Horse Weight Guide

Horses are big creatures, much bigger than a normal pet like a cat or a dog. You’ve probably seen horses carry humans around on their backs and pull wagons; their strength and power are magnificent! So, just how big are these animals?

How much does a horse weigh? Size will vary greatly between the smallest and the largest of horses, and therefore so will their weight. A miniature horse will only stand 34″ or so above the ground and weigh around 300 pounds. A draft horse, on the other hand, can stand over 6ft tall, measuring from their back, and weigh over 2,000 pounds. The average riding horse will weigh in the range of 900-1,200 pounds.

Keep reading to learn more about the size of the average riding horse, what the records are for both the smallest and the heaviest horse, and how to estimate the weight of a horse.

How Much Does the Average Horse Weigh?

The normal riding horse is called a light horse. The term “light horse” means a horse that is used primarily for riding and is not in the category of a “heavy horse,” otherwise known as a draft breed. Light horses are used for sports, ranching, and general riding. Light horses typically fall into the range of 900 to 1,500 pounds.

To narrow that down a little further, let’s take a look at the world’s most popular breed. The American Quarter Horse boasts a registry of over six million individuals. They are popular for many reasons, including their athleticism, speed, agility, and calm temperaments. They are easy-going and strong and are the preferred breed among both working ranches and Western shows. Quarter Horses weigh between 950 and 1,200 pounds. In addition to all of their outstanding qualities, the breed’s stockiness allows them to accommodate riders of varying sizes.

How Much Do the Heaviest Horses Weigh?

The heaviest horses are the draft breeds. These horses were bred for size and strength – allowing them to work with ease in the agricultural, mining, and logging industries. They are also used to pull carriages and in parades. Popular draft breeds include the Clydesdale, the Belgian, the Shire, and the Percheron

Most draft horses will have a weight that is double that of a light horse. Clydesdales weigh between 1,800 and 2,000 pounds, Percherons weigh between 1,900 and 2,100 pounds, Belgians weigh between 2,100 and 2,300 pounds, and Shires tip the scales at between 1,800 and 2,400 pounds. 

The heaviest horse documented by the Guinness World Records also boasts the record of the tallest horse. These titles belong to the gentle giant known as Sampson, a Shire gelding from the UK. Sampson stood 21.2 hands high and weighed an astonishing 3,359 pounds. He has held this record for quite some time, having been born all the way back in 1846. Sampson was later renamed “Mammoth”, for reasons quite obvious. 

How Much Do the Smallest Horses Weigh?

Small horses are also known as ponies; the term is reserved for a horse that is shorter than 14.2 hands. Some of the most popular pony breeds are the Shetland pony, the Pony of the Americas, the Welsh Cob, and the American Miniature Horse. Ponies have a wider size range than draft breeds, so their weight can vary greatly. As a reference, the Pony of the Americas can weigh between 700 and 900 pounds, the Welsh Cob can weigh between 400 and 700 pounds, the Shetland Pony typically falls in the range of between 400 and 450 pounds, and the diminutive American Miniature Horse weighs only between 150 and 300 pounds.

The smallest horse breed in the world is the Falabella, which can weigh between 100 and 180 pounds. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that the smallest horse ever recorded was a Falabella named Thumbelina. This tiny mare was born in 2001 and earned the title of the smallest horse in recorded history by the Guinness World Records when her height was confirmed at 17 inches, and her weight was confirmed at 57 pounds. That puts her at the same height and weight as a medium-sized dog! Thumbelina lived her famous life in Missouri with her owners until she died in 2018. 

How to “Weigh” Your Horse

Most horse owners do not have horse-sized scales stored in their barns – they take up a lot of space, they cost around $1,000, and there is a much easier way! It’s relatively easy to estimate your horse’s weight with a simple formula, and the results are remarkably accurate. It’s so accurate, in fact, that it is what field veterinarians use with confidence. Using a little bit of math, you can estimate your horse’s weight by obtaining two simple measurements. Here is the formula for an adult horse:

(Heart Girth x Heart Girth x Body Length) / 330 = Total Weight

To find your horse’s heart girth measurement, you will use a measuring tape (a “weigh tape” can be purchased for this specific purpose, or you can use a tape you have on hand) to measure the inches around your horse’s body at the spot where the girth typically sits. You will measure the entire circumference from your horse’s girth to her withers and back around. The body length measurement runs from the chest of your horse to her rump, where the base of her tail sits. 

For example, let’s say that your horse’s heart girth measures in at 78 inches, and her body length is 61 inches. You will multiply 78 by itself, which equals 6,084. You will then multiply that by 61, which equals 371,124. This final product you will divide by 330, giving your horse an approximate weight of 1,125 pounds.

Why Is It Important to Know How Much Your Horse Weighs?

To properly care for your horse, you’ll want to have a rough estimate of his weight. There are multiple reasons that having your horse’s weight on hand will be handy – below are just a few.

How much a horse can safely carry will be based on his weight

A horse can safely carry up to 20% of his body weight, meaning that our horse in the previous example who weighs 1,125 pounds can comfortably carry no more than 225 pounds. This includes tack. In other words, if your tack weighs a total of 30 pounds, your horse’s rider should weigh no more than 195 pounds. If your horse regularly carries more than 20% of his body weight his joints and general wellbeing will be at risk. 

How much a horse eats should be based on his weight

The average horse will eat approximately 2% of his body weight a day. This means that our imaginary 1,125-pound horse will eat about 22 pounds in roughage per day. Horses who are turned out 24/7 on healthy, adequate pasture can generally control their own feed intake – after all, it will take a lot of grazing to put down 22 pounds of grass.

On the other hand, a horse can eat a significant amount of hay in a short period of time, and can quickly overeat. It is important, therefore, that if your horse is fed hay, you know how much he weighs so that you can plan his meals accordingly. As is the case with most animals, obesity can cause serious health problems in horses.

How much medication a horse receives is based on his weight

If your horse requires medication, the dosage will vary depending on his weight. A draft horse will not be receiving the same dose of anti-inflammatories or antibiotics as a pony. This is also true for immunizations and for other injections. In my region, selenium deficiency is a problem, and that’s counteracted with annual injections. My vet always requires an updated weight on each of my animals before processing my yearly order. 

Horses are Large yet Vulnerable Animals

When compared with our own size, horses sure seem immense – and they are, but their impressive stature does not make them invulnerable. Horses don’t have unlimited strength, and the misperception of a horse’s abilities based on weight can leave the animal susceptible to injury and pain.

You may assume that an animal that weighs half a ton can carry anything on its back with ease, but that’s far from the truth. Responsible horsemanship requires that you understand how much your horses weigh, the importance their weight has on their health and well-being, and what the implications of a horse’s weight are. Using these estimates and the provided formula will provide that information to every horse owner. So, if you’ve got a measuring tape on hand, go “weigh” your horse – you may be surprised by the results!

It’s also important to know the maximum weight a horse can carry so that you don’t cause injury to your horse. To learn specific numbers, visit my article The Max Weight a Riding Horse Can Carry.

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Carmella Abel, Pro Horse Trainer

Hi! I’m Carmella

My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

Thank you for reading, and happy trails!

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