Sunday, November 29, 2009

Measuring your horse's height

Traditionally horses are measured in hands. One hand will equal 4 inches (the average width of the human hand). The horse's height is termed as x “hands high” or “h.h”.

What tools to use?

You can use your hands to measure your horse's height by placing one on top of the other. However, this isn't very accurate and practical. Ideally, you should use a tape or a stick. A measuring stick will work best, because it won't move that easily and will stay taught (unlike the tape).

Before Measuring

Make sure your horse is standing on flat solid ground. Get your horse to stand squarely to ensure you get an accurate measurement.

How to measure?

With your horse standing still place the stick/tape upright on the ground, keeping it as perpendicular to the ground as possible. Usually, a measuring stick will come with and arm, but if it doesn't you can just make use of a short straight stick.

Place this stick/arm on top of the withers and hole it perpendicular to the stick/tape. Take note of where the stick/arm touches the stick/tape and mark it if you want.

Calculating your horse's height

If you used a measuring stick/tape that measures in inches or centimeters you have to convert your measurement into hands. If you measured in inches, all you have to do is divide the amount by 4. The total will give you your horse's height in hands.

For example:

If your horse measured 58 inches, you divide it by 4 and get 14.5. So, your horse is 14 and a half hands high. Correctly written your horse would be 14.2 h.h because half a hand is 2 inches (remember one hand equals 4 inches).

If you measured your horse in centimeters you will have to convert your measurement into inches first and then divide it by 4.

For example:

My pony measures 129,5 centimeters. I divide this by 2.5 (1 inch equals 2.5 centimeters) and get 50.98 inches. Divide this by 4 inches and I get 12.77.

So I know my pony is 12 hands but I have to calculate how many inches 0.7 is (I usually just work with the first decimal). Now what I do is I times 7 by 0.4 and get 2.8 inches. Thus my pony measures 12 hands and 2.8 inches. So I can say that my pony is somewhere between 12.2 and 12.3 h.h.

Here is a LINK to a table that gives you all the heights in hands and their values in centimeters :)


  1. I am completing a doctoral thesis (Xenophon and the Ancient Greek Cavalry Horse: an Equestrian Perspective) at National University of Ireland, Galway, and I am contacting you to request permission to include the following material within the electronic version of my PhD:
    From your blog (, the following illustrations:
    1. The correct way to measure the height of a horse from the ground to the withers
    2. The correct use of the measuring stick
    I would like to make an electronic version of my thesis available in ARAN which is the National University of Ireland, Galway’s online repository Once available in digital format, access to the thesis will be freely available via the Web. All users of the thesis will be bound by a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license (
    I would be grateful if you, or the company you represent, could grant me permission to include the Material in my thesis and to use the Material, as set out above, royalty free in perpetuity. Please be aware that the Material will be archived in ARAN in perpetuity.
    If you are not the owner of the copyright in this material I would be most grateful if you would confirm this and advise me who to contact.
    Yours sincerely,
    Adelia Greer
    National University of Ireland, Galway