Let’s Discuss: What’s your range?

Last week we discussed ponies versus horses, and both the cultural and sometimes ruling limitations that stop ponies from being more popular in the english disciplines. So today I’d like to ask the more personal question- what is your perfect size, and why?

Ivan and Foster were both 16.2h and uphill, and Smitty is fitting right into that category and will likely get much bigger. While it’s a lot easier to market a larger horse, I’m finding his constant growth (.5″ from September to December) a little disconcerting.

Already more like wrangling a giraffe at 16.2h | PC: Studio in the Stable

Already more like wrangling a giraffe at 16.2h | PC: Studio in the Stable

When I was horse shopping, I was looking at anything from 15.2h to 16.2h, though there were exceptions of course. I really quite like riding the shorter guys, in fact, and if I didn’t want to jump I’m probably stick to something 15.2 or 15.3h tall.

A 17h horse I tried in KY...

A 17h horse I tried in KY…

.... and a 15.2h pony from the same day

…. and a 15.2h pony from the same day

For me, I prefer to jump something a little bit taller than 15.1-15.2 hands simply because the fences look smaller from a bigger horse, and my balls went MIA a long, long time ago. Otherwise, I feel like my leg is ok on a variety of horses and would be open to a more vertically challenged prospect.


XC schooling baby Smitty

What about you? What is your acceptable range in a mount? How does your chosen discipline affect your preferences? 

30 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: What’s your range?

  1. You already know that I’m a fan of the bigger horses- makes the jumps look smaller! That being said, we discussed trying a variety of horses when we were on the hunt. If I was purely going to be doing the jumpers, we didn’t have a height limitation- we just wanted something that I could ride safely and could jump the fences. But after discussing and deciding that I wanted the option to go in the adult eq ring, we knew I needed something to take up my leg so we could have the “pretty picture.” So in that sense, the height of the horses we ended up seriously looking at was heavily dependent on my chosen discipline.

  2. As long as it isn’t too narrow and has a long enough neck for my torso, I’m cool with it. That could be 14.2 or it could be 15.2, depending on the horse. I’m not a fan of horses over 17h because IMO it’s harder to keep them sound. Ideal for me is 16.1h. I wouldn’t be surprised if Smitty grew several more inches… my mare was gawky looking too, as a 4yo, and she grew 3 more inches by the time she was 6. Then she added 300lbs of stout and somehow ended up a BIG horse.

    • I’m fairly sure Smitty is going to be a monster big horse… but I sure hope not!
      And I agree- if it’s short, it’s got to have a long neck. So hard to balance on something that is short and has a short neck to boot.

  3. I really don’t care about height as along as they take up my leg well. That being said, Ruby is probably closer to 17 hands than 16 (I’m in denial so I refuse to actually measure haha). Cinna will probably max out around 16.1, but she’s going to be much wider. But if I jumped regularly, tall would be good! Anything that makes jumps look smaller is a-okay in my book haha.

  4. I like anything over 16 hands, 16.2 or 16.3 would probably be my sweet spot. I love big horses, but once they get toooo big there can be some health issues to deal with. I’m also fairly tall with long legs so unless a smaller horse can take up my leg enough I look pretty silly on anything under 16hh. Twinkle was 15.2 or 15.3 and while she sort of took up my leg…looking back at pictures, it just looks slightly awkward haha.

  5. For me, 14hh – 16hh is my range. I ride dressage and also trail ride regularly. I always seem to end up with horses who are 15.2hh exactly, but slightly shorter would actually be preferable.

  6. Nothing below 16 hands and nothing above 17 hands. For some reason even just 17.1 seems huge to me haha. And 16 is actually on the small side, but I can’t limit my range too much. I ultimately prefer 16.3-17.

  7. While my leg is certainly long enough to ride a variety of differently-sized horses, I am VASTLY more comfortable on ponies and small horses. Anything over 16h feels ‘too big’ for me, and once the horse hits about 17h or over, it becomes physically difficult for me to ride and keep together. Despite the fact that the jumps sure do look a LOT bigger from my 14.1hh steed, I am way happier riding a pony than a ‘big’ horse! Plus, when out on the trail low-hanging branches and mounting from the ground are much less of a concern on a pony!

  8. I have felt comfortable on anything from 15hh to 17.1hh but my personal preference is 16hh-16.2hh. I have a long torso so I do not feel comfortable on ponies at all.

  9. New to your blog! I love a 15-15.2 horse. Anything larger is too big of a pain for me to get on out on trail and anything shorter has to work too hard in endurance. Although there is an adorable little girl doing 25 mile rides on her mini 🙂 So you never know.

  10. You know me, I like the little ones. If they get goofy I feel like I can “wrangle” them down and I’ve never been on a little one (14.2-15.2) that wasn’t quick on his/her feet and figure out an obstacle and do everything possible to stay upright.

  11. I feel like Paige is perfect at 15.1 or so. Small enough that I can get on her bareback with basically anything in the field, but large enough that I don’t feel big on her. I don’t think I’ll be getting another horse over 16hh unless it is a very broke schoolmaster type. No more greenies/fresh babies that size for me…though the horse that I’ve previously had the most riding related anxiety from was 14.3…so you never know!

