Nutrition

Body Condition Scoring

There are several ways to keep track of your horse's weight, but the most comprehensive and accessible method is to practice body condition scoring.

Thumbnail for Body Condition Scoring

By: Amy Harris |

There are several ways to keep track of your horse’s weight, but the most comprehensive and accessible method is to practice body condition scoring. This system takes into account the overall condition of the horse as opposed to his actual weight, by encouraging horse owners to monitor the fat coverage (adiposity) on key areas of the horse’s body. And all you need is your hands – no measuring tapes or scales.

For more than 30 years, horse owners and veterinarians have used the Henneke Body Condition Scoring system, with its scale from 1-9 (from emaciated to obese), to monitor weight gain/loss and overall fitness and to generate comparisons between horses.

Body condition scoring involves palpitation and visual inspection of certain areas on the horse’s body including the neck, withers, shoulder, ribs, loin and tailhead. As you run your hands over these areas, you must apply slight pressure – firm but gentle – in order to better feel the fat coverage.

The average horse, in good general condition, whose ribs can be felt but not seen, represents a 5 on the scale. The system is designed to be objective, but there is some room for subjectivity, of course, when it comes to determining a particular score, especially from person to person. Further, certain differences in conformation that cause horses to carry their weight differently, can also contribute to variation from horse to horse. It is suggested, therefore, that one person conduction the scoring, in order to really familiarize themselves with the condition of individual horses.

Regular assessments are recommended to ensure horse owners notice any changes in condition. Search “Henneke Body Condition Scoring Chart” online to review the scale and the attributes associated with each score.