Horse Sizes overview by breed, weight, height
Horses come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and you’ll find that their bodies and dimensions change by their breed. As a rider, it’s important you know how to measure horse sizes like horse’s height and weight.
Knowing the right size is needed to know horse’s feeding needs, saddle size, gear size and eventually chosing the right-sized horse for you.
The Horse Sizes overview includes
- How tall is the average horse?
- Why are horses measured in hands?
- How to measure a horse?
- How much does a horse weigh?
- Which size of Horse do you need?
- Horse weight management tips
How tall is the average horse?
The average horse measures between 13.3–17.3 hands tall (or 1.4–1.8 metres), but it should be noted that this figure includes all breeds. For competition purposes, in the UK a pony is classified as being shorter than 14.2 hands (1.47m), though actual pony breeds can be taller than this — you can find out more on the differences between a horse and pony later in this section.
Looking at the different types of horse in more detail reveals more variance in height, with some being much shorter and some much taller on average. Light riding horses are typically 14–16 hands (1.42–1.63m), larger riding horses are 15.2–17 hands (1.57–1.73m), and heavy or draft horses are usually 16–18 hands (1.63–1.83m). Growth can also be influenced by genetics and nutrition.
The height of a horse is measured from the highest point of the withers, where the neck meets the back, down to the ground.
Horse height chart
Here are some of the common breeds of horse found in the UK and their average height range:
|Horse breed||Average height (hands)||Average height (inches)||Average height (metres)|
|American Warmblood||15–17 hands||60–68 inches||1.52–1.73m|
|Arabian horse||14.1–15.1 hands||57–61 inches||1.45–1.55m|
|Ardennes horse||15.3–16.1 hands||63–65 inches||1.60–1.65m|
|Cleveland bay horse||16–16.2 hands||64–66 inches||1.63–1.68m|
|Clydesdale horse||16–18 hands||64–72 inches||1.63–1.83m|
|Connemara pony||12.2–14.2 hands||50–58 inches||1.27–1.47m|
|Dales pony||13–14 hands||52–56 inches||1.32–1.42m|
|Dartmoor pony||11.1–12.2 hands||45–50 inches||1.14–1.27m|
|Dutch Warmblood||15–17 hands||60–68 inches||1.52–1.73m|
|Eriskay pony||12–13.2 hands||48–54 inches||1.22–1.37m|
|Exmoor pony||11.1–12.3 hands||45–51 inches||1.14–1.30m|
|Fell pony||13.2–14 hands||54–56 inches||1.37–1.42m|
|Hackney horse||14.2–16.2 hands||58–66 inches||1.47–1.68m|
|Hackney pony||12–14 hands||48–56 inches||1.22–1.42m|
|Halfinger||13.2–15 hands||54–60 inches||1.40–1.52m|
|Hanoverian horse||15.3–17.2 hands||63–70 inches||1.60–1.78m|
|Highland pony||13–14.2 hands||52–58 inches||1.32–1.47m|
|Holsteiner||16–17 hands||64–68 inches||1.63–1.73m|
|Irish draught horse||15.1–16.3 hands||61–63 inches||1.55–1.60m|
|New Forest pony||12–14.2 hands||48–58 inches||1.22–1.47m|
|Percheron||16–17 hands||64–68 inches||1.63–1.73m|
|Shetland pony||7–10.2 hands||28–42 inches||0.71–1.07m|
|Shire horse||16–17 hands||64–68 inches||1.63–1.73m|
|Spotted pony||8–14 hands||32–56 inches||0.81–1.42m|
|Suffolk Punch horse||16.1–17.3 hands||65–71 inches||1.65–1.80m|
|Swedish Warmblood||16–17 hands||64–68 inches||1.63–1.73m|
|Thoroughbred horse||15.2–17.2 hands||62–70 inches||1.57–1.78m|
|Welara||11.2–15 hands||46–60 inches||1.17–1.52m|
|Westphalian horse||15.2–17.2 hands||62–70 inches||1.57–1.78m|
What is the difference between a horse and a pony?
Ponies and horses are both equines, but, confusingly, there are two ways a pony can be classified. Biologically there are breeds that are known as ponies that have differences in their bone and muscle structure to horses, as well as thicker manes, tails, and coats.
However, in UK competitions a horse or pony (of any breed) is known as a pony if it is under 14.2 hands (1.47m) in height, while a horse is considered to be this height or taller. In competitive riding, an equine considered a pony is usually entered into a pony classification, which sees younger riders tackling smaller jumps and shorter distances.
Adults usually ride an equine in the horse classification and compete at the regular levels.
This can cause some confusion as there are larger pony breeds that regularly grow over 14.2 hands, but would be classed as horses at a competition. Likewise, smaller horse breeds can be shorter than this height, so while still biologically horses, would compete in a pony classification.
