Am I Too Heavy For My Horse? Logo

Question: Dear Julie:

I bet you have never had this question. Last week we bought a really great black & white 51 inch 4 year old pony. He was gelded 5 weeks ago so we are waiting (but doing lots of ground work and round pen work) with him before he is ridden. He is broke to drive and ride. My question is this: what would the top weight be for a person to ride him? We bought him for our grand kids but I love the way he trots and canters while he is in the round pen. The grand kids are 6 & 11 with our 3 year old riding a little Shetland mini cross. Pixie is a gem but the older two have out grown her. If you would let me know about the top weight I am really considering loosing weight so I can ride him. Now don’t laugh. Right now I weigh about 160 but should weight 140 this would really give me an incentive.

Julie, we loved your clinics at Equine Affaire in Columbus Ohio. Hope to see you there next year.


Answer: Luanne,

As a matter of fact, I’ve had that question on numerous occasions! The answer is not really cut and dry but there are some guidelines you can use to make the decision on whether or not you are ‘right sized’ for your pony.

The most commonly used guideline, and the one that is suggested by the Certified Horsemanship Association,, an organization that promotes safety in horsemanship programs, says that the rider (sans tack) should not exceed 20% of the weight of the horse.

However, this is based on the worst-cased scenario: an unbalanced beginner rider, whose weight is shifting constantly and unpredictably. The truth of the matter is, a heavy balanced rider is much easier on the horse’s back and mouth than a light-weight, unbalanced rider.

At 140#, in the worst-case scenario, you should be able to ride a horse that weighs 700#. If you are a decent rider, a lighter pony could handle your weight just fine. You’ll have to estimate the weight of your pony and factor in this guideline to make your decision. There are so many types of ponies—from draft ponies to fine boned light ponies—that height is not really an indication of weight.

For the record, I think 14.3 hands is the perfect size horse! If I could wave a magic wand and make my 15.1 hand horse that size, I’d do it in a heart beat. Although I grew up riding big horses (hunter/jumpers), I find that the older I get the smaller I like my horses!

By the way, you should check out my blog on the subject of losing weight, how it affects your riding and the different motivations that help. Yours would be a good one to add to the list and we’d love to have you join us in the Five Pound Challenge!


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