How To Measure A Horse

Measuring your horse is important for several reasons. Firstly, measurements of your horse’s height and weight will help you to plan an appropriate diet and exercise regimen. This also applies to any medicine your horse might need to take.

How To Measure A Horse

Knowing a horse’s height and weight is also necessary when deciding whether you can safely ride them. This is information you’ll need to have on hand if you’re planning on selling or rehoming your horse at any point in the future. 

Read on to find out how to accurately measure the height, body length, heart girth, and weight of your horse in the correct units of measurement. 

Units Of Measurement For Horses 

Traditionally, horses’ heights are measured in units of measurement called hands. This unit of measurement is no longer used by the International Federation of Equestrian Sports,

but it’s still in use almost all over the world with the exception of Europe, where centimeters and meters are the standard units for horse measurements. 

One hand is equivalent to four inches. This means that you can also easily measure your horse’s height in inches and translate the measurement to hands. For example, a horse that is 60 inches in height is 15 hands tall. 

Measuring A Horse’s Height

One of the most important measurements you will take of your horse is its height. 

To start, you’ll need to gather all the essential tools. You can use a simple tape measure, but alternatively, there are specific horse height measuring tapes available on the market that double as weight measurement tapes.

You can also find horse height sticks but these are much more expensive, although they’re definitely the quickest to use.

Make sure that your horse is standing on a level surface before you take the height measurement. They should be standing square, with their front and back legs level with each other. If possible, have someone hold onto your horse’s lead rope while you measure them, just in case something spooks them. 

Now you’re ready to take the height measurement. You’ll need to measure from the ground next to one of your horse’s hooves up to the withers. The withers is the point at the base of your horse’s neck, and it’s the highest point that stays consistent even when the horse lowers its head. 

If you want to be extra sure that your measurement is accurate, lay a straight, lightweight object across the horse’s withers and take your measurement at the point where the tape or stick meets it at a right angle.

Measuring A Horse’s Body Length 

While you’re taking your horse’s height, it’s a good time to measure their body length as well. You can actually use the body length measurement, combined with other measurements, to calculate your horse’s weight if you don’t have large veterinary scales available to you.

Take your tape measure and lay it as flat as you can against your horse’s body, from the front of their shoulder to the furthest point of their hip.

The line formed by the tape measure should be slightly diagonal, pointing upwards at your horse’s hip and downward at the shoulder. You should take this measurement in inches.

How To Measure A Horse

Measuring A Horse’s Heart Girth

The heart girth is another measurement you will need if you have to calculate your horse’s weight without scales. This measurement goes from the base of the withers and around the horse’s body, right behind the front legs. 

It helps if you can have someone standing on the other side of the horse to pass you the measuring tape under the horse’s belly to avoid you having to reach too far.

Measuring A Horse’s Weight 

In theory, weighing a horse should be easy if you have large enough scales. However, getting a pair of scales large enough to weigh a horse simply isn’t feasible for most people. 

Luckily, there is a simple calculation you can do using your horse’s heart girth and body length that will give you an approximate indication of the horse’s weight. 

First, multiply your horse’s heart girth by itself. If a horse’s heart girth is 70 inches, multiply 70 by 70, resulting in 4,900. 

Then, take the product of the previous calculation and multiply it by the horse’s body length. If the body is 60 inches, do 4,900 x 60 = 249,000. 

Divide the last number by 300. So, in our example, 249,000 / 300 = 980. You then need to add 50 to this. 980 + 50 = 1,030. The horse’s weight, in this case, would be 1,030 lbs. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Many Hands Is The Minimum For A Horse?

A horse can only be considered a horse if it is at least 14.5 hands tall, measured from the ground to its withers. If it is smaller than 14.5 hands, it is technically a pony. 

Why Do We Measure Horses In Hands?

The hands unit of measurement is thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt when traders needed to measure how tall their horses were before selling them. The most convenient tools for measuring were their own hands, so that is what they used.

What Is The Healthy Weight Limit For A Horse?

There is no one healthy weight limit for a horse because calculating a healthy weight range relies heavily on the height of the horse. A taller horse can be healthy at a heavier weight than a shorter horse.

A healthy weight for a horse, depending on their height, can be anywhere between 900 and 2,000 lbs. 

Final Thoughts 

Using the methods provided above, you can easily get accurate measurements and reliable estimations of your horse’s height, heart girth, body length, and weight. 

To measure your horse’s height, measure from the ground at its front foot up to the withers. For the body length, measure from the front shoulder to the hip.

The heart girth is determined by measuring from the back of the withers around the horse’s body behind the front legs.

Remember, if you don’t have veterinary scales, you can calculate an estimate of your horse’s weight by multiplying the heart girth by itself, multiplying the result by the body length, dividing by 300, and adding 50.

Catherine McDowl
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