Average Horse Height

Jessica McDaniel
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How are Horses Measured? What is the Average Horse Height?

Horses are measured in 2 different ways…their height and their length. However, you will probably have to learn a new unit of measurement, because horses are measured in hands. A hand is equivalent to 4 inches and the abbreviation indicating the unit is "hh". So if you read a horse's height as 15hh that means 15 hands or 60 inches.

If the height cannot be divided by four without remainder, then the writing convention goes as follows. One inch above a certain height in hands is written as x.1, two inches as x.2, three inches as x.3, and four inches already means going to the next integer in hands. That means there's only three "decimals" that can be behind a measurement in hands, even though it's not true decimals. As an example: 63 inches would be 15.3 hands, 64 inches would already be 16 hands.

Height

A horse's height is measured at the shoulder from ground to the top of its withers, which is where the base of the neck and shoulder muscles are located. So the length of the neck doesn't affect a horses height measurement.

In the USA, a standing horse, measuring the height of the horse from top of withers to the ground, is called the "wheel height". It is the most frequently used reference point, plus it makes for easier measuring when just out of the stall.

Length

In order to measure the length of a horse you will measure from the point of the shoulder to the point of the hips. This is not a perfectly horizontal measurement usually, but rather at a slight angle.

Different Horse Types: Characteristics and Heights

Horses basically come in three types when categorizing them by height:

  • Miniature horses,
  • Ponies,
  • and Horses.

The height of horses is measured in hands. One hand is equal to 4 inches (around 10cm long) and a horse is considered full grown when it has reached the height typical for its breed. For example, a large horse has a height of 18 hands.

Miniatures

Miniature horses can reach up to 38 inches in height. However, this is the tallest they can be. Anything beyond that is considered a pony or a horse. A miniature horse that is larger than 9.2hh will be penalized in horse shows. A full grown miniature horse weighs between 450 and 500 pounds.

Ponies

It's hard to pinpoint an average height for a horse, simply because there are so many different breeds with vastly different heights. However, the general range for ponies lies between 9.2 and 14.2 hands. This converts to between 38 and 58 inches at the withers.

Horses

Are often known for their size, but the height of horses, as well as their weight can vary greatly depending on the type of breed, and age. Any type of horse above 14.2 hands is considered a horse. The most common height for a horse is between 15 and 16 hands.

The average horse size differs based on a number of factors, including breed, sex, and age. The breeding is usually determined by the purpose they serve.

So, how tall is a horse? The height of an adult horse ranges from 16 to 19 hands high. A hand is 4 inches.

Average Horse Height

The average horse height is usually relevant to the breed, and there is an extraordinary variety of heights in common breeds, from tiny pony breeds to a tall and heavily built draft horse. The most common breeds of horses will be average in size, with a height that ranges from medium to tall. But, the weight of the horse can vary greatly depending on the breed.

All Horse Groups

Horses can vary a lot in size, which means that the average height of a horse isn’t very accurate at all.

When looking at the smallest miniature horses (around 7 hands) and the tallest draft horses (around 20 hands) you might conclude that the average horse is 13.5 hands. In one way this makes sense and is true, as a pony is an average sized horse and this hypothetical horse would be considered a pony. However, you're comparing apples to oranges here. (or miniature horses to draft horses)

So the average height of a horse is both useless and misleading!

Instead of trying to understand the average horse height, it's better if you know what the average height is for your particular horse breed. You can do this by searching online through the related horse breed registry.

Horse owners commonly classify horses into riding groups, which are separated by their height. The main horse groups in the US include:

Short horses (under 14.2 hands),

Midsize horses (14.2 hands to 15.3 hands),

Tall horses (15.3 hands to 17 hands), and

Very tall horses (17 hands and taller).

Average Horse Height, Only the “Horse” Type

For horses within the "horse" category an average height of 16 hands is reasonable to assume. However, even this doesn't make much sense without looking at the specific breed.

Conclusion

Knowing how to measure a horse helps understanding why height differences matter and why not. The average height of a horse turns out to be a much harder question to answer than you might have assumed. But it's usually best to go by breed and then you will get much more useful answers.