How Much Weight Can A Horse Carry?

Jessica McDaniel
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Why Have Weight Limit for Horse Riding

Generally, there are three situations for which the weight of a horse is relevant:

  • Tack – the weight of the saddle and the accessories being carried,
  • Food and water – the weight of the feed and water buckets, and

Jockey – the weight of the person on the horse—or the weight of the equipment (called “racing chair”) on the horse.

Although horses are large, strong animals, they can still suffer from the same weight-related injuries as other animals can, however, with one important difference. If a human can no longer walk, an injury can limit the amount of weight they carry on their bodies, and they can reduce the weight load with therapy and rest.

What Contributes to the Weight a Horse Carries?

The weight a horse can carry depends highly on the build of the horse and where the weight is carried.

It is also important to remember that a large proportion of a horse’s weight is its bones, as they are quadruped animals. So, you can’t carry a ton of weight on a horse just because it can carry something you’ve seen in the movies, or your friend’s horse can carry it. You need to have a professional assess the horse and properly evaluate its physical health before you go about deciding what kind of weight you can safely train your horse to carry.

If you want to add weight or increase the weight your horse carries, you have to get a professional trainer to train your horse to carry the weight. It is important to start off slowly when increasing the weight your horse carries, as jumping to a higher weight load can easily cause an injury, especially in a younger horse or one that has been inactive for a long time and is just going back to work again.

Equine Characteristics that Contribute to Weight Limit

There are several factors that will affect your horse's weight-carrying capability. To be a bit more technical, the Equivalent Single Animal Weight (ESAW) capacity is the horse's ability to carry a certain amount of weight for a certain distance, and it can be used to estimate how much weight a horse can carry. If you know the distance to your event, you can easily determine the weight limit in pounds by referring to a chart or formula.

There are several other things to consider when determining the amount of weight your horse can carry for an event. Sometimes, even if your horse can carry a certain amount of weight, the characteristics of the horse and the competition venue itself may limit your options.

Mature horses are generally able to carry heavier weights and for greater distances than younger horses.

Arabians, Quarter Horses and western-type show horses usually have a lower weight-carrying capacity than heavy draft and light weight riding horses.

Horses with a low withers and a high croup tend to have lower weight-carrying capabilities than horses with a higher withers.

Horses that have a slower stride rate, longer strides and/or larger foot prints tend to have higher weight-carrying capacities than horses with smaller strides and/or shorter strides.

Horses with a narrow shoulder and large frame can carry more weight than horses with a wide shoulder.

How Much Weight Should a Horse Carry?

Back in the day, horses were used for all kinds of work. Whether you had to get somewhere fast, or needed a way to haul everything you owned, a horse was a horse was a horse.

However, today's horses have much less work to do and more time to do it. Modern horses are experiencing unprecedented levels of obesity, and other health problems associated with excess body weight gain.

In order to prevent obesity, excess weight gain, and the associated health problems, horse owners need to understand how to assess their horse's body condition and to understand how much weight they can safely carry.

The recommended weight to carry for a horse on average is between 900 and 1200 pounds, depending on breed, size, and work demands. Consider this when choosing a saddle, and do not overburden your horse with extra tack when riding.

Even if your horse's bodyweight is within the acceptable range, your horse should still be careful not to pack on extra weight. Long periods of grazing and less exercise than in days past can result in packing on the pounds quickly.


Horses are pack animals by nature, but the weight they can carry depends on the breed, their health and many other factors.

The horse is at risk of injury or even breaking a leg if they are carrying too much weight, which is why you should learn about the weight limit of a horse for a given task and use a saddle pad accordingly.

Many people tend to overlook the fact that their saddle and saddle equipment can weigh as much as 10kg. The biggest challenge in horse riding is reading the signs your horse gives. It is always safer to check the weight limit of the saddle you are about to use, than to have a broken leg to add to your list of problems!

Before using your horse, consider the weight of the saddle, tack, and other equipment. If you surpass the weight limit, you might forget your horse is an animal, and it could lead to you being injured.