Hands, a traditional British way of measuring horses that’s still used in the United States, are units composed of four inches (the approximate width of a hand). Centimeters are used in Europe and many countries outside the United States to describe a horse’s height.
What you need:
- A halter and lead rope or bridle;
- A helper;
- A flat, level area to stand the horse—a concrete slab works well; and
- A horse measuring stick, measuring tape and level, or a line with a plumb bob.
Step 1: Get a helper to hold the horse using a halter and lead rope or bridle. You’ll want the pair standing on a flat surface.
Step 2: Have your helper “square” the horse, so he’s standing tall and balanced, with his weight evenly distributed over all four feet and legs underneath himself. Imagine the horse standing on a rectangular coffee table with one hoof placed perfectly in each of the table’s four corners—that how your horse should stand when squared up. If the horse’s legs spread out and not square, you will get an inaccurate measurement less than his actual height.
Step 3: A horse is measured at its withers using the measuring stick or tape. A horse’s withers is located where the neck intersects the shoulder and is typically the highest point of the back. Hold the measuring stick or tape perpendicular with the ground. The goal is to have your measuring stick, tape, or plumb line perfectly vertical. Then use the level (either part of your measuring stick or a carpentry level) to mark the horse’s height on the stick, tape, or plumb line. A note of caution: Some horses might react to a long measuring stick, confusing it with a longe whip or natural horsemanship stick, so move slowly.
Step 4: Find out how tall your horse or pony is! A horse measuring stick offers tick marks in centimeters and hands. If you’re measuring in centimeters, your horse’s height is simply the number of centimeters he is tall at the withers. If you’re using a measuring tape in inches and feet, convert the measurement by dividing the total inches measured by 4. Any remaining inches are kept as inches. A horse that measures 62 inches is 15 hands 2 inches, or 15 and a half hands (2 inches is half of 4 inches). This height is written in shorthand as 15.2 H. Note that when describing a measurement of a horse in hands, the “.” is not a decimal point, and that 15.2 H meant to be read as 15 (hands) 2 (inches).