Elevate Your Ride With These 6 Tall Horse Breeds

Last Updated on March 2, 2022 by Allison Price

You can get a leg up on the largest horse breeds that will help you stand tall.

My dad is 5’6 and I am the tallest of my family. For humans, being tall is a relative thing. The same applies to horses. Finding a horse that is suitable for tall riders can be more difficult than finding jeans that don’t make them look like they are wearing capris.

You’ve likely been a “Let’s grab the cereal box from the top shelf” equestrian and found yourself flipping through books such as the Smithsonian Horse Breed Recognition Guide to find tall horse breeds.

Draft horses such as the Shire, Clydesdale and Belgian are among the most tall, while Thoroughbreds are among the longest non-draft breeds. A Belgian named Big Jake, who stands 20 hands tall and is 2.75 inches strong> according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Remember that your height is just one of many factors to consider when shopping for a horse. A horse should be able to fit your body and your long-term driving or riding goals.Article Quick Linksshow

How to Measure Horse Height

Let’s first explain how horses are measured before we get into the top horse breeds. It’s common to hear the phrase “My horse stands 16.2 hands high.” But what does this mean?

Four inches is the definition of “hand”, which was originally the average height for a man’s hands. The decimal number is an additional inch (in this example, 16 hands and 2 inches). A 16.2hh horse measures 66 inches high.

Tall Horse Breeds

The height of a horse is measured from the ground (stand next to and behind the front leg), to the tops of the withers.

This measurement is the most objective, since the wither height does not change as a horse raises and lowers its head or neck. Horse measurement doesn’t take into account neck and head height.

Horse Measuring Instruments

A suitable measuring tool is essential if you want to know the height of your horse or to go out looking for a new horse.

A measuring stick is the most common tool to calculate horse height.

These sticks, which are typically made from aluminum, look similar to the ones you’d find in a doctor’s office. They can be raised or lowered to reach the highest measurement point.

Click to view measuring sticks at Amazon

You can also find built-in level bubbles that will ensure the best reading.

You can also use a weight/height measuring tape if you don’t have one. This is an easy and quick way to measure height. The tape should be pulled tight from the top of your withers, underneath the chest (in this area of the girth), and then back up until it meets the tape’s ends.

Tape is a great way to get an accurate reading of the horse’s height and weight.

Note – Tape can give you an estimate of height and weight, but a measuring tape is more precise.

Jump To Horse Breeds

Tall Horse Breeds

Let’s now look at six tallest horse breeds to help you elevate your ride.

You can learn more about each horse breed by visiting our blogs: 3 Calmest Horsebreeds and 4 Best Horse Breeds For Beginners.


Horses from the Shire range in size between 16.2hh and 19hh.

The Shire Horse, known as the largest horse in the world, was born in England. It is bred to pull heavy loads on the farm and carry military personnel in full armor. These draft horses were popular at medieval jousting tournaments due to their size and strength.

This large animal is often mistaken for Clydesdales due to their feathered legs. However, they come in a greater variety of colors, including brown, black and grey.

Although you may occasionally see a Shire competing in dressage, this breed is most commonly used for driving.


Horses of the Clydesdale breed typically have a 16- to 18-horsepower.

These are Budweiser horses. These horses were originally bred in Scotland for heavy lifting and agricultural work. This bay breed, although tall, is somewhat smaller than other draft horses.

The Clydesdale Horse’s feathered legs are well-known for their high-stepping gaits and high-stepping gaits.

Clydesdales are often seen in parades as they bring joy to the crowd, pulling the Budweiser wagon or police the streets on mounted patrols.

Want to learn more? Visit the Clydesdale Breeders Association


Belgian horses usually range between 16hhh and 18hhh.

Not surprisingly, this draft breed was born in Belgium. They were originally bred to be used in agriculture and can now be seen in halter and hitch classes as well as pulling competitions.

This breed is a favourite among draft horse enthusiasts due to its strong back, large feet, heavy muscled midsections and huge hindquarters.

The Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America claims that there are more Belgians than any other draft breed combined in the United States. Belgian horses are usually chestnut-colored or sorrel-colored with flaxen tails and manes.

Foals can be born at a weight of around 125 pounds.

Keep in mind that the Guinness Book of World Records currently lists Big Jake as the tallest horse. He measures 20 hands and is 2.75 inches barefoot (no shoe).

Want to learn more? Visit the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America

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The Percheron was bred in France. It was initially used for pulling wagons and other agricultural work. The breed is used mainly for carriage driving, forestry, and sometimes english riding.

