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How much does a horse weigh? If that question has ever crossed your mind, you probably own a horse or two, or seven.
Horse owners don’t just own a horse. They need to be able to care for their charge, regulate their diets, monitor their health, and provide the best nutrients. Most horse owners possess knowledge equivalent to a veterinarian’s apprentice. And that includes this burning question:
The short answer to the question “How much does a horse weigh?” is that horses weigh a lot. But you need a little more information than that.
The established average is between 900 and 2,200 pounds. But many factors go into that basic weight. Some of the factors that make a difference in horse weights are:
- Body type
- Lineage or genealogy
Some horses are bred for speed and agility, while others are bred to do heavy work.
The size of a horse at birth is usually a good indicator of what their size will be as an adult. Looking at the current Guinness Book of World Records holders, you can also see that the type of horse plays a significant role in the adult weight.
The current holder of the World’s Smallest Horse is actually two horses, one male and one female. The reigning female is Tembelina (Thumbelina), who stands a mere 17 inches tall at the withers. This little horse weighs approximately 60 pounds.
Her male counterpart is Einstein, who measures in at 18 inches tall. Einstein also holds the record as the smallest foal at birth. He was born weighing only 6 pounds and standing 14 inches tall (he’s grown, but not much).
Both are miniature horses and were always going to be small, but no one expected them to be quite as little as they are.
Alternately, the tallest horse ever recorded was a Shire gelding named Sampson. Born in 1846, he grew to a whopping 21.2 1/2 hands tall (86.5 inches or 7 feet, 2.5 inches) by his 4th birthday. Naturally, he was renamed Mammoth. Mammoth also held the distinction of being the most massive horse, weighing in at approximately 3,360 pounds.
The current record holder is Big Jake, a Wisconsin Belgian gelding. Standing just under 7 feet, Big Jake measures 82 and 3/4-inches tall. Big Jake was named the World’s Tallest Living Horse in 2010 by Guinness World Records. Weighing in at 2,600 pounds, he has a fairly strict diet.
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A horse needs to eat about 1.5 to 2 percent of its body weight in hay per day. For Big Jake, his owners feed him 1 to 1.5 bales of hay per day, which is low considering his weight. In addition to hay, they supplement his diet with oats, minerals, vitamins, and other healthy additives.
A horse will also consume 1.5 to 2 percent of its body weight in water per day. Like all animals, water is an integral part of a horse’s dietary needs.
Horses that are not very active can survive quite well on a hay-based diet without oats. However, if your horse’s diet only consists of hay, you should add several things to keep your animal healthy. Horses should have the following:
- 1500 to 2000 IU of a vitamin E supplement daily
- four to six ounces of flaxseed to provide essential fatty acids
- A mineral supplement
- White or iodized salt
If you opt to add oats or other foods to your horse’s diet, you should decrease the amount of hay you’re feeding to balance their intake levels.
The folks at Purina have created an online horse feed calculator to assist horse owners with the math. The University of Nebraska published a tips guide for new horse owners with tons of great information.
An inactive horse does not need grain or other foods. Adding those items to their diet should only be considered if your horse has trouble maintaining weight. Grains add concentrated calories to your horse’s diet, which means they help a horse gain and maintain extra weight.
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In working to keep your horse at the right weight, you may periodically want to add oats or other supplemental feed sources. But how do you do that safely, without risking potential health problems?
For every pound of high-calorie feed you add, you should be decreasing the amount of hay you feed. This handy chart is relatively accurate:
- Rice bran (1 pound) = 1.75 pounds of hay
- Beet pulp (1 pound) = 1.5 to 1.75 pounds of hay
- Commercial grain mix = 2.5 to 3 pounds of hay (read below)
- Plain oats = 1.5 to 1.75 pounds of hay
- Senior feed = 1.25 pounds of hay (read below)
Because complete feeds and senior feeds have a lot of variation in calorie levels, there is a handy formula to determine how much hay you should remove from your horse’s diet.
Check the feed packaging for the recommended serving size. Then using the weight of the hay you usually feed, divide that by the serving size of the additional feed.
If your horse eats typically 24 pounds of hay per day, and the recommended serving size for the feed is 15 pounds, the equation would be 24 divided by 15. The answer is 1.6, which is the ratio, per pound. That means that when using that feed type, one pound of the feed would equal 1.6 pounds of hay.
