Last Updated on January 9, 2022
We all know that horses are very strong and able to carry human riders while carrying out various athletic movements. But just how much weight can a draft horse carry?
If you’re looking for a horse that can carry more weight, many people suggest that a draft horse is a solution. These larger horses are very strong and have been used as workhorses for many years. But are they strong enough to carry a heavyweight rider?
Why Are Horses So Strong?
Compared to humans, most horses are very strong. Try stopping even the smallest pony from running away and he will defeat you with his strength! But why exactly are they so strong?
Even the finest of horses is strong enough to carry a pack or rider or pull heavy loads. As a result of millions of years of evolution, horses have developed strong bodies with large muscles, and a large heart and lung capacity.
Over thousands of years, humans have bred horses to enhance certain desirable characteristics. In most cases, this was to make them taller, stronger, and faster. This has led to many different breeds of horses, all with specific traits and physical attributes.
This has led to the development of certain categories of horses, such as the native ponies of Great Britain, the Quarter Horses of America, and various draft horse breeds from around the world.
Each type has been bred to meet a specific need or requirement, but they are all still very strong!
How Much Weight Can A Horse Hold?
The weight that a horse can carry is the topic of much debate. We tend to fit riders to horses mainly by the height of the rider, as a horse with a tall rider will be easily unbalanced. However, it is not common for riders to be weighed, except in the equestrian sport of horse racing.
If a horse is asked to carry a rider or pack that is too heavy, then it may develop musculoskeletal problems such as back pain. It may also struggle to carry out the work being asked of it, as it is not physically strong enough to carry the weight. A horse that is asked to carry too much weight will quickly become resentful of the rider or pack and may develop behavioral problems.
Deciding how much weight a horse can hold is normally assessed on a case-by-case basis. For example, Arabian horses are very fine-boned and elegant, and cannot carry a heavy rider. At the opposite end of the scale, we have Icelandic horses, that are much smaller but can carry heavier weights than the Arabian.
What Is The Weight Limit For Horses?
Luckily, someone has researched how much weight a horse can safely and comfortably carry! As a rule, a horse can carry a maximum of 20% of its body weight on its back.
So, if you have an average Thoroughbred that weighs 1000 pounds, it can carry 200 pounds on its back. The average human in North America weighs 177.9 pounds, so should be able to ride a Thoroughbred horse.
Obviously, this calculation should be paired with some common sense. Young horses should not carry as much weight, as their musculoskeletal systems are not fully developed. Older horses are not as strong and will only be able to carry a lighter rider.
The fitness levels of the horse should also be considered, plus the workload required of it. A horse will be able to carry more weight over a shorter distance and easy terrain, whereas long, rocky, mountain trails will be more of a challenge.
The weight a horse carries should also include the saddle. English saddles weigh between 10 and 25 pounds, and Western saddles range from 25 to 60 pounds. If a pack is being used, the weight must be evenly distributed to enable the horse to carry it comfortably.
It is also vital to remember that novice riders are not as well-balanced, and this can make it harder for the horse to carry their weight. An experienced rider may be able to ride a smaller horse, as they are balanced and secure in the saddle.
What Is A Draft Horse?
Traditionally, draft horses were used as part of agricultural life, to pull heavy machinery and loads. These horses are incredibly strong, and are the powerhouses of the equine world!
There are many different draft horse breeds around the world. In the United Kingdom, traditional draft breeds include the Shire horse and Suffolk Punch. Then we have the Percheron and Ardennes from France and the Jutland Horse from Denmark.
Wherever a draft horse was bred, they all have many physical characteristics in common. They have wide, muscular bodies and strong, powerful legs. Draft horses are also notoriously placid and easy to handle.
How Much Weight Can A Draft Horse Carry?
One of the largest horse breeds is the Shire horse, which weighs in at an average of 2,435 pounds! If we take the rule that the Shire can carry 20% of its body weight, this means the Shire could carry up to 487 pounds.
This might sound impressive, but it is when pulling a load that the Shire horse really excels itself! In comparison to a riding horse, draft horses can haul much heavier weights.
The amount of weight that a Shire horse can pull depends on factors such as terrain and the type of weight. A wheeled cart will be easier to move than a land plow.
It is not unusual for Shire horses to regularly pull loads of up to 8,000 pounds. If a pair of Shire horses are used, they can pull up to 20,000 pounds between them.
So, as we have learned, a draft horse is very strong and capable of incredible feats of physical strength. They can carry weights of up to 487 pounds, but their real forte is pulling heavy loads.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about how much weight draft horses can carry. Have you ever ridden one of these heavyweight giants of the equine world? Or maybe you have some questions about how to find the right size horse to carry your weight? Please add a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Read more about How Much Weight Can A Miniature Horse Pull?
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE