What Size Horse do you Need?


In my opinion horses come in two sizes: too small and big enough. I’m 6′ tall and have long legs. I’ve never measured the horses that I currently own because they take up my leg and they feel right, but I’d guess that one is 16.1 and the other is about 16.2. In the past, I has a horse that was only about 15.3, but even he never felt too small. Both of mine are big enough without venturing into the “supersized” horse that requires custom tack, special shoes, and which is vulnerable to a host of size related soundness issues.

I’m sometimes amazed by the sheer size of the horses that some people ride. I have a friend who owns a draft cross that looks like it stepped out of a Budweiser commercial. He’s easily more than 18 hands. He certainly would not look out of place at a medieval joust and could easily carry a knight in a full suit of armor.

Now my friend — like me — is close to 6′ tall. All the horses she’s owned have been large. A previous horse was 19 hands, and it boggled my mind to imagine what type of mounting block (or ladder) you would need simply to get on him. At least I can understand why she likes larger horses. At times I’ve gone to shows (usually dressage shows) and seen tiny women riding huge horses. My first reaction has always been, save those horses for those of us who actually need them!

Large horses are definitely in demand these days. I’ve heard plenty of moderately sized people state with great assurance that they would never buy a horse that stands less than 16.2 and that they prefer horses over 17 hands! In fact, sellers commiserate when they have horses a mere 15.2 as the market for them is so much smaller.

So how large a horse do you actually need? I came across an equation on the Internet that is supposed to help you calculate, although it’s more related to rider weight than height.

  1. Add up the total weight of the horse, rider, and tack. Our example: Horse + rider + tack= 1188 pounds
  2. Measure the circumference of the cannon bone midway between the knee and fetlock. Our example: 7.5 inches
  3. Divide the total weight by the circumference. Our example: 1188 / 7.5 = 158.4
  4. Divide the result by two. Our example: 158.4 / 2 = 79.2

Values below 75 are great! Values from 75-80 are acceptable. Values over 80 indicate weaker legs and a need to train carefully, especially downhill. At this level a rider needs a horse with more substance.

I’m not sure that I would bother with the calculation, although I believe it makes sense that a horse with more “bone” is capable of carrying more weight. In my experience, I’ve found that rather than height, it’s the build of the horse that makes the difference. A horse with a large barrel and well sprung ribs can take up your leg better than a taller, narrow built horse.

I prefer a horse that’s built with a reasonably long neck and a good sized shoulder — since my torso is long, it helps me balance better. Generally, I like a horse with a slightly long back for the same reason. However, those rules are made to be broken. My OTTB is quite short coupled and I have to be very careful to keep my upper body still as he is very sensitive to shifts in weight. He may not be very big or long, but I love the fact that he’s nimble as a cat and thinks he’s just a bigger horse than he measures.

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107 responses

  1. i am new into the horse system and i was wondering what type of horse would be the calmest for beginners…i want a tall horse…im 6′ 3” and bout 2 hundred pounds…
    any help would be nice

      • @ blaine N
        A horse like a Dutch Warmblood or Irish Draft X would work! My Friend has a Dutch who is 18.2. He is very expensive because he is a fully trained Jumper from the Netherlands, but you could use DreamHorse.com or Equine.com to find the perfect horse for you!

      • Hi guys im ten years and getting a horse in about 2 years.Im a little small for my age and I am about 54 inches now.Please respond guys.Thanks !:]

    • Well i was unsure what height horse i should ride im 5’2″ and about seven stone and alright riding a 15hh horse to 17hh horse will be fine but ask a equestrian center which is best cuz there more experienced hope that helped xxx good luck

  2. The formular that you used is the same one I was taught when I first started riding however after all these years I guess you kind of get a sixth sense about these things.

  3. I’m thinking about getting back into horses and was wondering what horse would be best for me, i like casual riding like hacks act and when i get better maybe entering Shows.
    I love stocky horse, but don’t know what breed or size is the best to suit me as im 6 stone and 5ft 2 can you help?

