For a more accurate measurement,


We all know that muscle weighs more, based on volume, than fat. A high degree of muscling is one of the breed characteristics of the Quarter Horse.

A few years back we asked Foundation Quarter Horse members to include the height and weight of their foundation Quarter Horses on their registration applications. And, we noticed what seemed to be a curious trend -- horses that, in the majority, fall well within breed standards as far as height, but not when it comes to their weight. Since our breed standards are based on actual advertised weights of well known Foundation Quarter Horse sires this left us to wonder . . . has the amount of muscling in the 90-100% foundation bred horse deteriorated so drastically over the last 40 years from that possessed by their close ancestors? Or perhaps the weights of horses were mis-reported in advertising by every major breeder in the country? Or could it be that those currently registering horses with FQHA are estimating the weights of their horses based on the current methods available? We believe it may be due to the latter.

Besides muscling, there is another aspect of true Quarter Horse conformation that will affect the readings of a weight tape. A Quarter Horse will typically exhibit a shallower heart girth and a bigger barrel. This type of lung capacity is different from the conformation of the typical thoroughbred. Look at enough of the pictures of the foundation horses of this breed and you will see what I am talking about.

The following is a brief story to illustrate the point of the inaccuracy of weigh tapes. I had a little dun mare a few years ago that was heavy with Jimmy Mac Bee and old Heart Ranch breeding. She wasn’t a bit over 14-2. But she was typical of her breed with plenty of good Quarter Horse muscling. Not one of those freaks like you see in most of the AQHA Halter classes these days, just good working muscle. This was a 100% foundation mare.

Having worked with her quite a bit and also having listened to the shoer complain about how heavy she was when she leaned on him occasionally, I was always surprised to see that when measured by the "tape method" she barely broke 1000 pounds.

Well, one day after a trip to the vet for a pre-breeding examine, I drove by some truck scales with her in the trailer and thought, "why not?" I drove on to the scales, had the truck, and horse trailer weighed with her in it, and then headed home to unload old Betty.

I was careful to leave all the manure in the trailer, remove nothing from the truck or trailer but the mare herself, and then I headed back for a another weigh in. The scale was only about 4 miles from the ranch so I wasn’t to worried about the fuel I was burning affecting the final weight. The difference between weigh-ins told me that my dun mare weighed a whopping 1280 pounds (in good flesh). Quite a difference from the tape’s weight table. She was a Quarter Horse, she was built like a Quarter Horse and she was dense.

To this day I no longer trust a weight tape when I am using it on a foundation Quarter Horse. So, if at all possible, weigh your Foundation Quarter Horses. 

Bill Cody, bred by the King Ranch, was the 1952 AQHA Honor Roll Halter Horse. He exhibits excellent foundation Quarter Horse conformation, and he is also typical of the true Quarter Horse body type that will not reflect an accurate weight when using a weight tape.



Dr. Bob Wright, G. Rietveld, and P. Lawlis

Calculating dosages for de-wormers or antibiotics requires the accurate determination of the correct weight of the horse or pony. An incorrect weight estimation may result in over-dosing or under-dosing the animal. Both scenarios can be detrimental to the health of the horse.

Several methods can be used to determine a horse’s weight. The use of a weigh scale is the most accurate way to determine a horse’s weight. Scales are not an item commonly found on most horse farms. However, horses could be taken to locations in the community, where weigh scales are available, such as grain elevators and land fill sites. Standardize when weights will be taken since feeding and watering will significantly affect the differences in weight between readings.

Weight Tape

Weight tapes are readily available in most tack and feed shops. The weight is determined by wrapping the tape around the heart girth of the horse, directly behind the elbow, overlapping the ends of the tape, and reading the resultant weight. The reading should be taken with the tape snugly in place, at the time of respiratory expiration.

Tape accuracy is dependent on the user, the breed of horse and age. They are useless on miniature horses and foals. They are also inaccurate on high withered horses.

Editor’s Note: They are also inaccurate on heavy muscled horses of Foundation Quarter Horse bloodlines.


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