Category Archives: Horse Health

How Much Does Your Horse Weigh?

There are many reasons to know how much your horse weighs. Calculating their feed ration starts with knowing their weight. Dosages of medications and dewormers are determined by the horse’s weight. And the guidelines for how much a horse can carry is calculated using its weight.

The only really accurate way to get a horse’s weight is to use a livestock scale. That said, we don’t all have access to this particular piece of equipment. There are alternative methods that are not as accurate, but will at least get you in the ballpark.

Most of us are familiar with the horse height and weight measurement tapes. These will give you the horse’s height in hands on one side, and estimated weight on the other. These tapes are a good place to start.

If you want to refine the technique, there are formulas that use the horse’s length and heart girth to come up with a weight estimate. I found several of these formulas, all similar but with some slight differences, while doing research for this post. I picked the one that gave me the “middle” result.

You will need 2 measurements–your horse’s heart girth, measured around his barrel just behind the withers and just in back of the elbows, and his length, measured from the point of the shoulder to the point of the butt. For the length, you will just measure the length along his side, unlike measuring for a blanket (where you measure from the middle of the chest to the middle of the tail).

Where to measure your horse to determine its weight

You will need a flexible tape measure at least 80″ long for this. The tape measure I use for sewing, which is the only flexible tape measure I own that gives measurements in inches, is only 60″ long. I used my height/weight tape measure and converted the measurement in hands to inches. If you use your height/weight tape measure and use the height side BE AWARE that you need to measure from the spot marked something like “PLACE TOE HERE” and not from the end of the tape, or you will come up 4 or 5 inches short of the actual measurement! See picture below:

If using your horse height tape to determine it’s heart girth and length, be sure to measure from the line marked “TOE HERE” and not from the end of the tape!

A hand is 4″, so you will need to multiply the hands by 4″ and then add the extra inches to the result. So if you come up with 19:1 for the heart girth, you will multiply 19 by 4 to get 76 and then add the extra inch to get 77 inches. Here’s a handy calculator.

Once you have the measurements in inches, the calculation is: Heart Girth in inches2 x Length / 330 + 50. Or use the calculator below:

That should get you a reasonable estimate of your horse’s weight.

Just a little info for those who may be measuring in centimeters–here’s a converter for that.

Do You Weigh your Hay?

A few years ago, I would have told you that weighing your hay was the act of an obsessive-compulsive nut. Years later, having gone through several horses with wildly varying nutritional needs and tendencies toward being over- or underweight, I gave in and started weighing the hay, and the rest of their feed as well.

It does add time to the daily routine, but there are rewards. The horses get a consistent meal every time–and if you were 100% dependent on someone providing your food, wouldn’t you want to make sure you got your fair share? If their weight changes due to activity level increases or decreases or changes in the weather, I know exactly how much I am changing their ration and can track the effect. It’s also good information to have available for your veterinarian if you run into medical problems.

I use their hay bags to weigh the hay. I know how much each horse’s bag weighs (Cowboy’s weighs 2 lbs, Dublin’s weighs 1.5 lbs–keep in mind that all hay bags are not created equal), I figure out how much hay they should get, come up with a total, and that’s how much the stuffed hay bag should weigh. If you use the same container for the same horse every time, you can just weigh the total instead of weighing the container separately each time or zeroing out the scale once the container is on it. To weigh their pellets or grain, I use a supplement bucket that comes with a tight-fitting lid. If they each use the same kind of bucket, you just need to know the weight of one. The lid lets me weigh their ration out a feeding ahead of time, and store it without worrying about rodent invasions, dirt, or moisture.

The scale I use is a hanging scale that is suspended from the barn rafter. I use a plant hanger hook to get it to a comfortable height. Platform scales can also work but I find the hanging scale easier to work with when weighing bulky items such as hay. Mine is a mechanical hanging scale (dial-type), if you are going to Google it, and it is made by Pelouze which seems to be a leader in decent-quality reasonably priced industrial-type scales. Besides the dial face, there are also sliding faces like you see on fish-weighing scales or digital scales (batteries or power required). Figure out how much weight you need to weigh and buy a scale with the appropriate capacity. Too small and you’ll be weighing more than once, too large and you’ll be paying more and it will be harder to get an accurate reading since the increments will be smaller. I think mine weighs up to 50 lbs and that’s plenty of capacity. My horses like to eat but they don’t need anything like 50 lbs! A smaller one would have been fine but this is a pretty standard size and is still very readable, so it was the most economical choice for my needs.

As I mentioned above, I weigh everything out one feeding ahead of time. There are a few reasons for this. First, I am not an early riser and the horses are more than ready for breakfast when I get out to feed in the morning. With everything ready to go, I can give them their hay immediately and keep them happy while their pellets are soaking (while the pellets soak, I measure out the next feeding). If I can’t get home in time to feed in the afternoon or evening, I can call the neighbors and they can feed for me with a minimum of fuss (helpful hint: maintain good relations with your neighbors, you never know when this will happen!)

So that’s the scoop (hah!) on hay weighing around here.