Horse Height Measurement How To
When measuring horses we tend to use a unit of measurement called “hands” (one hand is equal to 4 inches) or using the metric unit of measurement, centimetres. The measurement is usually taken from the bottom of the horse (the ground) to the top of the horse’s withers.
Traditionally, the “hand” unit of measurement is representative of the width of the average person’s hand. So if a horse is 1.5 metres high in modern metric units of measurement which is slightly over 59 inches then the horse would be said to be almost 15.75 or 15 and three quarters “hands high” or “hh”. The term used for height measurement of a horse is “hands high” or “hh”.
As horse riders we are mostly concerned about the external appearance but also the well-being of the animals that we love. Here’s an overview of the different aspects of horses:
- Back – the area where the saddle sits, beginning at the end of the withers, extending to the last thoracic vertebrae (colloquially includes the loin or “coupling,” though technically incorrect usage)
- Barrel – the body of the horse, enclosing the rib cage and the major internal organs
Buttock – the part of the hindquarters behind the thighs and below the root of the tail
- Cannon or Cannon Bone – the area between the knee or hock and the fetlock joint, sometimes called the “shin” of the horse, though technically it is the metacarpal III
- Chestnut – a callosity on the inside of each leg
- Chin Groove – the part of the horse’s head behind the lower lip and chin, the area that dips down slightly on the lower jaw; area where the curb chain of certain bits is fastened
- Coupling – see “Loin” below
- Coronet or Coronary Band – the ring of soft tissue just above the horny hoof that blends into the skin of the leg
- crest – the upper portion of the neck where the mane grows
- croup – the topline of the hindquarters, beginning at the hip, extending proximate to the sacral vertebrae and stopping at the dock of the tail (where the coccygeal vertebrae begin); sometimes called “rump”
- dock – the living part of the tail, consisting of the coccygeal vertebrae, muscles and ligaments. Sometimes used colloquially to refer to the root of the tail, below.
- elbow – The joint of the front leg at the point where the belly of the horse meets the leg. Homologous to the elbow in humans
- ergot – a callosity on the back of the fetlock
- face – the area between the forehead and the tip of the upper lip
- fetlock – sometimes called the “ankle” of the horse, though it is not the same skeletal structure as an ankle in humans; known to anatomists as the metacarpophalangeal (front) or metatarsophalangeal (hind) joint; homologous to the “ball” of the foot or the metacarpophalangeal joints of the fingers in humans
- flank – where the hind legs and the barrel meet, specifically the area right behind the rib cage and in front of the stifle joint
- forearm – the area of the front leg between the knee and elbow, consisting of the fused radius and ulna, and all the tissue around these bones; anatomically, the antebrachium.
- forehead – the area between the poll, the eyes and the arch of the nose
- forelock – the continuation of the mane, which hangs from between the ears down onto the forehead of the horse
- frog – the highly elastic wedge-shaped mass on the underside of the hoof, which normally makes contact with the ground every stride, and supports both the locomotion and circulation of the horse
- gaskin – the large muscle on the hind leg, just above the hock, below the stifle, homologous to the calf of a human
- girth or heartgirth – the area right behind the elbow of the horse, where the girth of the saddle would go; this area should be where the barrel is at its greatest diameter in a properly-conditioned horse that is not pregnant or obese
- hindquarters – the large, muscular area of the hind legs, above the stifle and behind the barrel
- hock – the tarsus of the horse (hindlimb equivalent to the human ankle and heel), the large joint on the hind leg
- hoof – the foot of the horse; the hoof wall is the tough outside covering of the hoof that comes into contact with the ground and is, in many respects, a much larger and stronger version of the human fingernail
- jugular groove – the line of indentation on the lower portion of the neck, can be seen from either side, just above the windpipe; beneath this area run the jugular vein, the carotid artery and part of the sympathetic trunk
- knee – the carpus of the horse (equivalent to the human wrist), the large joint in the front legs, above the cannon bone
- loin – the area right behind the saddle, going from the last rib to the croup, anatomically approximate to the lumbar spine
- mane – long and relatively coarse hair growing from the dorsal ridge of the neck
- muzzle – the chin, mouth, and nostrils of the face
- pastern – the connection between the coronet and the fetlock, made up of the middle and proximal phalanx
- poll – commonly refers to the poll joint at the beginning of the neck, immediately behind the ears, a slight depression at the joint where the atlas (C1) meets the occipital crest; anatomically, the occipital crest itself is the “poll”
root of the tail or root of the dock: the point where the tail is “set on” (attached) to the rump; Sometimes also called the “dock”
- shoulder: made up of the scapula and associated muscles, runs from the withers to the point of shoulder (the joint at the front of the chest, i.e. the glenoid); the angle of the shoulder has a great effect on the horse’s movement and jumping ability, and is an important aspect of equine conformation
- splints – bones found on each of the legs, on either side of the cannon bone (8 total); partially vestigial, these bones support the corresponding carpal bones in the forelimb, and the corresponding tarsal bones in the hindlimb; anatomically referred to as Metacarpal/Metatarsal II (on the medial aspect (inside)) and IV (on the lateral aspect (outside))
- stifle – corresponds to the knee of a human, consists of the articulation between femur and tibia, as well as the articulation between patella and femur
- tail – the long hairs which grow from the dock; may also include the dock
- throatlatch (also, throttle, throatlash, throat ) – the point at which the windpipe meets the head at the underside of the jaw, corresponding to where the eponymous part of a bridle goes.
- withers – the highest point of the thoracic vertebrae, the point just above the tops of the shoulder blades, seen best with horse standing square and head slightly lowered; the height of the horse is measured at the withers.