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Horses come in various sizes and body types, and their weight varies accordingly.
Many factors influence the weight of an adult horse, such as height, type, fitness, time of year, and breed.
For example, hot-blooded horses like the Thoroughbred or Arabian will be lighter than a warmblood of the same height. Whereas, a cold-blooded horse will be on the heavier side due to greater muscle mass and bone density.
A common misconception is that heavier horses can carry more weight. However, draft horses have a vastly different conformation to riding horses.
The largest horse breeds in the world were primarily bred for pulling, which needs to be considered when assessing these horses for riding.
How Much Does a Horse Weigh?
On average, a horse can weigh between 900 and 1,500 pounds (400 and 700 kg). Most riding horses weigh in the range of 800-1,100 pounds, while carriage and draft horses have an average weight of 1,500-2,000 pounds.
In contrast, some horses weigh much less than the average horse weight of most breeds. For example, Miniature Horses can weigh as little as 200 pounds (90 kg), barely more than a large dog’s weight.
Common Horse Breeds Weight Chart
The chart below shows the weight and height range of common horse breeds:
|American Quarter Horse||455-590 kg|
|Dutch Warmblood||545-590 kg|
|Gypsy Vanner||620-750 kg|
|American Standardbred||545-600 kg|
What is the Heaviest Horse?
The world’s heaviest horse was a Shire horse named Sampson (a.k.a. Mammoth) with an astonishing weight of 3,360 lbs (1,524 kg). Sampson is also the tallest horse in history with a staggering height of 21.25 hands (7 ft 2.5in).
This equine giant was born in 1846 in Bedfordshire, England. According to his owner, Thomas Cleaver, Sampson reached his incredible height at the age of four, which is when he was nicknamed Mammoth.
On the other end of the spectrum is Thumbelina, the lightest horse ever lived. As an adult, this featherlight mini only weighed 57 pounds (25 kg). However, she wasn’t the smallest foal in history, as that title goes to Einstein, who weighed a mere 6 pounds (2.7 kg) at birth.
Also read: 40 Interesting Facts About Horses
Foals Weigh Approximately 10% of Their Mother’s Weight
Although foals are born with extremely long legs, they only weigh around 10% of their mother’s weight. This is usually the case regardless of the father’s size, as a foal’s weight will always be relative to the mother’s weight.
If you know the approximate weight of your mare, you can easily calculate how heavy your foal should be using this principle. For example, a 1,200-pound Quarter Horse mare pounds should give birth to a foal weighing roughly 120 pounds.
It’s good practice to measure the exact weight of your newborn foal as this will indicate whether the foal needs veterinary attention.
Foals that weigh considerably less than 10% of their mother’s weight are likely premature or have birth issues, so you should call for help immediately.
Keep in mind that first-time mothers will usually give birth to smaller foals, so evaluate each case individually. Twins will also be born underweight if the birth is successful and will often require special attention.
How to Measure a Horse’s Body Weight
Keeping track of your horse’s body weight is an important part of monitoring his health and well-being. While there are a few different ways to estimate a horse’s body weight, a livestock scale is the most accurate method.
However, these scales are notoriously expensive and troublesome to install, so very few places will have them. Luckily, there are more practical methods that will still give you a fairly accurate reading.
Method 1: Weight Tape
Using a commercial weight tape is by far the cheapest and easiest way to measure your horse’s body weight. However, it’s also the most inaccurate, so you’ll need to take the result with a pinch of salt.
Weight tapes are like any measuring tape with the difference that they measure in pounds or kilograms instead of inches or centimeters. That being said, many weight tapes show both length and weight measurements.
To measure your horse’s body weight, wrap the tape around your horse’s heart girth and pull tight so it’s snug against the fur. The tape should sit just behind your horse’s withers and around a palm’s width behind the elbows.
Make sure your horse is standing on a level surface and measure exhalation if possible. To get the most accurate reading, take several measurements in a row and calculate their average.
Although weight tapes tend to underestimate your horse’s body weight, they are still a good way of monitoring whether your horse is gaining or losing weight. You can easily buy them from most country or equestrian stores or order them online.
Method 2: Formula
If you want a more accurate result, you can use a proven formula developed by Carroll and Huntington (1988). For this method, you’ll need a regular measuring tape either in inches or centimeters, depending on what you want the result to be in.
As with the weight tape, measure your horse’s heart girth behind the withers and elbows. Next, run the tape along the length of your horse’s body, from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttocks.
To get the result in kilograms, insert the values (cm) into the formula below:
Horse body weight (kg) = (heart girth (cm) x heart girth (cm) x body length (cm)) / 11,877
If you want the result in pounds, the formula is:
Horse body weight (lbs) = (heart girth (in) x heart girth (in) x body length (in)) / 330
You can also modify this formula to suit young horses and ponies. For weanlings, divide the equation by 280; for yearlings, divide by 301; and for ponies, divide by 299 instead of 330.
While the formula method gives a fairly accurate result for the average riding horse, it will usually be on the low side for draft horses. This is because heavier breeds have a higher bone density, which the formula doesn’t take into account.
Method 3: Online Calculator
If you don’t want the hassle of having to do maths, you can also use a simple online calculator to estimate your horse’s body weight.
The horse weight calculator on TheHorse.com is very convenient and easy to use, just insert your horse’s measurements in inches or centimeters, and you’re good to go!
Here’s a useful video that demonstrates two different ways of estimating your horse’s body weight:
The Importance of Monitoring Your Horse’s Body Weight
There are many reasons why you should always keep a close eye on your horse’s body weight. For once, it lets you spot abnormal weight gain or loss early, which is crucial in preventing issues further down the line.
You should be concerned for your horse’s health if he is more under- or overweight than usual.
Many diseases cause rapid or progressive weight loss in horses. The most common horse diseases are gastric ulcer syndrome, kidney or liver disease, parasitism, and toxicity.
Other causes of weight loss can include dental issues, malnutrition, pregnancy, lactation, and aging.
Whereas, the two main conditions that usually cause abnormal weight gain in horses are Equine Metabolic Syndrom (EMS) and Equine Cushing’s Disease (also known as PPID).
Lack of knowledge and overfeeding are also common causes of weight gain in horses, especially in good doers. Such neglect can have serious repercussions on the horse’s health and can lead to conditions like laminitis or osteoarthritis.
At the same time, it’s natural for your horse’s weight to fluctuate throughout the season. Horses are programmed to gain weight in the summer when forage is abundant and lose it in the winter.
The only times you should be concerned are when your horse’s weight is outside of its natural range.
Horses should consume no more than 1.5-2% of their body weight, which is when knowing your horse’s accurate weight comes into play. Ideally, every owner should weigh their horse’s forage in order not to overfeed.
However, this isn’t always possible or practical, especially if your horse is turned out onto pasture. While turnout is extremely beneficial to your horse’s health and well-being, it also makes it impossible to monitor how much your horse eats.
Knowing your horse’s weight is essential when it comes to administering the right amount of medication. Mis-dosing can have serious consequences and will delay your horse’s recovery. Therefore, you should always consult your vet if you’re unsure about medication dosing.
Finally, your horse’s body weight will also indicate how much weight they can carry. Most horses can safely carry around 15 to 20% of their body weight, which means a 200-pound rider can ride a 1,000-pound horse.
On the other hand, riding horses that are too small for the rider will put them at increased risk of soreness and lameness.
Therefore, having an idea of how much weight your horse can carry is an important part of protecting their physical and mental health.