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Zaku's avatar

Does anyone have experience or knowledge about riding horses near their weight limits?

Asked by Zaku (27627points) October 23rd, 2020

(This question is research for fictional/simulation-game purposes. The context is medieval cavalry – i.e. men trying to fight from horseback, some of them in heavy armor.)

I am interested in any answers anyone might have to any or all of the following questions about what happens when someone who is heavier than is easy for a horse to carry, tries to ride that horse, and how it affects the horse’s speed and and control, and the rider’s stability.

Will horses tend to balk, refuse, resist, or even kick someone too heavy trying to mount and ride them?

If you do manage to mount and ride a horse beyond what it can do more more than a few minutes, what are the effects in terms of how much slower it could run and how rough the ride would be?

Is there a point (as you add weight) beyond which a horse suddenly goes from being able to be ridden for hours, and then with just a few more pounds, it would have to stop after a few minutes? Or is it more gradual? (So for example, if a the most a horse will bear for hours is 240 lbs, and someone mounts with 260 lbs, how long would they tend to last? 280 lbs?)

If a horse’s limit for sustained riding is say 240 lbs, how much would the limit be for a willing horse to be ridden for a few minutes? 280? 360? 400?

Can a horse run notably faster with no rider than they can with even a light jockey?

How much slower can a horse run with a rider who is about the most it’s happy carrying, compared to how fast it can run with no rider, or with a very light rider?

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15 Answers

kritiper's avatar

A horse would balk probably if asked to carry too heavy a rider.
But there are different kinds of horses, bred for different things. A war horse was bred to be smart and brave and to carry a heavy rider.
Also, remember that armor could not be heavy lest the wearer not be able to function.
How fast a horse can run depends on the weight it carries the same as a race car. But with a race car it’s called “horsepower to weight ratio.” The less weight the more horsepower can be used at the wheels. (This is something I can’t understand with race runners on foot in the Olympics or any other, like baseball. They wear those heavy gold chains and expect to run their fastest or break records! DUMB!)

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Tropical_Willie's avatar

The horse they use for jousting are special, not a Clydesdale but close in size.

MrGrimm888's avatar

The first, and only time, I rode a horse. Other than, at a fair, or something.
I was in the Caribbean.
They offer you free drinks, in almost every place.
So. I was drunk, when I went on a horseback ride.
At the time, I was probably 6’5, and 260 lbs.
It seemed like a great idea, at the time.
I requested the biggest/strongest horse.
Mind you. I had NO experience, riding them.
I can’t say, how big it was. But. It was huge….

I mounted it, with no problem.

I was given little instructions, by a man, who barely spoke English.

It didn’t take long for me to realize, I was in over my head.
The horse did what he wanted, and I was certainly not in control.
Turns out, it was a former racing horse.
Our guide, told me to be rough with the horse. Basically, to yank it hard, and bully it. I didn’t like that, because it was carrying me. I thought it rude, to be mean to it.
As we rode over cliffs, and difficult terrain, my horse kept speeding up.
My guide explained to me that it was trained to be in the front. So. It tried to be the lead horse.
So. My horse was trying to be the first horse, regardless of the situation.
I was NOT prepared for this.

At one point, the guide grabbed my horse, and slapped his head ,HARD. And said something, in a language that I didn’t understand.
After he slapped my horse, I told him “don’t do that. ” And the guide, and I, had a heated exchange.

Long story short. I survived. And I had words, with the guide.

I have not been on a horse, since, and I don’t plan on doing it again….

I was fully ready to fight our guide, and I felt really guilty/sorry for riding the horse at all.

I don’t think my weight was a factor. The horse was giant.

The problem was, the fact that I wasn’t willing to bully the horse, and his owners were jerks….

That’s my opinion….

Dutchess_III's avatar

I had a horse when I was 13 – 15. (I’m in the white cords.) However, I can only answer your questions in a limited way. A horse will let you know when they ain’t happy! One time my friend, Susie (in the picture above) took an entire Saturday to explore with the horses. We were gone for hours. At one point my horse, Fairway, rebelled. We were walking along a small stream and, out of nowhere, she just laid down! She was just walking along and the next thing I knew she was going out from under me. I feel bad, now. I didn’t really take her into consideration, and give her the breaks she needed.

