Last Updated on January 4, 2023
If you’ve got a foal or young horse, you will notice that they grow very quickly! But when does a horse stop growing? Let’s find out!
When Does A Horse Stop Growing Taller?
A young horse will grow rapidly during the first year of life, but will then continue to increase in height over the next few years. When a foal is born, it weighs around a tenth of an adult horse, but its legs are already long and within a few days it is capable of running and keeping up with the herd.
Because horses are prey animals, a newborn foal needs to be able to escape from predators. When a foal is born, its legs are already between 80 and 90 percent of its full adult length!
The most rapid period of growth for a horse occurs in the first two years of life. By the time a horse is two years old, it can be up to 90% of its full adult height. However, it will still grow slowly for some time after this.
Because young horses grow so quickly, a nutritionally balanced diet is vital to provide the nutrients they need to develop strong and healthy bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Inadequate nutrition may lead to slower growth, while too many of the wrong types of nutrients can lead to developmental abnormalities.
While it may be tempting to feed extra food to make your foal grow faster, this can be very detrimental in the long term. A balanced diet should be fed throughout your horse’s life to reduce the risk of growth abnormalities or long term health problems.
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At What Age Do Horses Stop Growing?
It is impossible to know when your horse will stop growing, as the rate of growth slows to almost imperceptible amounts as they approach maturity. Most horses reach their full adult height at between four and five years of age, but at this stage, the musculoskeletal system is not fully mature. The bones continue to strengthen and grow for a year or two following this, so a horse may not be fully physically mature until it is seven or eight years old.
This is why horses tend to become broader once they reach their full adult height – they are no longer growing taller, and the body is developing strength and maturity. Think of it like a lanky teenager turning into a muscular adult!
How Long Do Horses Grow? – When Does A Horse Stop Growing?
Horses grow very rapidly for the first year or two of life, and then the growth rate slows considerably. For example, a 2-year-old horse growth rate is far slower than that of a yearling. But even though they are not growing as fast, your young horse will continue to grow for several more years!
The growth that occurs during the first year or two of a horse’s life is mainly focused on increasing the height of the horse. At this stage, the physical frame will still be lean and not particularly muscular. From the age of three onwards, the horse starts to become more muscular and bulky, and this continues slowly over the next few years.
By the time a horse reaches its full physical height – normally between four and five years of age – it still has some growing to do! The musculoskeletal system is not yet fully developed at this stage, and the horse will also become broader and more muscular.
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At What Age Is A Horse Fully Grown?
The age at which a horse is fully grown depends on various factors, such as the adult size of the horse and the breed or type of horse. Smaller breeds typically mature at a faster rate than large breeds, so a native Welsh pony will most likely reach physical maturity before a larger Dutch warmblood type.
Even when a horse reaches its full adult height, it still continues to grow and develop in other ways. The bones that give a horse its adult height mature before the bones of the spinal column, which is why young adult horses should not be expected to carry out intense physical exercise.
When Do Horses Mature Mentally? – When Does A Horse Stop Growing?
This is a difficult question to answer, as some horses seem like they never grow up! The attitude and behavior of a horse will change as it grows and matures, but even adult horses like to have fun and play.
It is important to remember that a younger horse will take longer to learn, as it does not have as much past experience to draw on. They lack the mental agility to learn, and will need time to figure out any experience that are new to them.
As horses grow older, their mental maturity levels change and develop. Older horses tend to be less reactive and spooky, and adapt faster to new situations. They learn from past experiences and can adapt and change at a far faster rate.
While a horse is considered to be at its full height by four or five years of age, at this stage it is neither mentally nor physically mature. It will take another year or two to reach full maturity, and any training plans should be tailored to account for this.
Summary – When Does A Horse Stop Growing?
So, as we have learned, horses grow rapidly during the first few years of life, but then continue to grow slowly for the next year or two. The most rapid rate of growth comes during the first two years of life when a foal will reach up to 90 percent of its mature height. Even when a horse reaches its full height, the musculoskeletal system takes a year or two longer to fully mature and strengthen, so young horses should not be required to carry out intense physical activity.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on when does a horse stop growing! Are you struggling to guess how tall your yearling is going to be when fully grown? Or perhaps you’ve got some questions about the appropriate level of work for a newly broken young horse? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE