Understanding average horse weight and why it matters
Did you know that there’s a strong link between how much a horse weighs and its overall health? Horses that are either over or underweight are at risk for serious health issues.
But how do you weigh a horse? And how do you know whether your horse is at an ideal weight or at risk for weight-related problems?
Although several factors determine a horse’s ideal weight, an average adult horse weighs between 900 and 1,200 pounds. Minis and small ponies weigh significantly less, while draft breeds can weigh upwards of 1,800 pounds. If you’re curious about the connection between health and weight or how to tell how much your horse weighs, keep reading. We’ve got all the details!
Concerned about horse health? Learn about How Horses Sleep in our A to Zzzz Guide to Equine Rest.
What factors affect a horse’s weight?
A horse’s weight is determined by various factors, including genetics, environment, age, and overall body condition.
A horse’s diet can significantly impact weight, especially in combination with their activity level.
And thanks to all the high-quality feed options available on the market today, it can be easy to overdo the feed resulting in an overweight horse.
If you want to learn more about the science of feeding your horse, check out our previous article on equine nutrition.
Additionally, certain conditions, such as Cushing’s Disease, can lead to weight gain or loss. Even the regular changes associated with aging can cause gradual weight loss and changes in body condition.
Depending on the breed, some horses are naturally larger or smaller than others. You may have heard the terms “heavy” and “light” in reference to horses before but maybe didn’t fully understand the terms.
Heavy vs. light horses
In general, a horse breed falls into one of two main categories, heavy and light.
Some horses, like the Clydesdale, Percheron, Belgian, and Shire, are categorized as draft horse breeds.
These heavy horses are the ones that pulled the plows and wagons for farmers before the advent of the tractor. Draft horses are built for work with short backs and powerful hindquarters, these breeds tend to run between 1,700 to 2,000+ lbs.
Check out our comprehensive article if you want more information on optimizing nutrition for draft horses.
On the other hand, light horses range anywhere from 900 to 1,500 pounds, depending on the breed and size.
These are the larger horses most often used for riding, racing, driving, herding cattle, etc. On the lighter end of this group are the Arabians who range from 900 to 1,100 pounds, while the average warmblood will weigh in the neighborhood of 1,200 to 1,300 pounds.
Horse Weight World Records Infographic
You’re welcome to use this infographic on your own website *as long as you link back to horse-rookie.local.* Feel free to share on Pinterest by hovering over it and clicking the Pinterest icon. #knowledgeishorsepower
How much does a horse weigh at birth?
Believe it or not, no matter the breed, all foals weigh approximately 10% of their mother’s weight at birth.
So, a mare weighing 2,000 pounds will have a foal that weighs about 200 pounds at birth. A small horse or pony weighing more than 900 pounds will have a baby weighing about 90 pounds.
Horses grow quickly and usually reach about 90% of their full adult height by two years old.
The remaining 10% goes a little slower. A horse will continue to grow and fill out for about the next two years of its life, reaching their adult height by about four.
When raising foals, it is important to tailor the feeding program to the breed.
Feeding too slowly or not enough can result in stunted growth, while feeding too much and too quickly puts the horse at risk for a host of developmental orthopedic diseases (DOD).
Get your foal off to the right start by reading our guide to foal nutrition.
Doing the math is also a big part of calculating Horse Trailer Weight and your rig equation.
How are horses weighed?
There are four ways to weigh a horse:
1) A livestock scale gives you the best and least arbitrary measure. You may have seen something similar in your small animal vet’s office; this is the same idea, only larger.
2) Weight tapes are similar to those used by a tailor. The horse weight tape is wrapped around the barrel to get an approximate measure. The barrel size (i.e., girth area) translates to their weight.
- Weight tapes are best for “average” size horses and may not be as accurate for smaller, larger, and growing horses.
- You can grab inexpensive weight tape on Amazon here.
3) Online Calculators use a formula to estimate your horse’s body weight. Just remember that the results are the estimated weight, not “down to the pound,” like you could get with a scale.
4) Eyeballing is the most arbitrary measure for horse weight. Even the most experienced owners and veterinarians can be off by as much as 200 pounds.
Why should we know a horse’s weight?
Aside from just general interest, there are a few good reasons why it’s a good idea to know your horse’s weight.
Knowing how much your horse weighs helps you understand how much he should eat.
Each horse is different, so knowing their weight and lifestyle can help you determine how much they should eat. (See Purina’s horse feeding calculator.)
- The ‘average’ mature horse needs about 15 to 20 pounds of hay daily.
- Horses consume about 2.5% of their body weight per day.
- Don’t forget to hydrate! A horse needs between 5 to 15 gallons or more of clean water daily, depending on temperature and activity level.
Knowing and understanding your horse’s weight helps you monitor and understand seasonal changes.
- Horses tend to lose weight in the winter when forage is less readily available and as their caloric needs go up.
- Some horses need extra calories to stay warm through those cold winter months, and those calories will optimally come from good-quality hay.
- It’s also important to monitor summertime eating, as horses can easily put on extra fat as access to grass increases.
- Horses will forage or munch on grass and hay for up to 18 hours a day.
Knowing your horse’s weight helps flag possible health problems and determine medication dosing.
- Mis-dosing medication can have very bad consequences. It is important to know your horse’s weight before administering potent medications.
- Remember, even the best ‘guessers’ can be off by as much as 200 pounds.
Knowing your horse’s weight helps know how much weight he can safely carry or pull.
- The average horse can safely carry about 15 to 20 percent of its body weight (e.g., a 1,000-pound horse can carry about a 200-pound rider).
- Asking a horse to carry too much weight for its size increases its risk for soreness and lameness issues.
Remember, weight is not the only measure of a horse’s health and condition.
