FAQ Riding

Towering Horses: 5 Best Breeds for Tall Riders

Tall horse
Written by Kim H.

Long-Legged Riders, Look No Further!

As equestrians, we know there are many horse breeds out there. From ponies to warmbloods, there are horses to suit every discipline and riding style—as well as a horse to fit every rider.

If you fall into the tall rider category, you know that it can sometimes be hard to find a horse big enough to fit you properly. Thankfully, there are many breeds of horses known to be great fits for taller equestrians.

Horse Breeds 101

Horse height is measured in hands. A hand is a 4-inch increment. To correctly measure a horse’s height, start from the ground and measure to the top of the withers, which is where the neck meets the shoulder.

You can buy special measuring tapes that make it easy to measure a horse’s height and convert to height in hands.

For example, a 16-hand horse would measure 64” tall (5’ 4”) at the withers.

How do you know if you are too tall for a horse? An easy way to tell is if your legs are dangling below the horse’s belly. This will not allow you to use your leg properly to ride.

Some shorter horses will be wider and take up more of your leg so it may not always be a height issue, but more of how the horse is built overall.

A human and horse team should be compatible sizes for each other. If the rider is too tall, then their legs will be dangling, and they will not be able to control the horse properly.

The opposite is also true. If a rider is way too short for a very large horse, they will not have enough leg on the horse to effectively ride that horse.

Rider too tall for horse

Rider is a little tall for this horse. Photo Cred: Canva

Horse too big

Rider is a little short for this horse. Photo Cred: Canva

Horse just right size

Team paired just right! Photo Cred: Canva

Top Breeds for Tall Riders

Breed Key Disciplines Average Height
Thoroughbred Eventing and Show Jumping 15.2-17 Hands
Hanoverian Dressage and Show Jumping 15.3- 17.2 hands
Dutch Warmblood Dressage and Show Jumping 16-17 hands
Swedish Warmblood Dressage, Jumping, and Eventing 16-17 hands
Westphalian Show Jumping 15.3-16.2 hands


The Thoroughbred is a great breed for a taller rider. They are primarily known as racehorses, but many go on to have a second career in eventing and show jumping disciplines. Because they can be more high-strung, they excel at sport horse disciplines.

They average 15.2-17 hands and can make an excellent choice for a taller rider.


The Hanoverian horse breed originated in Germany and is a Warmblood horse breed. You will commonly see Hanoverians in dressage and show jumping disciplines.

Averaging 15.3-17.2 hands they are usually quite tall. In addition, they tend to have larger barrels, making them more suitable for longer-legged equestrians.

Dutch Warmblood

The Dutch Warmblood, also known as a KWPN, is a popular sport horse breed. They are commonly seen in dressage and show jumping. Averaging 16-17 hands in height, they are a popular choice for tall, competitive riders.

Fun Fact: KWPN stands for Koninklijk Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederlend, or the Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands.

Swedish Warmblood

The Swedish Warmblood is one of the oldest breeds of Warmblood horses. These horses are very commonly exported all over the United States and Europe.

They are primarily used for sport horse disciplines and are known to be very calm and friendly in nature. They typically average 16-17 hands, making them a suitable mount for a longer-legged rider.


The Westphalian horse breed originates from Germany, like the Hanoverian. They are known to be lighter in build, but are commonly used for jumping and dressage purposes. You can frequently see Westphalian horses at larger horse competitions.

At 15.3-16.2 hands, they are easily suitable for a tall rider.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the tallest riding horse breed?

The Hanoverian is known to be one of the tallest riding horse breeds. Overall, draft horses will be much larger than the riding horse breeds due to their breeding—with size comes height! The Hanoverian horse breed can reach almost 18 hands.

Q: What is the tallest a horse can be?

Some draft horses have reached almost 20 hands, or 6.67’ tall at the shoulder!

Q: What kind of horse can carry a heavy rider?

A horse that is built wider and stockier would be best suited for a heavy rider. Breeds such as the American Quarter Horse or draft crosses are known to be great options for heavier riders.

Q: What horse can carry a 250-pound person?

Horses can typically carry about 20% of their body weight including a saddle.

Several horse breeds can usually carry at least 250 pounds. These will include draft breeds and also the Fresian and Irish Draught horses.

Q: What horse can carry 400 pounds?

Horses can generally carry about 20% of their body weight. A 400 lb person may be pushing the limits for riding—not many horses will be able to carry that much weight.

A Percheron, which can weigh 1,800 – 2,000 lbs, could theoretically carry approximately 360 lbs.

Horses can carry heavy loads better if they are balanced. What does this mean? A horse could comfortably carry a heavier rider that is balanced and knowledgeable in the saddle over a lighter, beginner rider that is unbalanced in the saddle.
Fun fact: Horses can pull more weight than they can carry.

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About the author


Kim H.

She began riding at eight years old and now has over twenty years of horse experience. She grew up showing at local horse shows and moved on to riding and showing paint horses on the paint horse show circuit throughout the state of California. She then went on to show at the APHA World Show. She has two OTTBs and is training them for hunter/jumper shows.