Determine Horse Weight
Using a Weight Tape

Horse weight can be easily calculated one of two ways:

So, what is a weight tape, you ask?

It's a nifty little measuring device that looks a lot like a soft tape measure. In fact, here is what mine looks like:

weight tape used to weigh horses

I'll ask that you kindly forgive the dirt...that one is about 3 years old (ancient for one of mine...they are usually lost before that!), and measures 5 horses every 2-4 weeks year round.

Also ignore the fact that it has hands calibrated on it...mine is two sided and the back side can be used to measure a horse's height.

Anyways...the big difference between a weight tape and a soft tape measure is that the weight tape is calibrated in pounds instead of inches, like so:

weight calibrations on weight tape

so we are able to simply put the tape around the horse and get an estimate of his weight.

Once you get the hang of it, its very easy...I can tape 4 of our 5 horses without haltering them in about 5 minutes while they are standing around in the pasture or barn. (Only 4 because the 5th is still convinced its a horse eating monster...) However, don't be discouraged at first -- it takes practice, and time for the horses to get used to it.

Another common question is "Where do I get a tape?" A lot of people buy them from various catalogs...but I'll let you in on a secret:

Ask your feed dealer for one before you buy one.

Most (but not all) feed dealers give them out for free (or very low cost) because its good advertising for the feed company -- you can't see it in the pictures, but my feed company's logo is splashed prominently along the "zero" end of my tape.

So how do we use the tape to get a horse weight??

I'll get there in a minute...

...but before I do, you should know (and keep in mind) the following:

A tape is nice and easy to use...thus their popularity for measuring horse weight. However, they can vary as much as 100-200 lbs from your horse’s actual weight depending on his size and build.

Because of this variance, there are a few instances I don’t recommend using the weight tape (and recommend using a scale if available or the measurements and math method instead)...

  • Whenever you are measuring a horse that is less than 700-800 pounds
  • When measuring to dose medications, especially in smaller horses
  • When measuring to dose strong dewormers

That said, I would use (and have) a tape in a pinch for any of those instances if my only two choices were weight tape or random guess and I do still use a tape on my weanlings and yearlings when I am doing my monthly weight check.

Since I’m just checking to see how much they have gained on their monthly weight check, it doesn’t really matter what my starting measurement is -- the next month’s number is still going to be 50 lbs (or however much they gain) higher, thus giving me what I want to know...that they gained 50 lbs that month.

For most things, weight tapes are still perfectly acceptable to use, especially if you

Use these tips to get the best measurement:

  • Make sure you use the same tape every time to keep a consistent measurement
  • Be certain to measure in the same spot on the horse every time
  • Take 3 measurements every time, and use the average

If you get three measurements that are really far apart (for my 1000 lb horses, I consider more than 50-75 lbs to be really far apart), then start over, ensuring that you are using the correct technique.

Now, HOW to measure with a weight tape:

  • Stand horse squarely on a flat surface, with his head in a relaxed position

Standing the horse square to measure with weight tape

  • Stand on horse’s left side at his girth and hold the “zero” end of the tape in your left hand
  • Gently put the tape over the horse’s back, so that it is draping over his back right behind his withers (make sure it isn’t twisted!!)

Pulling the weight tape over the horse's back

  • With your right hand reach under his belly and grab the tape and pull it up like you would a girth

Pulling the weight tape under his girth.

  • Pull the tape so that it is snug, but not tight, and read the number that meets the “zero” end of your tape...this is your horse’s weight

Reading the weight tape

Now congratulate yourself on accomplishing something that sounds easy in writing but can be very complicated in real life!

A few things I've learned over the years...

...make sure your thumb/fingers are not under the weight tape when you read it! This can throw your measurements off by 20-50 pounds, and makes you look like an idiot in front of anyone watching who knows what they are doing around a tape (I speak from experience!).

...windy days are BAD! Especially if you have a spooky horse. Most horses don’t appreciate the wind grabbing the tape end and turning it into a horse eating monster that whips across their hips in step 3.

...proceed with caution with spooky and young horses -- for some reason (which I have yet to figure out) the end of that tape magically turns into a horse eating monster when it touches the back and/or belly of a young or spooky horse.

...helpers are GREAT -- especially with young or spooky horses, or on windy days. They can control the end of that tape to prevent it morphing into a horse eating least partially.

...the “head in a relaxed position” is a VERY important part of step 1. For curiosity’s sake, I once measured my horse with his head in four various positions. The weight tape read over a 100 pound difference between different positions!

That is about it to measuring horse weight with a weight tape...the more practice you and your horse get, the easier it becomes!

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