Horses are graceful creatures, able to canter, gallop and perform jumps with relative ease, and they can make these movements look so effortless. Behind all this grace of course is a powerhouse of core and abdominal strength, and with added strength comes added weight. Weight varies drastically across all horse breeds though.
So how much does a horse weigh? This depends on many factors such as breed, purpose and overall health. But the typical weight range for a fully-grown horse is somewhere between 900 and 2,200 lbs. Light saddle horses that are bred primarily for riding can weigh around 900 to 1,300 lbs, whereas a larger draft horse breed used for farm work tend to weigh around 2,000 lbs and over.
Some horses have even exceeded these weight boundaries. In 2012, the Belgian draft horse ‘Big Jake’ was named the world’s largest horse, weighing in at 2,600 lbs (over a tonne!). Whatever the breed, it’s vital that all horses maintain a healthy weight to prevent the risk of equine obesity. Likewise, reading too light on the scales can be equally troubling, so it’s good to know how to weigh them to keep a close watch. We’ll look into the various weighing methods plus a look at how the most popular horse breeds measure up.
Popular Horse Breeds and Their Weight
The Arabian horse breed is one of the oldest in the world, tracing back to 3000 B.C. They are a compact but spirited breed with coat colors of bay, chestnut, black and roan (white, cream). Arabian horses are a very athletic and nimble breed, and stand at roughly 14 hands tall and weigh in at around 800 to 1,000 lbs.
American Quarter Horse
The American Quarter horse is the most popular breed in the US today and is loved by beginner and professional riders around the world. With their luxurious coat colors of golden-brown through red and bay and their agile frame, they are the star attraction of show ring events. They stand roughly 14-15 hands tall and weigh up to 1,200 lbs.
This breed derives its name from its distinctive running walk gait and measures around 15.2 hands tall, with a weight range of 900 to 1,200 lbs. Tennessee Walkers have a heavy, stout body and sloping frame that isn’t considered as graceful as most American saddle horses. Nevertheless, they have a beautiful range of coat colors of white, gray, yellow and chestnut.
Morgans are the official breed of Vermont and were once used as tilling horses on New England farms during colonial times. They stand at 14 hands tall and weigh between 900 to 1,100 lbs. Now a popular riding horse, their stunning colors of black, bay and deep chestnut make a beautiful sight riding through snowy scenes.
American Paint Horse
This breed shares the traits of a traditional western horse favored by cowboys with their Pinto spotting of white and dark patches on their coat. As stunning as they are strong, American Paint horses are used in show rings and ranches alike and have a pretty strong build – weighing up to 1,200 lbs and standing around 14-15 hands tall.
The Appaloosa breed has an unusual and distinctive coat that mixes a traditional base color with a mottled, spotted pattern covering their hind-quarters or sometimes their entire body like leopard skin. This breed originated as a Native American hunting horse and measures around 14 hands tall, while weighing between 950 and 1,200 lbs.
The Andalusian breed is historically considered to be one of the most beautiful horses in the world, owing to their naturally elegant movement, long flowing mane and superior frame – which has made them hugely popular in dressage and show-jumping. Andalusians measure 15.1 hands in height and weigh around 900 and 1,000 lbs.
Hackneys are a muscular carriage horse breed with a high-strung temperament. They have attractive coat colors of black, chestnut and bay with flaxen manes and tails and distinctive white markings at their feet. They are now used primarily as a show horse. And stand fairly tall at 15.2 hands and weigh in at around 1,000 lbs on average.
Belgian draft horses measure a whopping 1,800 to 2,400 lbs on average and stand up to 18 hands tall (though as the world-record holder Big Jake proves, they can grow to be even larger than this!). Belgian drafts have chestnut-colored coats with light blonde manes and a powerful, muscular build to help them pull heavy wagons and carts.
At a compact 7 to 11 hands in height and weighing in at roughly only 450 lbs. Shetland ponies are the favorite of children learning to ride for the first time. Their pretty chestnut and cream-colored coats and miniature size certainly give them the cute factor, but Shetlands are strong, hard-workers too, capable of plowing farmland and pulling carts.
Gypsy Vanner horses have distinct black and white markings across their body not unlike a cowhide and have beautifully long manes and feathering on their lower legs – the latter feature makes them a pretty picture at shows, but not so thrilling when it comes to grooming! This breed measures 14-15 hands tall and weighs around 1,100-1,600 lbs.
The Friesian breed is considered to be the real-life ‘Black Beauty’ owing to its luxurious black coat, long mane and tail and slight feathering at the feet. Friesians unsurprisingly make a stunning sight at show ring events but are also hugely popular for western pleasure riding. They stand between 14 and 17 hands tall and weigh around 1,300 to 1,500 lbs.
Sports fans will recognize this beautiful breed from the beer commercials that air during the Superbowl, which feature a team of Clydesdale delivering crates of the stuff. Clydesdale horses have a bay-colored coat with a black mane and signature white feathering at their feet. They also stand at an impressive 16 hands tall and can measure up to 2,400 lbs.
