Horses and pony breeds come in all heights and weights. Tall horses can be slim and sleek or big and bulky. While the size can be the same between two seemingly similar horse breeds, there can be a big difference between their weight.
For example, an Appaloosa and an Arab are usually about the same in height, but the Appaloosa will almost certainly weigh more than an Arabian.
Similarly, a Shire at the bottom end of the height scale (17 hands) is considered underweight if it weighs less than 770kg, but a 17 hand thoroughbred is overweight at 590kg.
To help you get an idea of the average height and weight of common horse breeds, we have created a horse breed height and weight chart below.
|Breed||Weight (kg)||Height (hh)|
|American Cream Draft||725-905||15-16.3|
|American Quarter Horse||455-590||14-16.3|
Why is Height & Weight so Specific Each Horse Breed?
Okay, there will be some horses that may be slightly under or slightly over what’s considered ideal for their breed. Generally speaking, most horses of a certain breed will fall into a certain height and weight category.
Why? Because that is part of what defines that breed. Imagine you bought a Thoroughbred to race, but it was built like a Shire. Do you think they’d win? It’d be like putting a weight lifting champ in a 200m sprint. They just aren’t built to run. Similarly, the sprinter would probably break their back in the deadlift…
Point is, specific types of horse breeds are bred to do specific types of things. So over the centuries breeders have kept to strict conformation guidelines to ensure the foal can grow up to do what it was born to do, literally.
So while there may be a particularly stocky Arab, or skinny Shire out there, generally horses of a particular breed will fall within certain conformational standards, and therefore fall within a certain weight and height range.
Why is Height Important for a Horse Breed?
Okay, imagine you have a Fjord and you have a Shire. Which one will be more stable on rough terrain? The Fjord, because they’re smaller and lighter. But the Shire will be able to carry and pull more weight because they have more body to build more muscle on.
Similarly, while the Arabian horse may be quicker out the starting gate than the Thoroughbred because they are fine and nimble, the Arabian horse will fall behind very quickly because of their short legs and gait.
Height is just as important as weight when it comes to the specific uses each breed was bred for.
What is a Stocky Horse?
Stocky is the term commonly used to refer to the bone size and muscle mass. If you think about it in terms of people, a “stocky” horse is like a body builder, while a “fine” horse is more like a petite ballerina or a leggy sprinter.
That’s the main difference between an Appaloosa and an Arab. The Appaloosa is largely built for strength and heavy-duty work, but the Arab, coming from the desert, needs to be slight and light on their feet to be able to traverse the dunes without sinking into the sand.
Arabs are a bit special, because despite their fine build, they are quite strong and have dense bones, but this also dates back to their original breeding.
Their hooves, bones and even ligaments had to be strong to survive the sandy terrain, but they had to be slight and agile to be able to carry riders and their load through those same dunes. That’s why Arabs and Appaloosas weigh in quite close to each other.
On the other hand, if you look at Shire’s and Thoroughbreds you can clearly see that the Shire was bred for heavy work, while the Thoroughbred was bred for speed.
What is a Horse’s Conformation?
Conformation is the way a horse is built. This includes things like body shape and height, angles between various body parts, and general appearance. But what most people don’t realize is that height and weight are largely determined by conformation.
The build of a horse determines how structurally sound they are. For example a stockier horse with solid, straight legs will be more able to carry more weight – both their own or their riders’.
That’s why it’s okay for a draft horse breed like a Shire with big feet and strong legs to carry massive loads and to weight more than 770kg, while a thoroughbred shouldn’t weigh more than 590kg nor be allowed to carry huge amounts of weight.