How to Measure a Horse’s Height (Step-By-Step With Pictures)

How to Measure a Horse's Height

How to Measure a Horse’s Height

Measuring a horse’s height is helpful for determining whether or not they’re still growing, and if they’re actually a horse as opposed to a pony. That said, I’ve put together everything you need to know about taking an accurate measurement of your horse’s height.

So how do you measure a horse’s height? You can measure a horse’s height by measuring from the ground beside their front hoof to the highest point of their withers. As you measure, make sure your horse is standing with their front feet directly beside one another, and their back feet directly beside one another. This ensures that they are standing at their full height when you take the measurement. 

Now that you have a basic idea of how to measure a horse’s height, let’s go through the process step-by-step to help you get the most accurate horse height measurement.

Measuring a Horse’s Height: Step-By-Step Guide

If you’re a visual learner, (like me,) then you might appreciate the YouTube video I created walking you through the main steps below. You can find it here, but be sure to come back here for additional helpful tidbits, as well as my height conversion chart. 

How a Horse’s Height Is Measured 

One of the first things you need to know when measuring a horse’s height is the special unit of measurement used in the horse world. 

Horse’s are measured in a unit called hands. One hand is equivalent to 4 inches, or 0.1016 meters. If you ever hear of a horse being 15.2, that means that they are 15 hands and two inches tall. 

Horse Hand Measuring Unit

When you’re measuring your equine’s height, something else to keep in mind is the height distinction between horses and ponies. Many people I’ve come across are still a little confused about the difference between the two. 

Anything over 14 hands and 2 inches tall is considered a horse. Anything below 14 hands and 2 inches tall is considered a pony. So before you start telling people you have a horse, check to make sure they’re not actually a pony!

I’ve created a horse height conversion chart that you can review down below to help you better understand hands. 

Tools Needed for Measuring a Horse’s Height

Now that you understand the unit you’ll be measuring with, the next thing you’ll need is a tool with which to take your horse’s height measurement. 

Probably the easiest and most readily available tool for measuring your horse’s height is a traditional measuring tape. You can find these cheaply at most hardware and convenience stores. 

The option I opted for is a horse height tape. The one I chose is great because it also doubles as a weight tape! Here’s the exact one I bought on Amazon. One thing to keep in mind if you opt for a height tape is that you’ll need to make sure it’s stretched tight and verticle. Having someone else checking your angles while you’re measuring is helpful. 

Lastly, if you don’t mind spending a little more and you want to look like a pro while you measure your horses, you can invest in an official horse height stick. These are the easiest and fastest way to get an accurate reading of your horse’s height. You can find the one I recommend on Amazon here

Preparing Your Horse for a Height Measurement

Once you have your method for measuring your horse’s height, it’s time to prepare your horse to be measured.  

First things first, I recommend measuring your horse on level ground just to ensure that your height measurements will be as accurate as possible. 

When you’ve found a good place to measure your horse, the next thing you should do is recruit the help of a friend to hold your horse’s lead rope while you measure them.  

The reason for this is that many horses can be scared of whatever tool you might be using to measure them with, so having someone with you to hold them steady and help them stay calm is a good idea. I find that horses spook the most at metal measuring tapes that make strange sounds. 

If your horse is prone to spooking, I suggest you look over my horse desensitization guide here and spend some time working with them before you attempt to measure their height. 

Next, make sure your horse is standing square when you measure them. A horse is standing square when their two front legs are standing directly next to one another, and their two hind legs are directly next to one another. See the picture further down for a visual reference. 

Having your horse stand square ensures that they are standing at their full height when you take their height measurement. 

Measure Your Horse’s Height from the Correct Place

Now it’s time to measure your horse’s height! Probably the most important thing to know as you’re measuring is where exactly you need to measure from. 

You should measure from the ground beside one of your horse’s front hooves to their withers. I created a diagram for you below as a reference to where you’ll be measuring. 

How to measure your horse

The reason that a horse’s height is determined by their withers as opposed to their heads is that the withers is the highest point of a horse that maintains a consistent height.

Horse’s heads move up, down, and all over the place, so measuring to their withers is the best option for getting consistent horse height measurements.  

Here’s another tip for you as you’re measuring. Lay something straight across your horse’s withers to meet whatever tool you’re measuring with to form a 90-degree angle. This will help you make certain that your measurement is as precise as possible. 

Horse Height Hands Conversion Chart 

To help you better understand how hands convert to our traditional units of measurement, here’s a handy conversion chart I put together. 

HandsInchesFeetMeters
12.0484ft 0in1.2192
12.1494ft 1in1.2446
12.2504ft 2in1.27
12.3514ft 3in1.2954
13.0524ft 4in1.3208
13.1534ft 5in1.3462
13.2544ft 6in1.371
13.3554ft 7in1.397
14.0564ft 8in1.4224
14.1574ft 9in1.4478
14.2584ft 10in1.4732
14.3594ft 11in1.4986
15.0605ft 0in1.524
15.1615ft 1in1.5494
15.2625ft 2in1.5748
15.3635ft 3in1.6002
16.0645ft 4in1.6256
16.1655ft 5in1.651
16.2665ft 6in1.6764
16.3675ft 7in1.7018
17.0685ft 8in1.7272
17.1695ft 9in1.7526
17.2705ft 10in1.778
17.3715ft 11in1.803
18.0726ft 0in1.8288

 

Common Questions About Measuring a Horse’s Height

Why Is a Horse’s Height Measured in Hands? 

While there isn’t much historical documentation as to when or why we began using hands to measure the height of livestock, it’s believed that hands become a popular method of measurement for livestock owners before our traditional measurement systems were created. 

Since most hands are roughly the same size, they would have made for an easily accessible unit of measurement for breeders and farmers. 

When Do Horse’s Reach Their Full Height 

The majority of horse breeds will reach their final height around the age of four and five, then continue to fill out more for another 2 to 3 years. Draft horses and mixes might not stop growing until they’re eight years of age. 

If you’re curious about when your horse will stop growing, you can read my full article here on when horses reach their full height.

What Is the Average Height for Horses and Ponies? 

The average height of horses ranges from 5 to 6 feet tall, or 1.524 to 1.8288 meters tall. The average height for ponies ranges from 4 feet to 4 feet 10 inches tall, or 1.2192 to 1.4732 meters tall. 

How Can You Predict a Horse’s Height When They’re Young? 

While there is no 100 percent accurate method for determining how tall a horse will be when it is fully grown, there are some ways to get a pretty good idea for how large or small they will be.

Much of a horse’s height growth takes place in the first year of its life. In fact, by 12 months old, horses have already reached 90 percent of their full height. 

That said, however tall your horse is around 12 months old is a good indicator for whether or not they will be short or tall. 

What Height Horse Should I Ride? 

When it comes to choosing a horse, height isn’t much of a factor. If you’re of smaller stature but you feel comfortable on a taller horse, that’s totally fine. However, taller horses can be difficult to mount without a mounting block. 

As you choose a horse, a more important thing to think about is how much weight the horse can comfortably carry. You can find my article here on how much weight horses can carry

P.S. If you’d like to support me, please share this article with others & subscribe to my YouTube channel here for weekly horse videos!