    • I think that anyone over 5ft should look for a horse over 15 hands.
      To find a good height for a horse follow this:
      -Multiply the hieght of the rider by 3!!!
      EXAMPLE:
      I am 5’2″
      5’2″ times 3: 16.2 HH horse is a good height for me at the most. I ride all different height horses (I ride my trainer’s horses) but this is the way my aunt taught me!

  4. hiya, im buyin a horse that stands 16.2 hh, he weighs 1000 lbs and very muscly, now i know my weight is absolutly fine on him, but my friends wants to ride once a week and our only concern is if the horse could carry him, hes 6’4″ and weighs around 20 stone.

    any feedback please. many thanks.

    carmel. x

    • By my calculations, 20 stone is about 280 lbs. That’s quite a bit for a horse that weighs only 1,000 lbs but you might find that your horse actually weighs more along the lines of 1200 (my 16.1 h TB weighs about that and he’s not fat).

      I guess it depends on what your friend wants to do while he rides (go for a light hack, w/t/c, long ride) and how accomplished he is. A heavy rider can have a light seat if he’s balanced and a light rider can flop around on a horse and hurt its back.

      If your friend is a decent rider and doesn’t want to do all that much your horse should be fine; but i wouldn’t recommend an intensive ride.

  5. I am transferring a field behind my house into a paddock with a stable etc, so i need to start looking for the right horse size for me now.

    It would need to be just right for me and my mum to ride it, i am about 5’4 and 8 1/2 stone and my mum is 5/2 and 11 stone. What size horse should i need? Also if anyone could help, I want to know what type of horse i should be looking at, i have been riding for over a year now and can easily walk, trot, canter. Haven’t jumped or galloped yet so what would be suitable for me?

    Cheers guys x

  6. Hi, I am about six foot and have long legs. I ride a 16 hand Thoroughbred thats the perfect size for me, but ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted a Gypsy Cob. Could a Cob (keeping in mind they average about 14 hands) carry my weight? If so, would I love silly on it?

    • Depends on your weight they usually can take a lot as some are stocky but some can be almost middleweight! It really depends on your weight and the stocky-ness of the horse/pony!
      (i have one)

  7. I am looking for horses to buy, but i have been pondering on what hands i should get!

    I am about 9stone 10 pounds and 5’1 i do weigh alot but most of it is from muscle from dancing for 7years on my legs which i find helps me alot when im riding!

    I am only 11 1/2 so please help me i dont have any tack or anything for a horse so i cant do the calculations. At my horse riding school I ride a pony called Sunny and I have rode another Horse/Pony that is bigger than Sunny so I was wondering what you think?

    R.S.V.P – A.S.A.P – Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    Kloie

  8. hi, i am a australian stockman that works up north of queensland. i ride an australian stock horse “Billy” who is 15.3hh. he can hold my weight and hight easerly as i am 6.2 feet and 95 kg. the australian stock horse is a alsome horse which is a well temperd horse as well. they do require a bit of skill to ride but once you get the hang of it you can ride them almose any were and for long distences. i use a Cooper Custom (australian stock saddle) as i ofide them very comfatable. i ride just over 10 hours a day while mustering and they are the best saddle i have ever riden in my 26 years of stock riding.

  9. i am a 14 year old girl and i need to size out a horse, i do a lot of riding but dont have a clue about sizing up.. i am about 5 foot 4 inches and about 7 1/2 to 8 stone, could you help me out please? x

    • At 5’4″ you can fit a smaller horse quite nicely. I’d look for one about 15 hands. The other thing to consider is how stocky the horse is (width of his barrel). Sometimes a horse is not that tall but feels bigger because of the way he’s built.

      Good luck!

  10. I am 12 years old I love horses i know everything about them and me and my family are looking to buy one for me. And we have been looking at this one horse in paticular and he is 12 hands tall and I am 140cm tall do you think he will be right for me ?? Please reply as soon as possible.

