Stop guessing and start knowing what your horse weighs
Horses are large animals that can drastically vary in size depending on the breed. An “average” horse may weigh 1,000 lbs, but weights may range from as little as 200 lbs for a mini horse to over 2,000 lbs for a draft horse. It is important to know how much your horse weighs to accurately calculate feed rations and medications.
Knowing your horse’s weight is an important component to keeping them healthy. There are three common ways to weigh a horse. The most accurate method is to use a livestock scale. The next best method is to estimate your horse’s weight using a weight tape or online calculator. The alternative is “eyeballing it,” which is least accurate.
How to Weigh a Horse Using a Scale
The easiest and most accurate method for weighing a horse is to use a livestock scale. Your large animal veterinarian would have one at their facility, but it is unlikely that it would be available for farm calls.
Once you weigh your horse using a livestock scale, use the weight tape formula method (discussed below). Record the difference—now you can be even more accurate when using a weight tape in the future.
If you have a grain elevator nearby* and can trailer your horse, you could ask permission to use their truck scale. Using this method, you would weigh your truck and trailer with the horse loaded, and subtract the weight of the truck and trailer unloaded. The difference is an approximation of your horse’s weight. Keep in mind truck scales are generally accurate to +/- 1%. If the scale has buildup on it (such as snow or ice) it will be less accurate. Also consider any fuel you burned during this process.
*As a former grain elevator manager…you must ask permission before using someone else’s scale. Please don’t unload your horse at the grain elevator; this could be a safety or liability issue. Yield to (commercial) truck traffic—these drivers are on the clock. And, don’t try this during harvest!
How to Weigh a Horse Without a Scale
Most horse owners don’t have access to a scale, especially not on a regular basis. The next most accurate way to get your horse’s weight is using a weight tape. The weight tape allows you to measure your horse and estimate their weight. Depending on your horse’s breed and the method used, it can be reasonably accurate.
We suggest enlisting the help of a friend to make it easier to get accurate measurements.
Some weight tapes make an estimate based off the heart girth measurement only; these are less accurate than the weight tape formula method.
The formula method requires a little math (or an online calculator), but is much more accurate.
Initially, you will need to measure the horse’s heart girth. To do this, measure all the way around the horse; the tape should be right over where the girth of the saddle would go, or about 4” behind the point of the elbow. The tape should run perpendicular to the ground and be snug against the horse, but not tight.
Next, measure your horse’s length. Start at the point of the shoulder, and measure back to the point of the hip. This line may not be horizontal and could angle up from front to back. Note—this measurement is NOT the same as measuring for a blanket!
Once you have your measurements, multiply and divide as follows for an adult horse:
(Heart Girth * Heart Girth * Length) / 330 = Approximate Weight in Lbs.
- For a yearling, instead of dividing by 330, you would divide by 201.
- For a weanling, instead of dividing by 330, you would divide by 280.
It is important to note this formula is not going to work for every horse. It is most accurate for horses that weigh approximately 1,000 lbs and are around 16hh. Generally, this formula will work well for quarter horses but will overestimate the weight of a thoroughbred while underestimating the weight of a warmblood. It is not accurate for ponies or minis.
Remember that weight tapes are still an estimation but can be useful in tracking changes and understanding trends once you establish a baseline.
Here is a short video on how to weigh a horse using a weight tape:
How to Guess a Horse’s Weight
Simply guessing a horse’s weight is the least accurate of the three methods discussed in this article. People tend to be off by 20-25% when using this method! It would be better to use a weight tape, find a scale, or use an online horse weight calculator.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most common way to weigh a horse?
Because most people don’t have access to a scale large enough to weigh a horse, the most common method is to use a weight tape. With two measurements and a little math, you’ll quickly have a reasonably accurate estimation.
How accurate is horse weight tape?
When using a weight tape plus the “formula method” (heart girth measurement * heart girth measurement * length of horse) weight tapes are generally within 5-10% of actual body weight. Simply “eyeballing” your horse’s weight is significantly less accurate—this method sees errors as high as 20-25%.
How do you weigh a horse for worming?
If you don’t have access to a scale, the next best way to weigh your horse is using a weight tape and doing a little math. This will get you to a reasonable estimation so you know how much wormer to give.
How do you weigh a miniature horse?
Unfortunately, the weight tape / formula method is less accurate for ponies and not accurate for miniature horses. The World Equine Veterinary Review created a weight table for miniature horses. This table uses the heart girth measurement and converts it to an estimation of body weight in pounds. The best way to weigh your mini horse is to use a livestock scale.
Is there draft horse weight tape?
While there is technically not a weight tape specifically for draft horses, the same weight tape / formula method can still be reasonably accurate for a draft horse. This website offers a weight tape that claims to measure to 20hh.
Knowing your horse’s weight is an important component to their overall health and wellness. Invest in a weight tape, establish a baseline, and check in periodically. If you do have access to a scale, document your horse’s measurements at that weight to calculate weight more accurately in the future.
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
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