The breed is usually black or grey with very few white markings. However, American Percherons can be registered as roan or bay. They have a more refined face than other draft breeds and feature a smaller head, a wider chest, strong hindquarters and lightly feathered legs.

Percheron crosses are becoming increasingly popular as show horses in dressage, show jumping and dressage arenas although it is still common to see them pulling carriages or on the farm.

Want to learn more? The World Percheron Congress USA


If you are looking for a tall riding or performance horse, draft horses may not be your only option. Thoroughbreds tend to be taller than others, so you will find them in the 17hh category.

Thoroughbreds were originally bred in England as race horses. They are now one the most popular overall horse athletes.

Their ground-covering stride is a benefit in timed jumping events as well as on the cross-country course. Additionally, their height enhances their ability to jump more than they can.

The Thoroughbred Horse is temperamentally more temperamental than the draft breeds that are “cold-blooded”.


Hanoverian horses usually range between 15hh and 17hh.

This regal warmblood was originally bred in northern Germany as a carriage horse and military horse.

These natural performers are now bred to be true performance horses. They excel in show jumping, dressage, and eventing (alongside driving as originally intended).

Hanoverians are loved for their rhythmic and ground-covering gaits, strong work ethic and beauty, as well their grace and grace.

The Hanoverian is a good choice if you want a tall, hydrating water with the athleticism to compete at the highest level.

Watch a Hanoverian horse in action:

Are you interested in learning more? Visit the American Hanoverian Society

Most Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which large horse breeds are best for riding?

  • A Thoroughbred is for you if height is a priority. This breed is able to give tall riders the height they desire without having to have a larger frame or more heft.
  • A Hanoverian is a good choice for a student body. Although this breed is taller than others, it can still be used for work under saddle.
  • If size is a priority, any tall horse on our list can be ridden. Clydesdales and Shires are large draft breeds that were bred to pull a lot of weight. You should expect a more refined feeling under saddle than if your horse was bred for athleticism and gait quality.

Q: Which is the largest breed of riding horse?

All draft breeds can ridden, as we have already stated.

Here are the top horse breeds that can be used to pull/pull or ride.https://e48770d30430fc7e09b833bf5a18bdcd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

  • Thoroughbreds (15-17hhh)
  • Hanoverians (15-17hh)
  • Friesians (15-17hh)

You can cross a lighter-framed horse with a draft to get the best of both. Half drafts are becoming more popular in many disciplines to combine athleticism and friendly temperament.

Q: Which horse breeds are best for tall riders?

Warmbloods, Hanoverians and Thoroughbreds are some of the most popular breeds for tall riders.

Horse size can differ between breeds so be open to looking for a Quarter Horse that is taller.

Q: Which breed of horse is the best for heavy riders?

The best breed depends on the rider’s weight.

Warmbloods, draft crosses and Gypsy Vanners are all good choices for heavyset riders.

Riders over 200 pounds may require full draft breeds such as the Belgian horse, Clydesdales and Percherons.

Q: What is the name of “the big horses?”

This term is often used to refer to draft horses. Anheuser Busch has made Clydesdales popular with their feathered legs and impressive height.https://e48770d30430fc7e09b833bf5a18bdcd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Q: Which Percheron is larger than Clydesdale?

Clydesdales and Percherons are typically 16-18hh.

Q: Are Belgian horses larger than Clydesdales’?

Clydesdales and Belgians typically have 16-18hh.

Q: Can Clydesdales be used for riding?

Clydesdales are loved by some riders, and some even use them. The breed was not created to maximize riding characteristics like speed, movement, suspension and suppleness.https://e48770d30430fc7e09b833bf5a18bdcd.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

You don’t have to be a walker if you are just walking along trails. You won’t be disappointed if you try to spot this breed in western riding, jumping or dressage.

Q: What size rider can a horse haul?

Each stable or outfitter has its own weight limits, but you will often see 200-pound limits. A facility may have access to large draft horses and could see a weight limit increase to 225 or 250 lbs.

The general rule is that the horse’s weight should not exceed 20%.

You should be even more cautious if horses are being ridden for long periods of time or working in the mountains.

To ensure that everyone is within the weight limit, check with the group with whom you will be riding.

Q: What breed of draft horse would make a good trail horse horse?

It all depends on the horse and your goals. Quarter Horses and Arabians are more popular if you’re looking to compete in endurance riding. Because of their incredible stamina, endurance and toughness, the Arabian Horse is undoubtedly the most beloved breed. American Quarter Horses are a popular choice for daily trail riding. However, any breed should be capable of handling at least light trails.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!