Horse riding is a thoroughly rewarding and fun hobby to have. Humans have been riding horses for centuries, with evidence that horses have been ridden as early as 5,000 years ago!
Many horses are very willing to be ridden, and are eager to please their riders, displaying positive attitudes and behaviors whilst being ridden.
So, horse riding can be fun for both of you. The only issue is that you can cause a lot of problems, discomfort and even pain for the horse if they are not suitable for your height and weight.
On the contrary, if you are riding a horse that is too large for you, then you may not have full control over them, which also poses a risk for your safety. So, how do you tell if a horse is the right size for you, and if you are a suitable size for them? Let’s find out!
What Size Horse Should I Be Riding?
As a general rule of thumb, you should be riding a horse that weighs at least seven times your weight. This will ensure that the horse can comfortably support and carry the rider without feeling strained.
However, you have to consider the weight of the saddle and accessories too when calculating if your weight is suitable for a horse.
Am I Too Heavy To Ride A Horse?
It is hard to gauge whether you are too heavy to ride a horse, as all bodies are different, and there are many different species of horses. As a result, some horses are able to comfortably carry heavier riders, and others are not.
Many people are under the impression that the heavier the horse, the more weight it can bear. This is true for many breeds of horses, but it is not always the case. For instance, an overweight horse would be heavy, but may not have the strength or agility to carry a very heavy rider.
In addition, some horses may have old or past injuries that would make it dangerous for them to bear heavy loads, but able to safely carry lighter riders, as long as the injury is healed.
So, instead, we would argue that you consider the horse’s ideal weight, or what it should weigh for its height and size. Then, you should only allow it to carry between 15% and 20% of their ideal weight.
Therefore, the weight they can bear is determined by how strong their bones and muscles are, rather than the horse’s own mass.
Most of the time, unless you weigh more than around 23st, or 330lbs, you will not be too heavy to ride a horse, as you could always ride a very large, powerful horse such as a Shire horse. However, a smaller breed would be unsuitable for riders over 300 lbs.
How To Gauge Whether You Are Suitable To Ride A Horse
With the above in mind, if you’re unsure whether you are suitable to ride a horse, then you will need to know your own weight, and the horse’s ideal weight. The best horse for you to ride will be one that weighs at least 7 times more than you, along with all of their tack.
You have to also consider the weight of their tack including the saddle, blankets, and any other accessories as it could be suitable for your weight, but not suitable when you factor in the weight of all of the accessories and equipment too.
Some riders will therefore advise that you are not more than 15%-20% of the horse’s ideal weight, to factor in the weight of heavier Western saddles without compromising or making the horse uncomfortable.
To gauge whether a horse is suitable for you, there are simple calculations that you can do. To do this, you will first need to know your weight in kilograms. Then, you will need to know the weight of the saddle.
So, for example, a large English style saddle can weigh up to 12kg. Once you have these weights, you will need to calculate what 15% and 20% of the body weight is.
For 20% of the body weight, you will need to calculate:
(Your body weight + the saddle weight) x 5 = The ideal horse weight
For 15% of the body weight, you will need to calculate:
(Your body weight + the saddle weight) x 6.66 = The ideal horse’s weight
What Size Horse Is Suitable For My Weight?
To help you understand which horse will be suitable for you, we have created a handy guide to show you which rider weight correlates best with horse weights.
|Rider’s Weight (St/Kg/lbs)||Min. Horse Weight (Kg/lbs)|
|5 / 32 / 70||100 / 220|
|6 / 38 / 84||150 / 330|
|7 / 44 / 98||200 / 440|
|8 / 50 / 112||250 / 551|
|9 / 57 / 126||300 / 661|
|10 / 63 / 140||350 / 772|
|11 / 70 / 154||400 / 882|
|12 / 76 / 168||450 / 992|
|13 / 82 / 182||500 / 1102|
|14 / 89 / 196||550 / 1212|
|15 / 95 / 210||600 / 1322|
|16 / 101 / 224||650 / 1433|
|17 / 108 / 238||700 / 1543|
|18 / 114 / 252||750 / 1653|
|19 / 120 / 266||800 / 1763|
|20 / 127 / 280||850 / 1873|
In addition, if you’re not so good with working out the math on which horse can carry you comfortably, then you can use an online calculator such as this one from Good Horse, which will let you input your weight, along with the weight of the saddle to see what size horse you will be able to ride.
