Have you ever wondered how much weight your horse can safely carry? Lately, I have been thinking about this issue and have done some research. Many factors add into the equation of a rider’s weight to the weight a horse can comfortably carry. In my research on this subject, I have come across many useful points.
For starters, the conformation and soundness of the horse are factors to be taken into consideration. The shorter, stronger, and sturdier horses characteristically have greater weight-carrying ability than tall, slender, finely put together horses. Some breeds and types of horses are simply better weight-carriers than others are. For a personal example, my horse Erik was a 17’2 hand Dutch Warmblood who weighed in at around 1600 lbs. He was short-coupled and well built, with a sturdy body with even sturdier legs. I never worried much about my weight when I rode him. Now that Dusty is all I have left to ride, I am faced with a much different scenario. Dusty is a 15’1 quarter horse, with a long back, a short neck and what I consider finer legs; needless to say she doesn’t have the greatest conformation. Nevertheless, Dusty is a strong, sturdy horse and I’ve got to say I’ve always liked her because her huge gold quarter horse butt was bigger than mine. It’s now time to realize I have to work with what I have. Hence, the research into weight bearing statistics.
Another point to consider is that a rider’s ability plays a key part. A heavy or slightly overweight rider who is fit, supple, accomplished, and understanding can be easier for a horse to carry than a rider who weighs substantially less yet may be unfit, inept and/or inconsiderate. So if you are an accomplished rider who weighs more than a pitchfork, you may be better for the horse than a perfectly weighted rider who is grinding his or her buttocks into the seat - and in turn the horse’s back - while you are flopping around unbalanced up there.
Where you ride may be just as important as how you ride. Riding in an arena with good footing, at no matter what gait, would perhaps be the best situation for the horse. Riding on the trails or trotting/cantering up and down hills would be less ideal, particularly when the rider has difficulty with his or her own balance - though of course a more balanced and skilled rider should not present a problem for a fit and well balanced horse.
Saddles are the connection between the horse and rider and they need to fit both the horse and the rider properly. A perfectly fitted saddle for the horse is an absolute necessity. On the other hand, if a saddle is too large for the rider it may not cause the horse as much damage as a saddle that is too small for the rider. Even if the saddle fits the horse well, if it is too small for the rider it may cause discomfort for the horse once a too-heavy rider plops their butt in it. The rider's weight will not be distributed correctly and will perhaps cause sections of the saddle to create injurious pressure on delicate areas of the horse's back and spine.
In conclusion, the standard rule of thumb according to my research would be that the average healthy horse could carry 20 percent of its weight. The weight would of course include the rider and all the tack. I would like to add that the 20 percent rule should be the highest percentage and not the starting point; it should be viewed as the maximum amount of weight not the beginning measure. From there, the rider can adjust the calculation to take the horse’s conformation into account.
In addition, it should always be taken into consideration the condition of the horse to be ridden. Horses that are injured, recovering, or getting in shape cannot carry a heavy load nor should they be asked to. Keep a check on your horses’ feet too, if they need shoeing, be kind and wait until they are trimmed or shod before taking them out for a spin. Watch your horses for stress or soreness of any kind and behave accordingly. It is a good idea to have mounting blocks to alleviate any stress that may be put on the horses back during mounting. These come in handy and your horse will thank you for not twisting and pulling his/her saddle, creating torsion on his back while you are mounting.
Check out a particular article I came across on Equisearch, it will give you all the details you need to know about:
Until next time
Quote for Today
A horse is an animal not a machine and is only as good as its rider.