Understanding how to measure your horse’s height and weight is essential for providing basic care. Knowing how tall or wide your horse is can help you find properly fitted tack and blankets. Measuring height can help you keep track of young, growing horses and determine if an adult horse is the right size for you. By tracking your horse’s weight, you can also determine if certain fluctuations indicate that you need to switch up your horse’s feed routine or if there is a greater health concern that requires your veterinarian’s consultation.

Measuring Horse Height

Among many English-speaking countries, the most common unit of measurement to establish the height of a horse is by using hands, often abbreviated to “h” or “hh” for “hands high.” Measuring in hands originated in Ancient Egypt, where a standardized universal unit of measurement was needed, especially during acts of trade. Ancient Egyptians resolved that most male hands were similar in size, so they laid the sides of their hands on top of each other to estimate a horse’s height. The number of hands used equaled the height of the horse. Thousands of years later, King Henry VII of England standardized this unit of measurement as 4 inches. Consequently, the rest of the British Empire, over the course of centuries, adopted hands as an easy way to verify a horse’s height.

What is the Average Height of Different Horse Breeds?

Horses can vary greatly in height depending on the breed. Some versatile breeds, like Quarter Horses, can be as short as 13.3 hands if they are bred for working cow disciplines or push 17 hands if they are bred for jumping or hunter under saddle. For competitions, a “horse-sized” horse is at least 14.2 hands tall. In some disciplines, such as hunter/ jumper, there are several pony classes for equines that are not as tall as a horse. Quarter Horses and Arabians, which can range greatly in height, depending on breeding, are still biologically horses. Most Quarter Horses measure closer to 15 hands (60 inches) tall, and Arabians range from 14.1 - 15.1 hands (57 - 61 inches tall).

Thoroughbreds are another popular breed but stand much taller at a range of 15.2 - 17.2 hands (62 - 70 inches). Warmbloods are similar, measuring about 15 - 17 hands (60 - 68 inches). On the tallest end of the spectrum, draft horses, like Percherons, average 16 - 17 hands (64 - 68 inches). Clydesdales can be even taller, with an average of about 16 - 18 hands (64 - 72 inches) tall.

Even though ponies and horses are classified as equines, ponies are typically shorter than the average horse. They also possess a separate bone and muscle structure and thicker coats, manes, and tails. The average height of a Shetland Pony is about 7 - 11 hands (28 - 44 inches), while the average height of a Welsh Pony is about 12 - 14.2 hands (48 - 58 inches).

Height Chart

How do you Mease a Horse's Height?

  1. To measure a horse’s height, start by placing your horse on a flat, even surface, such as the barn aisle way or on rubber mats. Asking someone to hold your horse or putting your horse in cross-ties might be helpful in keeping your horse still.
  2. Measuring sticks marked with hand intervals are the most convenient and most accurate to check your horse’s height, but you can use a measuring stick with inches or centimeters and later make the conversions. Tape measures work, too, but you may need another person to hold one end for you to keep it straight.
  3. Measure with your stick or tape measure from the ground directly up to the highest point on your horse’s withers.

If you know your horse’s height in inches, you can easily figure out their exact height in hands by dividing the number of inches by 4. If your horse’s height does not fall into nice whole numbers, use a decimal place to portray the extra length that is not divisible. For example, 0.25 = 0.1; 0.5 = 0.2; 0.75 = 0.3. If your horse is 67 inches tall, divide 67 by 4, which equals 16.75 and converts to 16.3 hands.

Height Chart

Horse Height Chart

Here is a handy conversion chart to help you quickly and easily determine your horse’s height measurements.

12 48 1.2192
12.1 49 1.2446
12.2 50 1.27
12.3 51 1.2954
13 52 1.3208
13.1 53 1.3462
13.2 54 1.3716
13.3 55 1.397
14 56 1.4224
14.1 57 1.4478
14.2 58 1.4732
14.3 59 1.4986
15 60 1.524
15.1 61 1.5494
15.2 62 1.5748
15.3 63 1.6002
16 64 1.6256
16.1 65 1.651
16.2 66 1.6764
16.3 67 1.7018
17 68 1.7272
17.1 69 1.7526
17.2 70 1.778
17.3 71 1.803
18 72 1.8288

Height Chart

How is Horse Weight Measured?

Just like height, horses can vary in weight depending on breed and genetics in combination with activity levels, age, and diet. Height can impact a horse’s weight as well since a taller frame may add bulk. It is important to measure and record your horse’s weight every 1 - 2 weeks to ensure your horse is maintaining a healthy weight or to decide whether you need to adjust their feed or medications. If your horse experiences significant weight loss, you should consider consulting a veterinarian in case of an underlying disease or an equine dentist in case your horse has dental issues.

