Horses may be strong, but sometimes riders can be too heavy for a horse to carry comfortably.

While most healthy horses can easily carry a rider and saddle, they do have their limits. So, how much weight can a horse comfortably carry?

The scientists base their findings on detailed measurements taken of eight horses that were ridden while packing anywhere from 15 to 30% of their body weight. The horses ranged in size from 400 to 625 kilograms (885 to 1375 pounds).

**1. For a horse that weighs 400 kilograms, calculate the range of weight they can comfortably carry.**

**2. For a horse that weighs 1375 pounds, calculate the range of weight they can comfortably carry.**

**3. Once you calculate 15% of the horse’s weight, do you see two ways of calculating 30% of the horse’s weight?**

When carrying 15 and 20% of their body weight, the horses showed relatively little indication of stress. It’s when they were packing weights of 25% that physical signs changed markedly, and these became accentuated under 30% loads.

The horses had noticeably faster breathing and higher heart rates when carrying tack and rider amounting to 25% or more of their body weight.

**4. An average trail saddle might weigh 25 pounds. If the rider weighed 160 pounds, how much weight would the horse be carrying in total?**

**5. English saddles weigh less than western saddles. An average saddle might weigh 17 pounds. If a 134 pound person rode in an average english saddle, how much weight would the horse be carrying in total?**

A day after trotting and cantering with the heavier weights, the horses’ muscles showed substantially greater soreness and tightness. Those horses that were least sore from the exercise had wider loins, the part of a horse’s back located between their last rib and croup.

Based on these results, the study’s authors recommend that horses not be loaded with greater than 20% of their body weight.

**6. Barney is a 1200 pound horse. Calculate the maximum weight his rider can be for Barney to comfortably carry.**

**a. While riding with an english saddle**

**b. While riding with a western saddle.**

1. For a horse that weighs 400 kilograms, calculate the range of weight they can comfortably carry.

Answer: 400 x .15 = 60; 400 x .30 = 120. A 400 kg horse could comfortably carry 60 to 120 kg.

2. For a horse that weighs 1375 pounds, calculate the range of weight they can comfortably carry.

Answer: 1375 x .15 = 206.25; 1375 x .30 = 412.5. A 1375 lb horse can comfortably carry 206 1/4 lb to 412.5 lb.

3. Once you calculate 15% of the horse’s weight, do you see two ways of calculating 30% of the horse’s weight?

Answer: One way is to multiply 30% x the horse’s weight.

A second way is to multiply the answer you got from multiplying 15% x the horse’s weight by 2. This is because 2 x 15= 30. Therefore 2 x 15% of the horses weight = 30% of the horse’s weight.

4. An average trail saddle might weigh 25 pounds. If the rider weighed 160 pounds, how much weight would the horse be carrying in total?

Answer: 160 + 25 = 185. The horse would be carrying 185 pounds.

5. English saddles weigh less than western saddles. An average saddle might weigh 17 pounds. If a 134 pound person rode in an average english saddle, how much weight would the horse be carrying in total?

Answer: 17 + 134 = 151. The horse would be carrying 151 pounds.

6. Barney is a 1200 pound horse. Calculate the maximum weight his rider can be for Barney to comfortably carry.

a. While riding with an english saddle

Answer: Step 1: 1200 x .30 = 360.

Step 2: 360 – 17 = 343. Barney could carry a rider weighing 343 pounds.

b. While riding with a western saddle.

Answer: 360 – 25 = 335. Barney could carry a rider weighing 335 pounds.

Photos:

Brown Quarter Horse Mare by krappweis

Roger’s horse’s saddle by Roger Ward; CC BY 2.0

Thanks for the info! I should be okay though, I calculated and my mare is carrying about 19% of her body weight. She is carrying roughly 160lbs. She weighs 850!

I have a quick question: Do the saddle weights given in the exercise include the pad?

Good question. Saddle pad weight is not included. This would make for a good add on to the post. Your child could research saddle pad weights and add the information where appropriate. If you do, please share what you learn with other HLM readers by leaving another comment. Thanks!