Body Condition Score
Veterinarians and other horse professionals will often use a Body Condition Score (BCS) to assess whether a horse has too much or too little fat on their body.
The score ranges from 1 (extremely thin) to 9 (highly over-conditioned).
There are 6 different areas of the body to consider when formulating a horse’s BCS:
- Spine: You should not see his spine. If a horse is too thin, you will see a ridge down his back.
- Ribs: You should be able feel, but not see, a horse’s ribs.
- Tailhead/Croup: The tailhead should not be visible. If it is, the horse may be too thin.
- Withers: Withers will be easily visible on a horse that’s too thin.
- Neck: The horse’s neck bone structure should not be visible. If it is, the horse may be too thin.
- Shoulder: The area behind a horse’s shoulder can become too dense in a horse that is over-conditioned.
Although subjective, the BCS can be one way to assess whether a horse is :
- Underweight: < 3
- Moderate or ideal weight: 4-6
- Overweight: > 7
- Obeses: > 8
For more on body condition score, check out our article about helping horses in need.
Weight and conformation
Both conformation and conditioning play an important role in the success that an equine athlete has in performing his job.
Conformation relates to how well the horse is put together compared to the optimal examples of the breed (e.g. slope of shoulder, shape of leg, and length of back).
Horses that are born with structural flaws will have a harder time doing their jobs.
Similarly, horses that are under or overweight will also have difficulties. It is important to keep them healthy and pay attention to their weight and condition.
Did you know:
- The average horse carries approximately 64 percent of its weight on its front legs and the remainder in the back. Doing the math, a 1,000 horse carries about 600 pounds on his front legs alone.
- Horse legs are marvels made up of bones, muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments that support the horse in a multitude of athletic activities. Legs are some of their most important body parts, so keeping them safe and healthy is extremely important for their well-being.
- Even a small injury to a horse’s leg can be quite serious and even fatal in some situations.
Horse Weight Infographic
You’re welcome to use this infographic on your own website *as long as you link back to horse-rookie.local.*
Feel free to share on Pinterest by hovering over it and clicking the Pinterest icon. #knowledgeishorsepower
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much does an average horse weigh?
An average horse weighs 900-2,000 pounds.
Q: How much should my horse weigh?
Every horse is different, so start by chatting with your veterinarian.
He or she can help determine your horse’s ideal weight range and devise an action plan to help you reach it.
Q: How much does a quarter horse weigh?
1,000 – 1,300 pounds
Learn more about the American Quarter Horse in our article about the best horse breeds for beginners.
Q: How much does a racehorse weigh?
900 to 1,100 pounds
Q: How much does a pony weigh?
200 to 1,400 pounds
Q: How much does a horse’s head weigh?
10% of the total horse’s body weight
Q: How much does a baby horse weigh?
Depending on the breed, anywhere from 90 to 200+ pounds
Q: How much does a Shetland pony weigh?
298 to 595 pounds
Q: How much does a miniature horse weigh?
150 to 300 pounds
Q: How much does a thoroughbred horse weigh?
1,003 to 1,301 pounds
Q: How much does an Arabian horse weigh?
800 to 1,000 pounds
Q: How much does a horse weigh in pounds?
An average horse weighs 900-2,000 pounds
Q: How much does a horse weigh in tons?
Depending on the breed, between just under ½ ton to a ton or more
Q: How much does a Clydesdale horse weigh?
1,598 to 1,797 pounds
Q: Where can I find a horse weight calculator?
Q: What should I feed my horse?
That’s a complicated question! Check out our blog called Food or Foe: What Do Horses Eat?
Q: How much does a horse trailer weigh?
Depending on the size and type a horse trailer typically weigh between 2,400 pounds up to about 8,400 pounds. We have an entire blog about horse trailer weight here, so trot on over.
Q: How to make a horse gain weight and muscle?
If you just took in a rescue or have a hard keeper horse, putting on (and keeping on) weight can be a struggle.
Start by ensuring your feed is high in protein and fat, and consider feeding alfalfa for a while. You can also add supplements to your horse’s feed, like canola oil. Feeding beet pulp is another great trip to help a horse bulk up.
While your horse is bulking up, keep the workouts light. I like to do a lot of walking on the lunge line to help them build muscle without burning too many calories.
Q: What’s the best oil to feed horses for weight gain?
If you’ve ruled out any health issues and your horse still isn’t gaining weight, adding oil to his diet can be a simple solution.
The simplest (and cheapest) oil to add is vegetable oil, which you can buy at your local grocery store. Most horses love corn oil, but peanut or canola oils work fine, too.
Oil should be introduced slowly to avoid dietary upsets (like diarrhea). Start with a quarter cup per day, increasing the amount every few days.
Other options for oil include dac oil or DuMOR Rice Bran oil.
Reaching That Goal Weight
Horses don’t always make it easy for us to help keep them healthy. Some would never stop eating if they had their way. Others are picky, hard keepers who have you scratching your head at every weather change.
But one thing remains true for all horses — maintaining a healthy girth (pun intended) takes work. As their caretakers, it’s our duty to be “weight watchers!”
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- Horse Weight Loss for Beginners
- Tips & Tricks: How to Help Senior Horses Gain Weight
- Hard Keepers Made Easy: Horse Weight Gain for Beginners
- 7 Biggest & Burliest Horse Breeds in the World
- Horse Trailer Weights By the Numbers (63 Makes and Models)
- Why (Good) Horseshoes Don’t Hurt Horses
- How Horses Sleep: A-Zzzz Guide to Equine Rest
- Food or Foe: What Do Horses Eat (And Why)?
- Elevate Your Ride: 6 Tall Horse Breeds
- New Baby Nutrition: Best Feed for Healthy Foals
Sources and Further Reading: