5 Best Horse Breed For Heavy Riders

Last Updated on March 24, 2022

Those with a love of horses can always enjoy them, but if you have concerns about weight, take a look at the best horse breed for heavy riders. If you are on the heavier side, the main consideration is for both your’s and the horse’s safety and comfort. You just need the right type of horse to create the best match.

General Rule For Horse and Rider Weight

The generally accepted rule for knowing if a rider is a safe weight for the horse is to go by 20 percent. What 20 percent means is that the horse can carry up to 20 percent of its body weight. Equestrians use this rule for both the horse’s welfare and the rider’s safety.

An example, for clarity, is to look at a 1,200-pound horse and find what 20 percent of this is. Working this out, you get 240. This means that a 1,200-pound horse can comfortably carry 240 pounds.

You need to take into account both the rider’s weight and how much the saddle weighs, as it is a maximum limit. Another consideration to take into account is the rider’s overall fitness, balance, and riding ability. A well-balanced rider, with good fitness levels and experience, will not tire a horse as quickly as a novice rider that lacks these.

General Rule For Horse and Rider Weight

This means that a 200-pound rider that lacks experience and balance can have more effect on the horse than a 250-pound rider in good shape and with experience. It is harder work for the horse to carry a beginner rider.

However, even with experience, you need to understand the limits of the type of horse you ride. It is detrimental to the horse’s welfare, for example, for a 200-pound rider to ride a light horse or smaller pony.

Breeds For Heavy Riders

Certain breeds are more likely to make suitable mounts for heavy riders. These horses have bigger bones and large body mass. A light, fine bone horse, such as the Thoroughbred, even if tall will not suit a larger rider. Let’s take a look at some good horse breeds for heavy riders.


Clydesdale is an excellent breed for big riders. These horses are not just for pulling wagons, they make excellent mounts. They have gentle, sensible temperaments, which are also ideal for novice equestrians.

Clydesdales are large horses that stand at least 16 hands, with most around 17 hands. This is also great for a tall rider that needs a horse that can comfortably take someone with long legs. The breed is strongly built with wide, muscular bodies and big bones.

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The average Clydesdale weighs 1,600 to 1,800 pounds. This means they can take a maximum weight of up to 360-pounds. Remember to include the saddle weight in this, so if the saddle weighs 30-pounds you can add a rider that is 33- pounds.

Learn more about Top 3 Heavy Horse Breeds Revealed!

Irish Draught

The Irish Draught, while a cold-blood breed, is an athletic, friendly horse that is very versatile. These horses can take part in many equestrian activities, including jumping, showing, eventing, and even dressage.

This makes the Irish Draught a good choice for a rider that wants to take part in competitions. The breed is pretty sensible, intelligent, and strong. At the same time, it doesn’t always lack a little extra spark that some other cold blood breeds do.

The Irish Draught is also slightly smaller than other heavy breeds. They can stand from 15.2 to 17.2 hands tall and weigh 1,300 to 1,500 pounds. The fact that they are not necessarily the tallest breed, makes them a good choice for a shorter big rider.

Horses For Larger Riders

The Irish Draught and the Clydesdale aren’t the only breeds that are suitable for larger riders. Here we will introduce you to a few more.


The Shire is arguably the largest and strongest draft horse breed. Their history sees them working on farms and pulling carts as delivery horses. However, even though it is not the first breed you think of for riding, they are wonderful mounts.

The Shire has an unflappable personality and rarely gets upset about the things going on around it. They are extremely powerful, yet have calm, gentle, and friendly personalities. This makes them great for riders with less experience.

The average Shire weighs between 1,700 to 2,000 pounds. This means that they can comfortably carry a 300-pound rider after taking the saddle into the equation.  The largest Shire ever on record was Sampson.

Sampson stood an impressive 21.2 hands tall. This breed has a large, sturdy build, making it an excellent choice for a tall, heavy rider.


The Percheron is another heavy horse breed. It is a draft horse that once helped toil the land but also is a good riding horse. Like other draft breeds, the Percheron is calm with a quiet disposition.

