wikiHow to Measure the Height of Horses

Egyptians created forms of measurement thousands of years ago. One of the measurements still widely used today is the hand. Each hand represents four inches and is the primary way to measure the height of a horse. By taking a linear measurement and converting the numbers to hands, the height of a horse can be determined.


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    Purchase a horse measuring stick marked with hand measures. If a horse measuring stick is not available, a standard measuring tape is acceptable.
    • Horse measuring sticks can be found at equestrian supply stores (tack shops), farm supply stores and from various online retailers.
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    Make sure the horse is standing on firm level ground with its front feet as even as possible.
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    Place the horse measuring stick or measuring tape at the base of one of the horse's front feet and pull the measuring device up to the withers.
    • The withers is located at the top of the shoulders between the neck and back and is considered the highest point on a horse. The highest point of a horse is actually the top of its head, (also known as the poll), but since a horse moves its head up and down frequently, it is difficult to record this measurement accurately.
    • Stretch the measuring device to the highest point of the withers. More precisely, extend the measuring device up to the spiny ridge between the horse's shoulder blades.
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    Record the measurement.
    • If the horse measuring stick is being used, then the measurement can be recorded in hands immediately. If a measuring tape is being used, conversion of the measurement from inches to hands is required.
    • One hand equals 4 inches (10.2 cm), so divide the measurement by 4. For example, if the horse measures 71 inches (180.3 cm), divide 71 by 4 inches. The result is 17 hands with 3 inches (7.6 cm) left over. The final height would be recorded as 17.75 hands.


  • The hand is the most common form of horse measurement in the United States, Canada, and England. However, throughout other locations around the world, the metric system is used to record the horse's height.
  • When a horse measures one half hands, indicate the measurement with .2 and not with .5.
  • A horse measuring stick is the easiest way to measure a horse quickly and accurately.
  • A horse measuring under 14.3 hands high is, by definition, a pony, regardless of breed.
  • The height of an average horse is roughly 16 hands.

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Categories: Horses