We are often asked by clients if their horse is too fat or too skinny. As we don’t currently have a scale in the trailer, our next best tools are body condition scoring (BCS) and weight tapes. BCS is based on the Henneke (“Hi-nec-kee”) horse body condition scoring system first developed in the 1980’s. The scale ranges from 1, being poor, to 9, being extremely fat/obese. Most healthy horses range between 4-6, depending on their use.1 I personally use half points, if needed on certain horses, to give a more precise number. There are 6 main points on the horse’s body that store fat and are used to assess BCS. These include the neck, withers, back, shoulders, ribs, and tailhead (see picture below). By using a combination of palpation (touch) and visual observation, we can arrive at a score.
Many different conditions can have an effect on BCS. If a horse has a low BCS, it could be because of inadequate feed intake/poor quality feed, poor dentition, excessive exercise, harsh weather conditions, illness or disease, parasites, ect. If a horse has a BSC that is too high, it could be caused by too much feed/lush pasture, Equine Metabolic Syndrome, lack of exercise, ect. I’ve attached a BCS chart at the end of this article so you have an idea of what each score looks like. If your horse isn’t in the ideal range, feel free to ask us what you can do to help improve your horse’s condition during our next visit!
Written by: Dr. Morgan Bosch, DVM
- Wikipedia. Henneke Body Condition Scoring in the Horse. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henneke_horse_body_condition_scoring_system