Blog by Jenie Yolland

What is a hand? She asked me, and I thought I knew what it was but then I felt I should have the correct answer and here’s the answer.

Today we visited our new investment.  We have invested a teeny weeny investment in this lovely little horse.  She is as yet without a name and is merely described by using her pedigree.


Let me tell you something of the derivation of the measurement of The Hand.



(This demonstrates the detail of the cubit rod in the Museo Egizio of Turin, showing digit, palm, hand and fist lengths.)  See the centre line of this graph – its an ancient Royal Egyptian measurement.

The hand, sometimes also called a handbreadth or handsbreadth is an antropic unit originally based on the breadth of a male human hand, usually a clenched fist and sometimes with and sometimes without the inclusion of the thumb.  The hand is usually about 4inches of 101.6mm.


You can even read how the dimension of “the hand” was used as far back as in Biblical times.  The example from Ezekiel 40:43 I have copied for you to see:

“This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.

And these are the measures of the altar after the cubits: The cubit is a cubit and an hand breadth; even the bottom shall be a cubit, and the breadth a cubit, and the border thereof by the edge thereof round about shall be a span: and this shall be the higher place of the altar.



According to the An Acte for Bryde of Horses, “The hand” is a traditional unit in the UK as well.  It was standardized at four inches by a statute of King Henry VIII in 1540, but some confusion between the various types of hand measurement, and particularly between the hand and the handsbreadth, appears to have persisted.



The adoption of the international inch in 1959 allowed for a standardized imperial form and a metric conversion. It may be abbreviated to “h” or “hh”.



A horse is measured from the ground to the top of the highest non-variable point of the skeleton, the withers.   For official measurement, the spinous process of the fifth thoracic vertebra may be identified by palpation, and marked if necessary.     Miniature horses, but not miniature ponies, are measured at the base of the last true hairs of the mane rather than at the withers.



Interestingly, for international competition regulated by the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) and for USEF competition in the US, a horse can be measured with shoes on or off.

In the United Kingdom, official measurement of horses is overseen by the Joint Measurement Board (JMB). For JMB purposes, the shoes must be removed and the hooves correctly prepared for shoeing prior to measurement.



Today, it is used to measure the height of horses in some English-speaking countries, including Australia, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

There you go, now I’ll be you understand more about what is meant by The Hand that you ever did.

I hope you enjoy the images I took today at the new Luke Oliver Stables near Romsey in Victoria, click here to find out more.

Thanks Luke for a fabulous day at your Stables! Thank you!


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