How much weight can a horse carry comfortably? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 07-06-2011, 03:07 PM Thread Starter
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How much weight can a horse carry comfortably?

I have googled and found a fomulas suggesting different things. But everything it suggest is different than things I've seen- not saying right or wrong.

My dilemna is.. I have a 12 year old paint gelding 14.3 hands around 900 lbs. pretty fit, could use some muscle.

I now own a 2nd horse who is 20 years old, 14.2 hands and about the same weight, kinda chubby, needs to get more fit.

I want to ride with other people, but not everyone is at vertically challenged as me, lol. My dad is 6'1 and probably 185 lbs. My fiance is a big guy, about 240 lbs. My brother is 180 lbs. Granted they all lives in another state, but when they come up, are they too heavy to ride? I let my fiance sit on my 14.3 gelding bc he insisted he'd be fine. LOL!!!! Cooper's eyes widened and he stood stock still, with his legs out like he was parking. I told him, get off!! It was funny but are these "general" rules true? I see BIG men and woman on smaller horses, even on a 16h horse a 240 man is still considered "too heavy".

I got a lot of my info from:
How Much Weight Can a Horse Carry?

What do you all think? i'm like to hear from the heavy riders too. How can you tell its too much for the horse?
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post #2 of 20 Old 07-06-2011, 03:12 PM
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I've always been told 30% of the horses weight. A little less than 1/3. But I was told that before I could remember, so that may have actually been the amount of weight they can hold before they are seriously injured. It should also depend on their build and muscle. I'm not sure anyone can tell you for sure, considering some horses are drama queens, and will refuse to hold more than 150 ;)

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post #3 of 20 Old 07-06-2011, 04:11 PM
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I've heard 20% of their body weight for any sort of "work" but more is acceptable for short periods... Not sure how accurate it is. I've always gone off of my horse's response, none of them have ever been afraid to let me know they're uncomfortable. It probably depends on the horse's individual build too.

Soda is about 1350 pounds and 15.3, Lily is 13.2 and about 900 pounds, I am 5'9" and weigh 140 pounds. I ride both of them with no issues. Lily has carried 175 pounds for an hour long trot/canter/gallop trail ride without any complaints. Soda complains when my friend and I ride him double for 10 minutes. We probably weigh about 280-300 pounds together. I wouldn't ride Lily double.
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post #4 of 20 Old 07-06-2011, 04:29 PM
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It also depends a lot on the build of the horse. How long the back is and how muscular they are. If a horse has a longer back they can't carry as much weight as a horse with a shorter back.
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post #5 of 20 Old 07-06-2011, 04:34 PM
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I suspect your fiance is going to be too tall and heavy for your horses, though they would probably be OK with your dad/brother for light riding.

I've always heard the 20% rule which puts the limit right at 180, but for light riding I think you could go slightly higher so they don't have to ride bareback
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post #6 of 20 Old 07-06-2011, 06:16 PM
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I have a short-backed gelding that used to carry 200 lb of rider plus 40 lb of saddle for 8-12 hours at a time (30%). He weighs around 800-830, so that would be 29% or higher. I weigh 175, and he has no trouble with me - but his back is very short.

My mare is around 880, so I'm at 24% with her. Another Arabian, so another short back - short enough that finding a saddle that isn't too long is a real challenge.

I had a mare who weighed in at 750-800, and when I first started riding her, it was a challenge for her to carry my weight...partly because it affected her balance, but some of it was a lack of muscle. I sold her after a couple of years, but she had gained weight and learned to carry it...that would have been around 800-850 lbs.

That mare was hurt by a too heavy rider...the guy who sold her to us (unbroken) got on her back for picture taking. His 300+ lbs on a 750 lb horse left her back sore for a month, but that was, with saddle, around 45% of her weight.

A western saddle will distribute the weight over more area. Sitting a trot puts more pressure on their back than posting, and trotting more than walking, so some of it depends on what you plan to do, how long, and how well they can ride.

I'd watch the horse when the rider gets on, and then let the horse walk some with the rider. If it hollows its back, have the rider get off...
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post #7 of 20 Old 07-06-2011, 07:38 PM
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It also depends on horses back length.. my gelding has a rather long back so my boyfriend and I have agreed nobody over 200lbs. He is 180 and rides a synthetic western with a good reinsman pad when he ever rides at all. Yes my gelding could carry someone 250 easily but with a long back I worry about swayback as he ages so we keep it under 200. He weighs roughly 900.. I'm curious to try the cannon bone method..
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post #8 of 20 Old 07-06-2011, 08:01 PM
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It also depends on the skill of the rider. A 240 lb rider who know nothing about riding will flop all over the place and be really hard for the hrose to carry, while an experienced ride with good balance and a good seat, but of the same weight, is MUCH easier for the horse to carry. It's not all mathmatics.
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post #9 of 20 Old 07-06-2011, 08:36 PM
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On the horse you have to look at the overall fitness, the length of the cannon bone and circumference (shorter and thicker cannon bones the better weight carrying usually), the health of the joints, the length of the back - shorter is better, and finally and I believe the most important - the quality of the loin. Everyone forgets the loin. If you have a good strong loin area the better weight carrying. The weaker the loin area the less carrying capacity - sometimes drastically so.

As for the rider - are they balanced or do they flop around like a sack of potatoes? Is their weight evenly distributed or are they top heavy? Also their leg length vs body length can impact if they are even comfortable on a certain horse.

How long and how demanding is the ride? Is it going to be a short easy, mostly flat and well maintained trail? Or is it going to be a longer or more rugged ride with hills and challenging obstacles?

All these are factors. There are formulas out there -such as the 20 or 30% rule, but people can't even agree on those because it can truly vary so much from horse to horse. Even the long calculations can over or underestimate the true weight carrying capacity. If there was one sure-shot way life would be easier, but there isn't. Now there are obvious choices - a 300 lbs person on a 12 hand pony isn't going to fly, but there is a lot of grey area and sometimes it comes down to either trying a small ride first and move up seeing how the horse does or just choosing to stay on the safe side.
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post #10 of 20 Old 07-06-2011, 09:51 PM
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Take a look at this video;

In this video are:

My adult daughter, 5 ft. 2 : weight 155

My adult son, 6ft 2 : weight 225

Epona, a Belgian, 16 hands : weight approx. 2,000 lbs

Beau, an OTTB, 16.2 hands: weight approx 1,200 lbs

My son is riding Epona. Both horses are owned by him, but Epona is his riding horse. He has ridden Beau for short rides, 15 minutes or less, at a walk on flat ground in an english saddle. He does not do it often as he doesn't want Beau carrying over 170 lbs. soooo...

My daughter, in the video, will be Beau's primary rider, once she gets him a synthetic western saddle as she can't ride english.

Per the calculations, what is the maximum weight Beau can carry?

What is the maximum Epona can carry?

I get so confused.
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