how much weight can a horse carry

how much weight can a horse carry

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My grandson turned to me and said, “He’s far too big to ride,” as a huge guy suited for riding passed us. His remark sparked a lively debate regarding the weight that horses can carry, with some people claiming that 250 pounds is the limit and others asserting that 500 pounds is no issue.

Based on the 20% guideline, a horse may carry a maximum weight of 400 pounds. 20% of a horse’s body weight may often be carried safely. Therefore, a 400-pound human may be securely transported on a huge draft horse that weighs 2,000 pounds.

Every horse has advantages and disadvantages, and it is your responsibility as a horse owner to take both into account. As a consequence, you can get the most of your horse while also insuring its continued good health. However, a reliable estimate based on studies is 20% of body weight.

Picture of an under weight two year old horse in training Picture of a two-year-old

How Much Weight Can a Horse Carry Safely?

Horses are strong animals that while capable of supporting a substantial amount of weight, have a safe carrying capacity. Factors such as the horse’s size, age, and fitness level will all play a role in determining how much weight it can carry.

A horse can often carry 20% of its own body weight without any problems. Therefore, a 1000-pound horse could securely carry up to 200 pounds. Of course, this is just a general guideline, and horses can often carry more or less weight depending on their individual circumstances.

For instance, even if 20% of its weight may be greater, the two-year-old Thoroughbred in the image above is not matured enough to support a rider weighing more than 135 lbs.

Horses are strong , lively creatures that can carry the weight of an average rider. But when you add in the weight of horse-riding gear and a huge person, the overall load may exceed the safe weight a horse can carry.

According to an article written in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science Eight adult horses were evaluated by researchers. The horses underwent an exercise test 4 times, carrying 15%, 20%, 25%, and 30% of their body weight in each trial.

During the trial, they used several parameters to measure the effects of increased weights on a horse’s health. These had heart rate , creatine kinase activity, blood samples’ plasma lactate concentrations, and stiffness and discomfort of the muscles.

Researchers found that when horses carried 25% of their body weight, their heart rates were significantly higher, and they experienced more significant muscle soreness and tightness. These modifications intensified and plasma lactase concentrations varied when the researchers raised the animal’s burden by 30%.

The research concluded that 20% of a horse’s body weight is a weight that most people can bear safely. However, the study also found a negative correlation between a horse’s conformation and its weight-bearing capacity.

Picture of a horse galloping. Thoroughbred running

Factors that affect how much weight a horse can safely carry.

How much weight a horse can carry is a question that has no clear-cut solution. The amount of weight that a horse can safely carry varies depending on a number of factors, including the breed of the horse, its age, and the condition of its hooves.

1. Horse Conformation and Weight-Carrying Ability

The shape and size of a horse are referred to as its conformation. For a horse to move properly and execute its chosen discipline with ease, good conformation is required. A horse’s conformation will also affect how much weight it can support without discomfort.

In the aforementioned study, for instance, it was shown that horses with wide loins and big cannon bone circumferences had less discomfort and stiffness in their muscles while carrying greater weights.

Because of the inverse relationship between a horse’s conformation and carrying capacity, well-balanced, robust horses with short backs and thick cannon bones are better able to support heavier loads than those with long legs and weak backs.

Although 20% is a decent place to start when estimating any horse’s carrying capacity, stockier and heavier animals give you a little more wiggle room.

Another study on Icelandic horses (a short, stock horse breed) found that they can safely carry 22.7% of their body weight on average. This figure, however, may vary amongst horses individually by as much as 17% and 27.5%.

2. Horse Breed

All horses are capable of pulling loads, although certain breeds are more adept at it than others. Draft horse breeds such as the Clydesdale and the Shire are known for their strength and stamina and can easily carry a heavy rider.

Other breeds, such as the Arabian and the Mustang, are smaller and more agile, making them better suited for tasks that require quick movements or tight turns. Some breeds, like Thoroughbreds, are bred primarily for racing and are not as suitable for carrying large riders.

It’s crucial to take the breed and capacity for carrying weight into account when selecting a horse for a certain purpose. By matching the horse to the task at hand, you can ensure that both horse and rider will be safe and comfortable.

Determine each animal’s strength in relation to other horses in its own category by learning, if at all feasible, what kind of job was planned for it when it was bred (for example, racehorses shouldn’t be expected to pull anything other than a rider).

The carrying capacity of a horse might vary depending on breed. Just like Icelandic horses can carry 22.7% of their body weight, the Paso Fino horse carries its body weight up to 25% comfortably; both breeds are gaited .

I wonder if their being gaited is a factor in their ability to carry more weight than the average horse. Interestingly, mules are stronger than most horses and can easily carry 25% of their body weight.

3. Health & Fitness of the Horse

One of the most important aspects of horse care is maintaining their fitness. This not only keeps them healthy but also has an impact on their capacity to support weight. For instance, an unfit horse is more likely to fatigue fast and may struggle to carry a rider. .

On the other hand, a horse in top form will be able to perform better for a longer amount of time. A horse may be kept in shape in a number of ways, including via consistent activity, wholesome diet, and enough rest. Horse owners may support their horses’ health and performance by following these guidelines.

Picture of our two year old running

4. Rider’s Fitness and Expertise

The amount of weight a horse can carry also depends on the rider’s skill and physical condition. Experienced riders know how to mount a horse correctly to make transportation simpler. They’ll probably hunch over and make themselves more difficult to carry if they’re really untrained or unfit.

If a horse is tired after exercise, an untrained rider can easily throw it off balance as they struggle to get in the correct saddle position. A skilled rider understands how to control their own weight so the horse can move effortlessly.

