How Much Weight Can A Horse Carry

How Much Weight Can A Horse Carry

Remi Bader, a TikTok “star”, claimed that a ranch would not allow her to ride horses due to her weight. While she later clarified that she was opposed to the way she was treated by the employee and not by the ranch’s restrictions on riders’ weight, the original message was far from clear:

Shoutout to Deep Hollow Ranch in Montauk for making me leave because I weigh over 240,” Bader wrote on TikTok, where she has over 2 million followers. She added in the caption of the video that she’s never encountered the weight-limit issue while riding horses previously, and she asked the ranch to clearly disclose the limit on signs for future guests.

If it really is true that she has “never encountered the weight-limit issue while riding horses previously”, then it means she was either riding draft horses, or some horse owners don’t care about their animals.

Ranch itself has posted clear guide, showing that horse should not carry more than 20% of its own weight, which means that rider himself should not be more than 15% of horse’s weight. Remi Bader weights 108 kg or 238 lbs, which means that any horse she could ride should weight at least 720 kg or 1600 lbs. This is the weight of a heavy knightly charger or else a draft horse, but majority of today’s riding horses cannot carry such a heavy weight. National Riding Stables have a weight limit for riders of 210 lbs, which is strictly enforced. They also explain their reasoning in very clear terms:

Dr. Deb Bennett, PhD, founder of the Equine Studies Institute and an expert in the biomechanics of horses, has advised that the “Total weight of rider plus tack must not exceed 250 lbs. There is no horse alive, of any breed, any build, anywhere, that can go more than a few minutes with more weight on its back than this. Not even the U.S. Army ever packed a mule heavier than this.“

Putting too much weight on a horse – any horse – can quickly lead to both short-term and long-term problems. Short-term problems include rub-sores from the saddle, strained muscles, and pinching of nerves, any of which can sideline a horse for a few days to a week. Consistent over-loading of a horse can lead to permanent damage such as a “sway back,” deteriorated muscle function, joint problems, and arthritis.

It’s a matter of safety:

Just like people, a horse that is too tired or is asked to do too much can temporarily lose its better nature and forget its manners (training). A horse that is child-safe, bomb-proof and completely docile under normal conditions may become agitated, frustrated, fatigued, irritable and even unpredictable when over-stressed by a heavy rider. This can lead to situations that are dangerous for both horse and rider.

Thus, the claim that “she’s never encountered the weight-limit issue while riding horses previously” is almost certainly a lie. A 250 lbs limit for rider + tack means 210 lbs limit for the rider. Further, an untrained rider feels like additional 10% of their weight to the horse. As Ms. Bader weights 238 lbs, and is an untrained rider, this means horse would be 25% over the limit – which is a very significant figure. Remi’s followers proceeded to bombard the ranch with negative reviews because they were doing their job.

The main reason why I wrote this article is the following comment by Ms. Bader:

I get it, some places have weight requirements and I’d never want to hurt the horses, but it was the way I was spoken to and laughed at by the owner and the way I was treated overall.

Note the “some places”. As in, not all. Yet such weight limits should be universal, as they are a question of the basic biology of the horse.

Also, it is definitely not clear why people should be made to feel good about being sick.

Now, onto history. During Middle Ages, horses were used for various purposes that included carrying heavy weights. Most obvious and famous such example are knightly destriers, which had to carry an armored rider, as well as barding (armor for the horse). Yet the weight of such equipment is often overstated.

Field (war) armor for a knight weighted 30 to 70 pounds, and knight himself maybe 150 – 200 pounds. Barding or horse armor weighted some 50 to 70 punds. To this would be added saddle (20 lbs), sword (3 – 4 pounds), lance (8 – 14 pounds) and miscellaneous equipment (10 – 20 lbs). Thus a total weight carried by a destrier would have been 270 – 400 lbs. Medieval destrier should thus have been at least 1350 – 2000 lbs, or 600 to 900 kg.

And this was indeed the case. By 14th century, an average war horse was 14 – 16 hands and between 1200 and 1400 pounds, but this is just an average war horse – destriers were quite a bit larger, although nowhere near the size of the draught horses (it is possible they were still 14 – 16 hands, just more muscular). By 16th century war horses would weight 700 kg (1550 pounds) and above, as weapons and armor also got heavier.

5 thoughts on “How Much Weight Can A Horse Carry

  1. Makes you wonder about William the Bastard’s horse. I understand the Normans had specially bred horses. I suppose then they’d have had to be bred to haul more than your average lot.


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