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Measuring Horse Height in Hands – with Chart

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How Do You Measure the Height of a Horse?

A horse’s height can be measured using either the hands unit or in centimeters. Breeders from the United States, Canada, and England commonly use hands to measure their horses; other locations use the metric system.

A hand is equivalent to 4 inches, and breeders who measure the horse in centimeters have to convert their measurement into inches then divide it by four to get the number of hands. Any remainder gets expressed in inches.

Before you can measure your horse accurately, you have to own the proper tools for measuring. These are the following:

  • Bridle or a halter and lead rope
  • Height measuring stick (order from a horse supply store) or measuring tape (see on Amazon)

Let’s move on to the steps you need to take to measure your horse…

Step 1: Find A Flat, Even Surface

Lead your horse into an even flat surface. With your halter and lead rope or bridle, hold your horse steady and make sure that it is standing squarely on all feet. To determine if your horse is standing straight, check the hooves to make sure they are not spread too far apart or too close together.

The hooves should be as wide as the horse’s shoulder only. You will get more accurate measurements this way. Here are some examples of incorrect and correct hoof placement for measuring height on your horse.

Feet Too Far Apart

In this picture, this mares feet are too far apart to get an accurate height measurement. If she were to be measured standing like this, her height may come out shorter than what she actually is. Sometimes the difference can even be a couple of inches.

horse standing with feet too far apart for measuring height.
This horse might measure shorter than it actually is because her feet are spread too far apart.

Feet Too Close Together

This is the opposite problem. In this picture the mare has her feet too close together to be accurately measured. In this case, she might measure taller than she actually is.

Horse standing with feet  too close together to be measured for height.
If this mare were measured in this position, she might measure taller than she really is because her feet are too close together.

Good Position for Measuring Height

This is a much better position for measuring height for this mare. It isn’t perfect but it should still result in a fairly accurate measurement. Each foot is evenly spaced and not spread too far apart or too close together.

Of the three pictures of this horse, this is the better position for height measurement. Legs are evenly spaced and not too far apart or too close together.
Of the three pictures of this horse, this is the better position for height measurement. Legs are evenly spaced and not too far apart or too close together.

Better Position for Measuring Horse Height

This is a better position for measuring horse height. This mares back legs are almost perfectly aligned and in the correct position. To make this perfect, her right front leg would need to come forward to match the left front leg. In any case, you would be able to get a fairly accurate height measurement with the horse standing in this position.

Better Position for measuring height.

Step 2: Measure the Height of the Horse

Horse’s height gets measured from the ground to the horse’s withers. A horse’s withers is the intersection where the shoulders meet the neck. This is the next highest point of a horse after its head. You place the end of measuring stick on the ground and then lower the bar until it touches the horse’s withers.

proper location to measure horse height

Many measuring devices can be used to measure a horse, but the most accurate one to use is the height measuring stick. A measuring tape can be used by holding it perpendicular to the ground, beside the horse and measuring up to the horse’s withers. If you are unable to get a hold of a proper height stick, you can go ahead and use some twine and tie something substantial to hold the twine steady. Use that to measure the horse and mark the cord where it meets your horse’s withers then you measure the length of the cord all up to the marked spot.

There are cases where horses get spooked by looking at a measuring stick or by the sound a metal stick makes. Remember you have to move slowly and carefully during this time. For horses that haven’t been measured before, it may be good to introduce the measuring stick in a more confined space like a round pen or large stall.

Getting the horse ready to be measured

Once the horse is accustomed to the sound of the stick, position the horse’s feet as best you can and take a measurement. When you are first learning how to measure a horse it can be good to move the horse around a couple of times and take a few different measurements.

Here you can see that this horse measures 14.2 hands high. To get an idea of how tall that is for a horse, I am 5′ 8″ tall. This particular height stick has a level so you know when it is properly placed.

Step 3: Convert your measurement if needed and write them down.

Once you’ve measured your horse’s height, you then need to convert your measurements accordingly. If your measurements are already in hands, then you can write down your size on your horse’s chart with the notation “hh,” which stands for “hands high.”

After converting, you now have the measurement of your horse and can safely determine if it is growing accordingly or needs some help. You also need to consider the last time your horse got shod because it can add to the height measurement of the horse.

Horse Height Chart

You can convert your measurements from meters to hands using this convenient height chart. Convert your horse’s height from inches, feet, meters (or centimeters) to hands. Quick and easy reference guide. Great for pony club or to hang in the stable as a reference. Sign up to our newsletter below to download your copy!

Final Thoughts on Measuring Horses Height

It is good practice measuring a horses height. The more you get used to positioning horses and using your measuring instrument, the more accurate your measurements will get. A great way to practice is to grab two or three friends and each of you measure a couple different horses and compare your measurements. That way you will get an idea of how measurements can differ and work together to find a technique that works best to measure your horse’s height.

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April Lee

I've owned horses for 25 years and have a particular love for gentling wild horses. I write these articles to help others learn more about horses. If you enjoyed the article please take a moment to pin it to Pinterest or share on social media. It really does help! Check out my about page for more detailed information.