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?
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.
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.
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.
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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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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