There are many breeds of horses and they come in all shapes and sizes. This means that there are a lot of factors that contribute to appropriate weight for your horse. Weight management is a key part of maintaining your horse’s health.
If a horse weighs too much or too little it can negatively affect their quality of life in many ways. Obesity can lead to several diseases including laminitis and Equine Metabolic Syndrome. A horse that is too thin may be less able to deal with infection and will not be able to perform or compete effectively. It is important to work with your veterinarian and use body condition scoring to maintain your horse at an ideal weight.
Heavy Horses vs. Light Horses
Similar to dogs, horses have been bred to serve different purposes over the years. Racehorses such as Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, and Arabians tend to have sleeker, more athletic looking builds. Draft breeds like Clydesdales, Percherons, and Haflingers were bred for pulling carts and heavy farm labor, so they are stockier. There are also many breeds of ponies with varying body types.
Typical horse weight covers a large range:
Miniature horses: 100-200 pounds
Ponies of various breeds: 300-800 pounds
Lighter breed horses (i.e., Thoroughbreds): 900-1400 pounds
Larger draft breeds: up to 1800 pounds
How Much Do Foals Weigh?
Foals typically weigh about 10% of their mother’s weight when they are born. They grow quickly, typically 3-4 pounds a day in the first few weeks, almost doubling their weight by the end of the first month. Most foals will reach full height by 18 months but will continue to grow to some degree as their growth plates close over the next several years.
How Are Horses Weighed?
The most common method to weigh horses on a farm is to use a weight tape. This is a strip of specifically designed measuring tape that is wrapped around the horse's chest just behind the withers. It is very important to place the tape in the correct location to ensure the measurement is as accurate as possible.
If you don’t have a weight tape, your horse’s weight can also be estimated by measuring the circumference of the horse around the chest just behind the withers and measuring the length of the horse from shoulder to hip.
The following calculation can then be used to estimate the horse’s weight (all length measurements in inches):
Circumference behind withers x Circumference behind the withers x Body length ÷ 300 = Body weight in pounds
Both methods only give an estimation and can vary greatly from the horse's actual weight depending on their body type, but can be very useful for determining medication doses in the field where a scale is not available. Horses are usually only weighed when they go to a referral hospital that has access to a scale large enough to hold them. Veterinarians in these hospitals use the scale to get the most accurate weight for medications, anesthesia, and to help determine treatment.
Body condition scoring is a more useful measurement for determining a horse’s nutritional needs. This measurement looks at body fat in certain areas of the horse to determine how close they are to an ideal weight on a scale of 1-9. An ideal body condition score on the Henneke scale is a 5.
Featured Image: iStock.com/AsyaPozniak
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