The Normal Horse: Weight & Body Condition

Don R. Henneke, Ph.D. developed the Henneke Body Scoring Condition Chart in 1983. The original purpose of the system was to determine the fertility of thin mares. This chart scoring system is a good way to assess your horse's body condition, and it is also used by law enforcement agencies as a method of scoring horse's condition in abuse cases.


This shows the areas that should be felt for checked for fat. The system ranges from 1 to 9. A score between 5 and 7 is best for most horses.

Henneke Body Scoring Condition Chart

  1. POOR: Backbone, ribs, tailhead, pelvis, and vertabrea stick out. The bones of the withers, shoulders, and neck are noticeable. No fat can be felt.
  2. VERY THIN: Backbone, ribs, tailhead and pelvic bones stand out. The bones of the withers, shoulders, and neck are noticeable.
  3. THIN: Backbone stands out, but is covered with fat to midpoint. Some fat can be felt over ribs, but they are still noticeable. Tailhead is prominent. Individual vertabrea can not be seen. Bones of withers, shoulders and neck are visible.
  4. MODERATELY THIN: Withers, neck, and shoulders do not look thin. Slight crease down back. Outline of ribs can be seen. Fat can be felt around tailhead. Vertabrea cannot be seen.
  5. MODERATE: Shoulders, withers, and neck blend smoothly into body. Ribs can be felt, but not seen. Fat around tailhead is spongy.
  6. MODERATE TO FLESHY: May be slight crease down back. Soft fat around tailhead and over ribs. Small fat deposits along the withers and neck, and behind shoulders.
  7. FLESHY: May be crease down back. Ribs can be felt, but not easily. Fat can be felt between ribs. Soft fat around tailhead. Fat can be seen around withers, neck, and behind shoulders.
  8. FAT: Crease down back. Ribs are hard to feel. All along withers is filled with fat. Fat around tailhead is very soft. Fat can be seen on the withers and behind shoulders. Some fat is deposited along the inner buttocks.
  9. EXTREMELY FAT: Deep crease down back. Fat is deposited in patches over the ribs. Buldging fat around tailhead, withers, neck, and shoulders. Inner buttocks rub together. Flank is filled in.

Signs of a Healthy Horse

*Hair is shiney and sleek
*No grass belly can be seen
*Muscles are well fit
*Horse shows signs of interest in surroundings
*Horse acts energetic
*Horse is not too thin or fat
*Normal riding does not produce sweating or heavey breathing
*Horse does not act tender footed and walkes normally
*Horse eats all he is given
*The horse has bright eyes, alert ears, and normal vital signs
*The horse does not act tired, sluggish, or lethargic
*The horse has a thick or shiney mane and tail
*The horse has strong hooves that are shaped normally




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