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 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. 

Hands Inches Feet Meters
12.0 48 4ft 0in 1.2192
12.1 49 4ft 1in 1.2446
12.2 50 4ft 2in 1.27
12.3 51 4ft 3in 1.2954
13.0 52 4ft 4in 1.3208
13.1 53 4ft 5in 1.3462
13.2 54 4ft 6in 1.371
13.3 55 4ft 7in 1.397
14.0 56 4ft 8in 1.4224
14.1 57 4ft 9in 1.4478
14.2 58 4ft 10in 1.4732
14.3 59 4ft 11in 1.4986
15.0 60 5ft 0in 1.524
15.1 61 5ft 1in 1.5494
15.2 62 5ft 2in 1.5748
15.3 63 5ft 3in 1.6002
16.0 64 5ft 4in 1.6256
16.1 65 5ft 5in 1.651
16.2 66 5ft 6in 1.6764
16.3 67 5ft 7in 1.7018
17.0 68 5ft 8in 1.7272
17.1 69 5ft 9in 1.7526
17.2 70 5ft 10in 1.778
17.3 71 5ft 11in 1.803
18.0 72 6ft 0in 1.8288


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!

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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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