Why is Body Condition Important?
Maintaining a healthy weight is just as important for our horses as it is for us. Actually it's incredibly important to prioritize healthy body weights in all our domestic animals.
Our animals rely on us to keep them at a healthy weight, they dont understand that if they eat too much, they will be uncomfortable and be more susceptible to painful diseases!
As Humans we understand this, so we have no excuse, however our animals need us to regulate their diets to include healthy ingredients at an appropriate dose for good health.
Obesity can cause or worsen a whole host of health issues that can be painful and even lead to death.
What is Body Condition Scoring?
Body Condition Scoring is s system of visual assessment and palpation to determine how much fat and muscle a horse has regardless of body size. It is used to determine whether a horse is underweight, healthy weight or overweight and is not affected by gut contents or pregnancy as live weight would be.
There are several scales, however for this exercise we will describe the Henneke scale chart.
How do you use the Body Condition Scale?
The Henneke scale involves assessing 6 specific locations on the horses body to determine how thin or fat the horse is.
A value between 1-9 is given to each 6 areas. These are then added together then divided by 6 to get the average.
A score between 4-6 is generally considered healthy. For an IR horse prone to Laminitis to remain healthy, you’re aiming at between 4.5-5.
HOW TO WORK OUT YOUR HORSE’S BODY CONDITION SCORE
The picture below shows the six main areas we need to assess and score. Individually give each area a score between 1-9 according to the descriptions on the chart. Add these scores up and divide by 6 to get an average.
When assessing these areas on the horse, use the table below to determine which number to assign to each area.
So according to the Henneke Scale of Body Condition, a horse within a healthy weight will have the following characteristics:
It's good practice to get familiar with your horses body condition score and monitor it throughout the year, this way you can make management changes early if you notice a problem arising!
You may find that your horses coat has already started shedding, this is triggered by the longer daylight hours and marks the start of the long winter coat loss! This process will continue over the next few months and it's important to provide adequate nutritional support during this time to encourage a healthy and shiny new summer coat.