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Issues From The Saddle: Clarification: Weight Limits For Riders

Question Category: Issues from the Saddle

Question: I purchased a welsh pony 12.1 hh 18 y.o with loads of experience as parade, driving, riding western, English and the list goes on. He is not spooky at all and seemed the perfect pony for me. I am a beginner rider for about 1 yr now. I am a short woman just under 5ft tall and weigh 168 lbs. I was concerned that my weight was too much for him when I was doing the pre-purchase check. So I asked my vet, the owner, my trainer and they all agreed that I was well proportioned for this pony and besides he was used to adult men riding him around the farm. The vet said that a horse could carry 1/3rd his weight so I should not worry. These 3 people saw me on my pony and there was no complaint from my pony. The last thing I would want to do is hurt him but I am way above your 20% rule. Your thoughts?

Answer: Thanks for your question. I do not think you have anything to worry about. The 20% rule is just a ballpark figure to go by. It is also based on the worst-case scenario, a heavy rider that is very unbalanced on a light horse. Also, certain breeds are built for heavier loads, such as Icelandics and Fiords. Although I do not agree that any horse could carry a third of its weight, perhaps some very solidly built ones can. If your trainer and vet both agree that the pony is adequately sized for you, then I would accept those opinions. The fact of the matter is, it is really not the weight of the rider, but what the rider does with the weight that matters.

Just so you are clear, the 20% rule is a widely accepted guideline. I did not create this figure, but I have found it to be a useful guideline. But there is an exception to every rule! If you are comfortable on this pony and everything seems to be going well, I don’t think you have anything to worry about 🙂 Enjoy the ride!

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