Have you ever wondered how horses are measured? They’re not typically talked about in inches or feet but rather a unit of measurement known as a hand. But what exactly is a hand, and how did it become the standard for measuring horses? Let’s take a closer look.

The History of Using Hands to Measure Horses

The answer to this question is surprisingly simple. The relationship between horses and humans goes back thousands of years. In the earliest eras, there weren’t any standard units of measurement. You couldn’t pull out a ruler and decide how tall your horse was in feet or inches. When selling or trading, people needed to communicate essential information. So, they used what they had on them: literally their hands.

How Much is a Hand?

So how much is a hand exactly? For example, as women in the industry, our hands tend to be smaller than many men who train horses. So, who decided what the standard hand measurement was? That goes back to the 1500s, when a hand was determined to be four inches. So even though we could multiply hands by four and get inches, everyone involved in horses still uses hands as the standard.

Horse measurement is from top of the withers or where the back and neck meet, straight down to meet the ground behind the front foot. Since we don’t measure to the top of the head, a horse can seem far taller to an average person than measurements indicate.

The Smallest and Largest Horses on Record

The Guinness Book of World Records is everyone’s resource for all things extraordinary. We are fascinated with things being the biggest, smallest, longest, fastest, or any other superlative we can apply. What about horses?

The tallest horse on record was a Shire gelding named Sampson. He was born in 1846 and stood at 21.2½ hands, which is 7 feet 2.5 inches at the withers. The smallest horse was a dwarf miniature horse named Thumbelina, who measured only 17 inches high, which is only 4.25 hands.

Typical Hand Size of a Thoroughbred

At horseOlogy, though we love all horses, we work with thoroughbreds every day. So, what is the typical height of these racing horses? They average around 16 hands or a little over five feet tall at the withers. Thoroughbreds are bred for speed, so they typically are an athletic, compact body type in comparison to other breeds that may benefit from a larger or smaller frame for their discipline. Though if you don’t have a lot of experience with thoroughbreds, they’re still pretty big animals.

Are you interested in the Ology of horses? 

Follow horseOlogyonline and on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to learn more about our team, thoroughbreds, and services. Call or text us at 855-HORSIES (855-467-7437).

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horseOlogy has only limited investment opportunities in this year’s investment group.

Horses of Racing Age Be A Lady ’21 by Violence

Horses of Racing Age

We love to watch our graduates grow and be successful on the racetrack.

Horses of Racing Age Be A Lady ’21 by Violence

Yearling to Two Year Olds

We can’t wait for you to come along and experience all that these horses have to offer.

Weanlings Available

Weanlings to Yearlings

Get involved early as there are limited ownership opportunities.

Weanlings Available


Allowing our partners to take part in the breeding process from start to finish.

Developing and Training

Our approach is joining up with each horse so that they understand the process of learning through acceptance and not fear.

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Rehab and Layup

Whether it is to let them rest mentally and/or physically or an injury, wehas the means and skill set.

Horses of Racing Age Be A Lady ’21 by Violence

Sales Prep

At horseOlogy, we focus on the tiniest details that can set our horses apart in the sales ring.

Weanlings Available


horseOlogy provides a boutique experience while limiting the number of mares and foals.

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We bring years of experience evaluating conformation and pedigree to uncover the best pinhooking prospects.

Small Share Investing

A business model whereby a group of people can participate in the owning horse, which may otherwise not have been feasible.


Bloodstock Advisors

A bloodstock advisor’s services may include but are not limited to, mating, sale placement, acquisition, trainer placement, and overall management of your horse.

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