Horse Care Tips

Mini But Mighty: How Much Can Little Horses Pull?

Mini horses pulling
Written by Aimee B.

Adorable and versatile, mini horses powerful pullers!

Have you ever seen a miniature horse and thought to yourself, “CUTE! But can it do anything other than eat treats all day?”

Although their cuteness is arguably unmatched, mini horses are more than just a pretty face. They are lovable, eager to please, and commonly used in driving sports. This post covers a brief history of the miniature horse, how they differ from ponies, and how much they can pull when hitched.

About the Breed

Miniature horses were developed as a breed over at least the last 400 years. There is mention that Louis XIV, who lived in the mid-1600s, had a zoo of exotic animals, including miniature horses. The first mention of their arrival into the United States is around 1880.

They can be found in all colors but must be less than 34 inches from the ground to the base of the mane to qualify as a mini horse.

By definition, the conformation of a miniature horse mirrors that of a regular-sized horse in all but stature. This differs from that of ponies, which have a slightly different conformation than either horses or miniature horses.

Ponies are stockier than miniature horses and have shorter legs combined with wider barrels. Ponies also typically have thicker manes and tails than miniatures or full-sized horses.

Regular horse and mini horse

Photo Cred: Canva

Mini Horse Uses

Due to their size and stature, miniature horses can carry only very small riders. Comparatively, they have much more capacity for pulling. Mini horses were historically used to pull carts in mines.

They may have been used for this purpose in the United States as late as 1950.

Today, many people enjoy exhibiting mini horses in events such as pleasure driving and obstacles. Miniature horses can also be hitched up and driven around the farm or down the trail.

Did you know mini barrel racing is a thing? Neither did we! Check out this video:

Horse Pulling vs. Riding

Horse pulling and riding have served both practical and entertainment purposes throughout history. There are many different horse riding disciplines and perhaps an equally different array of driving sports.

Horses have been hitched to carts to pull people and equipment around for thousands of years. Various sports have evolved over time to showcase the horse and driver team. In ancient Rome, spectators packed stadiums just to see horses and chariots race each other at top speeds.

Harness racing remains a popular sport today. Other sports featuring horses pulling carts range from driven dressage tests to combined driving and even draft pulling competitions.

Elegantly groomed and expertly paired teams of horses can also compete in a variety of carriage shows which evoke the essence of the past.

Curious about mini pulling competitions? Check out this video:

How much weight can an average horse pull?

It depends on whether the weight is evenly distributed and on wheels or “dead weight.” When the load is on wheels, an average horse, such as a quarter horse, can pull about twice its body weight. This would equate to around 2,000 pounds.

Horses can only pull around 15% of their body weight if the load is “dead weight,” meaning it’s not on wheels and dragged.

Draft horses including the Belgian, Percheron, and Shire have been bred specifically for their ability to pull heavy loads and can therefore pull around 3 times their body weight.

Mini Horse in a show

Source: Canva

Can horses pull more than they can carry?

Horses can safely carry up to 20% of their body weight. In most cases, horses are able to pull more than they can carry.

Many factors influence how much weight a horse (or mini horse) can pull, including:

  • If the load is on wheels or dead weight
  • The distance the load must be pulled
  • The terrain the load is pulled across
Mini horses in harnesses

Photo Cred: Canva

Pulling Weights

The amount of weight a horse can pull depends upon its breed and conformation.

Although small in stature, ponies and minis can often pull more weight per pound of body weight than draft horses because their center of gravity is lower.

Small Pony Capacity

Ponies are surprisingly strong and can pull anywhere between 800 and 1000 pounds.

Again, the exact weight depends upon the size and build of the individual horse and the cart’s features. In general, the cart should be made to evenly distribute the weight.

Mini Horse – Team Capacity

Miniature horses also have surprising strength when it comes to pulling loads. A team is capable of pulling between 1,000 and 1,400 pounds.

Shetland Pony Capacity

Shetlands top out around pulling 900 pounds.

Mini horse cantering

Photo Cred: Canva

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How much weight can a mini horse carry?

Similar to their larger counterparts, mini horses can safely carry around 20% of their total body weight. As an average mini weighs between 250 and 350 pounds, they could safely carry between 50 and 70 pounds.

Q: How much weight can a mini donkey pull?

Miniature donkeys can also pull up to twice their body weight. Consider the overall size of the donkey and the load when determining whether a load is too heavy.

Parting Thoughts

Between their dashing good looks, charm, and pulling strength, miniature horses are the total package. And their diminutive size makes them less intimidating for beginner equestrians than average-sized horses.

They are an excellent breed for all types of horse lovers!

P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to: 


AMHA | About AMHA | About The Breed

What’s the Difference Between Mini Horses and Ponies? (

A Carriage Ride Through History | Horse Journals

Chariot Racing: Ancient Rome’s Most Popular, Most Dangerous Sport – HISTORY

Combined Driving | US Equestrian (

How Much Weight Can a Horse Pull Safely and Regularly? (

What Is the Maximum Weight a Horse Can Carry? (

Guidelines for weight-carrying capacity of horses | UMN Extension

Miniature Donkeys as Pets (Costs, Size, Lifespan and Facts) – Family Life Share

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About the author


Aimee grew up riding and showing in western pleasure and horsemanship through 4-H. She began riding dressage 7 years ago and is currently training her 3.5-year-old Friesian/Quarter Horse.