Standardbred horses were originally developed in 19th century America for harness racing and their name stems from the fact that they met a certain speed standard and stamina needed for racing and other equestrian events. Standardbreds have typically bay and dark brown coats and are heavy bones, measuring up to 16 hands tall and weighing in at 900 to 1,000 lbs.
Haflingers – also known as Avelignese horses, as they originated from the Italian region of ‘Avelengo’ – are a kind tempered breed with flaxen manes and a golden chestnut coat. Standing between 13 and 14 hands in height, they are a favorite of children and beginner riders, and normally range between 800 and 1,300 lbs.
The Paso Fino is an affectionate and incredibly gentle breed with coats of every possible equine color, with occasional white dappled markings. The naturally smooth and graceful gait of this Spanish breed has made them hugely popular in trail-riding among other uses, and they stand at around 14 hands, while weighing between 700 and 1,000 lbs.
The impressive Shire horse breed has a bay coat, dark brown mane and cream feathering at the feet, and weighs between 1,800-2,400 lbs. They also stand up to 18 hands tall and have earned a world record title as the tallest horse on the planet back in 1850 when a Shire named Sampson was dubbed ‘Mammoth’ at 21 hands.
Horse Weight at Birth
Regardless of breed, a foals weight at birth should typically be around 10 percent of the mother’s total weight. A 1,000 lbs thoroughbred mare therefore will normally deliver a foal weighing around 100 lbs, whereas a larger draft mare of 2,000 lbs would produce offspring weighing around 200 lbs. Smaller premature foals below this 10 percent weight norm may require immediate assistance from a veterinarian.
How Much Does a Horses’ Head Weigh?
A horse’s head weighs about 10 percent of their total body weight (that’s the equivalent of over 45 bags of sugar!)
Is There a Weight Limit to Ride a Horse?
Stables and riding academies across the US will be able to determine their own weight limit based on the horse sizes they keep. Standard-sized quarter horses can typically accommodate riders that weigh between 100-180 lbs, whilst stronger breeds such as draft horses have the ability to carry much heavier riders.
As a general rule, any weight approaching 250-300 lbs will be considered with caution and for these candidates, equestrian centers will possibly ask to observe how well you can balance your weight on the horse, how well you can get on and step down from the horse and if you can fit between the horn and cantle of a 20-inch saddle.
How Much Does a Race Horse Weigh?
The average weight of a race horse is usually around 1,000 lbs, but can range from as little as 900 lbs for a race horse measuring 15 hands in height through to a typical weight of around 1,300 lbs for a horse that measures 16 hands and higher.
Helping a race horse maintain an ideal weight can be done with the help of a high-protein diet and an exercise regimen of walking training (that’s letting them gallop on a kind of horse treadmill!) or using the aid of a training pool to help manage their weight.
What is the Most Common Way to Weigh a Horse?
A popular method is by using a livestock scale to get a fully accurate reading of their weight. These are large horse-sized scales and can usually be found at specialized veterinarian clinics. But since a livestock scale is not always the most practical solution, many will opt for the easier and more common method of measuring their horses using a weight tape.
How Do You Weigh a Horse with a Weight Tape?
Using a specialized equine weight tape, you can get a good estimate of your horse’s weight by measuring the Heart Girth (the mid-section, often referred to as the ‘barrel’ portion of their frame) by their Body Length, and always take these measurements in inches:
Heart Girth – to measure their heart girth, place the weight tape across the highest point of their withers whilst making sure to keep the tape as close behind the shoulders as possible.
Body length – with the help of a second person, measure their body length by starting from the point of the shoulder, straight back along the side and all the way to the point of the buttock.
The formula for measuring an adult horse is: (Heart Girth x Heart Girth x Body Length divided by 300 = body weight in lbs). Younger horses and ponies have a different formula, so always ensure you are making the appropriate weight calculations.
Why is My Horse Losing Weight?
It’s normal for a horses weight to fluctuate throughout their life with increased exercise or diet changes, but if you are noticing that your horse is struggling to put on the pounds, it could be down to the following:
Dental issues – overtime, new teeth can erupt in your horse’s mouth to compensate for the wear and tear of their remaining ones, and these eruptions can have sharp points and create an uneven surface for chewing. A quick check-up by your vet could have them chewing and digesting their food properly.
Parasites – Internal parasites can cause weight loss by disrupting the digestive tract tissue and causing irritation. Yearly fecal samples taken by your vet can determine the presence of parasites, and from then on an effective deworming regimen can be suggested.
Quality of hay – sometimes, it may simply come down to the quality of hay provided. Depending on the age and environmental conditions at the time the grass was harvested, hay can have fewer nutrients. If you suspect this is the case, try adding a grain concentrate to their feed to make up for the low-quality hay.