How Much Does a Horse Weigh?
In the Swedish cult classic, Pippi Longstocking, a small freckled girl lifts and twirls her closest companion, a spotted white horse round and round with ease. Some little girls may have trained their horse/pony to walk on its hind legs, sit at a dinner table or have taught dairy cows how to jump like a horse, but no one has come close to lifting and twirling a horse so blissfully as Pippi.
Do you know how much the horse’s head weighs alone? This is always around 10% of the horse’s total weight, unless they have a really big noggin.
A completely matured horse weighs anywhere between 900 and 2,200 pounds. Draft horses easily tip the scale over 2,000 pounds. It’s no joke, some horses literally weigh a ton! Light saddle horses generally weigh between 900 and 1,300 pounds. Big muscular stallions and many draft horse breeds can weigh over 1,300 pounds.
Weighing in at 2,600 pounds, 'Big Jake', a belgian draft horse is the current world's largest horse. Can you imagine giving birth to a 240 pound newborn? Big Jake was born 50 pounds heavier than the breed's average weight at birth, a clear indicator that he was going to be a big boy. Now completely mature, he stands at 20 hands, 2 and ¾ inches without shoes. His withers are taller than most professional basketball players!
If we could shrink Big Jake, he might look like the current world's smallest horse, a miniature horse that proudly goes by the name of Thumbelina. Thumbelina, a dwarfed mini mare was born weighing only 9 pounds. Mature, she weighs about 57 pounds and stands at only 17 inches tall. However, the smallest horse ever born was also a miniature horse named Einstein. Now mature, Einstein is larger than Thumbelina but at birth he was 3 pounds lighter. It is hard to believe within one species of animal such a large range of weights both at birth and maturity exists: the smallest newborn weighing 6 pounds while the largest mature horse at over 2,600!
A newborn foal’s weight should be reflective of his or her mother’s weight. 10% of a mare’s body weight is the healthy, average weight of a newborn foal, regardless of the breed. Therefore, if a 1,000 pound mare gives birth, a healthy birth weight for her foal is 100 pounds. By the end of the foals’ second year, the youngster will have gained 75% of its mature weight, a considerable difference compared to our two-year olds!
To weigh a horse, there are three options, two of which you can do at home:
1. Digital Equine Scale
The first option, and most costly, is with a digital equine scale, found at all equine clinics, livestock grounds and at some veterinary practices.
2. Weigh Tape
Image courtesy of Jerry Kirkhart via Flikr creative commons.
Not a lot of people have access to a scale, so unless you need 99.99% accuracy, ask your local tack shop for a horse 'height and weight measuring tape'. These offer around 90% accuracy. Most stores will have them in stock and it should cost you no more than the price of a large latte. This method is very easy to do on your own. Simply wrap tape around the circumference of the heart girth, found at the base of the horse’s withers, and read what weight is indicated on the tape as it wraps around the horse’s body.
3. Heart Girth x Length Formula
Image courtesy of eXtensionHorses via Flikr creative commons.
The other option, and our personal favorite if you or a family member is looking for a useful, hands-on math equation, is this common livestock weight calculation passed down from one generation to another because of its simplicity and accuracy. Grab a soft/flexible measuring tape (or yarn to be measured later), a pencil and paper and exercise the left side of your brain with the horse weight equation as follows:
The heart girth measurement is a slightly diagonal line measured from the base of the withers to right behind the elbow.
The body length measurement should be taken from the point of the shoulder (not including the chest cavity) to the point of the buttock ( to a slight curve on the large buttock muscle found a few inches from the tail).
The number 330 is a base number used for mature horse weight calculations. 301 can be substituted for 330 when weighing yearlings but maturing horses are best measured with a horse measuring tape or specific, growing horse calculations.
Please note, this equation is in inches!
Here is a link to great online calculator - http://www.hygain.com.au/nutrition-centre/weight-calculator/
Any and all equations and tape measurements will fall short, or be above the true body weight so prepare for inaccuracies of +/- 100 pounds. To prevent further inaccuracies when weighing your horse at home, it is best to consistently measure the horse using the same start and stopping points on the body, and be the sole person measuring the weight; different people will almost always come up with slightly different weight measurements. If a trip to the equine clinic is too costly for an accurate measurement, call around to local feed mills and tack shops and ask if they know of a local certified livestock weigh scale available in the area.
Horses need to eat 1-2% of their total weight in hay, and drink 1-2% of their body weight in water, every day. If a horse weighs 1,000 pounds, he needs at least 10 pounds of hay or grass forage everyday to maintain his weight, or 1% of his total weight. That means, at any time of the day, approximately 1-2% of the horse’s weight is food and water being pushed from the foregut to hindgut. The more exercise or calories burned, the more the horse will need to eat to maintain his ‘figure’.
Equine obesity, a rising problem among our ‘pasture ponies’ causes a number of health problems including laminitis, insulin resistance, similar to diabetes, puts too much stress on the heart and joints. Exercise, large pasture space and a low-calorie diets help keep horses of all ages from adding on unwanted pounds. Frequent, or semi-annual weigh-ins can help monitor how much weight a horse is gaining or losing and prevent dangerous fluctuations in weight from occurring.
It is no wonder we don’t see little freckled girls spinning their horses and ponies around in the air like Pippi Longstocking. Best to appreciate their density beneath us, under saddle or pulling a cart.
With all that being said, watch out for your toes!
Prefer to process your facts in image form? Not a problem! Check out our nifty infographic below!