How Do You Measure a Horse by Hands?

We were just asked this the other day and there are a few ways to do it actually, but you should probably go with whatever is easiest for you at the time.

How Is A Horse Measured?

So how do you measure a horse by hands? Simply put you just need to measure in inches from the ground in a straight line up to the highest point of the withers (aka base of neck above shoulders). Once you have your total inches take that and divide by 4 which equals the hands (4 inches = 1 hand).

There is such a thing called a horse measuring stick if you have one or know of somebody who does use it. If not I wouldn’t waste your money buying one. I wouldn’t suggest using tape either. My personal preference is just taking a thin rope/string or bailing twine (my favorite). Take the rope step on the bottoms pull up to withers mark and then use measuring tape. I have found the measuring tape will spook some horses not all but some.

Other tips:

  • Make sure your horse is on firm level ground
  • If the horse measures to a half hand use a .2 instead of a .5


  • The hand measurement is widely used in the U.S., England, and Canada. Other areas of the world use the metric system more than the hands.
  • Average horse height runs at about 16 hands
  • Pony’s are 14.3 or less hands

Why do you measure horse in hands?

From our research it shows that about 5,000 years ago stacking a man’s fist was used as a measurement which would have made accuracy non existent.

This of course transitioned into every 4 inches equals one hand. Other body parts were used as well dating back to the Egyptian times. They took the hand method into using four fingers wide at one point making it a bit more accurate.

What are the withers on a horse?

The withers is right above the front shoulder blade right at the ridge of the mane.

Horse Hands Chart:

Hands Inches Feet    Meters
12.0      48         4ft            1.2192
12.1      49          4ft            1.2446
12.2      50         4ft 2        1.27
12.3      51          4ft 3        1.954
13.0     52          4ft 4        1.3208
13.1      53          4ft 5        1.3462
13.2      54         4ft 6        1.397
13.3      55         4ft 7        1.397
14.0      56         4ft 8       1.4224
14.1       57         4ft 9       1.4478
14.2      58         4ft 10    1 .4732
14.3      59         4ft 11     1.4986
15.0      60          5ft          1.524
15.1       61          5ft  1      1.5494
15.2      62          5ft 2      1.5748
15.3      63          5ft 3     1.6002
16.0      64         5ft 4     1.6256
16.1      65          5ft 5     1.651
16.2     66          5ft 6     1.6764
16.3     67          5ft 7     1.7018
17.0     68          5ft 8    1.7272
17.1      69          5ft 9    1.7526
17.2     70          5ft 10  1.778
17.3     71           5ft 11  1.803
18.0    72           6ft        1.8288

How to use a horse measuring stick?

Well first off you need one so you can either BUY or MAKE one as shown below. Then make sure your horse is on flat ground take the measuring stick move the slot to the withers and record the measurement.

How to make your own horse measuring stick?

This will cost about 10 bucks or less and all you need:

  • a narrow 1 inch by 2 inch by 6 ft or longer piece of wood
  • Measuring tape
  • Permanent marker
  • a clothespin
  1. Mark a line every 4 inches starting at 14 hands (56 inches = a little over a foot and a half) if you are measuring regular sized horses.
  2. Label the first mark 14 then go up from there.
  3. For ponies or mini’s you will have to start less than this.
  4. Then mark every inch in between the 4 inch marks.
  5. Put up next to your horse put clothespin right at the withers and you have your measurement.

Extra tips: if your horse won’t let you get close to him with the stick I suggest you use the string method. You can also hook up a string to the clothespin and hold horizontal won’t be to the millimeter but accurate enough for most applications.

So how tall is a 16 hand horse in feet?

That would be 5 ⅓ feet or 64 inches

How many hands is the tallest horse in the word?

20 hands or 20hh

Named Big Jake who is a 17 year old Belgian gelding.

This is according to the guinness world records of course. He weighed a massive 240lbs when he was born and at 17 now comes in at around 2600 lbs wow! He only eats a mere bale and a half a day and his stall is 20X20 which is like two of our stalls put together.

How many hands is the world’s smallest horse?

4.1 hands or 4.1hh

This horse is of course called Thumbelina and is considered a dwarf mini horse. Standing at around 17 inches and born in Missouri, US. She has plenty of company on the farm with her owners taking very good care of her. She was born May 1st 2001. This information comes via the guinness world records as well. We will try to keep this information updated as there are more and more records being broken at all times it is a matter of having them verified which is why we go by the records.


Measuring your horse should be a quick task but depending on the horse it can be an almost impossible task due to varying factors. If they don’t want to stand still or they don’t like to have the measuring stick close to them just ease into it and keep trying. But in the meantime try the alternatives you can use just about anything as long as it is straight and can be measured by a measuring tape afterward. Be careful while doing this unless your horse is used to it.

  • 1 hand = 4 inches
  • Abbreviation for hand is hh so it would be 16hh for example


I have owned over 50 horses and currently own a small horse farm with 8 horses. I have competed on and off for over 25 years while doing mostly trail riding and cow sorting these days. I write these articles to help anyone out there if you love this article pin it to your Pinterest or Share on other social media platform. Thanks for visiting.

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