Understanding average horse weight and why it matters
Did you know that there’s a strong link between how much a horse weighs and its overall health? Horses that are either over or underweight are at risk for serious health issues.
But how does one go about weighing a horse? And how can you tell whether your horse is at an appropriate weight or if he is at danger for weight-related issues?
Although several factors determine a horse’s ideal weight, an average adult horse weighs between 900 and 1,200 pounds. Minis and small ponies weigh significantly less, while draft breeds can weigh upwards of 1,800 pounds. If you’re curious about the connection between health and weight or how to tell how much your horse weighs, keep reading. We’ve got all the details!
Want to estimate your adult horse’s weight in a few minutes? Skip down to our free horse weight calculator.
Are you concerned about the health of your horse? Our A to Zzzzz Guide to Equine Rest explains how horses sleep.
What factors affect a horse’s weight?
A horse’s weight is determined by various factors, including genetics, environment, age, and overall body condition.
A horse’s diet can significantly impact weight, especially in combination with their activity level.
And, with so many high-quality feed alternatives on the market today, it’s easy to overfeed, resulting in an overweight horse.
Check read our earlier post on equine nutrition to learn more about the science of feeding your horse.
Additionally, certain conditions, such as Cushing’s Disease, can lead to weight gain or loss. Even the regular changes associated with aging can cause gradual weight loss and changes in body condition.
Depending on the breed, some horses are naturally larger or smaller than others. You may have heard the terms “heavy” and “light” in reference to horses before but maybe didn’t fully understand the terms.
Heavy vs. light horses
A horse breed is classified into one of two types: heavy or light.
Draft horse breeds include horses such as the Clydesdale, Percheron, Belgian, and Shire.
Prior to the invention of the tractor, these large horses were used to pull plows and carts for farmers. Draft horses are designed for labor, with short backs and muscular hindquarters; these breeds often weigh 1,700 to 2,000 pounds or more.
If you want to learn more about improving draft horse diet, read our in-depth article.
Light horses, on the other hand, might weigh anywhere from 900 to 1,500 pounds, depending on the breed and size.
These are the bigger horses that are often employed for riding, racing, driving, herding livestock, and so forth. The Arabians are the lightest of this breed, weighing between 900 and 1,100 pounds, whereas the typical warmblood weighs between 1,200 and 1,300 pounds.
Horse Weight World Records Infographic
You’re welcome to use this infographic on your own website * as long as you link back to horse-rookie.local.* Hover over it and click the Pinterest symbol to share it on Pinterest. #knowledgeishorsepower
How much does a horse weigh at birth?
Believe it or not, no matter the breed, all foals weigh approximately 10% of their mother’s weight at birth.
So, a mare weighing 2,000 pounds will give birth to a foal weighing about 200 pounds. A baby weighing about 90 pounds will be born to a little horse or pony weighing more than 900 pounds.
Horses develop swiftly and often achieve 90% of their full adult height by the age of two.
The last 10% is a bit slower. A horse will continue to develop and fill out over the following two years of its life, reaching mature height around the age of four.
It is critical to adjust the feeding regimen to the breed while growing foals.
eating too slowly or insufficiently may cause stunted growth, while eating too much and too rapidly puts the horse at risk for a variety of developmental orthopedic disorders (DOD).
Read our foal feeding guide to get your foal started on the right foot.
Calculating Horse Trailer Weight and your rig equation also requires some math.
How are horses weighed?
There are four ways to weigh a horse:
1) A livestock scale gives you the best and least arbitrary measure. You may have seen something similar in your small animal vet’s office; this is the same idea, only larger.
2) Weight tapes are comparable to those used by a tailor. To achieve an approximate measurement, the horse weight tape is wrapped around the barrel. Their weight is proportional to their barrel size (i.e., girth area).
- Weight tapes are best for “average” size horses and may not be as accurate for smaller, larger, and growing horses.
- You can get cheap weight tape on Amazon here.
3) Online Calculators use a formula to estimate your horse’s body weight. Just remember that the results are the estimated weight, not “down to the pound,” like you could get with a scale.
Try our horse weight calculator below!
Horse Weight Calculator
(function() var qs,j,q,s,d=document, gi=d.getElementById, qs,j,q,s,d=document, qs,j,q,s,d=document
j.src=b+”calconic.min.js”; q=gt.call(d,”script”); q.parentNode.insertBefore(j,q) }
4) Eyeballing is the most arbitrary horse weight measurement. Even the most knowledgeable owners and vets might be wrong by up to 200 pounds.
Why should we know a horse’s weight?
Aside from just general interest, there are a few good reasons why it’s a good idea to know your horse’s weight.
Knowing how much your horse weighs can assist you in determining how much he should eat.
Each horse is different, so knowing their weight and lifestyle can help you determine how much they should eat. (See Purina’s horse feeding calculator.)
- The ‘average’ mature horse needs about 15 to 20 pounds of hay daily.
- Every day, horses ingest roughly 2.5% of their body weight.
- Don’t forget to hydrate! Depending on the climate and activity level, a horse need 5 to 15 gallons or more of clean water each day.
Knowing and understanding your horse’s weight helps you monitor and understand seasonal changes.
- Horses tend to lose weight in the winter when grass is scarce and their caloric demands increase.
- Some horses need additional calories to keep warm during the chilly winter months, and those calories are best obtained from high-quality hay.
- It’s also important to monitor summertime eating, as horses can easily put on extra fat as access to grass increases.
- Horses may graze for grass and hay for up to 18 hours each day.
Knowing your horse’s weight helps flag possible health problems and determine medication dosing.
