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Recently a trainer took a horse to the LSU vet clinic for surgery, and before the procedure, they told us how much the horse weighed. We were stunned. It weighed way more than either of us could have guessed. Which made me wonder, what does an average horse weigh?
An adult horse’s average weight is estimated to be 1,000 pounds, but it varies by breed, age, fitness level, and height. It’s nearly impossible to calculate a precise average horse weight considering the number of horses and breeds globally; it could be anywhere from 900 to 1350 pounds.
There are many types of horses, such as draft horses, pleasure horses, and sport horses, so it’s challenging to calculate an average horse weight? But we provide information on the average weights for different horse breeds and how you can determine your horse’s weight.
The average weight of horses is tricky to establish.
Horses vary in weight based on their breeds and due to age, feed, and activity. Quarter horses typically won’t weigh the same as a Clydesdale or Belgian.
Genetics also plays a role; some horses weigh more or less even if they are of the same age, breed, and raised with the same amount of food and exercise.
For example, all quarter horses don’t have the same build. Ones used in halter shows are large and heavily muscled. On the other hand, a racing quarter horse is lean and finer boned.
Horse weight also varies by season. During winter, horses experience a drop in weight because their body uses calories to remain warm.
In summer, horses have an abundance of grass to chew. So, they put on more weight. Some horses even have to be put in a muzzle so that they stop eating grass!
How much does a quarter horse weigh?
The American Quarter Horse weighs between 900 and 1250 pounds. Generally, Quarter Horses aren’t tall. That means their weight comes from their bone density and powerful muscles.
Quarter horses are broad in the shoulder, barrel, and in the haunch. They also have thick, muscular bodies, which gives them great strength and substantial bodyweight.
There is a variation in the weight of Quarter Horses based on their body types.
- The Bulldog Quarter Horse which is the heaviest type of quarter horse weighs between 1150 to 1350 pounds.
- The Semi-Bulldog Quarter Horse weighs between 1050 to 1250 pounds.
- The Progressive Quarter Horse weighs 1150 and more.
- The Running Quarter Horse (which resembles Thoroughbred horses) weighs 1,100 pounds and more. However, I’ve known some running quarter horses that were much lighter.
Read more about Quarter Horses here.
How much does a Thoroughbred weigh?
The weight of an average adult Thoroughbred horse is between 1000 and 1100 pounds. Most Thoroughbreds are used in racing. Through selective breeding, they have attained great speed.
Thoroughbreds start racing at the age of 2, when their bodies are not yet fully developed. As they age, their weight increases since they spend a lot of time building muscle through exercise and eating high-quality feed and hay.
With long legs, a broad chest, and refined heads, thoroughbreds have a light build, which helps enables them to run fast.
How much does a 16 hand horse weigh?
A 16-hand horse can weigh anywhere between 1036 and 1653 pounds, depending on their breed and height. A sixteen hand Thoroughbred weighs much less than a sixteen hand Suffolk Punch.
But on average, at 16 hands, you can expect a horse to weigh between 1036-1543 pounds, whereas, at 16.2 hands, it is 1080-1653 pounds.
Some horses that can be 16-hands tall include the American Quarter Horse, Thoroughbreds, Andalusian, Appaloosa, Belgian, Cleveland Bay, Clydesdale, and Suffolk Punch.
Why is it important to know your horses’ weight?
I once had a horse who kept on getting thinner. At first, I didn’t notice my horse dropping weight because I failed to regularly measure and keep up with his weight.
However, when the weight changes became apparent, I took him to the vet and found out that he had dental problems. His wolf teeth had developed sharp edges and were preventing him from eating properly.
The vet advised me to regularly measure my horses’ girth or weigh him so I’ll be able to notice weight fluctuations before they get too serious. The point of telling this personal anecdote is that monitoring your horses’ weight helps you keep a check on its health.
