How Much Weight Can A Horse Carry – 7 Crucial Factors to Know


If you worry that you put too much weight on a horse’s back or you are plus size, you want to enjoy your horse riding without straining your horse.

Whether your horse is for recreation or a horse riding competition, knowing how much a horse can carry will make you enjoy your activities without a long-term injury on the horse.

When your horse carries a heavyweight, health issues may arise quickly and may even shorten the horse’s lifespan. Issues like strained and sore muscles eventually affect the horse’s health; nerve pinching due to additional pressure than that exerted by the average weight also contributes to the weakness of a horse.

Also, the saddle on the horse’s back will cause rub-sores as it is pressed too tightly and firmly on its back.

Similarly, the horse’s back becomes more sensitive and flexible and drops its back when gentle pressure is placed on either side of its spine.

Therefore, you should understand how much weight a horse can carry before enjoying your fantastic ride on a horse.

Hence, here is a detailed discussion on the maximum carrying capacity and factors affecting the weight limit for a horseback riding.  

What Influences The Weight Limit For A Horseback Riding?

Understanding that horses are not the same is noteworthy when you want to mount a horse. As humans differ in muscle strength, body composition, and age, horses have variable body conditions too.

Therefore, factors affecting the weight limit for horseback riding include the body condition, conformation, age, size of the horse, the size of the load, the duration the horse will carry the load, and the speed the horse will go.

Many theories and guidelines explain how much weight a horse should carry, which can be confusing as you get different ideas over the internet.

Therefore, here are the conditions to note about a horse carrying capacity.


The breed of a horse affects the weight it can carry. As humans differ across races, horses differ across species. For instance, Icelandic horses can endure 22.7% of their body weight; the Paso Fino horse can mount 25% of their body weight on their back.

Both breeds are gaited, and some suggestions said gaited horses can carry more loads. However, mules can comfortably saddle 25% of their body weight and are even more robust than horses.

Fitness and health of the horse

When unwell, no one works efficiently; ask Ronaldo to play through injury and see how my son will perform better. A horse cannot carry its maximum carrying capacity when it is unfit.

An unwell horse will not lift its back correctly to support the rider’s weight and maintain its balance. When a horse is fit and balanced, it develops a topline to tolerate the additional weight.

When you mount a skinny and unfit horse, you are not only causing physical damage, you may cause emotional damage too. Mounting a thin horse will prolong the time before the horse is fit and healthy again.

Fitness and expertise of the rider

An unfit and untrained rider can affect the weight and the health of a horse as they struggle to stay in a standard saddle position. However, experts know how to position their body and keep moving without extra strain on the horse.

Therefore, an unfit rider can throw a horse off balance as they try to fight muscle fatigue. Research has shown that large riders can cause lameness and musculoskeletal pain behaviors on a horse, which is related to the rider’s bodyweight more than his BMI. 


Running and racing require the horse to use more energy. Also, when a horse is running on a rough and uneven terrain that is directly under the impact of the sun, it gets tired quickly; the same thing happens if a horse is moving uphill or on the muddy ground.

An extra weight on a horse working on uneven terrain is a sure way to reduce the lifespan and deteriorate the horse’s health.

Hoof care

Taking care of the hoof improves the horse’s health and ensures a horse carries the required load. The hoof should be well-trimmed or shod and in good condition always.

Before embarking on a ride with the horse’s carrying capacity, rest the hoof, and the horse should be comfortable with regular exercise.

However, horses with thin soles or those with hooves that wear down faster than they regenerate may need protective boots or shoes, as recommended by a professional farrier or veterinarian.

Riding gear

You need to consider both the weight of your horse’s riding gear and if the kit will sit comfortably on the horse.

Saddles that fit poorly on your horse or those that contribute significantly to the maximum carrying load will affect the horse’s balance and will not distribute your weight correctly, thereby causing pinching and muscle soreness. 

Duration and nature of the work

Nature and the time a horse spends carrying a particular load determines if it can do it often and get the desired result expected from the horse. A horse running in uneven terrain with a heavy load will get tired quickly and would not be able to do this for long.

Also, a horse running a longer duration at the maximum speed will affect the horse too. Therefore, you should achieve a balance between nature and the course of the work a horse will do.

What is the effect of metabolism on weight limit for horseback riding?  

Your horse needs more energy as its activities increase because its metabolism will be faster. If a horse carries a heavyweight, its metabolism flares up and demands more calories to sustain the movement.

The increase in the energy demand is the reason a horse slows down to conserve energy usage when it carries a heavyweight.

Therefore, if you want your horse to maintain its maximum carrying weight and still perform up to the task, you must increase the caloric and nutritional intake to sustain the increased metabolism.

Researches have shown that an increase in the weight of a horse and the increase in the horse’s speed during a race are proportional to the metabolism of the horse.

Therefore, an additional 10% of the weight on a horse increases its metabolism by 10%.

Therefore, each pound increases the metabolism of your horse and determines how much can a horse carry.

Why Is Important To Know How Much A Horse Can Carry?

Although planes, trucks, and trains have substituted horses for goods’ transport, rider’s heavyweight during racing, riding, and other equestrian activities still poses dangers to a horse’s health. Therefore, it is crucial to know the carrying capacity of your horse.

The 20% rule has been touted as the guideline to know the maximum carrying capacity, which means a horse can comfortably carry 20% of its body weight.

Certified Horsemanship Association and the U.S. Cavalry Manuals of Horse Management published in 1920 also quoted this value.

Although, the 20% rule is still not a consensus in the equestrian world because of other factors we have listed above.


How much weight a horse can carry is still sketchy because it is difficult to determine the limits.

When a horse staggers under heavyweight, we believe it is overloaded, but a horse who doesn’t reel might be accumulating silent injuries like arthritis and unexpected breakdown.

You should deter from mounting heavy weight on a horse because of balance issues, lameness, sore muscles, temperament issues, and pains in muscles and joints. 

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