Signs That The Rider Is Too Heavy For A Horse
In general, horses are comfortably able to carry up to 15% to 20% of their own body weight, but it does depend on the horse itself.
Some horses are sturdier than others, or are a more athletic breed, so they will be more comfortable with larger weights, whereas others are better for lighter riders.
So, for example, with the 15% to 20% rule in mind, a horse that is 500kg will be able to carry a total load of about 100kg.
We say total load because this includes the rider, and any equipment such as the saddle, rug, bridle or other accessories that you may have. When a rider or the load is too heavy for the horse, you will notice that they are uncomfortable carrying them.
If a rider is too heavy for the horse, then the extra weight can make it difficult for the horse to carry them. This can also result in back pain, soreness, joint problems, muscle strain and even temporary lameness.
If the rider continually rides a horse that cannot carry them comfortably, then it can cause long term damage and physical problems. This can also lead to a heightened risk of the horse stumbling and falling, because they will become fatigued much faster.
So, how do you tell if a load is too much for a horse? Well, for the most part, the horse will indicate that it is under strain, and that the rider is too much for them.
For instance, you may notice that the horse is sweating more profusely, and they will start breathing much more heavily. This can also lead to an increased heart rate as they struggle to bear the load.
Horses that cannot carry the load will also change their behavior. For instance, they may start to move more slowly, or they will drag their feet as the tension in their back is too much, and they are bracing themselves to deal with the weight.
If you notice any of these signs, then it is paramount that you stop the ride, get the rider off the horse, and leave the horse to rest for a little while before leading them back to the stable. This will allow them to recover.
Am I Too Tall To Ride A Horse?
Whilst weight is very important in choosing which horse to ride, height also plays a role, too, as you will not be able to fit comfortably in the saddle if you are on a horse that is too small for you.
This is because the taller you are, the less balanced the horse will feel, because their center of gravity becomes offset. However, this shouldn’t be a problem for stockier horses, or larger horses, so if you are very tall, then you will be better off with a larger breed.
So, height can play a role in the horse you ride, however, your leg length is more important, as it will affect where the stirrups hang.
If the stirrups are falling down too low and near the horse’s stomach, then the horse will feel top-heavy, and will not be able to run, canter or trot properly.
This means that the horse will be focusing on not losing its footing, or getting caught on the stirrups, which can feel unnatural and uncomfortable for the horse.
If you are very tall, then a thicker or stockier horse may be more beneficial for you, as there will be more room for your legs to hang down. The girth of the horse will affect where your legs sit and hang, so this is an important factor to consider.
What Size Horse Is Suitable For My Height?
When trying to find the right size horse for your height, we look at the inseam of your legs, rather than your actual height.
To find this measurement, take a tape measure and measure from the floor to the inside of your leg at the top to give you your inseam measurement.
To help you understand which size horse is best in relation to your inseam measurement, we’ve got a handy guide here.
|Inseam (inches/cm)||Min. Horse Height (hands/inches/cm|
|24 / 61||10 / 40 / 101|
|26 / 66||10.3 / 41 / 104|
|28 / 71||11.2 / 45 / 114|
|30 / 76||12.2 / 49 / 124|
|32 / 81||13.1 / 52 / 132|
|34 / 86||14 / 56 / 142|
|36 / 91||15 / 60 / 152|
|38 / 96||15.3 / 61 / 155|
|40 / 101||16.2 / 64 / 162|
When you want to go horse riding, there are a lot of things you need to keep in mind. However, one of the most important aspects to think about is which horse will be best for you.
Horses come in all shapes and sizes, and some can bear heavy loads, whereas others are more suited to lighter or younger riders. That being said, it’s not just the weight and height of the rider to consider.
You also have to think about the weight of the equipment, the age of the rider, and things like the skill level of the rider to see which horse will be right for them. With all of these factors considered, you can find the perfect horse to have many enjoyable riding experiences with.