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Weight Limit for riding horses

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  • Weight Limit for riding horses

    Hi,
    Does anyone know if infact a "weight limit" applies to riding horses? I've been riding a 15.2 paint gelding (very big boned and bodied) and was just told that I can't continue to ride because he can only carry 20% of his body. The 20% includes tack. I weight 252 lbs and he weighs at least 1000 lbs.

    Does anyone know about this? I thought cowboys back when were more rough of horses then we are today. They were big guys on large ponies....huh?

  • #2
    The general rule of thumb is that a horse can safely carry 20% of it's weight (rider + tack).

    However...there are other factors that can play a role here.

    -conformation of the horse: A horse with a long back may not be able to carry as much as safely as a horse with a shorter back.

    -horse's fitness level: a horse with a strong topline may be able to carry more than one who is out of shape.

    -previous injuries: one might want to back off on the weight for a horse that has had injuries like: subluxation, stifle or suspensory injuries, etc.

    -rider fitness and ability level: a ride who is fit and balanced will ride "lighter" than a rider who is out of shape and not balanced when they both weigh the same. A 100lb rider can be "too much" for a horse if they're bouncing around on the horse's kidneys.


    I have two stock breed mares. One has a weaker topline and previous history of stifle injury. I would allow someone who is balanced and fit to ride her lightly as long as they were under 200lbs. I wouldn't allow more than that.

    My other mare has no previous issues and I would have no problem allowing someone up to about 250lbs ride her. Again, I wouldn't want that someone jumping her or anything...I think that's just too much.


    Ultimately, if you do not own the horse, you are kind of at the mercy of whomever does. Most stables with lesson horses or trail trail strings have weight limits so yes, it is a "general practice".

    Perhaps the horse has had some injury or appears to be getting sore? Perhaps that's just an excuse to have you stop riding the horse?

    Hard to say without knowing more...but yeah...the weight limit thing is a rule of thumb.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm sure you can find a riding stable with some draft crosses that would be welcoming. Out in the hunt field you'll find the tall, heavy-set older men riding on big sturdy drafts or draft crosses. Between being tall and also heavy, they are easily 250 pounds, some of them.

      Perhaps you can find one to lease or buy, and board at the barn where you'd like to ride?

      Lesson barns have to consider that multiple riders are riding the horses, too, so the horse doesn't get too tired doing too many lessons - some limit the number of beginners, or the weight, or the type of lesson, to save the horse so he is good for all the lessons he has to do each week.

      Comment


      • #4
        Ah, the rider weight problem. I'm right there with you -- I have horses because I could no longer stand to play stable roulette (the instructor says okay, but then the BO has a fit..)

        Jessica Jahiel has some good words on the subject:

        http://www.horse-sense.org/archives/20041219123635.php

        http://www.horse-sense.org/archives/20040620074653.php
        Originally posted by HuntrJumpr
        No matter what level of showing you're doing, you are required to have pants on.

        Comment


        • #5
          I would consider riding a larger horse. Without seeing the horse you are riding, it is hard to say for sure. Being 250+ lbs, I would consider a much larger horse. It also depends on your body type too, I would imagine.

          Comment


          • #6
            My best friend in college was confronted with this issue. She wasn't allowed to ride certain horses at the barn or at shows and it was extremely hurtful to her. It was very difficult for her to deal with. She ended up finding a big boned thoroughbred that worked well with her. She also rode many of the draft crosses and thoroughbreds at the barn. Eventually she realized that as a larger rider, she needed a larger horse. She also got out of Hunters since they weren't placing her well even though shes an exceptional rider. She's very happy now with her big TB doing Jumpers.
            Iron Star Equestrian

            Heels Down, Eyes Up, Plan Ahead

            Comment


            • #7
              It really does vary and all sorts of factors come into play but most places that rent/lease/provide horses for multiple riders will have a weight limit. Usually 250 but can be 200.

              Bigger horses are out there as are many sturdy types but, bottom line, if the horse works for a living and the barn earns income off of it, it needs to be protected a bit so it will last.

              Many more private lease arrangements can be made that limit the number of riders at many places. Keeps you riding and allows the horse a fair deal.
              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

              Comment


              • #8
                Ambar, good references!

                I like the first link--the emphasis on fitness. That was one of the points I was trying to get across. It's not just about weight.
                A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                Might be a reason, never an excuse...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by BuddyRoo View Post
                  Ambar, good references!

                  I like the first link--the emphasis on fitness. That was one of the points I was trying to get across. It's not just about weight.
                  No. BUT, most places that rent/lease/provide mounts for multiple riders daily-that ranging from dude ranches to lesson barns to rent strings and even to the mules that run tourists down the Grand Canyon-use weight.

                  Because it is still weight on one that works a full schedual with multiple riders daily and easier then going to an individual determination of each potential rider's fitness level.

                  That is pretty general, not so PC and may even be incorrect for some but the way it is and has been when you pay to ride somebody else's horse on a by the ride basis. If you go more private to seek a ride, like an exclusive or half lease, there is more room and time to correctly assess that suitabilty of each horse to each rider.
                  When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                  The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Rules of Thumb are worth what you pay for them.

