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Categories: Horsekeeping

Video: How to Measure a Horse’s Height

There are many times when it’s useful to know the exact height of a horse; when we’re horse shopping for that perfect mount and need to know if he’s going to be a good fit for our height, for registration purposes, or for certain horse show events.

While an approximation might seem fine for casual purposes (“Yeah, he’s about 15 hands…somewhere in there”), most horse buyers want to hear something more specific, and height may factor into which classes you can enter him in at some shows. What’s the best way to find the exact height of your equine? Read on.

View a chart of average horse heights by breed >>

Tool of the Trade

To accurately determine your horse’s height, you’ll need an equine measuring stick. (You can find official measuring sticks available through USEF; less expensive versions are available through tack shops.) This isn’t your ordinary yardstick or tape measure; a good equine measuring stick comes with a bubble level to ensure a proper reading, and a movable arm to aid in the measuring process. Since horses are measured from the ground to the highest point of their withers, this arm is quite helpful in determining equine height. Your horse needs to be relaxed, and it helps to familiarize him with the measuring stick ahead of time. You’ll also need an assistant to hold the horse for you.

Find a Level Spot

Next, you’ll need a clean, level place for your horse to stand–paved or concrete is ideal, although a good firm gravel driveway can also work if it is flat. Barn aisles and wash racks work well for measuring.

Measure Away

You’ll want your horse to stand square, with all four legs under his body (not “parked out”). Don’t let him get bored and rest a back leg during the measuring process! Finally, encourage your horse to lower his head slightly (a bit of grain or other horsey treat might come in handy) so that you will be able to accurately gauge the exact point of his withers. Keep the measuring stick level using the bubble.

Special Rules

  • A hand is 4 inches, sometimes abbreviated “hh.”
  • “15.2” hands” means fifteen hands, 2 inches.
  • Miniature horses are measured from the “last hairs of the mane,” and measurements are written in inches, not hands.
  • “Small” ponies are 12.2 hands and under, “medium” ponies are between 12.2. and 13.2 hands, and “large” ponies are over 13.2 but under 14.2 hands. Anything over 14.2 hands is considered a horse.

Find out more about matching horse to rider size >>

Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson is a freelance writer and professional photographer, and watcher of horse movies. His favorite is probably Misty (1961). He’s the author of several books, including How to Raise Horses: Everything You Need to Know, (Voyageur Press, 2014). Dan’s barn is home to Summer, a Welsh/TB cross, Orion, a Welsh Cob, and Mati and Amos, two Welsh Mountain Ponies.

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