Quarter Horses vary in weight from 950 - 1,200 pounds, while Arabians are a bit lighter, averaging about 800 - 1,000 pounds. Welsh Ponies can weigh even less, ranging from about 500 to 800 pounds, depending on the pony’s classification. Smaller yet, Shetlands are typically around 400 pounds. In contrast, Thoroughbreds often weigh closer to 1,000 or 1,100 pounds. Warmbloods weigh in a bit more at 1,200 to 1,300 pounds. Heavy draft horses, like Percherons, can weigh as much as 1,900 - 2,300 pounds. Some are recorded to weigh as much as 2,600 pounds! Even though Clydesdales are usually taller, they are lighter built than Percherons and range in weight from 1,500 - 2,000 pounds.

There are three common methods to weigh a horse or obtain an accurate estimate: an equine scale, a horse weight tape, or a weight formula.

Equine Scale

The easiest approach to weighing your horse is placing them on an equine or livestock scale. These unique scales feature large, durable platforms that can withstand the weight of heavy livestock. Although equine scales are accurate, they are very large and expensive to purchase, so they may not be widely available for you to access.

Horse Weight Tape

Horse weight tapes are fairly popular from their ease of use and are about 90% accurate. They are soft tape measures marked with pounds or kilograms and are used by measuring around the horse’s heart girth, which is from under the withers, around the underside of the body, and back around again.

To use a horse weight tape:

  1. Place your horse on flat, level ground. Ensure they are relaxed, preventing their muscles from tensing and overinflating the lungs by breathing heavily, which interferes with the measurement.

  2. From one of your horse’s sides, hold the weight tape at the point just behind their withers and allow it to hang off the opposite side of their body. The tape will dangle below your horse’s belly. Ensure that it is not twisted, but you may need another set of hands if you cannot reach the tape.

  3. Using your free hand, reach under your horse’s belly and grab hold of the loose tape before pulling it up and around the side of the body you started on. The tape should be snug but not too tight. It should run from right behind the withers, a few inches behind the front legs, and back up to the same side you started measuring on. The tape should be angled across your horse’s body.

  4. Once the tape is in place, read the point that is adjacent to the “zero” point at the start of the tape.

  5. Repeat these steps a few times and calculate the average of the measurements for optimal accuracy since your horse’s body will expand and contract differently while breathing each time you measure.

Horse Weight Formula

Another method to accurately measure your horse’s weight is using a regular tape measure for heart girth and body length with a popular weight formula. The weight formula has two versions for inches and centimeters.

  • Using inches: ((heart girth x heart girth) x body length) ÷ 330 = body weight in pounds
  • Using centimeters: ((heart girth x heart girth) x body length) ÷ 11,990 = body weight in kilos
You will need to measure your horse’s heart girth, which can be done following the same process as using a weight tape. In addition, you will need to measure your horse’s body length. You might need another person to help you.

To measure your horse’s body length:

  1. Have one set of hands hold both your horse and the measuring tape.
  2. The zero end of the measuring tape should be positioned at the shoulder by the horse’s front legs.
  3. Take the other end of the measuring tape and walk to the rear of your horse, measuring to the point of their buttocks. For an accurate read, the tape should remain straight and taut.
For example, if a horse has a heart girth of 75 inches and a body length of 78 inches, the formula would read as:
((75 x 75) x 78) ÷ 330 = 1,330 total weight in pounds

How Do I Manage My Horse’s Weight?

If you are concerned about ways you can best manage your horse’s weight, or you would like to increase their weight, always consult a trusted veterinarian. Many ailments, such as ulcers, painful teeth, Cushings, or worms, can result in drastic weight loss. Poor quality hay, limited feed, extreme weather changes, or stress can also lead to greater weight loss.

To maintain your horse at a healthy weight, you should regularly check the quality of their roughage, grain, and pasture grass to ensure they receive proper nutrients. Your horse might need unlimited roughage and adjusted grazing time in their pasture as well. Ensure that your horse’s diet matches its activity levels, too. The amount of work they do, combined with their age, may require special grain, supplements, and hay. Some horses need better enrichment through regular riding, turnout, or pasture and stall toys to feel stress and worry-free, allowing them to keep weight on.

Accurately assessing your horse’s height and weight provides valuable insights into the tack you outfit them in and their overall condition. Tracking all forms of their health will help you stay on top of any possible illnesses, added stress, or loss of nutrition. Knowing what a healthy weight looks like for your horse is key in ensuring they live long, happy lives.