    • 12hh is way too small for you in my opinion. My daughter is 153 cm and she rides a 14.3hh horse. My opinion for you is around 13.2hh – 14.2. hope this helps!!

  11. I am 250 lb (to me shame) and 5’8”, I am looking at a 5yr old 4.3h Appaloosa mare with a little quarter horse in her breeding. Would she carry my weight?

    She is quite short coupled, with a nice broad rear quarter.
    (I have been out of the saddle for some years, and laid up – hence the my weight at the moment.)
    I know cattle horses are pretty robust, but would value advice.
    I would be grateful for a quick reply

    • Many quarter horses and appaloosas are quite sturdy, even though they are not very tall. The variable factors here are:

      1) you say she is short coupled. A short-backed horse typically cannot wear a longer saddle because it will extend over the 12th rib where the horse’s weight carrying capacity is less. I’m not terribly familiar with Western saddles and how they distribute weight, but it is the case with English saddles.

      2) How “lightly” do you ride? A rider who is in control of his own body and who moves with the horse is easier for a horse to carry than a lighter rider who flops around and hits the seat hard.

      3) How broad is the horse. A horse with well sprung ribs will take up a lot more of your leg than a horse that is slab-sided.

  12. I’m about 5’9ish, 160lbs and looking seriously into an Appy who is 15.2hh.. what do you think of this match? would like to do lowish jumping, some xctry, ringwork and trails… his owner is about the same…but lighter :)
    Would like some feedback please?

  13. Hiya,
    I am 13 years old (14 in May) and I am setting up a case to try and persuade my parents to let me share a horse. I have looked at it financially and we can afford it (it costs less than my riding lessons), before you say anything.
    I want to know what height would be good, to show I have it all planned out. I am 5ft 1 inch and weigh 112 pounds. I am quite leggy, but not too much. Keeping in mind I am growing, what height horse would be good? Thanks!

    • Hi Sarah,
      You are at height where you have a lot of flexibility on what you ride. Providing that you are sharing a horse, rather than buying one, I wouldn’t worry too much about outgrowing it. I’d look for a horse that’s maybe 15 hands or so, but also one that is broad through the rib cage so it takes up your leg.

  14. Hi. I
    m hoping to get a horse that is 15.3 hans and I’m 5 ft 1 in and weigh about 90 pounds (im 15 but im small for my age) would this horse be suitable? Thanks!

  15. I am 11years old and I am 4 foot 9 inches but still slowly growing. I have no idea how tall the horse at my riding stables is and she is the one I ride. I weigh about 6 stone to 6 stone 3 pounds. What would be the best size horse to get?
    Many thaks,
    Saskia

  16. hi,
    I am 13 and thinking of getting a horse i am about 5 foot 9 ish (talll) and i have long legs.
    What kind of size would a Welsh x trotter need to be for me please?
    Many Regards Carla xx

    • Height of a horse is one thing to consider, but you should also keep in mind how wide a horse is. A horse with a larger barrel will take up more of your leg than one that is slab sided. For someone who is just 13 and already 5’9″ you probably will need a horse that is a minimum of 16 hands.

  17. I think weight is more of an issue rather than height i am 5’6″ and 7 1/2 stone and i own a 15.3hh thoroughbred yet i used to ride a 13.2hh. Horses can carry around 20% of their own body weight. Some horses for example icelandics can carry 33% of their body weight.

    • Wow, 6″11 is tall! With that kind of height you will also need to take into consideration his weight and the length of his legs vs. his body. Many men have longer torsos so you might find that he doesn’t need a huge horse (maybe 16.2- 17.2) but one that has well sprung ribs and a relatively long back (to balance out his torso).

