Have you ever thought about why ponies are generally ridden by kids and not adults? Why are ponies ridden by people who are small and weigh so little? It is so because ponies are smaller than horses in terms of both size and weight; their weight carrying capacity is also lesser than horses. So, how much weight can a pony carry? Well, the science behind it is quite similar to that of how much weight a horse can carry.

To get a more straightforward answer, let us dig a bit deeper.

How Much Weight Can a Pony Carry?

Similar to the case of horses, the 20% rule also applies to ponies: typically, a pony can carry about 10 to 20% of its body weight. But for optimum results, ponies should not carry more than 10% of their body weight. Note that the weight of the saddle and other riding equipment also needs to be added to this range besides the rider’s weight. In addition to this general guideline, various other factors related to a pony’s health, such as its soundness, fitness level, and training, play a crucial role in determining how much weight a pony can carry safely.

Based on the 10 to 20% rule, since the average weight of ponies is 660 pounds, it can be safely predicted that ponies can carry weight ranging between 66 pounds to 132 pounds on their back. To elaborate the concept further, have a look at the pony rider weight chart below.

Pony Rider Weight Chart

Weight Ponies Can Carry (lbs.)Ponies’ Own Weight (lbs.)
66460 – 620
77520 – 690
88570 – 760
99630 – 840

Small But Mighty Shetland Ponies!

Despite being among the smallest equines in the world, Shetland Ponies are the strongest when it comes to their weight carrying and pulling capabilities. They can easily carry up to 150 pounds, which is way more than 20% of their body weight; when it comes to pulling, they can pull double their body weight.

Optimum Weight for Ponies to Carry

Many studies show that it is perfectly fine for ponies and horses to carry a load on their back that is no more than 20% of their weight. However, some other studies suggest that this range should be lower. For instance, a British study has found that the range above 15% is detrimental to equines’ joint health.

Aside from the health impacts, it is better not to load a pony up to its full potential to maximize its efficiency – the lighter the rider, the more likely it is for the pony to reach peak performance levels. That is why usually, Thoroughbred jockeys do not weigh much. Also, there is a reason why children are chosen as jockeys when it comes to the Shetland Grand National.

Being mindful of these facts, the optimum weight for ponies to carry comes out to be about half of their maximum potential. In simple words, ponies should carry no more than 10% of their body weight on their backs.


Role of Work Type

The weight a pony can carry also depends on the type of work it is used for. For instance, though small ponies might be able to handle a person above the recommended weight range, it is generally possible because they are ridden at a slow pace, and the trail is flat. On the other hand, ponies and horses that take part in strenuous events such as going through difficult terrain, showjumping, or eventing are larger, sturdier, and heavier. It is so because having a better weight handling capacity, such ponies can manoeuver easily while handling the rider on their backs.

Therefore, many riding programs have set weight limits for riders that usually fall up to 200 pounds. However, again, these ponies are stronger and stockier and may weigh up to a thousand pounds.

Strongest Pony Breeds

Although ponies are smaller than horses (no more than 14.2 hands in height), some breeds among them are well-known for being strong and, resultantly, carrying an exceptional amount of weight on their backs. They include:

How much weight can a pony carry

How Much Can a Pony Pull?

Horses and ponies are much better at pulling the load instead of carrying it on their backs. Generally, when it comes to deadweight (non-wheeled), equines can pull no more than 10% of their body weight. However, if it is assisted by wheels, they can pull up to 1.5 times their body weight over long distances. Shetland ponies, which are the strongest of all ponies, can pull up to twice their body weight. If the distance needs to e traveled, ponies can pull even more weight.

Dangers of Overloading Ponies

A 2008 study shows that overloading equines (putting more than 20% of their body weight on their backs) can result in several issues. Though such issues may seem temporary and non-serious, if a pony is overloaded regularly, it may cause irreversible damage to its health. In particular, the following health issues prop us as a sign that a pony is carrying more than it can safely bear:

Muscles Soreness

When overloaded or overworked, the affected muscles of a pony might become swell or, at worse, tear – becoming a source of excruciating pain. Though sore muscles might not be visible in equines, their degraded performance and reluctance to exercise or to offer rides are clear symptoms that they are experiencing discomfort and need immediate attention.

Behavioral Issues

Like human beings, equines also face behavioral changes when they are worked beyond their capacities. If ponies are loaded with an extra burden, they might end up misbehaving to the extent that they become difficult to handle. Some common behavioral issues include aggression, phobias, decreased performance, and abnormal eating.

Back and Balance Problems

Overloading also makes equines susceptible to back pain and loss of balance maintenance prowess. It also becomes dangerous for the riders as they would be prone to falling from their ponies. In addition, back problems in ponies can also lead to a decreased lifespan.

Can Ponies Be Trained to Lift More Than Recommended Weight?

Like other equines, ponies can be trained to do various physical activities better than earlier. However, it must be noted that, as evident from the above discussion, weight carrying capacity in ponies is a naturally decided figure, and no training can enhance it. Training can only help your pony to work its way up to lifting the ideal 10% to 20% of its body weight, but not beyond that.

Final Verdict: How Much Weight Can a Pony Carry?

Most ponies weigh between 400 to 800 pounds. So, according to the 20% rule, a pony can carry between 80 to 160 pounds. For peak performance and uphill journeys, ponies should not be burdened with more than 40 to 80 pounds (10% of their body weight). If a pony is rugged and stocky, weighing over 1000 pounds, it would be able to manage up to 200 pounds. If loaded beyond their carrying capacity, ponies can experience serious health problems, ranging from behavioral issues to back and balance problems.

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