Are Riders Too Heavy for Their Horses?

Concern about the welfare and performance of horses has led some people to question whether riders are asking their horses to carry too much weight. So researchers pulled out their scales and rulers to measure typical adult equestrians in the United Kingdom.

Horse riders recruited for the study were of average heights and healthy weights, with a Body Mass Index of 23 to 24. They weighed in at about 150 lbs (68 kg) before putting on their riding gear. The horses they rode typically stood 16.2 hands (165 cm) at the withers.

The measurements revealed that a clothed rider added up to 14 percent of their mount's body weight. Once riding boots, helmet and saddle were added, the rider plus tack totalled 16.6 percent of a horse's weight.

Guidelines for how heavy a rider should be relative to their horse range from 10 to 20 percent. This study concludes that the ten percent weight limit is unrealistically low for general riders.

When using 20 percent as a maximum for heaviness, these UK riders with tack add up to reasonable burdens for their horses.


E. Halliday and H. Randle. 2011. The horse and rider bodyweight relationship within the UK horse riding population. in 7th International Equitation Science Conference Proceedings. ed. Machteld van Dierendonck, Patricia de Cocq and Kathalijne Visser. Wageningen The Netherlands: Wageningen Academic Publishers. p:68.

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