How Much Weight Can A Horse Pull On Wheels?

Last Updated on March 18, 2022

Horses are capable of pulling incredible weights, but there is a significant difference between dead weight and how much weight can a horse pull on wheels. The total weight a horse can pull will depend on a few factors. This includes the horse breed, the type of vehicle with wheels, and the surface it is pulling on.

Carriage Weight

In the past, carriages were the main way people traveled between locations. Horse’s pulled these carriages, which came in a variety of sizes. Today, the weight of the average large carriage is 1,800 pounds. 

The design of the carriage will also influence how easy it for the horse to pull. Two carriages can weigh the same amount, but it is possible that one is easier to pull than the other. Several factors influence how easily the carriage moves.

These include axel friction, resistance to rolling, and the tractive effort the horse needs to use to move the carriage. A study by Cornell University found that horses can consistently, without overexerting themselves physically, make a traction effort of 10 percent of their body weight. This is different than the total weight a horse can pull.

What traction effort refers to is the force the horse can exert consistently over a long distance. For a 1,000 pound horse, this is 100 pounds.

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How Much Does A Wagon Weigh

A wagon is a less elegant type of wheeled vehicle pulled by horses than a carriage. Wagons transported goods from farms, by those less well off to travel and to distribute goods in cities. When people were traveling to the American West to settle it, they traveled in a Prairie Schooner.

The Prairie Schooner was lighter than another type of wagon in use at the time to haul heavy loads, the Conestoga. Its smaller size made it more suitable to travel the long distance to the wild American West. When empty, the Paire Schooner wagon weighs 1,300 pounds. 

The settlers were careful not to overload the wagon, keeping the total weight to no more than 2,000 pounds. Each wagon has a team of 10 or 12 horses to pull it. Teams of mules and oxen were also used with several animals in reserve to replace ones that got tired or injured.

A Conestoga wagon could weigh up to 12,000 pounds when full. A team of four to six horses would pull these wagons. 

Today, heavy horses, like the draft breeds, still pull wagons for various events. The most famous wagon team is the Budweiser Clydesdales. Draft horses weigh between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds. A fully loaded wagon these horses pull can weigh around 4,000 pounds.

This is a fun video showing a collection of old images of horses pulling wagons from years ago.

How Much Can A Horse Pull

Before more interest in horse welfare came into mainstream equestrianism, thinking about how much weight a horse can pull didn’t factor too much. However, today we use a general guide to determine what a horse can comfortably pull. This will change depending on the surface the horse pulling on and who you ask.

With wheels, on a good surface, such as flat, hard ground like a road, a single horse can pull three times its body weight. For example, if a horse weighs 1,000 pounds, it can pull 3,000 pounds. When you add hills into the equation, the maximum weight decreases to two times the horse’s body weight.

The two times bodyweight rule also comes into play when the road condition worsens. This is means gravel or dirt tracks. When you are on very bad surfaces, such as sand or in the mountains, the weight limit decreases to just the horse’s body weight.

There is a difference of opinion on the maximum weight a horse can pull on wheels. Contradicting the above rule, some say horses can actually pull six times their body weight on a good road. This means that in reality, a 1,000-pound horse can pull 6,000 pounds.

However, even though the horse can pull six times its weight, those with this opinion still restrict their horses to pulling carriages no more than three times their weight. This means the horse can work longer without becoming too tired or strained.

How Much Can A Team Of Horses Pull On Wheels

Large carriages or heavy wagons use a team of horses to pull them. This increases the weight limits and shares the work between the horses. When you add a second horse to make a team of two, they can pull three times as much on wheels as a single horse.

When you add even more horses, the weight they can pull on wheels increases to an impressive amount. For example, the Budweiser Clydesdales pull in a team of eight. When their wagon is fully loaded, it weighs 12 tons, 24,000 pounds!

carriage weight

Record Weights Horses Pull

Draft horses are the most powerful type and have always been used for the heaviest work. These horses worked on farms pulling plows and pulling wagons to transport goods. A lighter, more refined horse would pull a carriage, especially if it was for the upper classes.

A deadweight, that means without wheels, is much more difficult for a horse to pull. Several records have impressed people over the years for deadweight pulls by horses. At the 2012 Calgary Stampede, the heaviest weight ever pulled by a team of two horses is 13,400 pounds.

One report from 1924, says that a team of Shire horses pulled an incredible 100,000 pounds. This seems a little unbelievable, and it is hard to know for certain if this was exaggerated or not. Regardless of if the 100,000 is correct or not, this horse team clearly pulled an impressive amount.


As you can see, how much weight can a horse pull on wheels is more than a deadweight because the wheels provide momentum and less friction? Heavy horses can pull up to six times their body weight on their own. This increases as you add more horses to the team.

How much weight can four horses pull?

Horses have played a critical role in man’s development. From riding to pulling heavy loads, horses have been integral to mankind’s history. There are many different types of horses with different abilities. While we all love our horses, we know that the size of the animal is going to play a role in how much it can pull. You should also take into account the size of your cart and its load.
Horses are known for their strength and endurance. And they are a pretty reliable source of power and traction. In fact, the average adult horse can pull up to one and a half times their own weight and travel long distances. For short distances, some breeds of draft horse can pull more than five times its own weight. A team of 4 horses is capable to pull loads of up to 12,000 pounds.

What age can a horse pull a cart?

While Thoroughbreds mature slightly earlier than other breeds and can start to be ridden as early as around 18 months of age, warm-bloods and draft horses mature a bit later than an average horse. They would normally be ready to pull wagons at the age of 3 to 4 years old. The actual age at which a horse can pull a cart varies greatly between breeds and individuals. It is always advisable that the horse is given plenty of exercise and has been properly trained before being put into service. 

How much can mini horse pull?

Miniature horses are capable of driving and pulling small carts, if they are trained to do so. The appropriate age to start the training is after the horse is at least 3 years old. They can safely pull as much as 2/3 of their own weight! A mini horse that weighs 300 pounds can therefore pull a cart of 200 pounds, which is quite impressive.
Miniature horses are used in the equine industry for their entertainment value as well as their ability to provide comfort, pleasure, safety, and companionship. They are very popular with children and adults. In addition, miniature horses are used by parents to teach children responsibility, self-confidence, self-discipline, and compassion. They are also a good choice for people who can’t afford a larger horse but still wish to experience the benefits of owning a horse.

Can Arabian horses pull carts?

The right breed of horse for the job can make the difference between having a good time or not. Horses that are best suited as riding horses or racehorses are not the best choice for driving carriages. Arabians, Thoroughbreds and other hot-blooded breeds that are normally used or racing, can be spooked easily. They also tend to be a little more stubborn and don’t take direction as well as some other breeds,  such as Clydesdales, Shires, Percherons, and other breeds of draft horses, who are known for being patient, steady and obedient.
Horse breeds are not just defined by physical characteristics but also by temperament and behavior. Breeders have been selecting for the right temperament since the Middle Ages. The best-known breed of carriage horse is the Clydesdale. It has a calm temperament and can easily be trained to a high degree.