  18. Hi I’m just about to take up horse riding agin and I was wonder what size horse is suited for my hight/weight I am 145cm tall and I weigh 32kg

  19. I am 12 years old roughly 7.12st and just under 5ft i have been riding for 4 years what size and breed of horse/pony would i need

  20. Hi, I’m 16, currently have three horses I use for carriage driving, but have room for one more! – a riding horse.
    I am around 5,10 and slim. I prefer stocky builds.

    What height would be best for me?

    • I would probably start around 16 hands and maybe go up to 16.2 or 16.3. If the horse has a large barrel then it will take up more of your leg than one with a slim, narrow build. Personally, I am nearly 6′ tall. My own horse is about 16.1 but takes up my leg nicely. Larger horses often come with soundness issues so I prefer to go with a horse that is “just big enough.”

    • At 5’5″ I’d probably start with a horse around 15 – 15’2″. If your legs are really long you might need a horse that’s closer to 16″.

  21. Help please =)
    I’m 18 and have been riding a while and am looking to buy my first horse.
    At my riding school the horse I prefer riding is 15hh.
    I’m only 5″2, but I’m around 11st.
    What height horse would be good for me?
    I don’t really want a heavy weight cob, as I’d like to get into jumping. =/
    Thanks

  22. Hello , help needed !! I’m 12 and 5 foot 8 and around 7-8 stone , I am looking at a 14.2hh welsh pony and wondering wether i would be too big for him ? I usually ride horses around 15.3 – 16hh but just this year I have had a 13.1hh new forest and I didn’t find that he struggled at all .. Do you think I should keep my options open and find a bigger horse ?

    • It depends on a couple of things. At 12, you may still grow some more. At 5’8″, you are probably already close to being too tall for a pony that’s only 14.2 — not too tall to actually ride him, but you will start to look tall on him for competition. Is your height in your legs or in your torso? If your upper body is long, you might start to look large on him, however, if the pony is built with a wide barrel, and your legs are long, you might be fine.

  23. I am 12 years old roughly 7.12st and just under 5ft i have been riding for 4 years what size and breed of horse/pony would i need! please help i’m starting to get desperate to find out!!!!

  24. hi there, i was looking at getting my own horse next year, i am 11 years old and im currently riding at !!! do u think i should buy a 17.2 hh horse.
    BTW i am also 9 1/2 stone.
    thanks luke gough

    • 17.2″ is a big horse and larger horses are prone to soundness issues. My philosophy is that you should buy a horse that is big enough for you but not too big. Unless you are very, very tall you probably do not need a horse that big. I’m almost 6′ tall and my horse is about 16.1.

  25. I’m around 5’10” at 14 years old(almost 15, and hopefully done growing) and weigh about 125 lbs on average. Most of my height is in my legs, and while I felt comfortable riding a 15 or so hand Arabian, I personally think I looked too big for her. I would like to eventually buy my own horse once I’m more experienced, but I don’t know exactly what breeds / sizes would look best for my frame. Also, I’ve been riding English pleasure but would like to advance to jumping/ eventing, and maybe dressage. Any suggestions?

  26. Hi,
    Im 11 and 5’3, and i weigh 7 1/2, 8 stones(I am skinny though its just muscle from doing track and field a lot). My mom is thinking about letting me get a horse and i wanted to know what size.
    Thanks.

  27. hi i am 13 and i weigh 6 and a half to 7 stone and im 5 foot 1 i currently have a 14.2 jumping 1.20 -1.30 tracks do i need a bigger horse as i want him to be balenced and comfy going in to the jump recently he has been stopping could it be that im to big for him he is a connamara !!

  28. Well my problem is I am a RESPECTABLE 5` 1”.and im not sure how high the horse I choose needs to be. I used to have a horse that was fairly tall. He was probably at least 17 or 18 hands high and he was difficult for me to get on. Please help with any advice.

    • At 5’1″ there’s no need for you to ride a horse that is so large! You would probably be just fine with a horse that is around 15 hands.