American Perherons are slightly smaller than their European cousins, but they all have big builds, large bones, and impressive strength. Many draft breeds have heavy feathering on their legs, which requires a lot of maintenance, but the Percheron has much less.

Percheron for Heavy Riders

This makes them a bit easier to care for than, say, the Clydesdale, which needs extra attention in the care of its legs. An average Percheron weighs 1,800 to 2,000 pounds and stands between 16 and 17.2 hands tall.

Cleveland Bay

The Cleveland Bay is a good choice for a heavy rider that wants a horse with more refinement. All horses in the breed are bay with black leg points. No white is permitted, except for a white star on the face.

The Cleveland Bay is a beautiful horse that is athletic and sensible. It is an excellent riding horse that can take part in a variety of equestrian activities. This breed is smaller than some others and usually stands between 16 to 16.2 hands tall.

The average Cleveland Bay weighs 1,400 to 1,500 pounds. Their smaller size makes them a good family horse that is safe for riders of all ages.

Big Rider

If you are a bigger rider, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy equestrian activities. You just have to know the type of horse that will best work for you. If you are riding a horse of the correct size, you will have a more comfortable ride.

It is also safer for the rider to sit on a horse that matches their size, as it is easier to find your balance. Plus, you can happily know that your horse is comfortable carrying you with one of the best horse breeds for heavy riders.

Big Rider


If you are a heavy rider and thinking of getting a horse, do some research into the best horse breed for heavy riders that we’ve highlighted here. One thing to always keep in mind is your experience. If you want to own a horse, always start by taking lessons.

This advice goes for all riders of every size. With lessons, you will develop your strength, fitness, and skill. You will also improve your balance. All of this will help you move on to a fun experience with horse ownership.

What is the strongest riding horse?

A Belgian draft horse is a large horse, bred for strength and endurance. They are known for their hardiness, stamina, and ability to work in all kinds of weather and terrain. Belgian draft horses are generally considered the strongest horses in the world. They can weigh up to 2000 pounds and stand up to 18 hands tall.
Belgians are excellent horses for trail riding, as they are known to be very strong, sure-footed, and have good temperaments. They are also great for dressage, show jumping, polo, racing, and breeding. They are very well balanced, and have a beautiful, long flowing mane and tail. They can also be used as workhorses, and are often used in agricultural activities. 

Can I ride a horse if I’m overweight?

Horses can usually carry up to 20% of their own body weight without getting injured. However, you need to consider that this weight as well includes the saddle and the tack weight, not only rider’s weight. 
If you are overweight and you try to put more weight on your horse’s back than what it is able to carry, your horse might start having problems with his back. Therefore it’s important to choose appropriate horse for yourself as different breeds vary a lot in their conformation as well as the strength and stamina. All of this has an impact on how much weight they are capable to carry. If you’re a beginner, it’s important that you are aware of all these things before you get started.

What is the most muscular horse breed?

The Shire is a British breed of draught horse, famous for it’s strength and endurance. The Shire is often used in agriculture and as a draught horse but can as well be ridden or trained as a show horse. The Shire is one of the most powerful breeds of horse. Their size is impressive, but it’s their muscle and stamina that really stands out. Shires tend to be heavy boned and muscular, which gives them their characteristic look. Shires are known to have a high level of intelligence. They are gentle, easy to train, but also very strong. It is an all-round horse that can be ridden by everyone. They are very reliable, steady and hardy.

How much do saddles weigh?

It varies but saddles usually range from about 10 – 60 pounds. There are various types of saddles for different types of riding, including western saddles and more lightweight saddles, and the weight and style of the saddle can determine how well you can perform as a rider. English saddles are lighter, usually between 10 – 25 pounds while western saddles are generally 25 – 60 pounds.
Why is a too heavy saddle bad for riding? The heavier your saddle is, the more pressure it puts on your horse’s back and spine, which can cause back pain, neck pain and soreness in other parts of horses body. A heavy saddle can be beneficial for horses who are accustomed to carrying heavy loads. But if your horse is a light dressage horse, a heavy saddle can actually be harmful because it can cause him to pull harder and work harder, which can increase the risk of injury.