How Many Pounds Can a Horse Carry ?

Horses are known for their strength, from carrying people on their backs to pulling carriages and wagons full of cargo or supplies. The question you might be asking yourself, however, is exactly How Many Pounds Can a Horse Carry? If you’re considering hiring the help of one in order to move some belongings or do some landscaping work, then the answer to this question will be very important.

Horses are quite powerful animals, and to see one up close and personal can be quite an awe-inspiring experience! If you’ve never seen one in person, consider yourself lucky but even if you have, you may not know just how strong they really are.

They’re capable of carrying loads much greater than most people think! Read on to find out how many pounds can a horse carry…and what kinds of loads you should never ask it to carry.

Before you get started, it’s also essential to know if there are any laws that prevent you from doing so. That said, let’s find out just how many pounds of weight a horse can carry!

1) 10% to 15% – Saddlebags

It’s no surprise that horses have an enormous capacity for weight. The average horse can carry about 150% its own body weight, without any trouble.

But when it comes to carrying stuff, it’s all about what’s in those saddlebags and how much they weigh. A 1,200-pound horse can comfortably carry 450 pounds on its back which is right around what most people pack in their saddlebags on a two-day trip.

But when the load exceeds 15% of the animal’s body weight, the animal will show signs of discomfort like slowed breathing and heart rate. For every 10 pounds, you add over this threshold, your horse will be less willing to move at full speed or with any vigor at all.

2) 20% – Light Burden Carrying

Very fit racehorses can carry about 20% of their body weight for short periods. That equates to about 100 pounds or so. But remember, these are very fit horses.

Most couldn’t do it at all. I don’t recommend that you try this with your own horse unless you’re an athlete. Even a light burden is likely more than they could handle. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and your horse weighs 1000 pounds then you would be asking them to carry 15% of their body weight which is still too much for most horses.

With that said, in the wild, horses have been known to carry up to 40% of their body weight without difficulty but the condition of the terrain has a significant impact on how quickly a horse will tire. The less steep the slope and soft the ground, the easier it is for a horse to carry its load.

3) 30% – Average

A horse can pull about 30% of its own weight for short distances, according to National Geographic. This means that a 1,000-pound horse can haul about 300 pounds not bad at all.

Some breeds are more powerful than others. Clydesdales, horses bred to carry the heavy loads of beer and wine barrels from breweries and wineries, can weigh up to 2,200 pounds and be used for pulling heavy carriages with as many as four adults on board.

For the average person, this would mean carrying more than 600 pounds–something most people wouldn’t do well if they tried it! That said, not every horse has the same strength. The heavyweight champion Kincsem could carry an astonishing 3,865 pounds when she was alive in 1874 (Kincsem’s owner sent her over cliff in 1875 after winning many races).

4) 40% – Medium/Heavy Burden Carrying

Medium/heavy burden carrying involves a horse hauling 25 to 35 percent of its body weight over long distances. The most common animals used for medium/heavy duty carrying are mules and donkeys.

Mules are a cross between a female horse and a male donkey. Donkeys, on their own, have even greater stamina than horses but can weigh half as much as mules so they’re often used together when hauling heavy loads. If the load is too heavy for the animal, it will collapse under the strain or stumble.

When this happens, the load must be lightened by removing some of it or taking other measures such as putting the animal in a harness and using another animal alongside it to share the load.

5)50%+ – Heavy Burden Carrying (i.e. transport)

Studies have shown that a horse can carry a human on its back for about 50% of its body weight. Thus, for example, if a horse weighed 500 pounds, it could carry up to 250 pounds of weight.

That’s not all though! A horse can also use its own limbs as extra support and take the load off of its back.

That means that the aforementioned 500-pound animal would be able to carry a whopping 550 pounds (including the rider) with no trouble at all! With these numbers in mind, there is certainly no need to worry about your riding partner being too heavy; there are even competitions for carrying weights exceeding 1000 pounds!

              Weight Limit To Ride A Horse

Horse’s weightWeight carrying capacity – 15%Weight carrying capacity – 20%
700 pounds105 pounds140 pounds
800 pounds120 pounds160 pounds
900 pounds135 pounds180 pounds
1,000 pounds150 pounds200 pounds
1,100 pounds165 pounds220 pounds
1,200 pounds180 pounds240 pounds
1,300 pounds195 pounds260 pounds
1,400 pounds210 pounds280 pounds
1,500 pounds225 pounds300 pounds
1,600 pounds240 pounds320 pounds
1,700 pounds255 pounds340 pounds
1,800 pounds270 pounds360 pounds
1,900 pounds285 pounds380 pounds
2,000 pounds300 pounds400 pounds


6) Other Uses for Horse Power

A horse’s power is measured in horsepower or HP. The official definition of one HP is 33,000 pounds per minute so a horse that can pull 1,000 pounds for a minute is said to have 1 HP.

According to data collected by NASA and AARP, a horse can carry up to 40 percent of its body weight. So a 200-pound horse can carry 80 pounds on its back! But how much more weight can a horse carry? It all depends on the situation.

When pulling a carriage, the horse could be carrying around 250% of its own weight. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds you might need 500 pounds of hay and feed to keep you going each day.

On the other hand, when running short distances like in races like steeplechases or polo matches, the load would be around 50% – 70% of the animal’s own weight.

How much weight does an average horse carry?