  29. Hi, i’m 18 and 10 stone. I’ve always ridden horses around the 15.1 area. I’m about to b uy my own for the first time and wonder if a 15.2 would be okay for me? I have loaned a 16.3 and ever since have loved bigger horses, but I’ve found a stunner that I love but don’t want to buy something i’m going be too big for :(

  30. Hi,
    I am loaning a pony who is around 14.2hh, I am 21 and stand at 5ft/8stone. I haven’t grown in years so I know I am not changing. I know she is small but I am not very confident and she is the sweetest little tiny I have ever known.
    I love this pony so much but I am sometimes worried I am really to big for her? I don’t want to do her any harm and she isn’t very wide but I do feel comfortable on her as I am so short. A lady I ride with said she thinks I am fine for this pony, that she could comfortable hold 8 and half stone and I shouldn’t worry!
    Any advice would be grateful.

    • I think the lady you ride with is right. You will not do her any harm and if you are comfortable on her and enjoy the ride, don’t feel you must get a larger horse. I fox hunt with a lady who rides a pony — can’t even be 14 hands. She has a blast and the pony keeps up great.

  31. Hello, I’m wondering if I’m too big for my pony. I’m 117lbs and am 5’8″, I’m a light weight rider and have quite long legs :) my pony however is 14.1-14.2hh and is a lightweight to medium weight cob build with not much feather. I’m guessing she is around 500kg and she is only rising 4 xx I’m wondering if anyone could help me out here, I may have to get a bigger horse otherwise?
    Thanks so much, Sophie

  32. hello
    i have never learnt how to ride a horse because of my size, now i am 6’4″ and weigh about 300lb, i am denfitally wanting to learn to riding and i would like to learn on my own horse.
    i would much appreciate if anyone knows what size horse/ breed i would require?
    money is no issue and i have my own stables which i built but currently use for other livestock, they measure 24′ by 16′ internally, now would this be a problem for the breed you are suggesting?

    please send me a reply soon.

    thank you

    • Learning to ride on your own horse is not always the best idea because the horse that is ideal to learn on is not always the horse you want to ride later.

      I recommend finding a good lesson barn where they have large enough horses to accommodate you comfortably. You have to learn how to support your own weight and height and not interfere with your horse. If you can become a balanced and light rider, you will then be ready to buy your own horse.

      You might find that you need to buy your own saddle as many schools don’t have tack to accommodate people who are so much taller than the general lesson taker.

  33. I love my 15.3 hh horse he is so sweet he is called Bopp ! plz post any comments on good “girl” names for my new foal a little Paint Horse xxx :-p

    • Wow, at 6’3″ you might find that a 15 hand horse is too small for you but if the horse is stocky, with a big barrel, then it might work.

  34. I am about 6ft 1 bout 240 my horse is about the same height is me or about 2 inches taller what would be his height and does that suit me?

  35. I thought I might chime in…I like your recommendations to look at numerous factors including bone, width and conformation. I think it’s also good to consider the kind of riding one is going to do. I’m 5’6″ and prefer about 16hh give or take a few inches. Most of the competitive cow horses I know (quite beefy, lots of bone, good back to underbelly ratio), run in th e 15 hh range. One that I rode was nearly a foot shorter than my 16hh horse, but was so wide and well proportioned he ‘rode’ like a MUCH bigger horse. Great for a horse that needs to chase steers, not great for a hunter or dressage horse. I’ve also had the reverse be true. Recently riding a 17hh TB who feels much smaller than my 16hh guy. Quite narrow and short strided. Unsuitable for dressage or jumping, his great personality is going to make him a terrific trail horse for his rather short rider. Striking adults on small ponies, The only thing that doesn’t work IMO, is a horse so large that the rider, in correct position, can’t effectively use their lower leg to contain/direct/cue the horse. Interesting topic!

