How To Measure a Horse’s Weight

The most obvious way most people would measure their horse’s weight is by using a scale.  

If you do not have a scale on which to weigh your horse, there are other ways in which you can do so.

Why You Should Know Your Horse’s Weight

There are many reasons why you need to know your horse’s weight; de-worming them, keeping an eye on their overall health, and administering medications.  You also need to know the weight to keep track of seasonal weight changes and monitor the growth in young horses.  It will also help you notice any recurring patterns of weight loss or gain that could indicate possible health problems.

How To Measure a Horse’s Weight

1. Livestock Scale

This is the best way to get an accurate measurement of the weight of your horse.  Some veterinarian clinics have permanent livestock scales or portable ones.  If there is an auction barn around your area, they may have scales also.

2. Truck Scale

If you have a truck stop around or a weigh station where semi-trucks are weighed, you may be able to get permission to use those scales.  If you use these scales, you will have to weigh the entire rig, with and with the horse loaded on.  This can take time, and if your horse is skittish, the sounds of the trucks might make him nervous.

Truck scales are not as finely calibrated as a livestock scale, so the weight may be as much as 20 to 40 pounds off.  It all depends on how the scales are set.

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horse scale

3. Weight Tape Measure

If there are no scales around, then you can approximate a horse’s weight by measuring its body.  To do this you will need a special weight tape.  They are inexpensive and available at feed stores and tack shops.  A weight tape measure is easy to use.  They are not completely accurate because they only measurer around the girth of a horse.

They do not take into consideration other things like their overall condition, fat/muscle, body type, and height.  Make sure that your horse is securely and safely tied and standing quietly.  Take the tape and measure the horse.  The tape goes around the girth area and up over the horse, just behind the withers.

To measure the horse, take it where the end of the tape meets the scale on the tape.  When you are tracking your horse’s weight, you have to be careful you are doing it the same way each time.  You have to place the tape in exactly the same place each time while holding it with the same tension.

If you are trying to get the weight of a foal or a pony, the regular weight tape that is made for mature horses may not be accurate.  You can purchase weight tapes that are made for a specific body type.

4. Weight Chart

To get an approximate weight, you do not need a special tape measure.  You can use a piece of twine or a regular tape measure to measure your horse in the same way you would do using the special weight tape.  To determine the approximate weight, you can use the weight chart on the OMAFRA site.  

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When you are using this way to weigh your horse, make sure that your horse is standing on level ground and that the horse is relaxed.  If they are antsy, it will be hard to get an accurate measurement as they might be moving around a lot.  They could also get upset and try to bite or kick to get you to leave them alone.

Stand on the left side of the horse, holding the end marked zero and drape the tape over the horses back.  It might help if you have someone help you that can hold the horse and keep them calm for you.  If possible, you should do the measuring two times to make sure that you have it right.

pregnant white horse

The way you can find an approximate weight is to measure around the horse as you would with a weight tape but then take an additional measurement.  This would be from the point of the shoulder to the edge of the haunch. Then you do the math; girth x girth x body length divided by 300 equals the weight of the horse.  This is referred to as hearth-girth.  

For example, if the horse is 76 inches around long and then 36 inches long you would calculate 76 x 76 x 38 divided by 300 would equal 782 pounds.

  For a weanling, or a horse less than a year old, you would use the same formula as with a mature horse but the difference is that you would divide by 280 instead of 300 to get their weight.

Why Estimating Weight Can Be Bad

One reason that estimating weight can be bad is giving the wrong dosage of medication, especially if it is a potent medication. 

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If you are giving your horse a very potent medication and the estimated weight is 750 pounds but is actually only 500 pounds, the horse is getting an extra half dose of the medication.  The extra half dose may not matter but it could lead to serious health issues, even death.  

Medications for a horse can be expensive.  For example, if the medication is $100 a dose, you will be paying $50 for that extra half dose the horse did not need.  Over time that can get expensive.

Conclusion

  • If you do not have scales on your farm or boarding school, it is time-consuming to have to go get them weighed.
  • Weight estimations are sufficient for calculating food, supplements, and medications but you need a very accurate weight, talk to your veterinarian.
  • A weight tape is measured in pounds instead of inches
  • A weight tape can be as much as 100-200 pounds away from the actual weight.
  • The average weight of a horse is 1,200 pounds but it depends on its breed, shape, size, a mare, gelding, or stallion.
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