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Every horse has their limit when it comes to carrying a rider’s weight. Each horse and rider team needs to be size appropriate. This can ensure the horse isn’t struggling with the added pressure on their back. Researchers have been able to identify a ratio to follow when trying to determine if your horse is at their max capacity. Eight horses were used in the study to determine how much weight they could comfortably carry. They ranged from 885 to 1375 pounds. Each horse was given a rider that was between 15% and 30% of their weight. The riders that were between 15% and 20% of the horse’s weight noticed very little difference in their horse’s ability to work. They showed little stress. However, physical changes became apparent at the 25% ratio and at 30% it was very obvious. The horses became winded easily and showed signs of soreness in the muscles. Based on this research, 20% of the horse’s weight is the maximum a rider should weigh. For a 1,200 pound horse, they should carry no more than 240 pounds, tack and rider included. Larger people need bigger horses. It’s not worth the risk of lameness and back problems!
Research courtesy of: Debra M. Powell, Karen Bennett-Wimbush, Amy Peeples and Maria Duthie. 2008. Evaluation of Indicators of Weight-Carrying Ability of Light Riding Horses. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science. 28(1): 28-33.