                    The Cavalry remount standard was a 15-16h TB-type horse that weighed 900-1100 lbs. It was expected to carry 230-250 lbs. as a matter of routine (rider, tack, weapons, gear, etc.), covering 35 miles per day, each and every day, while in the field.

                    Note that the percentages, here, run roughly 21%-28%.

                    The Cavalry trooper would have been reasonably fit and a good rider. He was also expected to be able to traverse lots of different types of terrain.

                    So while a 20% standard may be resonable for "dude strings" (that pack around tourists) it's not necessarily reasonable for a rider of at least reasonable skill.

                    As far as a "bigger" horse is concerned that's an approach to be carefully considered. Just how should the horse be "bigger?" Height alone has no bearing on weight carrying capacity (and may even reduce it as bone density often decreases as height increases). Even bone circumference may not be much help as it's density, not size, that really matters.

                    Look at the Icelandic Horse. They are short, stout, and routinely carry people of large stature. Arabians are known for their bone density. And, of course, it's not just bone, it's the joint structure. And not just the legs, but also the back.

                    So, once again we're back to the reality that the Rule of Thumb sounds good and may even be good in some circumstances but it's hardly carved in stone.

                    G.
                    Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      A bigger horse does NOT mean it can carry more weight easily! A stocky, well muscled DENSE little QH can haul a 300 lb man around all day at a western show, where as a willowy 17.2 TB would swoon if you used your seat aids too strongly!

                      It takes all kinds. 252 is about where I decided to stop riding- but I kept gaining after that till I hit 299. Now I am holding steady at 195 or so, and happy. I'd *rather* be 135, or even 165, but for me, and for *my* horses, 195 is no issue.
                      Do not take anything to heart. Do not hanker after signs of progress. Founder of the Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        On Cavalry horses...not the best thing to compare. Cavalry ran auxillary horses at the rear to cover all the horses that broke down daily under the grueling loads and trails. And the cavalry was given permission by the government in times "or war or strife" to take horses from citizens to replace their broken down ones. Average time for a horse to stay sound on the trail with the cavalry was 15-25 hours of saddle time...they were then stripped of tack and kept in the loose herd following in hopes that they'd improve again.
                        Following the cavalry wasn't hard...just follow the trail of horse skeletons.
                        This was written May 12th, 1863 and is pretty normal for that time for those horses:
                        [SIZE=4] B[/SIZE]ut with the horses it is otherwise and you have no idea of their sufferings. An officer of cavalry needs to be more horse-doctor than soldier, and no one who has not tried it can realize the discouragement to Company commanders in these long and continuous marches. You are a slave to your horses, you work like a dog yourself, and you exact the most extreme care from your Sergeants, and you see diseases creeping on you day by day and your horses breaking down under your eyes, and you have two resources, one to send them to the reserve camps at the rear and so strip yourself of your command, and the other to force them on until they drop and then run for luck that you will be able to steal horses to remount your men, and keep up the strength of your command. The last course is the one I adopt. I do my best for my horses and am sorry for them; but all war is cruel and it is my business to bring every man I can into the presence of the enemy, and so make war short. So I have but one rule, a horse must go until he can’t be spurred any further, and then the rider must get another horse as soon as he can seize on one. To estimate the wear and tear on horseflesh you must bear in mind that, in the service in this country, a cavalry horse when loaded carries an average of 225 lbs. on his back. His saddle, when packed without a rider in it, weights no less than fifty pounds.
                        [SIZE=4]O[/SIZE]n this last raid dying horses lined the road on which Stoneman’s divisions had passed, and we marched over a road made pestilent by the dead horses of the vanished rebels. Poor brutes! How it would astonish and terrify you and all others at home with your sleek, well-fed animals, to see the weak, gaunt, rough animals, with each rib visible and hipbones starting through the flesh, on which these "dashing cavalry raids" were executed. It would knock romance out of you. So much for my cares as a horsemaster, and they are the cares of all. For, I can safely assure you, my horses are not the worst in the regiment, and I am reputed no unsuccessful chief groom.
                        As for 300 lb men riding stocky QHs, never seen that even once. I think people might not be able to recognize approximate weight of people by sight. Sure there are plenty of heavy set guys with big paunches visible riding. However, most are in the mid five feet region considering where their legs are on the horse's sides (and yep, taking into consideration someone short legged and long torso) and weight maybe all of 200-225 range. My husband weighs 210 at 5'9" and people guess him a whole lot higher in weight because he has the "beer belly" build. (and yet doesn't drink, LOL)
                        When competing at high levels in reining and other western sports...the rider is going to be especially balanced and fit under the fat belly...and he weighs a lot less than people guess them to weigh.
                        You jump in the saddle,
                        Hold onto the bridle!
                        Jump in the line!
                        ...Belefonte

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          yes that's way too much weight

                          Do a search on the words "obese" "weight" "weight limits" and you'll trawl up a load of informative posts.

