Is There a Weight Limit to Horse Riding? (Are You TOO FAT?)

Horseback riding is one of the most breathtaking experiences anyone can have.

However, it comes with limitations, one of them being the weight limit.

The fundamental rule of horseback riding is that the rider’s weight should be proportional to the horse’s size.

So, Is There a Weight Limit to Horse Riding?

In a perfect world, there would be no such thing as a weight limit with horse riding. A horse can be comfortable carrying a heavy person, provided their weight isn’t 20% more than the horse’s total body weight, including the saddle and other riding gears. Determining if you’re too heavy to ride a horse depends on many factors. 

How To Know You Have The Ideal Weight For The Horse

1. Your Riding Prowess

Have you ever tried carrying a drunk person?

If so, you’ve probably felt their weight when drunk superseding their weight when sober.

It’s not easy supporting someone who doesn’t apply any effort to lift their weight.

The same case applies when you’re riding a horse.

A professional horse rider knows how to balance their weight on the saddle, which means they won’t feel heavy-laden.

On the other hand, a horseback riding amateur will struggle to hold their weight in position.

The more inexperienced riders attempt to balance their bodies on the horse, the more overwhelmed they feel.

The horse ends up with back sores from friction and may fall out with the rider because of how uncomfortable they feel.

2. The Horse’s Age And Size

Weight limit also depends on the horse’s age and size. For example, as a foal keeps growing, so do its bones and joints.

They become more susceptible to osteoarthritis when they come of age, like humans and other animals.

However, foals and elderly horses shouldn’t bear more than 20% of their total weight due to joint issues.

Even if the rider’s weight doesn’t overwhelm the horse, they still need to work on their riding skills.

3. The Horse’s Stature

You already know that not everyone can lift weights.

There are weight builders for that. The same scenario applies to horses.

Not every horse can tolerate overweight people. It all depends on the horse’s breed and enduring capability.

One way of determining which horse is stronger than the other is by checking their legs and backs.

A breed like the Icelandic horse has a shorter back but strong legs than draft horses with well-endowed backs and long legs.

So, that means the latter has more bone density, making them fit for carrying heavy people, unlike the former.

Now try to imagine the worst that can happen if you went for a horse with weaker legs and shorter backs as a heavy rider.

In that case, the horse might not be suitable for you.

4. Horse’s Health And Fitness Regime

It’s like going to the gym every day to tone your muscles, allowing you to sustain heavyweights.

But if you remain docile over time, your ability to carry heavy weights gets compromised.

Like humans, horses can also become strong and agile through regular exercise, a healthy diet, and healthcare wellness.

A docile horse is also less likely to be comfortable holding an obese person.

Other Things You Might Want To Consider

The terrain you will be covering during the horseback riding also determines if your horse will get overwhelmed with your weight.

For example, uphill or rugged landscapes are more cumbersome to navigate than flat surfaces.

So, if you have to go uphill with your horse, consider walking them instead of riding.

Even as you select a horse, do the same for the gear you plan to utilize.

For example, the right-sized saddle should evenly distribute your weight and keep you balanced to prevent friction that could lead to back soreness.

How Can A Horse Be Affected By An Overweight Rider?

If you’ve ever carried an item heavier than your total weight, you will know how a horse also feels.

While a horse may look athletic and tolerant to abuse like carrying an overweight person, eventually they get prone to health issues such as:

1. Muscle Soreness

You will know the horse has endured carrying too heavy when its thighs, neck, and abdomen muscles look sore.

The horse also looks lethargic, unlike other days when they hold the ideal weight.

2. Pinched Nerves

As an overweight person keeps straining the horse’s muscles, the nerves eventually get pinched.

3. Sensitivity

When you touch the horse’s back, you notice how quickly they sway their back. It’s a sign that its spine has been under pressure for far too long.

There are a few signs that determine how the horse reacts to overweight riders, such as:

  • Swaying their back in a bid to hurl you down
  • Trying to bite your legs
  • Frequent neighing during the race or ride
  • A rebellious attitude like refusing to move.

If you notice any of these signs and you’re sure the horse isn’t unwell, it’s best to let them be.

Don’t insist on riding the horse unless you want to be displeased throughout your horse-riding adventure.

Also, work on your riding skills by balancing on the saddle to reduce injuries due to friction.

Something else you should consider is how to mount and unmount the horse.

If your weight is more than the horse’s, you will find it daunting to kickstart your ride.

Moreover, it gets tricky trying to mount your other leg on the horse.

The more you keep struggling to mount and unmount, the more your horse feels tensed.

They might even refuse to move no matter what you do.

Calculating Your Weight Against The Horse’s

In addition to ensuring your body weight is proportional to the horses, it’s necessary to weigh them for health reasons.

If you’re considering buying a horse, you likely wonder what you will use to calculate its weight. Here are the items you will need:

1. Weight Scale

Weight scales for horses are hard to come by, and you can only find them in animal research centers or vet facilities.

If you want to get accurate results, consider talking with your vet to lend or sell you one.

2. Weight Tape

The easiest way to use a weight tape on a horse is by running it around their heart girth.

It works by making the horse stand flat on an even surface.

However, they are only suitable for horses weighing 50 pounds or less.

If you have a pony, growing horse, or draft breed, use other means to measure their weight. Fortunately, they are easy to find, unlike weight scales.

3. Body Measurement Tools

If a weighing scale or tape isn’t an option, go for online tools for measuring the animal’s girth.

The results will give you a rough estimation of their total weight.


Like you, a horse that feels heavy-laden or compelled to carry weight beyond its limits can rebel.

Over time, it gets over-stressed by a heavy rider all because it wants to take a breather.

The more you insist on riding on an agitated horse, the likelier you will get in dangerous circumstances.

The solution is to calculate your weight against the horse’s and consider all the factors mentioned above before embarking on your horse-riding mission.