  36. Hi !!!! I’m 5,6 verging on 5,7 and weigh about 6 stone ! I often ride ponys ranging from 12 hands to 16 hands on any of the I look neither to big or small ! Smaller ponys tend to be stronger and I have even jumped about 2 foot with them ! They never struggle to carry me and I love riding them ! I’m 14 btw :D

  37. I find that the horses wither should be at your eyeline, Im 15 and 5ft7 and a 16hh horse seems to fit me just fine :) my sister is 11 but she’s tall for her age, so she would probably fit a 15hh or 15.1 quite nicely. really though, its whatever your confortable on, personally i feel more confortable on bigger horses, though i’m light enough to ride the smaller ponies :) xoxo

  38. hi i am 13 i weigh about 35 kg and i am about 150cm tall what size should i be looking for? i have long legs and have ridden quite big ponies in the past

  39. Hi! I am 14 yrs old and have been riding for 4 yrs. I am 5’2 and a 1/2 – 5’3 in height and probably won’t grow anymore (the doctor is pretty certain I’m done)! I am slim in built but have a long torso. About 110 – 115 lbs which translates to about 8 or so stone. I am fairly petite and usually have to wear shorter clothing because of this. I have ridden tons of different horses – from barely 11hh to a whopping 18hh percheron x tb who is built like a tank! My sis has a 14hh haflinger who is super sweet and really lovely to ride and be around. Perfect personality! He isn’t built like a tank but isn’t delicate/thin either! Feel comfortable on him and most people think he is a good size for me . . . but some people insist I go taller !! Ahh !! Don’t know what to do because I love ponies and they are my preference. Really would love a mount between 14hh and 15hh. So either a large pony or a small horse. What size is best for me?

  40. Hi! I am 14 years and 5’7 and 125 ponds and I just got a nice OTTB thoroughbred mare who is 15.3 but is built nice. I am just scared I wont Fit her…Please Help!

    • Your horse sounds like she will be a good size for you but keep in mind just your height/weight and your horse’s size aren’t enough information to guarantee fit. Some of it will depend on your proportions in relation to your horse’s. If she has a short back and you have a long torso you may feel “tippy”. If she is very narrow and your legs are very long, you may feel that it’s hard to keep your leg on her. If she feels “right” then don’t worry.

    • no, it’s a 17hh horse, and it’s a thoroughbred, it should be perfectly capable of holding you. My friend is your weight and she rides a 16.2hh thoroughbred. hope this helps!

  41. I prefer smaller horses; I’m 5’8 and around 120 pounds and I feel absolutely comfortable on a 14.2hh horse. Whether the horse could carry my weight or not is a mystery, however I just prefer them to be smaller – I feel like I have more control with them.

    • You certainly won’t be too large for him :). Some 16.1 hand horses ride “bigger” than others, depending on the size of their barrel. If you don’t feel too small, you should be fine.

  42. i am ten years old and 4′ 8″ What size of horse should I get? I ride once a week and have a barn where other riders could ride the horse or pony regularly. So I am confident on everything else but the size of pony I should get. Please HELP ANYBODY!

  43. I’m 5.8 feet tall and weigh 16 stone.. what sort of horse would be suitable for me? I do realise I’m overweight…
    I’m wanted to ride a Lusitano which is around 15.4… i have been told they’re strong but I’m still not sure if it would be about to carry me?
    Any answers will be helpful :) :)

    • A lot depends on how lightly you ride . . . if you are able to control your own balance and your own body, you can ride pretty “lightly” even at 16 stone. I’ve seen plenty of very thin people who flopped around on a horse’s back and actually bothered the horse more. However, some of the Iberian breeds are very short-backed and as a larger rider, you will need a larger saddle. You can’t put a large saddle on a short-backed horse because the back of the saddle will protrude beyond the last rib onto a part of the back that is weaker because there is no structural support.

      So a Lusitano might not be the best choice for you. Consider a longer-backed breed and make sure that you are as fit as you can be so that you can ride strong in the saddle and stay out of your horse’s way.

  44. Hi I’m a 13 year old girl that weighs a bit over 40kgs & I’m a confident beginner. I was wondering what size horse would be the best for me.

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