A horse can safely draw up to six times its weight in a carriage for eight hours a day, according to tractive effort tests. If a 1,900-pound horse pulls 3,145 pounds, it isn't even hauling double its weight in carriage people. It's working at a rate of one fifth of its capacity, or 170 pounds, most of which is lost as heat through its legs and tail.
Horses used for work in the open country will usually be driven only three quarters of the time, so that they have a break every eight hours. This means that they can haul seven times their own weight for three hours per day, which is about all you would need for practical purposes.
At first glance, this may seem like a lot of work for your horse. But keep in mind that they are very efficient animals that enjoy pulling loads in terms of calories burned per hour. Also, horses are naturally hardworking creatures that prefer to do what needs to be done rather than sit around all day waiting to be called upon. Finally, it takes a lot of energy to build muscle, and horses that aren't getting enough exercise will lose weight, look thin, and be tired out after only a few hours of work.
In conclusion, horses are capable of pulling a massive amount of weight for a large number of hours without becoming exhausted.
Depending on the breed and age of the horse, a healthy horse can normally draw 10–15 times its own weight over a fairly short distance. A horse can draw 1.5 times its own bodyweight with a cart during an 8-hour shift. Many factors come into play, and we have some incredible data to consider. For example, horses that are well fed and exercised tend to be stronger and able to work longer hours than those that are not.
A study conducted by the University of Illinois found that fast-moving carts equipped with rubber tires and driven at about 15 miles per hour (24 kph) caused no greater stress on the neck and back of the pulling horse than slow-moving carts driven at 5 miles per hour (8 kph). The same study also concluded that heavy loads placed high in the rigging of the cart increased the strain on the horse's neck and back.
As long as the horse is being given adequate breaks during the day and is kept active by being allowed to walk around or work at pasture, it should be able to carry a fair load for eight hours without undue fatigue.
What is the maximum weight that a horse (or mule) can pull? The US Army, in a 1917 handbook, said that "an ordinary draft mule can draw on a level of 80 lbs. (traction) at 2.5 miles per hour for 10 hours per day, or, in other words, can pull 80 lbs. for two and one-half miles." That's less than half its own weight for eight hours a day for ten days straight.
Horses and mules were used extensively by the United States Army during World War I. Because of their ability to carry heavy loads over long distances, they were prized for their utility as cargo carriers. When not carrying supplies, horses and mules provided labor in areas where using humans was undesirable (such as in the jungle). During World War I, more than 16 million pounds of food and ammunition were carried by horses and mules across America's war zones.
A single horse can carry up to 1,500 lbs, while a team of four leads a typical farm tractor, which can lift up to 7,000 lbs.
Mules are usually less strong than horses but due to their smaller size they can carry more weight per unit of body mass. This means that a mule can carry about 70% of its body weight while a horse can only carry about 50%. However, a horse can work harder for longer periods of time without becoming exhausted while a mule will need to be fed more frequently.
Trotting is the most typical carriage horse gait. They trot between 10 and 15 miles per hour, depending on the horses' fitness. Trotting for 2 to 3 hours with a couple of short walking breaks is not out of the question. So, in an 8-hour day, a couple of competent carriage horses should be able to transport a carriage 20–30 miles. One horse can carry up to 300 pounds, so a pair of horses can carry about 600 pounds.
Cantering is another popular carriage horse gait. At full speed, canters can reach up to 17 miles per hour. However, like trotting, it's recommended to ride them for no more than 3 hours at a time because of the strain it places on the horse's body. Cantering is more difficult than trotting because it requires more coordination between driver and steed. They must agree upon a steady, consistent pace that they can maintain for longer periods of time.
There are also walks and jaunts, which are easier to do but still require some effort from both horse and driver. These gait can range from slow, relaxed strolls down the street, to quick bursts of speed for distances up to a quarter mile or so.
Horses used for carting are usually young, active animals that are willing to work hard. They are usually purchased by carriage owners who want a comfortable ride without having to deal with the stress of riding a horse.
Horses, not ponies, can pull up to 500 percent of their own weight, which averages roughly 200 pounds per animal. Smaller horses can pull more than this. Don't try it with a pony; it won't be safe for either of you.
A well-trained horse can easily manage 600 pounds or more for a length of time that is long enough to make the exercise worthwhile. The horse must be exercised in moderation, though; excessive use of the cart will cause the horse's shoulders to collapse, reducing his ability to pull heavy loads.
Horse owners have a variety of ways to exercise their animals. They may pull a wagon or other load through a field or city park, for example, or take their horse to an arena where they can practice driving and jumping skills.
Carting is popular with people who live near forest land because it gets your horse out in the open air while giving him some relief from the heat and humidity of the city environment. You can find clubs throughout the country where you can go with your horse and a group of others for hikes and visits to rural areas. These are called "cart trips."
Horses are very versatile animals that we use in a wide variety of ways besides just pulling carts.