Worried you might be denied the incredible experience of going horseback riding with your family? Or if you are putting too much strain on these magnificent beasts’ backs? Whether you have gained a few pounds or are naturally built like a lumberjack, there are various reasons as to why you may not be allowed to ride a horse. 

We’ll cover the factors that impact the weight a horse can carry, the negative effects carrying too much weight can have on a horse and the maximum weight a horse can carry. Because unlike when you are looking for a kayaking weight limit or if you need to know the weight limit for a Peloton, you have to take the health of the horse into account. Pay attention to this information before you decide to go horseback riding as you could be putting yourself and the horse in danger! 

Weight Limit For Horseback Riding

Is there a weight limit for horseback riding?

Although there isn’t a legislated maximum weight for riders, many respectable equestrian facilities and horseback riding tour providers have limits for horseback riding around 250 lbs. This can vary depending on the facility where you ride. This is primarily due to the types of horses they care for as different horses can carry different weights. 

Setting a weight limit for horseback riding can seem discriminatory and almost shaming for heavy riders but we promise this is not the case. Much like the weight limits for parasailing,  these weight limits are put in place to protect both the horse and the rider’s health and safety. If a horse is carrying too much weight, it can cause harm to not only itself, but also the rider. 

Negative Impacts for a Horse Carrying Too Much Weight 

When a horse continuously carries an individual’s body weight that is too heavy for them, there are a whole host of effects that can occur. And they will show a lot faster than you’d think. Physical effects that may occur are:

  • Sores. As the horse carries a much larger weight than they are typically meant to, the saddle presses against their body and rubs. This causes sores to arise which can be painful and sore for the horse. 
  • Strain Muscles. Much like humans, when we lift weights that are too heavy our muscles break down and cause us pain. However, horses will feel like strain on an even larger scale. 
  • Pinching of nerves. With the added pressure, the horse’s nerves will create a pinch-like sensation which can become painful. Over time this will only irritate the horse which can cause its behavior to become aggressive. 
  • Back flexibility. A horse drops its back when even the gentlest of pressures is placed on either side of its spine. When a large weight is placed on its back time and time again, it can be sensitive and lose its flexibility. 

Whether it is an equestrian center or a home-owned ranch, horse owners and caregivers have a genuine concern for their horses’ health. This is particularly important for those who use their horses as part of their commercial income. If a horse becomes injured, then this can have a substantial impact on their financial success. 

Allowing larger riders who weigh too much for a breed of horse to carry could have a significant impact on the horse’s health and condition. 

Factors Impacting the Limit for Horseback Riding

As a general rule of thumb, the weight of a rider should not exceed 20% of the horse’s total weight. This is considered the ‘normal weight’ of the horse which pertains to the weight of the horse when it is fit and healthy. If a horse happens to have spent weeks grazing in a field and has gained weight, this does not mean it can carry a heavier load. 

Build of the Horse 

Weight Limit For Horseback RidingLike humans, not all horses are the same. With hundreds of different breeds, all horses have different builds. From small and stocky with sturdy legs to a taller horse with a weak back.

A horse’s build has a great impact on its weight carrying capacity. Specifically, the bone strength and back length of the horse, which is down to the breed of the horse.  For heavier riders, horses with sturdy legs and bones, as well as medium-length backs, are usually preferable. This is due to the back of the horse allowing for a larger saddle to be fitted which can distribute the load of a heavier rider more evenly across the rider’s back. 

Body Condition of the Horse 

Having a fit, healthy and happy horse is the ideal condition for any horse owner. As a horse is allowed to run, graze, and exercise, it will be able to lift heavier loads and remain strong. 

More Considerations 

Outside of your own weight, the horse’s weight and the overall condition of the horse, there are some other factors to consider. Such as:

  • The terrain you will be riding. If you are riding across an even terrain, there will be less strain on the animal. 
  • The gait at which you will be riding. Walking will be considerably more comfortable than trotting or cantering for the horse. 
  • The saddle used. The weight of the saddle seat contributes to the overall weight that the animal can carry. A western saddle is heavier but more comfortable and safer for the rider. 

Breeds of Horses That Can Carry Heavy Loads 

As mentioned above, horses which typically have strong bones and medium length backs are more suited to allowing larger people to ride them. This includes breeds such as:

  • Friesian Horse
  • Spanish-Norman Horse
  • Clydesdale Horse
  • Irish Draft Horse
  • Belgian Draft Horse 

Final Thoughts 

Weight is a subject which can often become offensive and hurtful, this is not the intention of this article. This article is intended to share the impact that carrying a heavy load can have on a horse. 

There are breeds of horses that are more suited to carrying a heavier person. However, it is important to remember that the weight carried by a horse should not exceed 20% of the horse’s total body weight. 

If you are unsure if you fit into the 20% category, horse owners and caregivers will often request you do not ride. This is to ensure both the horse’s and the riders’ safety! For more information be sure to check out the rest of Extra Large Living.