An average horse weighs roughly 1,300 pounds and stands between four and five feet tall. Because of these proportions, a horse is generally able to carry up to 5,500 pounds at a time (as much as 775 kilograms).

However, there are some factors that affect a horse’s ability to transport weight. As a general rule, whether you’re talking about show jumping competitions or polo matches, only one rider and their tack are allowed on each animal.

In the case of rodeos, some wild west shows, and the carousel animals will be ridden by more than one person at a time. The number of riders has an effect on how much weight the horse can handle; it’s not uncommon for them to carry ten people at once in this situation.

A larger amount of stress also takes its toll on the animal’s body; if they’re carrying too heavy of a load for too long, this causes them undue physical strain which could lead to injury.

How Many Pounds Can a Horse Carry ?
                                                         Horse Science News

Weight carrying capacity of different breeds

Some people might wonder if they can use a horse to move their belongings or pull a cart. There are several factors that play into that, however.

The weight carrying capacity of different breeds varies by breed, and within each breed based on body type, age and sex as well. For example, larger draft horses will generally be able to carry more weight than smaller ponies.

More heavily muscled draft breeds also tend to have higher weight carrying capacities than lighter breeds. However, the size of the load is another important factor.

A large load may not require a high-weight-carrying-capacity horse because it doesn’t place as much stress on the animal.

Weight is distributed evenly among all four hooves in this case. Conversely, light loads placed asymmetrically over one side may require an animal with a high weight carrying capacity to avoid injury from extreme pressure on one side of its foot.

Frequently, horses used for pulling heavy carts have been bred for both weight-carrying capacity and temperament. These traits were prized for pack animals such as mules before the invention of cars.

At the same time, there are other instances where such a trait was not desirable, such as when racing thoroughbreds must be very lightweight in order to run at full speed. So what about your question about what you can put on a horse’s back.

Weight carrying capacity of different breeds

Horse Breed     Horse’s weight(In pounds)    Weight Carrying Capacity(In pounds)  
Arabian      800-1000 160-200
Icelandic Horse      730-840 165-190
Racehorse      900-1100 180-220
Paso Fino      700-1000 175-250
Thoroughbred      1000-1300 200-260
Quarter Horse      1000-1300 200-260
Clydesdale      1600-1800 320-360
Andalusian      1000-1300 200-260
Appaloosa      1000-1300 200-260
Cleveland Bay      1200-1500 240-300
Dutch Warmblood      1200-1300 240-260
Shire      1700-2700 340-540
Standardbred      1000-1320 200-264
Mule      800-1000 200-250
Miniature Horse      150-350 30-70

Advantages if you choose lightweight tack

Horses that don’t have to lug around a big saddle and tack set will be less stressed, more relaxed, and much happier. They’ll also perform better.

This is one reason why endurance riders use lightweight equipment to reduce their mount’s workload. The same principle applies in any discipline where a horse carries heavy loads. Try it out if you haven’t already – your horse will thank you!

First, stop using leg aids while the horse carries weight on its back. Even though you might not feel the stress on the animal, it will still cause strain. When the animal is carrying weight, give only those aids needed for balance and direction – no extra help to move forward or up hills.

You’ll see an immediate improvement in performance when your horse doesn’t have to work as hard to do what’s asked of him or her.

Horseback riding with too heavy a saddle

The weight of a saddle is determined by two factors, one objective and one subjective. The objective factor is girth, which refers to inches.

Standard saddles for most horse sizes come in 16-inch increments from 15 1/2 inches to 17 3/4 inches. The next consideration is withers height, which determines whether you need a regular or oversized saddle based on your horse’s size relative to others in his breed.

But there’s another key measurement that might also determine saddle size – the rider’s height. If the rider is 5’10 tall and wants to ride a 14-1/2 inch horse, she will be best suited with an 18-inch saddle.

However, if the rider is 6’5 tall and wants to ride a 15-3/4 inch horse, she would need at least a 20-inch saddle. A shorter person riding a taller horse may find themselves more comfortable with an oversized saddle as well because it can help to reduce pressure points on their legs.
Lighter weight and smaller designs could also help relieve some of the pressure points.

Do you want to be on the safe side or make your muscles stronger?

It is crucial to find a weight lifting routine that ensures that you are training safely. If you don’t, the injury will almost always be right around the corner.

It may seem like a better idea to train for extra hours or lift heavier weights but if your body isn’t ready for it then you could risk permanent injury. Especially when it comes to heavy loads on your back and spine, never underestimate how much you can lift.

A good rule of thumb when assessing your strength level is to start out with about half the amount of weight that you think you can do – even more so if you have any existing injuries. That way, if something goes wrong, it’s easier to modify what’s happening and avoid further damage.

Taking care that your saddle is not too heavy

While it’s tempting to load up your saddlebags with everything you might need during a long day in the saddle, think twice before packing on heavy items like a spare pair of boots or a bottle of whiskey.

The best rule of thumb is to add together all items that weigh more than five percent of your horse’s body weight and divide that number by two.

Any weight over that amount should be left behind for another time. A heavier load will only tire out your horse and affect its performance at other tasks. You don’t want to do anything that would put yourself or your horse at risk!

Final Thought

A horse can carry more than you think but it depends upon horse breed, size, and weight. Some horses are average in weight but they can carry more than their weight because of horse breed. Resultingly I can say that an Average Horse carrying ability is 500-700 Pounds.


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