                          You might want to buy popcorn prior to continuing though and don't forget to buy enough for our favourite draft x and porse/hony owner.
                          Last edited by Thomas_1; Sep. 15, 2009, 06:16 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I'm not familiar with the all the practices of other armies, but the U.S. Cavalry issued one horse per rider and did not, normally, have "extras" in the field. There may have been mini-remount depos, but a regiment (much less a company) in the field did not have a "cavvy" of horses following along. If a soldier's horse "broke down" then he just joined the infantry.

                            If you want an excellent book on the twilight of the U.S. Cavalry I most highly recommend Chasing Villa by Col. (the Major) Frank Tompkins. It's his story of the Punative Expedition that entered Mexico after Villa's raid on Columbus, NM. It's valuable not only for its techinical information, but he lays out the political situation and explains why Villa did what he did and how U.S. government actions (before and after) laid the foundation of the relationship we have, today, with the Republic of Mexico.

                            IMO it's even informational on understanding the current border situation and the ongoing drug wars.

                            G.
                            Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I used to love reading about the cavalry of ye olden days...but after reading books made from the actual reports, notes and letters from those times and learning that on average the US Cavalry lost between 30-40% of their horses every year to overworking and overloading them coupled with lack of decent health care for the animals. The US Cavalry definitely isn't a good comparison for determining a safe weight for horses to carry.
                              Horses working under constantly overloaded weights for their bodies show issues over time. A horse is made like a suspension bridge...there's a lot of heavy bone and muscle in the front and back where the legs/supports are and it's spanned by the spine which "hangs" without direct support between the front and hind legs. The rider sits there. Over time, too much weight for a horse not specifically bred and conditioned for higher weights will have health and discomfort issues. It's a matter of physics.
                              I will have to check out that book though..I don't have that one. Thanks, sonds like a great read.
                              You jump in the saddle,
                              Hold onto the bridle!
                              Jump in the line!
                              ...Belefonte

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                hmm these threads make me hungry!

                                nom nom nom!

                                IT'S A THYROID ISSUE OK!!!!!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Start looking at various breeds until you find a horse who fits you. You may find that you are more comfortable and can ride in a more balanced position if you have a taller and heavier built horse who fits you.

                                  One of our pony club instructors used to say the rider and the horse should generally look like each other. I realized then why my skinny, tall, daughter had selected a 15.3h skinny TB when her friends were still riding medium ponies. She just couldn't get comfortable on a medium pony. Her shorter and heavier sister was happiest on a sturdy, medium, pony. My 6'6" 180lb brother looked silly on our 16.2h Irish Draught. The horse was not tall enough for him, so he always looked top heavy and vulnerable to falling off head first.

                                  Look at Irish Draughts and American draft breeds. I suspect you will never have the desire to ride a little quarter horse after you find a horse who you can really ride.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    You have to be careful when looking at the history of military use of horses in any society. To the army a horse is no different than a wagon, artillery piece, or a soldier: it is expendable in accomplishment of a mission.

                                    Needless to say this give some folks a bad case of The Vapors but that's the way it was. And to a large extent still is.

                                    You must also make a clear distinction between horses in garrison and horses in the field. Garrison time was used to prepare for field problems. Wise regimental commanders (and not all were) worked on training horses and riders so that losses in the field were kept to a reasonable level. But some "wastage" was accepted as part of normal practices.

                                    So, IMO, cavalry uses are an area worthy of study and emulation. But discretion and judgement is necessary. If you are pursuing (or being pursued) you're going to work a horse a lot harder than even getting ready for 100 mile endurance run. Particularly after 1900 a much more scientific approach to training and husbandry was applied in the U.S. Cavalry (based upon many painful lessons from the Spanish-American War).

                                    Another excellent book on military horse usage is War Horse: A History of the Military Horse and Rider by Lt. Col. Lou DiMarco (an instructor at the Army War College). It is less technical in horse care but lays out the problems of obtaining and maintaining a large field force and puts many horse care issues into context.

                                    While some forces were hugely wasteful of animals (during WWI a British cavalry officer said you could smell a French cavalry regiment from several miles if you were downwind due to the stench from the saddle sores) others were much more careful of their horseflesh (Col. Ranald McKenzie and Gen. George Custer come to mind; yes, Custer was careful of husbandry and training if not so careful in operations).

                                    G.
                                    Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Guilherme View Post

                                      You must also make a clear distinction between horses in garrison and horses in the field. Garrison time was used to prepare for field problems. Wise regimental commanders (and not all were) worked on training horses and riders so that losses in the field were kept to a reasonable level. But some "wastage" was accepted as part of normal practices.


                                      G.
                                      Perhaps this should be a spinoff but I love history and this is interesting. So was it during these garrison times that the pre-lude to three day eventing started? And all of those great old pics of military horses in puissance competitions? Or was that way later?

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        This sort of applies...

                                        Did anyone see the Ruby Gettinger reality show where she is riding? She still weighs over 300 pounds and the horse she was on was no large drafty type. Is this acceptable? Because she has a reality show?
                                        Sailing the high seas but secretly wishing to be on the back of a horse.

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