- Mis-dosing medication can have very bad consequences. It is important to know your horse’s weight before administering potent medications.
- Remember, even the best ‘guessers’ can be off by as much as 200 pounds.
Knowing your horse’s weight helps know how much weight he can safely carry or pull.
- The normal horse can comfortably carry 15 to 20% of its own weight (for example, a 1,000-pound horse can carry a 200-pound rider).
- A horse’s risk of pain and lameness rises when it is asked to carry too much weight for its size.
Remember, weight is not the only measure of a horse’s health and condition.
Body Condition Score
A Body Condition Score (BCS) is often used by veterinarians and other horse experts to determine if a horse has too much or too little fat on their body.
The scale runs from one (very thin) to nine (extremely over-conditioned).
There are 6 different areas of the body to consider when formulating a horse’s BCS:
- Spine: You should not be able to see his spine. A ridge along the back of a horse indicates that he is underweight.
- Ribs: You should be able feel, but not see, a horse’s ribs.
- Tailhead/Croup: The tailhead should be hidden. If it is, the horse may be underweight.
- Withers: Withers will be easily visible on a horse that’s too thin.
- Neck: The horse’s neck bone structure should not be visible. If it is, the horse may be too thin.
- Shoulder: The area behind a horse’s shoulder can become too dense in a horse that is over-conditioned.
Although subjective, the BCS may help determine if a horse is:
- Underweight: < 3
- Moderate or ideal weight: 4-6
- Overweight: > 7
- Obeses: > 8
Check out our post on how to aid horses in need for additional information on body condition score.
Weight and conformation
Both conformation and conditioning are essential factors in an equine athlete’s ability to do his profession successfully.
Conformation refers to how well the horse is put together in comparison to the breed’s ideal examples (e.g., shoulder slope, leg shape, and back length).
Horses with structural defects will have a more difficult time performing their duties.
Horses who are underweight or overweight will also struggle. It is critical to maintain them healthy and to monitor their weight and condition.
Did you know:
- The typical horse bears around 64% of its weight on its front legs and the remaining on its rear legs. A 1,000-pound horse carries around 600 pounds on his front legs alone.
- Horse legs are wonders composed of bones, muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments that allow the horse to participate in a variety of sports exercises. Legs are among of their most vital body parts, so keeping them safe and healthy is critical to their overall health.
- Even a small injury to a horse’s leg can be quite serious and even fatal in some situations.
Horse Weight Infographic
You’re welcome to use this infographic on your own website * as long as you link back to horse-rookie.local.*
Hover over it and click the Pinterest symbol to share it on Pinterest. #knowledgeishorsepower
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much does an average horse weigh?
An average horse weighs 900-2,000 pounds.
Q: How much should my horse weigh?
Because each horse is unique, consult with your veterinarian first.
He or she can help determine your horse’s ideal weight range and devise an action plan to help you reach it.
Q: How much does a quarter horse weigh?
1,000 – 1,300 pounds
More information about the American Quarter Horse may be found in our post on the finest horse breeds for beginners.
Q: How much does a racehorse weigh?
900 to 1,100 pounds
Q: How much does a pony weigh?
200 to 1,400 pounds
Q: How much does a horse’s head weigh?
10% of the total horse’s body weight
Q: How much does a baby horse weigh?
Depending on the breed, ranging from 90 to 200 pounds is possible.
Q: How much does a Shetland pony weigh?
298 to 595 pounds
Q: How much does a miniature horse weigh?
150 to 300 pounds
Q: How much does a thoroughbred horse weigh?
1,003 to 1,301 pounds
Q: How much does an Arabian horse weigh?
800 to 1,000 pounds
Q: How much does a horse weigh in pounds?
An average horse weighs 900-2,000 pounds
Q: How much does a horse weigh in tons?
Depending on the breed, between just under ½ ton to a ton or more
Q: How much does a Clydesdale horse weigh?
1,598 to 1,797 pounds
Q: Where can I find a horse weight calculator?
Click here to use a horse weight calculator.
Q: What should I feed my horse?
That’s a complicated question! Check out our blog called Food or Foe: What Do Horses Eat?
Q: How much does a horse trailer weigh?
A horse trailer may weigh anywhere from 2,400 pounds to 8,400 pounds, depending on the size and kind. We have a whole blog dedicated to horse trailer weight, so trot on over.
Q: How to make a horse gain weight and muscle?
If you just adopted a rescue or have a difficult keeper horse, gaining (and maintaining) weight may be difficult.
Start by ensuring your feed is high in protein and fat, and consider feeding alfalfa for a while. You can also add supplements to your horse’s feed, like canola oil. Feeding beet pulp is another great trip to help a horse bulk up.
Keep the sessions mild while your horse is fattening up. I like to walk a lot on the lunge line with them to help them grow muscle without burning too many calories.
Q: What’s the best oil to feed horses for weight gain?
If you’ve ruled out any health issues and your horse still isn’t gaining weight, adding oil to his diet can be a simple solution.
The easiest (and cheapest) oil to use is vegetable oil, which can be purchased at any grocery shop. Corn oil is preferred by most horses, however peanut or canola oils may also be used.
To prevent dietary problems (such as diarrhea), oil should be administered gradually. Begin with a quarter cup each day and gradually increase the quantity.
Dac oil and DuMOR Rice Bran oil are two more oil alternatives.
Reaching That Goal Weight
Horses don’t always make it easy for us to help keep them healthy. Some would never stop eating if they had their way. Others are picky, hard keepers who have you scratching your head at every weather change.
But one thing remains true for all horses — maintaining a healthy girth (pun intended) takes work. As their caretakers, it’s our duty to be “weight watchers!”