Using this conversion, if you were supplementing your horse’s diet with 10 pounds of the feed in the above example, you would need to remove approximately 16 pounds of hay from your animal’s diet.
If you are strapping on the feed bag, you will want to keep a watchful eye out on your horse’s weight.
Knowing and maintaining your horse’s weight is an important part of horse ownership. An overweight horse can develop other health issues that will shorten its lifespan. Extra weight gain can also decrease a horse’s overall quality of life.
So, when you ask, “How much does a horse weigh?” you are really asking if a horse is healthy. Your horse’s bone structure, based on breeding, is designed to carry a specific amount of bulk. If you exceed that by over-feeding, you are endangering the horse.
If you own horses and you don’t have access to a horse scale, can you still weigh your horse? Yes, at least approximately.
Using a weight tape and a simple equation will offer you an approximate weight for your horse or pony. The equation is W = HG squared x BL/330 where W equals weight (in pounds), HG squared equals the heart girth of your horse, squared (HG times HG). BL is the body length of your horse from the shoulder to its rump. Mathematically, the equation appears like this:
You arrive at that figure by using the weight tape to measure around the heart girth. That is the thickest portion of your horse’s torso, approximately where the heart is within the rib cage. These measurements are all done using the inches scale on the weight tape.
Some tapes have approximate weights listed right on the tape, which will vary depending on the tape manufacturer. Some are very accurate to within a few pounds when compared to a digital scale.
According to HorseClicks, most weight tapes are about 90 percent accurate. For maintaining your horse at a healthy weight, that is close enough.
If you don’t like math, you can always use the handy weight calculator at SmartPak Equine Health Library. Plug in your figures and poof — you have an approximate weight.
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Earlier, we discussed briefly that breed and body style plays a significant factor in your horse’s weight. Below we have listed various breeds with their height and weight. That should give you an idea of where your horse fits into the averages for height and weight.
Among the smallest of the full-sized horse breeds, the Lipizzaner, Morgan, Arabian, and Tennessee Walker can be as small as around 900 pounds. The Morgan, Arabian, and Lipizzaner might reach full, healthy adult weights around 1,100 to 1,200 pounds, while the Tennessee Walker can often weigh up to around 1,400 pounds.
The small breeds have a lightweight frame and are bred for speed and maneuverability. These are used for saddle riding, roping, and other rodeo events, and are considered an all-around good utility horse.
In the mid-sized range, the Appaloosa, American Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, and American Saddlebred horses all average around 1,000 pounds on the low-end of the scale. The American Saddlebred tops out around 1,200 pounds, while the other 3 breeds may weigh as much as 100 pounds more at their top weight.
With their medium frame, these breeds also make great saddle horses. They are commonly seen doing ranch and rodeo work, or racing.
Among the largest breeds are the draft horses. The Clydesdale, made famous by the American brewing company Budweiser, is a smallish draft horse. They generally tip the scales at just under 1,600 pounds at the low end and can be as large as 1,800 pounds.
The American Belgian and Percheron both start around 1,900 pounds. Their top weights can be up to 2,100 pounds for the Percheron and 2,200 pounds for the American Belgian.
These are the heavy workers of the horse world. They are bred to work. They are used to haul wagons, mostly in parades now. But back in the early days of our country, these horse breeds plowed the midwest and fed our young nation.
The short answer to the question “How much does a horse weigh? is still that a horse weighs a lot. We hope that you have a better understanding of horse weights now. It’s essential to understand how things such as breed, frame size, and weight correlate with maintaining healthy horses.
Horses do most of their quick growing during the first two years of life. The next two years sees a considerable slow down in growth and weight gain. A horse is full-grown at four years old.
Knowing the answer to “How much does a horse weigh?” is a small part of determining the healthiest weight for your horse. You must take into account things such as the breed of your horse. You also need to monitor the level of activity or work your horse performs and how much they eat daily.
The care and feeding of a horse is a task that requires a good deal of knowledge about horses in general. Horse ownership can be a gratifying experience, though. If you take the time to learn the information you need to know, you will succeed at it.
We hope that you have enjoyed learning, “How much does a horse weigh?” If you have questions, thoughts, or want to brag about your baby, drop us a comment below. We would love to hear from you.
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