Horses are one of the tallest domesticated creatures on the planet. While they are clearly recognizable to everyone, there is a great deal of variability in their breeds. This can create a lot of variety in the shapes, colors, demeanor, and height of a horse. Just like dogs, there are many different breeds with origins from all over the world.
Horses come in all different sizes, shapes, heights, colors, and coats. They shed in the spring if they are in a cold climate that necessitates that they grow a thick winter coat and require brushing as well.
The climate they were originally bred it will play a role in their coat and the job they were created to do will play a role in their size and stature. For example, racing horses have long legs and slender, muscular bodies that are bred for speed. They stand tall on their long racing legs. Some horses were bred to haul heavy loads over long distances.
They aren’t fast but they are built solid and muscular, capable of bearing great weight. These are the draft horses. You’re likely familiar with the Anheuser Bush team of Clydesdales? These are draft horses.
How is the Horse Measured?
Horses are measured in hands. This is a method that originated dating back to times before there were measures of rule that were standard.
Since horses were often traded between cultures and raised as a source of transportation, farmworkers, and even for the battle to carry knights in heavy armor, it was important to have a way of measurement that meant something to everyone.
Measuring in hands became the standard. A horse is measured from the ground to the top of his shoulders in the number of hands, from side to side, it takes to reach the shoulders. A hand is averaged to be 4 inches wide. So just how tall is a horse in hands? Again, it depends on the horse.
A Clydesdale can reach a height of 18 hands tall. A Shetland pony typically averages 11 hands. That’s a difference of roughly 28 inches given that most hands average. When you take these measurements into account, it’s easy to see that a Clydesdale absolutely dwarfs a Shetland pony.
Likewise, a horse that rears on his hind legs can be massively tall and it depends upon his height in hands, to begin with. On average, a rearing horse, one standing on two hind legs, will be 12-feet tall. This can be more than double the height of a human and quite intimidating.
How Do You Measure a Horse In Hands Properly?
Most people now simply measure the animal from the ground at the front leg and straight up to the peak of his shoulder joint which is known as the withers. Then, dividing that number in inches by four will tell you how tall the horse is in hands.
The old-fashioned method would be to stack hands from the ground up and count them, but that isn’t typically done anymore. In the old days, at a horse sale, the people could gather around and stack hands to see how tall the horse was and it was helpful to have extra hands for the very tall horses. Today, it’s simply easier to use a long stick with the inches clearly visible on it and divide by four.
How to Choose The Right Size Horse Based On Your Height
With so many horses in so many different size variations, it’s easy to find the right horse to suit you. There are also a lot of other things to take into account, such as the gait of the horse, which will make a huge difference in how he feels to ride. Paso Fino horses are enjoyed for their very smooth gait that doesn’t jostle the ride, for example.
The basics are that you need to know what you weigh and add to that the weight of a saddle and saddle blanket. A horse should not carry more than 25% of his own body weight. Therefore, if you are a large person, you’ll need a larger horse.
A 300-pound load should be multiplied by four and that tells you that you should choose a horse of 1200 pounds. This will be a larger animal that would include breeds such as the Gypsy Vanner, the Norwegian Fjord Horse, The Friesians, and all of the draft horses.
If you are an average-sized male that weighs 180-pounds, with a saddle of 20-pounds, you’ll be able to ride a smaller horse that weighs around 1000 pounds. You’d be fine on an average-sized Quarter horse, Appaloosa, or Warm Blood.
If you want a longer, taller in the leg horse, you’ll likely enjoy a Thoroughbred or a Tennessee Walking horse because they have very long legs, but if you’re a smaller female, you can ride virtually any horse and may find yourself drawn to those horses which are shorter in statures, such as Quarter horses or Paso Finos.
Points to Remember
All horses have different gaits that make them smoother or rougher riding. Some horses are very spirited and require a rider with more experience while others are simple enough for a young child to ride. It depends upon the training they have had and the natural gait that makes them easy to stay in the saddle.
Take your time when looking at horses and be sure that you’re getting a healthy animal that isn’t too old to handle a rider. One that isn’t sway-backed or has problems with his legs and hooves. A horse is only as good as his hooves and this care is critical to his health and soundness for riding.
If you are an inexperienced rider, it’s a good idea to take some riding lessons and do some trail riding on a variety of horses. This will expose you to more experience in types of horses that offer different gaits and personality. Some people find they prefer a gelding for his calm personality, for example.