Why are horses measured in hands?
A hand is the historical unit of measurement used to measure the height of horses and is still widely used in lots of English-speaking countries. It is often abbreviated to “h” or “hh”.
A hand is standardized in England as 4 inches, which subsequently spread across the rest of the British Empire over the next several hundred years. This 4-inch standard was widely adopted and is still the preferred unit in the UK, USA, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and Ireland. Metric units are mostly used in other parts of the world
How to measure a horse?
To measure a horse, you should make sure they are standing on an even surface and measure from the ground directly up to the highest point on their withers (A), as shown on the image below.
It’s best to use a measuring stick marked with hand intervals, but you can convert from inches or centimetres. It is also possible to use a tape measure, but you’ll probably need someone else to help you keep it straight.
Note: Looking to choose a horse that’s the right size? Then be sure to read our advice on choosing the right horse for your height.
How to convert horse sizes
Once you have your horse’s height in inches, you can convert it to hands by dividing it by 4. There’s a chance that your horse will have a measurement that can’t be split exactly into whole numbers — for example: 63 divided by 4 is 15.75. For these measurements, hands use a decimal place to represent the extra length that isn’t divisible:
- 0.25 = 0.1
- 0.5 = 0.2
- 0.75 = 0.3
For example: If your horse is 63 inches tall, 63 divided by 4 is 15.75, which is 15.3 hands. Or, if your horse is 57 inches tall, 57 divided by 4 is 14.25, which is 14.1 hands.
We’ve provided a handy horse sizes conversion table below to help you convert your measurements.
How much does a horse weigh?
A horse can weigh anything from 300–1,000kg. Like their height, this measurement will vary drastically across different breeds that are of different sizes. For instance, a thoroughbred would be expected to weigh 450–500kg, while a shire horse would come in at 700–1,200kg. Ponies are smaller and can range from a Shetland pony at 180–200kg to a larger breed like the fell pony at 350–450kg.
Height is a major factor for a horse’s weight, as the increased frame of a taller horse will add bulk, so this needs to be considered when deciding if a horse is at a healthy level. Other influences that play a role are the horse’s age, diet, and level of activity. There is also the impact of their genes, which can control traits like how weight is carried, metabolism, and appetite.
Horse weight chart
Here are some of the common breeds of horse found in the UK and their average weight range:
|Horse breed||Average weight (kg)||Average weight (lbs)|
|Cleveland bay horse||550–700kg||1,212–1,543lbs|
|Irish draught horse||600–700kg||1,322–1,764lbs|
|New Forest pony||230–330kg||507–728lbs|
|Suffolk Punch horse||750–900kg||1,653–1,984lbs|
Horse Rider size Chart
Choosing your horse based on your own weight
This table shows the ideal horse weight range for a rider of a particular weight. Multiply your own weight with the saddle times 5 and 6.6 to get the ideal horse weight for you.
|Rider weight (kg)||Horse weight range (kg)|
Example for a person that weighs 88kg and a large saddle at 12kg:
- (Body weight of 88kg + Saddle weight of 12kg) x 5 = 500kg
- (Body weight of 88kg + Saddle weight of 12kg) x 6.66 = 666kg
So, a person weighing 88kg would ideally need a horse between 500–666kg in weight.
Calculating the ideal weight range with a horse in mind
If you already have a horse in mind, you can use their weight to find out whether they would be able to comfortably handle you as a rider.
When you know the horse’s weight you can calculate 15% and 20% of the weight to see what rider weight (plus saddle) it should be able to handle.
- The lower end of the range at 15% of the horse’s body weight:
(Horse’s body weight / 100) x 15 = The combined rider and saddle weight
- The upper end of the range at 20% of the horse’s body weight:
(Horse’s body weight / 100) x 20 = The combined rider and saddle weight
Here’s a quick example for a 620kg horse:
(Horse’s body weight of 620 kg / 100) x 15 = 93kg combined rider/saddle weight
(Horse’s body weight of 620 kg / 100) x 20 = 124kg combined rider/saddle weight
So, a 620kg horse may be able to handle a rider plus saddle weighing between 93–124kg.
Choosing your horse based on your own length
Your inseam measurement should be equal to or less than 60% of a horse’s total height
|Your inseam (inches/cm)||Minimum horse height (hands/inches/cm)|
|24 / 61||10 / 40 / 101|
|26 / 66||10.3 / 43 / 109|
|28 / 71||11.2 / 46 / 117|
|30 / 76||12.2 / 50 / 127|
|32 / 81||13.1 / 53 / 135|
|34 / 86||14 / 56 / 142|
|36 / 91||15 / 60 / 152|
|38 / 97||15.3 / 63 / 160|
|40 / 102||16.2 / 66 / 168|