Horses come in a variety of sizes, from Miniatures to Draft. Regardless of what type of horse you own, the measuring techniques are the same. This article will discuss the proper way to measure your horse for different physical traits and tack needs.
Height in Hands
What the heck is a hand? Regardless of whether your horse stands 28 inches tall or is 6 foot 2 inches, their height is measured in hands. A hand unit is equivalent to four inches.
To measure your horse’s height, he needs to be standing on level ground with his legs directly underneath them. Each leg needs to be even with the opposite leg. If you have trouble getting the back legs even, it is okay. Just get them as close as possible. But the front legs need to be even.
Next, lay a broomstick across the withers, so it is level with the ground. A long construction level will also work well for this. Measure from the broomstick or level down to the ground. You want the total in inches. Then divide that total by four. For example, 60 inches would be the equivalent to 15 hands.
If there are leftover inches, it is referred to in the number of inches. For example, 63 inches would be written 15.3 or said fifteen three. Sometimes you will see a measurement of 15.5. They are referring to 15 hands 2 inches. The correct way to write this would be 15.2 and said fifteen two.
There are three ways to measure your horse’s weight. One requires a scale at the veterinarian’s office. However, not all vet offices are equipped with a large animal scale. But don’t worry, there are two ways you can do it at home. Our article How to Estimate Your Horses Weight goes into detail about how to do this. One method requires a weight tape you can buy at an equine supply store and the other way requires some simple measurements and a little bit of math.
Shoe size needs to be left to the professional farrier. But as horse owners, we need to be aware that there are different shoe sizes for horses just like there are for people. The wrong shoe size can cause more harm than good. Do you want to wear shoes that are too small or too large?
It doesn’t matter if it is a rope halter or nylon halter; halters are not a one size fits all. There are typically five sizes: foal, small horse, average horse, large horse, and extra-large horse. As horses grow, they will change sizes and require different halters.
So how do we know when to go up a size? The halter should fit comfortably around the face of the horse. You don’t want it loose because that increases the horse’s chances of getting its halter caught on something. Too tight, and it will be painful.
A halter should set approximately two inches above the cartilage of the horse’s nose and not interfere with their breathing. This YouTube video from Weaver Leather Equine explains this very well.
If you are considering leaving the halter on your horse in the pasture, we recommend reading our article Should You Leave a Halter on Your Horse in the Pasture.
Some people refer to them as blankets, and others refer to them as turnouts or sheets. They come in a variety of sizes, weights, and lengths. You might need a lightweight sheet to keep the flies from driving your horse crazy, a slightly heavier waterproof turnout for the rainy season, or a heavy blanket for the winter.
Horses come in different lengths. Therefore sheets, blankets, and turnouts come in various lengths. Here is how to measure to get the approximate length you will need. You will need either a cloth measuring tape or a string that can be measured later.
Start at the center of the horse’s chest and measure along the horse’s side at the broadest part, to the middle of the tail. If you get a measurement that has a partial inch, round up to the next inch.
Horse breeds are dramatically different from Minis to Drafts. So be sure to look for a blanket that is made for your horse’s body type.
Horses’ heads vary in size also. A bridle for a pony will not fit a stock breed, and a stock breed bridle is not going to fit a warmblood. It is essential you buy a headstall that will allow the bit to fit comfortably in the horse’s mouth.
The throatlatch strap should be loose enough so you can fit your fist between it and the horse. If it is too tight, it will restrict the horse’s ability to flex at the poll. The poll is the first three vertebrae of the horse’s neck. The knot found between the horse’s ears is the beginning. Flexing at the poll is necessary for the horse to lower his head and soften on the bit. We want our horses to react to the softest touch, and flexing at the poll aids in this.
It cannot be stressed enough how important it is that your saddle fits both you and your horse correctly. We have several articles on our site about this. If you do not have a saddle fitter in your area, here is a way to get close.
Take a wire hanger and stretch it out. Lay this across your horse’s withers and down the shoulders on each side. You can then lay the wire on a piece of cardboard and trace the shape made by the wire. Take this piece of cardboard to the saddle shop and place it under the front of the saddle where it would sit on the withers. Again, this is not foolproof but will give you a good starting point. You will need to have a saddle on the horse and girthed down to see how it fits.
Horse Courses by Elaine Heney
- Listening to the Horse - The Documentary by Elaine Heney & Grey Pony Films
- Shoulder In & Out Training for better balance, bend & topline development with your horse
- Over 110+ Polework Exercises & Challenges to Download
- Dancing at Liberty & Creating Connection with Your Horse (11 lessons) - Grey Pony Films
All horses come in different shapes and sizes. With a few standard techniques, we can measure our horses for their needs regardless of their size.