How Much Weight Can A Miniature Horse Carry?

Last Updated on February 5, 2022

Miniature horses, or “minis”, are an adorable addition to a herd. In fact, many horse owners use minis as a company for their large horses but do not opt to ride them. How much weight can a miniature horse carry? The topic of maximum weight on a horse is a hot topic, but there are some cut and dry analyses on the topic.

How Much Weight Can A Miniature Horse Carry?

Weight Capacity

Riding a horse is not actually a natural movement for the animal. In fact, a horse’s spine is relatively weak in comparison to the bones and muscles affected by pulling or driving. Under saddle, riders place the bulk of their weight on the thoracic vertebrae. This is considered the “weight-bearing” surface on the horse. Saddles and riders should not extend past this to the lumbar, or “no-bar” vertebrae.

Riding Miniature Horse

Research has shown horses can carry approximately 20% of their body weight. These numbers are also backed by the Certified Horsemanship Association. The 20% weight recommendation also dates back as far as 1920 in the US Calvary Manuals or Horse Management. Although 1/5 of the bodyweight seems significant, miniature horses frequently only weigh 250-350 pounds. That leaves only 50-70-pound load limits, for riders or gear.

If you look at pony rides at fairs and events, you will notice many ponies are Welsh Section A through Cob size. Only toddlers and very small children will actually be light enough to safely ride a miniature horse, so these programs opt for larger ponies instead of minis.  This helps keep the animals used in prime condition and possesses a much lower injury risk.

Pulling Capacity

Although the recommended weight capacity for riding is only 20%, driving is completely different. A horse’s natural conformation makes the animal ideal for pulling. On average, horses can pull 2/3 of their body weight! This means a 300-pound horse only suitable for a toddler rider can pull 200 pounds with far less effort and strain. Minis frequently pull their own body weight behind them! Horses are still used in some thickly wooded areas where machinery cannot reach for hauling timber and equipment. Amish communities also still utilize horses for driving and pulling activities.

If you recall Marguerite Henry’s Justin Morgan Had a Horse, you may remember “Figure” (Justin) the foundation sire for the Morgan horse. He was nationally renowned for his speed and ability to out pull the larger draft-style breeds! He was known around the US as a strong horse able to out pull the best.

Full-Size Horse Comparison

Although much larger in size, spine, ligament, tendon, and muscle structure does not change depending on the size of the horse. Full-size horses share the 20% recommended weight allowance. Of course, each horse is unique in its own conditioning, training, and conformation differences. But as a rule of thumb, the 20% riding and a 60% pulling rule apply to most horses regardless of size. It is a baseline to help keep horses safe and in good condition without major injury from human error.

Although height does play a role, weight is the primary factor when comparing rider to size to a horse. Your height does not impact the horse’s health or ability to carry you safely. It does, however, impact where the human leg lies on the horse’s barrel. This can affect proper or efficient leg cues and rider signals. If showing, it can also create an imbalanced look and will not be aesthetically pleasing.

Know more about How Much Does a Miniature Horse Cost? Average Monthly Cost of Owning One

Considerations For How Much Weight A Min Horse Can Carry

There are many additional factors that may impact the amount of weight a miniature horse can handle. “Adult” or grown horses are typically considered horses age 3 and over. In good health, these numbers may slightly increase. But age, temperament, conditioning, and natural athleticism play a major role in weight-bearing capacity. Road surfaces can also play a role, especially when driving or pulling heavy items. This is due to the level of firmness, traction, and grade (or incline).

Ill-fitting tack or harnesses can also greatly decrease weight capacity. Some saddles may extend and place weight on non-bearing weight surfaces, causing discomfort and possible long-term damage. Saddle placement can force the rider on to the lumbar vertebrae, creating issues and spinal stress. Some saddles, such as rawhide wrapped roping saddles, will be significantly heavier than other models. The tack and gear weight should be accounted for in total weight added to a horse’s back.

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Final Thoughts

Although minis are great for small ones or visiting grandkids, most adults simply weigh too much to ride minis. Luckily, driving has remained a popular option for miniature horses, allowing adults the opportunity to interact with their minis.

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How big do miniature horses get?

In brief, the size of a miniature horse depends on its breed but in general they have to be shorter than 3 feet to fall within the definition of a miniature horse. According to the American Miniature Horse Association, they cannot be higher than 34 inches at the withers to be classified as miniature horses.

How much weight can a mini horse pull in a cart?

Miniature horses can easily pull and move the loads that weigh as much as their own weight, sometimes even more. This makes them suitable for carrying heavy items, such as logs or firewood. However, there are some things to consider when deciding how much weight your miniature horse can carry before he starts showing signs of fatigue. The most obvious sign of fatigue is an increase in heart rate. If you notice that your miniature horse’s heart rate has increased, and he seems tired or out of breath, then it is likely that he is beginning to tire. You should take the weight off of him immediately and let him rest. 

How much weight can a mini Shetland pony carry?

Shetland ponies are the strongest of all horse and pony breeds. They can pull twice the amount of it’s own weight! The breed has a very strong muscular structure. Shetland ponies can withstand high levels of stress and still produce an intense and athletic performance. Their large heart and lungs allow them to perform at high levels for long periods of time. Because of this, Shetland ponies are used in endurance and cross-country competitions. Their compact bodies make them easy to ride and handle. Shetland ponies are hardy animals that can live in harsh environments.
The weight they can carry depends on the size of the horse but should never exceed 20 % of horse’s own weight.

How much weight can pony carry?

Compared to other equine species, ponies have a relatively small body size and are generally very strong. They are excellent performers, however, and are able to carry loads as heavy as 20% of their body weight. An average sized pony that weighs around 600 pounds can therefore carry a load of 120 pounds (60 kg) which is the weight of a child or a small adult.
However, you should not allow a pony to carry more than 20% of its body weight. The risk of injury increases when you exceed this limit. 

Can miniature horses be ridden?

It’s not only possible, but very easy, as long as you are not too heavy for your miniature horse. If you know how to ride a horse, you can ride a miniature horse. The only thing that you have to be careful about is to not ride a miniature horse before he is three years old. Before that age the horse is not physically mature – he has not fully grown and his muscles and bones are not fully developed. He will still be very small and may be too fragile to ride without causing him harm. It’s not even a good idea to put a child on a miniature horse before the horse is fully grown as this could damage horse’s spine in the long run.