This newsletter is a personal
letter from me to you, a fellow horse owner and enthusiast.
My goal is to answer
some of your questions and send you interesting stories
and helpful tips for
your horse care, training, and riding.
I have been trying to find a 'formula' that I can use to determine
what the 'normal' weight of my horse should be. We have recently taken over the
care of a Tennessee Walker that is 17.2 hands and approximately 15 years old.
The lady that had him rescued him and got him back to approximately 1009 lbs.
said that he could probably use another 200 lbs. Is there a guide on how much
a horse should weigh?
were probably hoping I would send you a number that would tell you the weight
your horse should be. But I have a much better way for you to determine if your
horse is at the proper weight.
* A horse's weight is considered about right
when he scores in the middle of a horse condition scale.
* Using a scale from
1 to 9, 1 represents emaciated and 9 represents extremely obese.
* A horse
that is determined to be at 5-7 is usually at an optimum weight.
* Horses that
have a body condition score of less than 4 have less energy, lower resistance
to disease, and may have trouble breeding.
* Horses with scores of 8-9 are
just a step away from colic or laminitis. Obese horses also have low energy and
Before we get to the scoring itself, I do want
to say that some horses and some breeds of horses will have bonier withers and
show more rib naturally. Thoroughbreds, Saddlebreds, and some Tennessee Walkers
might fall into this category. They might be of an ideal weight but show some
of the signs of a horse that would be classified as underweight.
some Quarter Horses can be in good weight but exhibit some of the characteristics
of an overweight horse.
To determine your horse's score, inspect your
horse from each side and the front and the rear from about 20 feet away. Is your
overall impression that the horse is too fat, too thin or just about right?
get specific. If you can see a horse's ribs, he will score 4 or lower. If you
can't see the ribs, he will score 5 or higher. If the horse's hair is too long
or thick to see the ribs, you should feel the ribcage. At 5, you can feel the
ribs but not see them. At 7 the spaces start to fill in with fat between the ribs.
Next look for fat deposits on the back, ribs, neck, shoulders, withers, and
tail-head. Compare what you find to the descriptions listed on the Horse Body
Condition Criteria (below).
to keep your horse at optimum weight year round. The exception to the rule is
that if you live in an area with very cold winters, allow you horse to gain a
little fat in the fall to help insulate him in the winter. For example, if he
is a 6 normally, let him move up to a 7 in October and maintain that weight until
spring when increased work will bring him back to his normal working condition
BODY CONDITION CRITERIA
is extremely emaciated. The spine, ribs, hip bones, tailhead and pelvic bones
project prominently. Bone structure of the withers, shoulders and neck easily
noticeable. No fatty tissues can be felt.
Horse is emaciated. Slight fat covering over vertebrae. Backbone, ribs,
tailhead and hip bones are prominent. Withers, shoulders and neck structures are
built up about halfway on vertebrae. Slight fat layer can be felt over ribs, but
ribs easily discernible. The tailhead is evident, but individual vertebrae cannot
be seen. The hipbones cannot be seen, but withers, shoulder and neck are emphasized.
Slight ridge along back. Faint outline of ribs can be seen. Fat can be
felt along tailhead. Hip bones cannot be seen. Withers, neck and shoulders not
is level with no crease or ridge. Ribs can be felt but not easily seen. Fat around
tailhead beginning to feel spongy. Withers are rounded and shoulders and neck
blend smoothly into the body.
May have a slight crease down the back. Fat on the tailhead feels soft.
Fat over the ribs feels spongy. Fat beginning to be deposited along the sides
of the withers, behind the shoulders and along the sides of the neck.
crease is often seen down the back. Individual ribs can be felt, but noticeable
filling between ribs with fat. Fat around tailhead is soft. Noticeable fat deposited
along the withers, behind the shoulders and along the neck.
down back is prominent. Ribs difficult to feel due to fat in between. Fat around
tailhead very soft. Area along withers filled with fat. Area behind shoulders
filled in flush with the barrel of the body. Noticeable thickening of neck. Fat
deposited along the inner thighs.
Obvious crease down back. Fat is in patches over rib area, with
bulging fat over tailhead, withers, neck and behind shoulders. Fat along inner
thighs may rub together. Flank is filled in flush with the barrel of the body.