Poll Recap: Horse Height

Of the 1,150 respondents, 440 (38%) said their ideal horse would stand at least 15 hands but less than 16 hands, while 293 (25%) said they’d prefer a horse that was 16 hands or taller.

Photo: Thinkstock

If you could choose your horse’s height, how tall would he be? Are you a fan of large-scale draft horses? What about a Miniature Horse? Or maybe you prefer something somewhere in the middle.

Last week, we asked our readers what they considered to be an ideal height for a horse. More than 1,100 people responded and we’ve tallied the results!

Of the 1,150 respondents, 440 (38%) said their ideal horse would stand at least 15 hands but less than 16 hands, while 293 (25%) said they’d prefer a horse that was 16 hands or taller. Another 259 individuals (23%) chose at least 14 hands but less than 15 hands tall, and 37 respondents (3%) preferred horses 14 hands or shorter. The remaining 121 respondents (11%) said the horse’s height doesn’t matter.

Additionally, more than 200 people commented about their ideal height for a horse. Here are a few of their comments: 

Several respondents commented that they preferred a horse that was 16 hands high or taller:

  • “I prefer 16 hands and up, but I'm okay with 15 hands. I just like the larger strides in bigger horses.”
  • “I'm not exactly jockey sized and 16+ hands fits, especially if it's a draft-cross.”
  • “I am 5'7" with long legs, so 16 hands just fits my leg length.”
  • “I am 5'8" so my height is best suited for 15 hands plus, but I love a 16-hand-plus horse with good muscle mass.”
  • “I'm 5'8 so I prefer 16 hands and larger, but I would consider a big bodied 15.2-3-hand horse.”
  • “I love 16 to 16.2 hands. It's a great size for eventing.”
  • “16.2 is perfect to me.”
  • “Both mine are 16.1 hands. I love big horses, although it's a long way down.”
  • “I like a horse over 16 but under 17 hands for eventing. Nice size for jumping, but athletic.”
  • “I prefer just over 16 hands for dressage. I'm a petite rider but like the extra crossing.”

Some readers preferred horses that stand 15 hands to 16 hands tall:

  • “15 hands is ideal, but most important is for the horse be built properly to carry me.”
  • “For me, around 15 hands is perfect, but the build of the horse is much more important than the height.”
  • “I'm tall, so I can't truly say that height doesn't matter. I prefer a horse around 15.3 hands though!”
  • “15-16 hands seems the right size for a person who is 5'4" tall.”

Others said they like horses that are 14 hands to 15 hands tall:

  • “It doesn't really matter. Mine have all been 14 to 15 hands. I'm a 5'3" barrel racer, so they've been good size.”
  • “14.3-15 hands has always been my preference for endurance but my champion mare is 14.2 hands.”
  • “I like my Quarter Horses to be right around 14.1 to 14.2 hands. I'm short so it's easier to get on and off.”
  • “My four Morgan mares stand between 14 and 15 hands, the best height for my height (5'1").”
  • “I find that a horse that stands 14.2 hands is more my size than one that is larger.”

Numerous respondents commented on why they favored a taller horse:

  • “I'm 5'10" and have really long legs so I need a horse that is nice and tall!”
  • “I need a bigger horse to match my longer torso and fill out my legs.”
  • “Tall horses are better for multiple disciplines.”
  • “I like big horses, they cover more ground.”
  • “It’s ideal for the hunter horse to be taller, more marketable.”
  • “I'm almost 6' tall, so need a larger horse to take up leg so I won't look too big for the horse.”
  • “We breed and show hunter under saddle horses. Height helps”
  • “I ride hunters and jumpers, and height typically goes with that. Plus, I like the big horses.”
  • “If you want to show AQHA in English you must have a horse at least 16 hands.”
  • “I prefer tall horses due to my height.”
  • “Larger horses often but not always have nice large strides.”
  • “I just love big horses!”

Whereas several others shared why they prefer a shorter horse:

  • “Smaller horses are usually more athletic and wear their bodies less than bigger horses.”
  • “As I get older I like to be closer to the ground!”
  • “I'm short, so a shorter horse (or mule, in my case) is easier to saddle and mount.”
  • “I'm a small person and fit better on a smaller horse.”
  • “Smaller horses are just easier for me to handle, as I am very petite.”
  • “Just above waist height is best.”
  • “Smallest I can ride. I love my Connemara ponies.”
  • “I am both short and old, so it is a lot easier to mount/dismount on a shorter horse.”
  • “We're all about the Minis!”
  • “I am short so tacking up is easier on shorter horse/pony.”
  • “I have always liked smaller breeds and it makes tacking and mounting easier.”
  • “As I have gotten older, I prefer a shorter horse.”

And some respondents commented that a horse’s height doesn’t matter:

  • “Height doesn't matter. I'm more concerned with the horse's disposition.”
  • “Height has never mattered to me. Good conformation and attitude trump any height.”
  • “I've had two 14.3 hand geldings and a 16-hand mare. All wonderful horses. Height made no difference.”
  • “It's more important how they move and how they're ‘built.’”
  • “I do carriage driving so height is not so important.”
  • “I ride dressage so as long as the horse has talent then it doesn't matter to me.”
  • “It depends more on build and conformation than height.”
  • “It's the heart of the horse that matters.”
  • “All that matters is the horse's potential.”
  • “Size doesn't matter; balanced conformation is what should matter for the chosen discipline.”
  • “It's what best suits the rider that is important.”

Others left general comments about horse height:

  • “My pure-bred Arabs have ranged from 14.3 to 16.3 hands; I ride hunters, barrels, and dressage.”
  • “I like a horse I can see over.”
  • “I like to see the terrain ahead of me, but I need to be able to mount in the field.”
  • “I like shire horses a lot, partly because they are big and look really majestic.”
  • “Previously, I preferred 15-15.2 hands, as I got older bought a horse 14.1 hands. Easier all the way around!”
  • “If the horse has a good conformation, his height is ideal too. Rider weight proportioned to horse weight.”
  • “My horses have gotten shorter as my age has increased!”
  • “I am a draft horse owner.”
  • “Riding a small horse feels like being on someone's pony!”
  • “Draft horse, the only way to ride!”
  • “It depends on what purpose the horse is intended for and its talent.”
  • “I have had from 11 hands to 17.3 hands, but it sure is easier to groom my pony!”
  • “I have had anything from 13 to 16 hands, they are all good in their way.”
  • “I want to be able to get my entire leg on the horse's side when needed.”
  • “I play polo, so don't want any elephants, but I am tall so don't need a pony either.”
  • “I've had horses from 14.2 to 18.1 hands. Soundness is the most important thing.”

You can find additional resources on how to measure your horse’s height, variations in equine body conformation, how conformation flaws affect the equine athlete, and more at TheHorse.com!

This week, we want to know: Have you ever owned a horse with equine protozoal myeloencephalitis? Vote now and tell us about your experiences at TheHorse.com/polls!

The results of our weekly polls are published in The Horse Health e-Newsletter, which offers news on diseases, veterinary research, health events, and in-depth articles on common equine health conditions and what you can do to recognize, avoid, or treat them. Sign up for our e-newsletters on our homepage and look for a new poll on TheHorse.com.

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