Susie and I used to participate in the “Rescue Race” at rodeos. One person (me, in this case because I weighed less than Susie) would stand in the middle of the ring and the other person (Susie and Venus) would come charging down on me. As the horse spun around me Susie would lower her cocked arm, I would grab it, and as Vee was completing the spin I’d use that momentum to swing myself up behind the saddle, whereupon we charged like crazy back to the finish line!! We got really good at it. Never occurred to me that it was dangerous as hell to have a crazy horse like Venus charging right AT me!
Anyway, I weighed 110 or so, Susie was probably 140, so that’s 250 pounds. Venus carried it easily. (Except for the time she bucked me off! Shit horse!)

Zaku's avatar

@MrGrimm888 That’s a great story! Interesting about the horse wanting to lead the group. And very useful and on-topic that the large former racing horse seemed to have no problem with your 260 lbs.

(Off-topic: It reminds me of my limited horse-riding experience as a small child. I had a nice calm horse, and the one time we rode as a group on a wooded trail, my inclination was that I really liked the horse, and didn’t want it do anything it didn’t want to. I let it amble along and fell behind out of sight of the others, and it wanted to go snack on various plants, and I was happy to “let” it do that.)

I don’t really have the inclination to dominate horses or dogs, which seems to be the prescribed way to train and master them. I do better with cats. But here I go off-topic on my own thread.

Zaku's avatar

@Dutchess_III Thanks, that’s interesting and useful. Was Venus one of the horses in the picture? Those don’t look particularly large, especially if you were 110 lbs at that point.

The Venus manage to buck just you off and not your friend? Did you have an idea why?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes. Susie and Vee are to the right of me in that picture. Each horse was ~15 hands. Not big.

I actually reconnected with Susie last year, and we laughed about that. I don’t know if Venus was actually bucking, or if it was bad timing. I swung up and came down just as Venus’ haunches were coming up as she dug in to get to top speed. I boinged right off of the horse, into the air about 7 feet, and came down on my butt with thud. The whole arena went “Ohhhh….” I imagine if that happened to me today I’d be carted off in an ambulance.
Susie got to the finish line, finally saw me standing accusingly in the middle of the arena, and came trotting back to pick me up. It was the rescue race in very slow mo. Every one clapped.
When we hooked up last year Susie said, “I had no idea you weren’t with us and I just booked it to the finish line!”
I kind of yelled, “Venus knew!!!” Shit horse.

@longgone and I, and others, would whole heartedly disagree that “domination” is the way to train animals. I think that’s more of a guy thing.

Strauss's avatar

I rode and handled horses a long time ago.

The horses used in battle and contest by “knights in armor” were large and strong, specifically bred and trained for combat. I’m not sure what the weights involved were, so I can’t speak to that specifically without doing some research. I do know that a well trained warhorse would be versatile weapon in battle, in addition to the obvious transportation. In horseback vs horseback the animals would actually attempt to hinder the opponent’s animal, biting, kicking and otherwise attacking the other animal. A horse would not necessarily balk under a heavy load if it were trained to work under those conditions. I’ve heard of cases of horses carrying their riders into the heat of battle, under so much exertion that they rupture their heart.

With the right training, a horse can be persuaded to work itself to exhaustion or death, unlike a mule, which will stubbornly refused anything if it’s tired or feels endangered.

Dutchess_III's avatar

^^^^^ Like, Clydesdales.

Zaku's avatar

Yes, there were medieval warhorse breeds which were specialized for the role and very large. Percheron is a still-existent but later breed which was designed for later warfare (when riders might have a bit of armor but not a full suit of plate, nor be armored themselves), and they are even heavier than Clydesdales. Though I am researching other breeds and circumstances too.

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MrGrimm888's avatar

I don’t have much experience with larger animals. I would think that there may be more information about equine capabilities online, somewhere….

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