Horse Term: Hands High

I believe this particular term used to describe a horse’s height isn’t Australian. It’s a term commonly used by many horse people around the world.

This horse is over 16 hands high! Photo by Kathie Thomas.
This horse is over 16 hands high! Photo by Kathie Thomas.

Jacqui and her friends ride ponies more often then they do horses. A pony is known to be 14.2 hands high, or shorter. Horses and ponies are measured in hands and can be as small as 7 hands high, right up to over 21 hands high – wow! It depends on their breed.

A hand is equivalent to 10 centimetres or 4 inches. One inch is 2.5 centimetres. So 4 inches multiplied by 2.5cm is equal to 10 centimetres.

So let’s consider a pony that is 14 hands high. If we multiply 14 by 10 centimetres, we will have a pony that is 140 centimetres high. Now this height isn’t measured up to the horse’s head. It is instead measured from the bottom of the hoof, up their front leg, all the way to the top of the wither. All horses and ponies are measured this way.

If a pony is 14.2 hands high, this means it is 14 hands and two inches high. So this would be 140 centimetres plus 2 times 2.5 centimetres. In total, the pony is 145 centimetres high at its wither. The wither is the point where the mane ends and the back starts. It is also the point where we put the front of the saddle on the horse.

Captain, the horse ridden often by Jacqui’s mother Kate is over 16 hands high, or 160 centimetres at the wither. That’s taller than me!

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