Measurement Procedure for Horses and Ponies

Use of the following step-by-step procedure for consistent, accurate measurement of horses and ponies. Iowa 4-H rules indicate the following:

  • Horses – 14.1 hands (56 inches) and over
  • Ponies – under 14.1 hands (56 inches)

An equine may be measured at the discretion of show management, or upon filing of a grievance by another exhibitor. The measurement taken at that time will supersede any previous measurement, providing the following procedure is followed.

  1. Position the animal on a smooth, level surface. Concrete or asphalt is preferred.
  2. Stand the animal square, with the animal’s weight equally distributed on all four feet.
  3. Allow the horse to stand in a relaxed manner, and then determine the highest point of the withers
  4. Place the vertical arm of the measuring stick squarely on the ground and the horizontal arm of the stick over the highest point of the withers (Figure 1). Measurements taken anywhere other than the highest point of the withers will not be considered representative of the animal’s true height.
  5. Measure the animal twice, once on each side for accuracy. Record the average of the two measurements as the animal’s true height.
  6. If the animal is wearing shoes, deduct 1/4 inch to determine the official height.
Measuring horses
Figure 1. Illustration of the placement of a measuring stick


  • The measuring stick must be straight and unbendable, and should have a vertical and a horizontal level. Equines should not be measured after strenuous work.
  • Measurements taken when the animal is stretched are unacceptable.
  • The animal must be allowed to hold its head in a relaxed and natural position.
  • Measurement of the toe and heel is recommended if the measurer believes the hooves have been altered