How Big is Too Big? (The Great Weight Debate)

Ok Big Girls,

 It’s time to ask the dreaded questions that we as riders must ask.

 Drum roll please……

How much weight can a horse carry? How big is too big? I know, I know…for a lot of you, weight is a touchy subject. Some of you might be thinking “Gosh, I haven’t stepped on a scale in a long time because I don’t want to know how much I freaking weigh!” But c’mon girls, this time we need to suck it up, step on the scale, and talk about it.

I’ve done some research and according to my resources most healthy horses can easily carry a rider and saddle. What size rider, you ask? That’s where things get a little bit foggy. The thing to take into consideration, is that horses do have a threshold for when a rider is just well, too heavy for them to carry.

This article by indicates that horses can safely carry 20% of their body weight with little indication of stress, while horses who carries 25-30% of their body weights experiences higher heart rates, faster breathing, and more muscle soreness and tightness.  The article concludes that a 1200lb horse would be best suited for carrying no more than 240lbs of tack and rider.’s article entitled “How much weight can your horse safely carry?” discusses the importance of equine fitness in correlation with weight bearing capacity, and it touches upon the mechanics behind what happens to your horse physically as it bears a riders weight. This article concludes that the standard for a horse is to carry 20% of it’s body weight safely, but they stress that “it depends” on factors such as the horses health, overall fitness level, and type and duration of riding he is used for.

Tell-tale signs that a rider may be too heavy for his or her mount are: labored breathing and increased heart rate after only a short time under saddle, signs of muscle fatigue such as shaking or wobbling under your weight, and indications of back pain to name a few. Now, who’s to say that your weight is affecting your horse? Use your best judgement girls andwhen in doubt, ask an instructor or vet for help. Another important thing to think about is the fit of your saddle. Does it fit you and the horse correctly? A smaller rider might be able to get away with an a slightly imperfect saddle fit, where us big girls have a more difficult time. Even the slightest pressure points under your saddle increase with the addition of your weight, you you might be unknowingly causing your horse discomfort. This is true especially in english saddles ladies…they disperse your weight over a smaller area on the horses back compared to a western or australian saddle. If your english saddle is too small for YOU, you could be adding unwanted pressure on your horses back. Maybe your horse can carry you, but your gear isn’t working? These are all things to consider when your caught in the middle of the Great Weight Debate. Remember, when in doubt call a professional.

So all in all…While scientific research shows that the ideal amount of weight a horse should carry is 20% of his body weight, lets face it… like people all horses are different. Some are stronger, some are weaker. Some may be able to carry more, and some less. It’s  up to us to determine what our horses are capable of, if our tack fits both us and our horse, and what is safe for them. There are a lot of different horses out there capable of carrying a heavy rider and its just a matter of finding the right match for you! 

Now get up in that saddle, girl!


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