In the equestrian world, we are constantly seeking to improve the relationship between rider and horse. We are learning and trying to improve our horses’ conditions, so at a certain point we ask ourselves: am I too heavy for my horse?

How much can a horse carry?

To be honest, there is no specific rule that specifies the weight limit of a horseback rider. However, there are certain factors that can affect the comfort of the horse you ride:

  • Weight of the rider
  • Height of the rider
  • Body proportions
  • Riding skills
  • Saddle

One of the most important aspects associated with horse comfort is the saddle. There are heavier, lighter, larger and smaller models, but the most important thing is that the size of the saddle should be chosen to fit both the horse and the rider.

How to determine the weight limit of a rider?

Horse riding schools often request a student’s height and weight so they can match him with the most suitable horse that can comfortably carry a new rider on its back. Learn about ways to determine a rider’s weight limit.

Remember that these are approximate values that will only help you estimate the weight – they do not indicate the exact limit.

  1. To determine the rider’s weight limit, you can use the division method. It involves dividing the weight of the horse by 6, which gives you an upper weight limit that you should not exceed.
  2. The 20% rule – this rule states that the rider’s weight should not exceed 20% of the horse’s weight. Recreational riding schools bend this rule slightly and stick to the 30% limit. Studies conducted suggest that horses can comfortably carry 20-30% of their body weight up to about 160 kilometers (100 miles).
  3. Some also determine the weight limit by measuring the circumference of the cannon bone. For the result, add up the weight of the rider and the horse, and then divide the result by the circumference of the cannon bone. The total measurement is then divided by 2. The result should give a number between 75 and 85, and if the number is above 85, you should go for a larger horse.

Structure and scope of use of a horse

It is necessary to take a look at the entire silhouette of the horse in order to determine whether it can comfortably carry you on its back.

  • Height – the key factor is the horse’s height. The taller the horse, the greater the weight limit. Small horses and ponies are only for children, since an adult would make it impossible for them to move freely.
  • Trained horse – if a horse is well-trained, has properly developed muscles (especially back muscles) and has a good balance when riding, it is able to carry a heavier rider as compared to a young and untrained horse.
  • Physical conditions – cold-blooded horses and larger working horses can handle weight better than those that are petite.

How to tell the weight of a horse?

There are several ways to help us determine the weight of a horse, but these measurements will not necessarily be 100% accurate. Remember to always analyze the age and breed of your horse to avoid major errors.

  • Weight tape – the tape helps to estimate the weight of the horse, and their measurement error is about 23 kg. Before measuring, make sure the animal stands on a flat surface, then measure the circumference of the horse and read the result from the tape.
  • Scales – often veterinarians and nutritionists have special scales for weighing a horse or other large livestock. If you have the possibility to use one, it will be the best choice.
  • Online calculator – just like with the tape, we are able to estimate the weight of the horse using an online calculator after entering the appropriate data, but note that the result will not be as accurate as with the scales.

Signs that indicate I am too big/too heavy for my horse

  • Bent back while riding
  • Reluctance to move forward
  • Sore back and hind muscles
  • Shallow breathing/increased heart rate (indicate increased exertion)

A sore horse carrying an overly heavy rider for an extended period of time shows signs of tenderness and pain in the back area, similar to the symptoms of an ill-fitting saddle.

How can you help a horse carry more weight on its back?

  • To avoid putting too much weight on the horse’s back, try to choose lightweight saddles and steer clear of very heavy and clumsy ones.
  • Match the breed and age of the horse to yourself and your riding skills.
  • Try to sit up straight in the saddle, don’t straddle the back of the saddle and don’t rock sideways.
  • Avoid areas that are difficult to walk on.
  • Use a well-fitted saddle size for yourself (seat size) and for your horse (withers bar).

Breeds of horses for which a heavy rider is not a problem

If you feel you need a horse of larger size, then consider draft horse breeds.

Shire horses are the largest horse breed in the world. They are tall and their weight starts at 900 kg. According to the 20% method, the rider of such a horse can weigh up to 180 kg.

If you’re not convinced about cold-blooded horses, consider a cross between a heavy horse and a slightly lighter one. Percherons are one of the calmest horse breeds that you can cross with a warm-blooded horse, and the outcome is a horse that is lighter than a cold-blooded horse, but sturdier than a standard utility horse.


As you have already noticed – there is no clear-cut method that will determine whether you are suitable for your horse. However, you can figure it out by assessing your horse’s height and weight, as well as your body proportions and riding skills.