Horses come in all shapes and sizes, as you probably already know. Therefore, the question how much does a horse weigh will be based on lots of factors – what breed they are; whether they are in work or out of it; whether they are pregnant or lactating; what sort of muscle mass they have.
A Warmblood will often be heavier than a Thoroughbred, even if they are the same height, because Warmbloods tend to be stockier and have more bone and muscle, while a Thoroughbred is typically more slender given its horse racing role.
As a very rough guide, a tiny breed like a Shetland typically weighs about 200lb, a larger pony such as a Haflinger may be around 1,400lb, and a big draught horse can reach 1,800-2,000lb. So how do you work out the weight of a horse?
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Ways To Work Out Your Horse’s Weight At Home
One of the best ways to work out your horse’s weight at home, bearing in mind that not many of us have a set of scales big enough to take a horse, is a weighing tape. This is a fabric tape measure that is wrapped around the horse’s barrel and has markings on it to indicate your horse’s weight based on his barrel measurement.
You can also use an online calculator, where you input the size of your horse in hands, and follow the line specifying which breed he is, to work out what his weight should be – this is not a very accurate way of doing it though, as your horse may be larger or smaller in real life than this ideal suggests!
Some people swear by just eyeballing, or looking at your horse, to get an idea of his weight. This is a wildly inaccurate way of doing it, however, as your opinion will often be swayed by other horses around and the measurement can be hundreds of pounds out. If all your horses are fat then you will tend to not notice one who is tipping over into obese territory.
Being Overweight Or Underweight
As a rough rule of thumb, you should be able to feel but not see your horse’s ribs. If they are protruding through the skin, he is too thin. You should not be able to see his spine, but his withers should be defined – not poking up, as this is an indicator of a horse who is too thin. The neck should be muscled and you should not be able to see any bone, but you should also watch out for a “crest” of fat, which shows that a horse is overweight.
Being overweight or underweight can cause a lot of health issues in horses. Those that are too heavy run the risk of joint problems from carrying too much weight, and can be prone to laminitis or other issues caused by too much food. An underweight horse could be showing signs of an underlying health condition, or that he is not being fed enough. Older horses tend to lose condition as they age, so it is especially important to keep them up to weight and comfortable.
Knowing your horse’s weight is not only important to keep an eye on his overall health, but for dosing with essential wormers too. You don’t want to overload a Shetland with the same doses of wormer that you would give a Shire horse! The same goes for giving medication; hopefully your vet will have given you specific dosage instructions, but if you buy an over the counter medication then you will need to know your horse’s weight.
Horse Weight Fluctuations
Horses, like people, experience weight fluctuations throughout their lives. Horses tend to lose a little weight in the winter, as there is less forage available, then pile it back on again in the summer when the grass is sweet and rich.
Keeping an eye on your horse’s weight will help you to know whether he has put on too much or is losing too much, so you can adjust his feed and routines accordingly. You can buy special feed that will help your horse maintain condition without putting on weight, as well as those which will help him put on mass.
If you know your horse’s target weight then it will be easier to figure out what he needs and whether he should gain weight or lose it. If your horse suddenly starts dropping weight then this could point to a number of health issues, and you should look into all avenues.
Are his teeth troubling him? Is there a more sinister reason which calls for veterinary help? If he is suddenly gaining weight then an excess of food is usually the culprit – try him on restricted forage or a grazing muzzle for a few weeks.
How Much Does A Racehorse Weigh
The average racehorse weighs less than some other types of horse, because being lighter offers a racing advantage in that they can run faster. Usually, racehorses weigh between 900 and 1,100lb, though this can vary from horse to horse, depending on their build and the type of work they are currently in.
The fittest and leanest will be on the smaller end of this scale, while the larger, stockier types will be closer to the top end. Any racehorse considerably heavier than this will be at a disadvantage when racing against lighter individuals. Think about it when buying your next racehorse. 🙂
Other Fun Facts About Horse Weight
- 10% of a horse’s weight is in his head. That’s why he needs strong neck muscles; that’s a lot of weight to be carrying!
- Horses should eat 1-2% of their body weight each day to maintain a healthy weight.
- A foal is about 10% of his mother’s body weight at birth, regardless of the size of the father.
- The heaviest horse was Sampson, a Shire who reached 21 hands and weighed a whopping 3,300lbs!
- The lightest horse was Thumbelina, a dwarf Miniature who was 17 inches high and weighed just 57lb.
- Horses usually reach about 90% of their adult weight by two years old.
- A horse carries as much as 64% of his weight on his front legs.
Knowing your horse’s weight, and what his weight SHOULD be for his size, breed and exercise regime, is as important as keeping on top of his health in other ways. If you are seriously concerned about your horse’s weight either way of the scale, then you should consult a veterinary surgeon, who should be able to help you to help him lose it or gain it.