How to Calculate a Foal's Height


Young horses grow significantly during their first year of life, some individuals reaching 90 percent of their adult height. A foal is a horse, of either gender, who is less than a year old. Measuring a foal is not particularly difficult, but the size of a foal is not always useful in determining the final height the horse will reach as an adult.

Measuring Horse Height

Foals are measured with the same standard method used to measure all horses. Equine height is calculated by measuring from the very bottom of the hoof to the top of the withers, the ridge created by the horse's shoulder bones. It is the bump where the top of the shoulder connects to the neck and it is normally the highest point of the back.

Follow these steps to measure a foal:

  • Place a halter on your foal and attach a lead rope to the halter. Have a helper hold your foal as still as possible so you can get an accurate measurement.
  • Have your helper work with your foal to get him to stand as square as possible. Standing square means that the front feet and rear feet will be even with one another, and your foal will be putting equal weight on all legs. He should look like he could be placed inside a rectangular box with one leg on each corner. 
  • Use a measuring stick or tape measure to measure from the very top of the withers to the ground next to your foal's front foot. It does not matter which side you measure your horse from, but you need to try to get the measuring tape or stick to form as straight a line as possible.
  • Take note of your foal's height in inches or centimeters depending on your preference.

Calculating Height

Horses are often measured in a unique measuring unit called a hand. A hand is equivalent to 4 inches. To calculate your foal's height in hands, take your measurement in inches and divide that number by 4. For example, if your foal measures 49 inches, divide 49 by 4 to get 12.25. This means your foal is 12 hands and 1 inch tall, or 12.1 hands. If he were 50 inches tall, he'd measure 12.2 hands tall.

If you are outside the United States and you measured your horse in centimeters, your work may already be done for you. Many countries outside the United States measure horses in centimeters, so you can simply use that measurement as it stands.

Your Growing Horse

Your foal's height will change frequently and rapidly throughout his first two years of life. He will not be finished growing until he is between 5 and 7 years old. You can attempt to approximate your horse's mature height by assessing the height and build of his parents and charting the foal's growth, but many factors can affect growth. You will have to periodically re-measure your foal as he grows if you want to keep an accurate record of his height.

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