Horse 101: Hands

photo of woman wearing black dress beside horse
Photo by Renato Abati on

In the equestrian world exists an odd yet very common term. It is a method of measurement used in determining a horses’ height. The term used to describe the height of a horse is called, “Hands.”

Much like feet, inches, and meters; “Hands” hold their own specific value. Many people know that 12 inches equals 1 foot.

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But what exactly is a Hand? Is there any common measurement that can be used to explain a “Hand”? Does it literally mean the actual length of a hand? And whose hand!? A child or adult sized hand??

1 Hand = 4 inches (10.16 cm)

This is the standard equation of explaining, in universal language, what a Hand equates to.

When written on paper, the measurement will look something like this:

15.2 hh

Which denotes a horse that measures 15.2 hands

Turning Hands to Feet:

A horse that measures 5 feet 2 inches, will be described as 15.2 hands.

Image result for horse measuring stick
An Equine measuring stick

Historical Hands:

Historically, horses were a big deal in many cultures. The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Celts, and more, all rode horses as a means of survival. Horses were used for hunting, transport, and much more.

The system of trade and marketplace was no different then than it is today. The trading and buying of goods have long been an essential part of almost every person’s life.

Many attempts were made to standardize a measurement of horses since they became one of the most traded and needed by many nations and cultures.

Although some methods of measurements varied from the width of four fingers by the Egyptians, to the length of a man’s fist by other cultures; it wasn’t until King Henry VIII of England, created the first world-wide standard. The standard that he created, is the standard unit of measurement we still use today.

photo of person s open hands
Photo by Luis Quintero on

The Hand measurement system is only used in the equestrian world. In fact, to determine whether a pony is a horse or a horse a pony; the hand measurement is a definitive classifier in determining which is which.

A Pony will always be classified as a pony when it measures less than 14.2 hands (hh). Anything larger than that, is a horse.

white and black pony
Photo by David Jia on