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February 2006

  2006 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

For more information, see:   Horse Health Care

Ask Cherry
Correct Horse Weight

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.

Dear Cherry,
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?


Hi Leslie,

Horse Health Care by Cherry HillYou 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 reproductive problems.

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.
Conversely, 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?

Then, 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).

Horsekeeping On A Small AcreageAim 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 of 6.

Happy Horsekeeping, Cherry Hill


Horse 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 discernible.
Fat 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 obviously thin.
Back 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.
A 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.
Crease 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.

  2006 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information

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The suggestions and guidelines should not be used as the sole answer for a visitor's specific needs.