Site logo

--- Advertisement ---

How to Measure a Horse’s Height

When people talk about the height of horses, they often use the term “hands.” For example, a tall horse might be 17 HH. A pony is an equine under 14.2 HH. “HH” or “H” stands for “hands high” or “hands.”

A hand is a unit of measurement that has been used for centuries, possibly dating back to ancient Egyptians.

One hand equals four inches or roughly the width of an adult male’s hand. While horses are usually measured in hands, in some countries and for international competitions, they’re measured in centimeters. Smaller equines like ponies and miniature horses might also be measured in centimeters or inches instead of hands.

How to measure a horse in hands

One hand is equal to four inches. When measuring horses in hands, decimals are used for partial measurements. For example, a horse that is 14.2 hands is 14 hands plus 2 inches, which is 58 inches in total: (14 x 4) + 2.

A horse can’t be 14.5 hands, because the number after the decimal represents whole inches, not fractions. If a horse is 14.2 1/2 HH, it means he is two and a half inches over 14 hands.

Horses are measured from the ground, just beside and behind a foreleg, to the top of the withers (shoulders).

The withers is a part of the horse that doesn’t change height when the horse moves its head or back. This is the standard place to measure a horse’s height. This method is used no matter what measurement unit you use (hands or centimetres), what country you’re in, what type of riding you do, or what breed of horse or pony you have.

Tools for Measuring a Horse’s Height

Equine Height Measuring Stick

To measure a horse’s height, you can use several tools:

  • Equine Height Measuring Stick: This is the most accurate and easiest method. It’s a tall stick with inch measurements and a horizontal bar that slides up and down. You place the stick beside the horse and slide the bar down to touch the horse’s withers. Some sticks have a leveling bubble to ensure it’s held level.
  • Height Tapes: These can be bought at feed or tack stores. They’re inexpensive but can be tricky to use because they’re light and floppy. You need one person to hold the bottom against the ground and another to read the measurement at the horse’s withers. The tape must stay perpendicular to the ground. Often, these tapes also have a horse weight measure on the other side.
  • Regular Tape Measure: You can use a regular tape measure, but it has the same issues as height tapes. Metal tape measures can also make noise, which might make the horse move.
  • Homemade Measuring Device: A simple method is to tie a piece of binder twine to a large metal nut or washer. The weight keeps the string steady while you eye up the withers and mark the twine with a marker. Then measure the length from the bottom of the washer to the mark on the twine. To make it easier, you can use a yardstick, piece of lath, or even a whip to get a line from the twine to the withers. Hold the yardstick so it sits on the horse’s withers, parallel to the ground, and note where it hits the tape.

How are Horses Measured

How to Measure a Horse's Height

To measure your horse, make sure it stands square on a flat surface. Hold the measuring tape or stick straight up and down, next to the horse, lined up with the highest point of the horse’s withers.

If you’re using a measuring stick with a bar, lower the bar until it touches the top of the withers. Record the measurement. If you’re measuring in inches, divide the total inches by 4 to get the hands, and the leftover inches are the decimals.

For example, 62 inches is 15 hands and 2 inches, or 15.2 HH.

If you’re measuring for competitions that separate horses and ponies, you might need to consider horseshoes.

Shoes can make a pony exceed the height limit, so check if there’s an allowance for shod ponies. If you need a horse of a specific height or need to verify its height for a competition, find out if the measurement should include the shoes.

Horse Height Hands Conversion Chart 

To help you better understand how hands convert to our traditional units of measurement, here’s a handy conversion chart I put together. 

12.0484ft 0in1.2192
12.1494ft 1in1.2446
12.2504ft 2in1.27
12.3514ft 3in1.2954
13.0524ft 4in1.3208
13.1534ft 5in1.3462
13.2544ft 6in1.371
13.3554ft 7in1.397
14.0564ft 8in1.4224
14.1574ft 9in1.4478
14.2584ft 10in1.4732
14.3594ft 11in1.4986
15.0605ft 0in1.524
15.1615ft 1in1.5494
15.2625ft 2in1.5748
15.3635ft 3in1.6002
16.0645ft 4in1.6256
16.1655ft 5in1.651
16.2665ft 6in1.6764
16.3675ft 7in1.7018
17.0685ft 8in1.7272
17.1695ft 9in1.7526
17.2705ft 10in1.778
17.3715ft 11in1.803
18.0726ft 0in1.8288



Why Is a Horse’s Height Measured in Hands?

Hands have been used for a long time to measure livestock, like horses. People think hands became popular because they are easy to use and most hands are about the same size. This made it simple for breeders and farmers to measure their animals.

When Do Horses Reach Their Full Height?

Most horse breeds reach their full height when they are about four or five years old. After that, they might get a bit wider or fill out for another 2 to 3 years. Draft horses and mixed breeds might keep growing until they are eight years old.

What Is the Average Height for Horses and Ponies?

The average height of horses is between 5 and 6 feet tall, or 1.524 to 1.8288 meters. Ponies are usually between 4 feet and 4 feet 10 inches tall, or 1.2192 to 1.4732 meters.

How Can You Predict a Horse’s Height When They’re Young?

There’s no way to know for sure how tall a horse will be when it’s fully grown, but there are some clues. Most of a horse’s growth happens in the first year. By 12 months old, horses have reached about 90 percent of their full height. So, how tall your horse is at 12 months old can give you a good idea if they’ll be short or tall.

What Height Horse Should I Ride?

Height isn’t a big deal when choosing a horse. If you’re shorter but feel good on a taller horse, that’s okay. But, tall horses can be hard to get on without a mounting block. When picking a horse, it’s more important to think about how much weight the horse can carry comfortably.

How tall is 14 hands on a horse?

A horse that is 14 hands tall measures 56 inches or 142.24 centimeters in height. The term “hand” is a traditional unit of measurement in equestrian contexts, with one hand equaling 4 inches or 10.16 centimeters. This measurement is taken from the ground to the horse’s withers, the highest point of its back at the base of the neck.


When you’re measuring a horse, getting it right matters a lot. It tells you if the horse fits the bill for certain jobs, helps with feeding right, and ensures the gear fits well. You’ll want to use a stick made for this or a measuring tape.

Measure straight up from the ground to the withers—that’s the high spot right at the base of the horse’s neck. Make sure your horse stands even and level.

This way, you measure accurately. Getting good at this helps you take the best care of your horse, knowing exactly how tall it stands

Picture of Dr. Noman Tariq

Dr. Noman Tariq

Dr. Noman Tariq, a seasoned veterinarian with a DVM from ARID University and an MPhil in Animal Nutrition from UVAS, specializes in equine health. His deep passion for horse nutrition and well-being drives his work, offering invaluable advice for horse owners. Dr. Tariq's expertise ensures horses lead vibrant, healthy lives.
You can read my full bio here

Follow BAEN

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

No spam, guaranteed.

How to Measure a Horse’s Height