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Thursday, 24 October 2019

Dear Overweight Riders, Here's The Truth

Don't get it twisted, I don't care what weight you are.  But the second your on a horse, people go crazy.  I'd call them bullies, to be honest.  

If you have ever been bullied about your weight while riding OR have bullied a rider for being overweight, here are the real facts.  

A Chestnut dressage horse being ridden in a dressage competition wearing a brown fly veil and numnah

How much can a horse carry?

Horse's have been tested multiple times for what weight they can comfortably and easily carry.  From these researches, it has been found that a horse should never be made to carry over 20% of his body weight.  Remember that this includes tack.  

While 20% of the horse's own body weight is the most he should carry, aiming for around 10-15% is best for the long term.  

It is also important to note that you should be calculating this with the horse's ideal weight, NOT how much they weight just at this second.  This is because a horse can be over or underweight BUT still has the same body size and strength.  

Here are some examples of the weight a horse can carry.  

Obviously, horse's can carry a LOT more than you'd expect and be comfortable.  As long as you are looking for a horse who can carry between 10% and 15% of his own body weight, your pretty much good.  

A rose grey horse walking around in a show jumping competition school

What Happens to the Horse If The Rider Is Too Heavy?

So, let's say you are riding a horse that you are too heavy for.  This could be a normal horse or a little pony you are breaking in.  What happens in the long run?  

Well, research has shown that if a horse is made to carry over 20% of his bodyweight even once, the horse will struggle.  Breathing becomes more laboured, the heart starts to beat faster and his muscles get exhausted.  This is just one ride!  

In the long run, the horse's muscles will become extremely sore (and could cause behaviour issues).  They may even develop scar tissue around the saddle area from the weight.  It is also common for horses to collapse with a heavy load.   

A dark roan horse with a white blaze being held by a groom outside a show jumping competition waiting to be ridden.

Making sure your horse is comfortable

To make sure your horse is comfortable, you first need to make sure you buy the perfect horse for you.  Finding out the weight of a potential new horse is essential but the conformation is also important.  

Look for a horse with a strong, wide back if you are worried about weight.  A wide loin is the most important.  

lastly, we need to make sure the saddle fits your horse perfectly.  Having a saddle fitter come to fit the saddle to you and your horse is essential.  

A black dressage horse being ridden in an outdoor school

Do you have any tips not mentioned here?  Comment them below for other readers!  All in all, bullying riders for their weight is not only bad sportsmanship but it also ruins their confidence.  


I am not a horse trainer or any other equestrian professional.  I only give advice on horsey topics that I have experience as a horse owner in.  Please don't follow my advice without contacting a relevant equestrian professional.  



  1. Could you please link these studies you have mentioned? I really like to take a look.

  2. i haven't been bullied for my weight riding but its so common and it happens way to often. if horse and rider are a team then nothing should stop them.

  3. Very efficiently written information. It will be beneficial to anybody who utilizes it, including me. Keep up the good work. For sure i will check out more posts. This site seems to get a good amount of visitors.

  4. BY what your chart is displaying and doing the conversions to pound, both of my horses weigh +-1000 lbs. depending on the time of year. I weigh, again depending on the time of year, 180 to 187 lbs. According to your chart, with extrapolations, horses weigh around 453 kg and should carry no more in rider and tack weight than 99.86 lbs. I am either missing the math here or your chart may not be completely accurate.

  5. Also keep in mind that horses with thick bones and wide backs can comfortably carry more than other horses their same size- Icelandic horses aren't particularly big, nor are cobs, but both can be comfortably ridden by full-grown adults for their entire lives. Personally, I wouldn't be super comfortable riding a 15 hand Thoroughbred, but I'd happily hop on a 15 hand Irish Draught. Also, it is kind of ridiculous to say a horse shouldn't carry more than 10-15% of their body weight. That means the vast majority of riders (as most of us aren't tiny twigs) will be riding extremely large horses to draft horses. By the 10% rule, the only horse I could ever ride is a 2,000lb draft. Studies have shown that a horse can *comfortably* carry 20% of their body weight for extended periods, and above that is where things start to get a bit hairy. It won't hurt them in the slightest.

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  8. I have a sticker on the back of my truck that reads "Ride a Draft it will make your ass look smaller". My ride...1800 lb. Percheron/Friesian cross gelding. At 180 lbs including tack, I'm an afterthought. LOL

  9. My brothers are giant men, 6 ft 4 to 6 ft 7. They are not fat, just super hero sized. They weigh 285 to 315. My horses are big 16hh to 17.2hh and gaited. They do struggle to carry such big guys. But with it only being a 1.5 hour ride, mostly walking, shouldn't it be ok?

  10. Overweight youngsters and teenagers are expanding a lot quicker than in grown-ups. In the 1970's just 6 % of youngsters were overweight, while in 2008 over 30% were viewed as overweight.Running

  11. Sounds like your joining the shaming crew here. Breeds like Morgan’s and quarter horses are built heavy in bone. Equine fitness is at the heart of this. I’m bigger than I was in the past but my Morgan crosses are big guys. It’s breed, bone and fitness that matters. Not to say that I am not trying to lose weight but injuries can contribute to human gain as well as equine gain. Plus I think horses who are allowed to be outside as much as possible are fitter and happier. The cover photo you have shows a horse who it over at the knee. This horse has a confirmation defect that isn’t exactly the best example of a good mount. Confirmation plays a large role in how a horse carries weight too. Please include all the variables here. A horse in full motion carries about 1000lbs per square inch on his hoof surface at a a gallop ( equine studies 101, 102 and 210 university of Delaware). This is including a rider.