A critical part of keeping your horse healthy is to know their weight and understand how it affects them. Keeping track of their gains and loses in body weight will help ensure you are doing the best for them and allow you to minimise health issues.
For this article we will list the weight in pounds and are talking about adult horses.
Putting ponies (such as Shetlands, Welsh, and Haflinger) and miniature horses aside, standard horses fall into two simple size categories:
- Heavy: This category obviously includes huge breeds such as Percherons, Clydesdales, Belgians, and Shires. The weight range for these fabulous and fascinating breeds is typically between 1,600 pounds (114 st) up to and over 2,000 pounds (143 st). If you've ever been close to the fabulous Budweiser Clydesdale team(s), it is easy to understand why these babies weigh in at almost a ton -- sometimes even over a ton.
- Light: This horse weight category is the higher populated, as it contains myriad breeds of horses that are all large enough to be ridden, driven, or otherwise worked under harness. Some common breed examples are the American Saddlebred, Tennessee Walker, American Quarter Horse, Arabian, Morgan, and many hybrids, which are known in the horse world as "grade" horses. The weight range for this category is between 900 pounds (64 st) on up to 1,500 pounds (107 st).
Why is it Important to Know a Horse's Weight?
The reasons you might need to know your horse's weight are similar to the reasons you may need to know your own weight. Some common reasons may include, but are not limited to:
- Knowing your horse's actual weight, in comparison to what he/she should weigh, helps keep tabs on your treasured equine's general health.
- Your horse's weight and conformation (overall structure and visual presentation) lends to how well your horse can perform what is expected of him/her. In other words, is your equine a trail ride pleasure horse, a farm work horse, a show horse, a brood mare used for breeding, or just a slightly-expense-to-maintain pet and pasture ornament?
- Knowing your horse's weight gives you a solid basis on which to base your horse's dietary needs. It is also critical to keep your equine friend fully hydrated as water consumption is imperative to horse health.
- Medication dosing is based on an equine's weight.
How Do You Weigh a Horse?
So just how much does a horse weigh?
We've discussed that the weight of a light to the heaviest horses range from 900 to as much as 2,300 pounds.
It's not likely that a scale able to handle that level of load is going to be at your ready, but you can find one to fill the purpose.
Here are some realistic methods used for weighing a horse:
- Foremost, most horses are weighed using a livestock scale. These are commonly found at livestock sales barns or veterinarian offices. They work on the same premise as the scales veterinarians use for smaller animals. The drawback is you may have to pay to use one.
- Weight tapes, easily obtainable online, are often used to weigh horses, but they are not as accurate as the actual scale. The tape measures the heart girth of the horse to give a general idea of the horse's weight. This method is not ideal for all body types and is more accurate on average-sized horses than it is on very small, very large, or growing horses.
- Online weight calculators are often used to give an estimated weight of your horse. Remember, this is not a truly accurate weight, but is moreso an estimation based on average weights.
- The least reliable method available is also the most simple. Experienced livestock owners can often "eyeball" a horse (or a cow) and guess its weight. However, this method can be off as much as 200 pounds. A pitfall of this method is one must take into consideration the conformation of the equine breed, e.g. a Thoroughbred has naturally a more lanky and boney structure than does a Quarter Horse.
Visual Cues That Can Indicate a Horse's Weight Condition
Most people who have owned horses for awhile can usually "eyeball" a horse's conformation for a healthy weight. Keep in mind that very aged horses naturally become boney and often become sway-backed.
Otherwise, here is a handy guide:
- Withers: Although horses' withers vary with breed, you should not be able to see it sticking up abruptly at the base of its mane.
- Spine: You should not be able to clearly see his spine. If the horse is too thin, you will be able to see the spine down the back.
- Neck: The horse's neck should be solid and not shown a boney structure, nor should it be overly thick (which can indicate overweight or founder), especially immediately beneath the mane.
- Ribs: You should be able to feel but not see the horse's ribs.
- Tailhead/croup: The structure at the top of the tail should not be blatantly visible.
Does a Horse's Weight Affect Its Ability to Stay Warm and/or Healthy?
Although the horse has a very efficient temperature regulating system, an exceptionally thin horse will have more need for a horse rug to help it maintain its internal temperature or a fly rug to repel those pesky insects.
Should you be working with a rescue equine, an ailing/aging equine, or one that simply needs additional "help" from the outdoor elements, it may be a good idea to use one of the available heavy horse rugs on the market.
Become an Expert About Measuring Your Horses for a Horse Rug
More than likely, you were impressed that you can get a general idea of a horse's weight by using a measuring tape. You can also easily and efficiently measure a horse for a rug like a pro.
Keep Your Stabled Horse at a Stable Weight
Being underweight is not the only weight problem a horse might face. An overweight horse, just like humans, can suffer damage to its legs and health with the surplus weight. Hence, become an informed horse owner so that you can keep your four-legged friend at its optimal weight.