5. Type of Activity/Terrain

The terrain on which the horse will be working should also be considered; horses bred for flatland areas may not be suitable for mountainous terrains. When traveling uphill or over uneven ground in the direct sunlight, a horse will rapidly get exhausted.

Additionally, a horse has to expend more energy while running or competing. When a horse is physically stressed because of rugged terrain or activity, extra weight increases its burden.

6. Hoof Care & Overall Condition

In terms of a horse’s ability to bear weight, hoof care is equally crucial. If a horse’s hooves are not trimmed and balanced properly, they will not distribute weight properly across their feet which can lead to lameness or other health issues down the road.

Take excellent care of your animal if you want it to carry a hefty burden. Its hoofs should be in good condition and should be trimmed or appropriately shod. Prior to a vacation, it should have enough of rest and engage in regular activity.

You may read an article I published on caring for your horse’s feet here: Horse Hoof Care and Cleaning: 6 Steps You Must Follow

7. Riding Gear

The weight of the riding equipment on your horse must be taken into consideration, but you must also make sure it is comfortable for the animal.

Some saddles may weigh a lot, adding to the weight. Other times, riding or pack saddles fit poorly and do not distribute your weight to the horse evenly.

8. Individual Assessment

Lastly, as a horse owner, you can make the best call regarding what weight your horse can safely carry. You may decide on your horse’s carrying capacity as you are well aware of its advantages and disadvantages.

To make a wise choice, take into account variables including age, fitness level, terrain, temperature, temperament, and riding experience.

Picture of our horse in a stall.

Note: Weight, Horse Metabolism & Nutrition

A horse’s metabolism speeds up as its activity level rises, and its dietary requirements also do as well. Similarly, when the weight a horse is carrying increases, its metabolism again starts working faster, and its caloric demands go up.

Horses often slow down when their load is increased to conserve energy expenditure. Additionally, their stride length shortens, as seen in a study .

Consequently, while you are operating at maximum capacity, you should To guarantee optimum health, take meticulous care of your horses’ calorie and nutritional requirements.

You may use the table below to discover how much weight your horse can carry without harm.

Horse Breed Horse Weight (lbs.) Carry Capacity (lbs.)
Arabian 800-1000 160-200
Icelandic Horse 730-840 165-190
Racehorse 900-1100 180-220
Paso Fino 700-1000 175-250
Thoroughbred 1000-1300 200-260
Quarter Horse 1000-1300 200-260
Clydesdale 1600-1800 320-360
Andalusian 1000-1300 200-260
Appaloosa 1000-1300 200-260
Cleveland Bay 1200-1500 240-300
Dutch Warmblood 1200-1300 240-260
Shire 1700-2700 340-540
Standardbred 1000-1320 200-264
Mule 800-1000 200-250
Miniature Horse 150-350 30-70

Note: Carrying capacity includes rider weight, riding gear weight, and the weight of any additional load your horse may be carrying. The range of saddle weight is 10 to 60 pounds.

Picture of a bay horse.

Why Knowing a Horse’s Carry Capacity is Important

A horse’s carry capacity is the amount of weight that it can safely carry. Both horse owners and anyone who are considering purchasing a horse should be aware of this.

If you are using your horse to carry heavy people, you need to ensure that the load’s weight is within its carrying capacity. Otherwise, you run the danger of hurting your horse.

The ability of a horse to carry weight is dependent on a number of variables. The horse’s weight is the most crucial factor. A horse can safely carry more weight if it is healthy and in good condition.

The build of a horse is another element that influences its carrying capacity. Some horses, like draft horses, are built to carry heavy loads, while other horses, like Racehorses are not designed to carry a lot of weight. .

The carrying capability of the horse is also influenced by its age. Young horses may not be able to carry as much weight as older horses.

When we used horses to transport products in the past, it was important to understand how much weight a horse could carry and for how long before becoming too exhausted or uncomfortable.

Currently, we transport goods via railroads, trucks, and airplanes; nevertheless, horse riding , racing, and other equestrian pursuits are still quite popular today. And with the average person getting heavier by the day, we need to ensure our horses are not overburdened.

Most horse owners are unaware of their animals’ weight-carrying limitations, unlike professional equestrians, who often ride horses that are too tiny to support their weight.

There are specific risks to exceeding a horse’s carrying capacity. These consist of:

Your horse is more likely to get lame, have back discomfort, and have balance issues if you push it to carry more loads than it can handle.

  • Sore Muscles

Its muscles will get painful, a sign of discomfort, when they must work more quickly.

  • Temperament Issues

When horses are consistently overworked, they are more prone to misbehave and become difficult to control, particularly when inexperienced riders are on board.

  • Chronic Pain and Joint Problems

If horse owners don’t care about the health and physical limits of their animals, eventually their animals may acquire chronic health conditions that will impair their performance.

An example of what might happen when a horse gets overloaded is seen in the YouTube video below.


Is there a weight limit for horseback riding?

There may be weight restrictions for horseback riding imposed by horse rental establishments, but in general, the size, condition, and degree of fitness of the horse will determine the weight limit. Horses shouldn’t be allowed to carry more than 20% of their own body weight, as a general rule.

Can a horse carry a 300-pound person?

A 300-pound human may theoretically be carried by horses, but should they? Even though horses are powerful, huge creatures, they have limitations. Choose an if you weigh more than 300 pounds. large draft horse weighing 1,500 pounds or more .

How much weight can a horse pull?

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I adore animals. Especially horses, I’ve been around them most of my life but I am always learning more and enjoy sharing with others. I have purchased, sold, and broken yearling racehorses. I have raised some winning horses and had some that didn’t make it as racehorses, so we trained them in other disciplines.

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