  12. Well P is 16.2 and I’d say he’s a bit small for me these days as far as making a good picture for showing (not what we are doing at this point anyways!) mostly because of his shorter neck. Stampede is bigger than I would like at 18.1 but he was 17.3 when I bought him which I thought was a good height. Yes he grew at 6 years old, ugh. He requires a 60″ girth but takes up my leg well. My 36″ inseam can be hard to fit to a horse! People often don’t realize how tall Stamp and I both are because we look proportioned together.
    For my next horse I’d like something in the middle, a nice 17-17.2 with a long heart girth to take up my leg.

    • OK- yeah I had NO idea Stampede was that big! Holy moly. I doubt I could even get his halter on! Also 60″ girth? WHATTT?! And how do you find blankets for him?! He’s a beast!

      Ivan and Foster both grew 2 inches between 5 and 7 yrs old. Since I obviously don’t need a 17 hand horse I just hope Smitty’s the exception to the rule! (though I doubt it!)

      • I posted a picture once of him with my 5’2″ friend, it’s quite entertaining. He’s pretty good about putting his head down for people, I had to install a head down cue so he can fit through the door into the barn where our indoor is. Yeah so I had to custom order his girth because he only does leather with sheepskin lining (special needs horse to the max always!). He’s 84/87 in Rambo blankets depending on style – I’m quite thankful their stuff is generously sized, lol.
        My friend bought an Irish sport horse who was 5 and he has grown way more in height and width in the past year than I ever would have expected. I bet Smitty will be quite tall when he’s done. Feel free to send him to me, he’s beautiful!

        • Hahaha don’t tempt me- I don’t want to need a ladder to get on my horse!!

          It’s the width part of him growing that I think is going to shock the hell out of some people- he’s so narrow right now but I just keep telling folks, “you just wait!”

  13. As I’ve gotten older, I tend to be more comfortable on a shorter horse. Moiya is only 15hh, and while the jumps definitely look bigger, I just overall feel more comfortable. I think Miles at 16.1hh, is probably my max.

  14. I felt my most comfortable over fences on Duke, who was 17.3. I’m with you and I want the jumps to look TINY. Ideally, my next one would be over the 16.2 height.

  15. I think 15.3 to 16.3 would be my range. I love Annie’s height though at I think she’s at or just a bit over 16.1hh.

    Houston was 16.3 ish when I bought him and sticks over 17hh soooo while I love him I won’t seek out one that big again likely.

  16. Lol I just went from a “highly sprung” 14.3 Arab to a skinny 17h tb. Shockingly they feel about the same to sit on. But when that big guy gets heavy up front and then trips and nearly face plants….. THATS when the full effect of his height kicks in haha

  17. I’m all about the tall horses (long legs) and Ryon is 17.1+. The baby is only 16.1ish and I feel like I can fit my legs all the way around her but she looks like she’s still got some growth left in her

  18. Justin is right at 15.2, sometimes 15.3 when he’s being a hotshot and standing on a hill. I’m pretty tall (5’9″) but surprisingly, a lot of the horses I’ve ridden have been pocket rockets like Justin. I think these smaller horses can come with a bit more heart and spunk that comes in handy on cross-country, but for my next one, I’d like to get something a bit bigger. I’ll be the first to say, it’s not always fun riding down to a triple combination set on long distances when your “horse” has a 9 foot stride 😉

  19. I generally prefer the taller horses because my legs are pretty long, but the smaller ones are convenient for mounting and trail riding. Nilla is interesting in that she’s 15hh, but has no withers so her back is at 15hh. I’m actually higher up on her than my husband is on his 15.1 horse. And her massive barrel takes up my leg.

  20. The past 6/7 years I’ve ridden a wide range of horses from 15.1-17.3. The smaller guys had enough of a barrel that I didn’t feel to small on them. I had to be careful jumping bc if I leaned to far forward I’d fall off the front end (especially with Finn! Damn he has a short neck!!!!) Chimi is a good size for me at 17h but he also has a wide ass barrel which I love bc I can feel him next to my leg! All my horses growing up seemed to be a bit slab sided so I developed a terrible creeping heel… oh well.

    Ideally if I was horse shopping I would look for 16-17h but wouldn’t pass a shorter horse if it had some girth or a taller horse if it were skinnier. Chimi is about as big as I’d want bc I think long term soundness becomes an issue if the horse is heavy and tall (especially for eventing)

    In a perfect world I’d like to shrink and be able to comfortably fit a 15.2/15.3h TB cross. I think that’s the perfect height! Alas I was not blessed with short enough legs and that’s the only reason I would look for 16h+ for myself.

  21. At a whopping 5′ tall, I feel I’m pretty limited…lol. I have a 28″ inseam, so I need a shorter horse that isn’t too wide. I don’t jump though, maybe I would feel differently if I did. My QH is 15hh and not wide, so he is the perfect size. I tried some bigger horses when horse shopping and all the trainers kept telling me to put my leg on! Little did they know it was on! Well, the part that touched the horse anyways… 😉 I rode a friends 16.3hh tb for a while when I got back into horses and I always felt like a kid up there. I have started showing halter horses (AQHA) and I’ve been told that being short isn’t so bad, because I make the horses look bigger. lol The gelding I showed this summer was 16.1hh and a total monster (to me!)

  22. I like the taller horse, I feel like my upper torso is freakishly long so I need something to balance that out. And when you are used to the height, it feels normal. Having said that, I would like to stay no higher than 17.1. Henceforth, I will be refusing to stick Isaach (will be 4 in April) who was measured at a 1/2 inch over 17h in October. Along with the taller horse, you get the tall horse comments “Has he grown??” “Does he FEEL tall when you are on him?” “Good LORD, he’s BIG!!” So, get used to it. 🙂

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