Riding a horse is indeed a lively experience for us. It gives us a lot—an adrenaline rush, an escape from this world, exercise in the fresh air, goosebumps of perfect harmony, and healing through the bond. However, knowingly or unknowingly, we might become a reason for exactly the opposite for our horse if we burden him much more than he can bear—putting more weight than a horse can carry.
Are you too big for your horse? Continue reading to learn if the size of your horse is proportional to your size. We are going to share a horse rider weight chart and discuss some other factors that you must consider while deciding if a horse is suitable for you to ride or not.
Are You Too Big for Your Horse?
The first and obvious sign that you are too big for your horse is that when you mount on him, you will sit in a compromising position by either leaning too forward or lifting your legs higher than normal. In addition, the horse will move in a compromising way in a quest to balance itself while carrying you. It might show some immediate signs of discomfort as well, such as:
- Tension through the back
- Reluctance to move
- Bad performance
- Intermittent lameness
- Heavy breathing
- Quick tiring
- Groaning—a horse sound
Though these signs may disappear as soon as you dismount from the horse, some signs might stay. Those include:
- Pain or discomfort along the back
- Longer periods of lameness
- Not easily tacked up
- Altered muscle tone
- Changed behavior
However, despite these indications, the most effective way to tell if you are too big for your horse is to know whether he can bear your weight or not.
How Much Weight Can a Horse Have On Its Back?
How much weight a horse can carry depends on its own weight. In general, a well-established cavalry instruction is that besides the saddle and other equipment, a horse should carry no more than 20% of its own weight. A 2008 study reached a similar conclusion. It involved an experiment of placing different weights on different horses. Those who were loaded with 25% or more of their own weight experienced physical stress, faster breathing, increased heart rate, and muscle soreness.
Nonetheless, there exist other studies that suggest this percentage to be as low as 15%. Also, note that it is not a hard and fast rule, and any new research might nullify the findings of previous studies and theories.
If horses carry loads beyond their capacity, they become susceptible to soreness and discomfort, leading to a long-term impact on their well-being.
Based on different claims by various research, here is a horse rider weight chart showing how heavy your horse should be against your own weight.
Horse Rider Weight Chart
|Weight Horse Can Carry (Kg)||Horse’s Own Weight (Kg)|
|30||210 – 280|
|35||235 – 313|
|40||260 – 346|
|45||285 – 380|
|50||310 – 413|
|55||335 – 446|
|60||360 – 480|
|65||385 – 513|
|70||410 – 546|
|75||435 – 580|
|80||460 – 613|
|85||485 – 646|
|90||510 – 680|
|95||535 – 713|
|100||560 – 746|
|105||585 – 780|
|110||610 – 813|
|115||635 – 846|
|120||660 – 880|
|125||685 – 913|
|130||710 – 946|
|135||735 – 980|
|140||760 – 1013|
|145||785 – 1046|
|150||810 – 1080|
What Makes a Person Perfect Fit for Their Horse?
In addition to a person’s weight, numerous other factors determine whether they are a perfect fit or too big for their horse. These factors are associated with both the person as well as the horse.
Rider’s Height and Weight
It is evident from the above discussion that a rider’s weight is the key in ascertaining if they are too big for their horse; nevertheless, height is the next most crucial factor.
For instance, if a rider’s feet drag against the ground while the horse either walks or gallops, it is a clear sign that they need a larger horse—a Belgian Draft horse, maybe?
Similarly, it is difficult for tall but inexperienced people to ride small and narrow horses as it can often become hard to balance, making it a tough job for the horse to carry weight. Furthermore, the gait of large and small horses also differs. However, it is perfectly fine for experienced and confident riders to mount themselves on small horses or ponies.
Saddle fit also plays an important role in determining the rider’s height compatibility with the horse’s size. Longer saddles are needed for taller riders, which is not possible in the case of small horses with narrow backs. It can also make a problem in distributing the rider’s weight onto the horse.
Baby horses have their joints and bones in the developing phase and should not carry much load. Likewise, older horses should also not be mounted with much weight because they are prone to arthritis. In addition to the weight, other factors like the intensity of the work and how far the horse has to travel also matter.
Adults are fully grown and can easily get themselves a horse that fits them for years to come. However, when it comes to children, it is a bit tricky as they are yet to have significant changes in their size and weight. For instance, a pony would adjust very well with a five-year-old, but within a few years, the former would not be able to handle the latter’s weight. That is why children should get your child a horse that they can grow into. Additionally, both end up forming a close bond with each other as they age.
When coupled with height and weight, the skills of the riders greatly influence the ease of the horse to carry them.
It is always easy for a horse to carry adept equestrians as they know how to balance themselves. Conversely, carrying an inexperienced rider, who is sloppy in the saddle, may lead to uneven weight distribution, causing back issues and behavioral changes in the horse.
Diet is essential in determining the load-bearing capacity of horses. In general, large horses require more feed than smaller ones. Likewise, some hotblooded equines such as the Thoroughbred breed need more fodder than other warmbloods. Thus, feed management becomes crucial in either increasing or decreasing the weight and energy of a horse, which directly affects how much weight it can carry. Diet also plays an important role in determining the lifespan of horses.
Read: What Do Horses Eat?
Besides its physical features, how much a horse can carry is also dependent on its maturity level, breed, and gender. In terms of maturity, younger horses of three to four years old might not like it to carry much weight like most teenagers. Similarly, though ponies can carry more weight as compared to their bodily proportion, they are notorious for their stubbornness. When it comes to gender, mares are more cooperative.
As horses grow up and get trained, they build strength and learn how to carry more weight. As horses develop skills in their work, they do their job better and with comparatively less effort. They gradually master spending little energy on carrying more weight and maintaining equilibrium. Hence, training becomes equally important as other factors to carry more weight.
Is It Bad to Be Too Big for the Horse?
Yes, it is not only bad but also cruel to be too big for a horse. As already discussed, horses that carry riders too heavy for them (more than 20% of their own weight) can suffer from soreness and discomfort that can lead to long-term health problems. You must, therefore, follow the recommendations below to help your horse if you are too big for him.
What to Do if I Am Too Big for My Horse?
If you have overgrown your horse, you may think that there is not much you can do except changing your horse or shedding your own weight.
However, there is still plenty of things you can do to lighten the burden of your horse. For instance, you can learn to become a better rider. Smaller horses may carry heavy people well if they truly know how to ride. Conversely, a smaller but sloppy rider makes it difficult for even the larger horse to bear their weight. Good riders balance themselves effectively, syncing with the horse’s movements.
You can also have a similar experience by holding a toddler. You will have a tough time holding a toddler who is a bit squirmy as compared to holding a toddler who is asleep.
In the same vein, you should also invest in getting the right horse tack. A saddle of appropriate size is very beneficial in evenly distributing the rider’s weight on the horse. It also keeps the rider balanced and does not let the horse get sored. A sign of correct saddle type is that it fits comfortably at the horse’s back and allows you to balance yourself at its exact center. With the correct equipment, horses are comfortable and stress-free during journeys.
Final Verdict: Are You Too Big for Your Horse?
According to the accepted wisdom, if you weigh more than 20% of your horse’s weight, you are too big for your horse. That said, many other factors like age, height, weight, and experience of the horse as well as of the rider also matter in determining what size horse does one needs.
Being too big for a horse would not only make your ride uncomfortable but would also hurt your horse and may even lead to long-term health issues. But fortunately, you can try to manage this problem by enhancing your horse-riding skills, getting a good tack for your stallion, and shedding some weight.