About Horses: Horse Anatomy

Equine Gender

The following are the terms used to describe the gender of a horse or pony.


A female horse or pony not yet full grown.


A male horse or pony not yet full grown or gelded (castrated).


A fully grown female horse or pony.


A fully grown male horse or pony that has not been gelded (castrated). Stallions are also known as Entire.


A male horse or pony that has been castrated.


A male horse or pony who has either one or both testes undescended and retained, ie retained in the abdomen.

Horse Height Measurement

Horses and ponies are measured from the ground to the withers and are measured in hands. One hand is equal to 4 inches. The reason for this is that originally horses were measured by the width of a person’s hand which was approximately 4 inches, and by placing one hand on the ground, the other above it and moving the first hand over the second the horse could be measured.

The term used for height is hands high or hh. Often the height is just over a number of hands eg 16 hands and 2 inches and the height is referred to as 16.2 hh. Particularly small ponies are often measured in centimetres and with Europeanisation horses are also now being measured in centimetres.

When measuring a horse or pony it is best to ensure they are stood squarely on solid ground as this will give the most accurate measurement. There are tape measures marked out in hands which can be used but it is difficult to ensure these are held straight and then judge the mark as the tape has to be held some distance away from the withers.

Measuring sticks are the best way of measuring a horse. These consist of a large wooden ruler marked out in hands with another piece of wood at right angles which can be lowered to sit on the horse or pony’s withers ensuring an accurate reading.