VETzInsight

Weight that your Horse Can Carry Comfortably

August 8, 2011 (published)

We are commonly asked how much weight can a horse carry? Certainly this is a concern as you do not want to injure a horse by making her carry too much weight. The amount of weight a horse carries depends not only on the horse's size but also conformation, condition, age, and duration and speed of the work to be performed. A starting point is the U.S. Cavalry Manual of Horse Management: published in 1920, it indicated a horse should not carry more than 20% of the weight of the horse including rider, equipment and tack. However, until now, there was no scientific study to prove or disprove this statement.

A study was recently published from Ohio State Technical Institute that looked at eight light riding horses and had them carry from 15% to 30% of their body weight while they were exercised using a submaximal mounted standard exercise test. Horses were fitted with a wireless heart rate monitor, and blood samples were taken before and after exercise. The study revealed a weight load of 25% to 30% was found to influence work rate, heart rate, and blood tests. However, horses that carried only 15% to 20% of their body weight did not experience a difference in heart rate, respiratory rate, or work rate compared to riderless horses at exercise. This would indicate the 1920 U.S. Cavalry estimate of 20% of a maximum carrying capacity of a horse printed 90 years ago was pretty accurate. So this would indicate that a 1,000-pound horse should only carry 200 pounds and that includes saddle, rider, and equipment. The only concern is that if a horse is overweight, it does not indicate they can carry more weight because their bones and tendons are the same size, so the 20% should be figured on the horse's normal body weight.


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Information and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are those of the author and are independent of the VIN News Service. Letters may be edited for style. We do not verify their content for accuracy.




 
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