by the researchers.

With the addition of weights that accounted for around 19 percent of the horses’ total weight, which is roughly similar to a 150-pound rider with equipment, the horses’ metabolic rate climbed by an average of 17.6 percent at all speeds, the researchers discovered.

With each extra pound added to the burden, the metabolic work required to move that load increases by a comparable amount–and this is on level ground.

Economy It should come as no surprise that horses who are free to pick their own speed prefer to slow down when they have additional weight placed on their backs.

This portion of the study involved the training of seven Arabian horses, including geldings and mares, to walk and trot along a level fence line in response to spoken orders.

It was estimated that the saddle and lead together weighted 85 kilograms (187 pounds), which accounted for around 19 percent of the horses’ total body weights.

According to Wickler, “Not only does their metabolic rate increase, but their preferred speed decreases as well.” He adds that the most important finding was that the horses’ preferred speed was the most economical in terms of moving a given distance while carrying the additional weight, which was the most important finding of the study.

  • “When you add weight to a horse when it is standing, the power of the weight is distributed evenly across the animal’s four limbs,” Wickler explains.
  • Each horse’s fore- and hindlimbs were filmed so that stride duration could be assessed, and normal (vertical) and parallel (horizontal) forces, as well as the time each foot spent in contact with the plate, were recorded.
  • However, there are considerable variances in the amount of force that is borne by the front and hind legs when comparing the two.
  • When going uphill, the pattern of distribution varies, with the forelimbs supporting 52 percent of the weight and the hindlimbs supporting 48 percent of the weight.
  • The two feet remained on the ground for approximately the same length of time while traveling at greater speeds, but when traveling at slower speeds, the hind limbs tended to spend less time on the ground–an observation that had never been made before in quadrupeds, says Wickler.

Gait Cal State researchers trotted five Arabian horses at a consistent speed on a treadmill under three different conditions: on a flat surface with no load, on a 10 percent incline while carrying a saddle and weights that totaled approximately 19 percent of their body mass, and on a level surface while carrying a saddle and weights that totaled approximately 19 percent of their body mass.

  • It was discovered that while the horses were carrying a weight, they trotted for an average of 7.7 percent longer time than they did when they were trotting unburdened.
  • In brief, notes Wickler, carrying a load causes a horse’s stride to be shorter, his feet to remain on the ground for a longer period of time, and the distance his body travels (the “step length”) with each stride to be greater.
  • “Forces are harmful,” explains Wickler, “and keeping the foot on the ground minimizes peak forces, which in turn reduces the likelihood of an injury occurring.” Is it a difficult road?
  • Clearly, horses have been transporting riders for thousands of years all across the world with little to no negative consequences.
  • If there is any force sent from one foot to the other that is not absorbed by bone and tendon, it must be transferred to the muscles.
  • While fitness training helps horses build up and develop their muscles and bones, it also helps them build up their reserve for absorbing the pressures of exercise.
  • “Losing even a tiny amount of weight may make a significant effect,” adds Wickler.

“For racing performance on a short track, a 10 percent improvement is a significant improvement,” Wickler explains.

While carrying a single heavy rider on a one-day ride is unlikely to cause major injury to a horse, a constant program of this type of activity over a long period of time might result in chronic injury.

It is possible that chronic overwork leads to a large number of little microfractures, which can accumulate and eventually cause a catastrophic break.

So, what is the maximum weight that a horse can safely carry?

A horse that staggers under the weight of a load is clearly overburdened.

Time and terrain are other important considerations.

Because of the lack of scientific research, historical sources are the next best source of information on maximum weight loads for horses.

“ ‘American mules can carry up to 20% of their body weight (150 to 300 pounds) for 15 to 20 miles a day in mountains,’ according to U.S.

“There have been some anecdotal tales of mules weighing 350 to 400 pounds, and an 1867 reference to mules weighing 600 to 800 pounds.” According to India’s Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animals Rules, 1965, the maximum weight for mules is 200 kilograms (approximately 440 pounds), while the maximum weight for ponies is 70 kilograms (about 230 pounds) (154 pounds).

Faster movement means higher stresses on the limbs and more metabolism is required,” says the instructor.

For example, the National Park Service does not allow riders who weigh more than 200 pounds to participate in mule trips into the Grand Canyon, which are operated by the National Park Service.

“It’s clear that’s not going to happen.” People, on the other hand, must be conscious of the amount of weight they are placing on a horse.” This comprises not just the rider’s weight, but also the weight of the saddle, as well as the weight of any other items that are being transported.

Australian, endurance, and synthetic Western saddles are all lighter than traditional Western saddles, weighing between 13 and 22 pounds.

Gel-filled saddle pads, as well as any additional equipment worn by the rider or tucked inside saddlebags, can add several pounds to the rider’s total weight.

“I’d like to lose a few pounds,” Wickler confesses candidly. “It’d be better for me, and it’d be better for my horse as well,” says the author. Original publication of this article appeared in the January 2005 issue of EQUUS magazine.

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