If your horse is gaining weight, you will need to adjust its feed as obesity can lead to many complications. Horses generally need to eat 1.5-3% of their body weight.
For example, if your horse weighs 1200 pounds, it will need 18 to 36 pounds of food. After using the horse’s weight to arrive at an estimate, you can confidently decide how much you should feed of hay and grain, based on its activity level.
It’s also critical to know your horses weight so you don’t overburden it. A horse can safely carry 20 percent of its body weight. Putting too much weight on your horses can hurt them.
How can you measure your horses’ weight?
Now that you have some idea about a horse’s average height, you may be wondering how you can weigh your horse. After all, you can’t ask them to step on your bathroom scale!
There are four ways in which you may measure a horse’s weight.
A horse’s owner or a veterinarian relies on a horses’ experience to guess its weight. Relying on your eyes to determine your horses’ weight is the most common and most inaccurate way of measuring a horse’s weight.
While they think they are making an educated guess, they can be off by as much as 200 pounds.
- Weighing Scale
The most accurate weight measurement comes from a scale. However, weighing scales for horses are not readily available.
A suitable replacement can be public weight scales for weighing truck payloads, which are available along highways.
You can park a trailer with your horse in it on the scale, then return sometime later, and weigh the empty trailer. The difference between the two values gives the horse’s weight.
- Weight Tape
There are weight tapes available in the market that can be used to measure a horse’s weight. These measuring tapes have units of pounds instead of inches.
They are designed for average-sized, adult horses, who are around 1000 pounds heavy and 16 hands tall.
They are a great way of arriving at an approximate weight for your horse and tracking the changes in their body weight with time.
To measure your horse, you will have to make sure it is standing over a flat surface.
Holding the zero end of the tape, you pass the tape over the horse’s back, just behind the withers. You will then grab the tape and pass it under its barrel, right where the gird usually goes.
Bring the tape to meet the zero end. The reading will give you the horse’s weight.
Make sure that you neither leave the tape too loose nor tighten it too much.
The reading will be most accurate when your horse is relaxed. For a better result, take three measurements and then take out their average.
You can find a weight tape here that’s designed for measuring horses.
- Weight Calculations
Using formulas to calculate weight is my favorite method of measuring a horse’s weight and one that I frequently use. It involves two measurements and one formula. This time, the measurements will be in inches.
As before, you will ensure the horse is standing on a flat, even surface and measure its heart girth, following the guidelines given in point 3. Then, you will need to measure the horse’s length.
Place the end of the tape at the point of the shoulder and measure to the buttocks point. Then, put the values in the formula below:
Assume your horse has a girth measurement of 75 inches and its length is 63 inches; it would weigh approximately 1,181 pounds. 75x75x63=354,375. Now divide it by 300, and you have the horse’s weight, 1,181 pounds.
This formula will give you the weight of an adult horse. For calculating the weight of a yearling, replace 300 with 301. For a pony, replace it with 299.
All four methods will get you the horse’s weight, with varying levels of accurateness. I recommend the last two methods since they are cheap, convenient, and reliable.
Body Condition Score
There is yet one more way to check whether your horse is at the ideal body weight. This system is called the Henneke Scoring System.
It relies on close examination of the horse’s body parts and ranking them from 1 to 9 based on accumulated fat, with 1 being very thin and 9 being obese.
The ribs, withers, neck, shoulder, loin, and tailhead are assessed visually and through feeling with the hand.
The average of the six scores will give the final score.
Generally, 5 is the ideal score.
Interesting Facts about horses’ weight
- A horse’s head weighs 10% of its body weight.
- When a mare gives birth, the foal weighs 10% of her body weight, regardless of breed.
- A horse acquires 90% of its body weight during the first two years. It takes two more years to gain the remaining 10% weight.
- The heaviest horse in the world was Sampson (or Mammoth), weighing at 3,359 pounds.
- The lightest horse in the world was Thumbelina, who weighed 57 pounds.
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