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Dr. Gray’s Featured Presentation from the 2008 AAEP Healthy Horses Workshop- “Nutrition: Body Condition Scoring”

KEY #8- Body Condition Scoring (and other measurements)

In addition to knowing your horse’s normal vital signs (temperature, pulse, respiration and others), it’s a good idea to have a system in place that also allows you to monitor changes in his weight and body condition. Since it is fairly inconvenient to regularly weigh horses on a scale, there are several methods of estimating the weight of horses. The simplest is to use a commercial weight tape. Depending on the manufacturer and how close your horse’s size and shape is to the average horse, these tapes can be very accurate or they can be off by 100 pounds or more. Sometimes the best use of weight tapes is as a tool to track changes. That is, if your horse tapes 1000 pounds on November 1, then 975 pounds on December 1, then 950 pounds on January 1, then you know he is losing weight. A more accurate method of estimating weight is taking two measurements of your horse and plugging them into this weight formula:

Heart girth(in) X heart girth(in) X Length (in) = weight in pounds

The heart girth is the circumference of your horse’s barrel taken at the highest point of the withers and the length is the point of the shoulder straight back to the point of the buttock, half the distance from the corner to the tail.

In addition to estimating your horse’s weight and monitor changes up or down, your horse’s condition, or amount of fat cover, should also be estimated regularly. An excellent tool for this measurement is the Henneke Body Condition Scoring Chart, because it provides a standard scoring system for you, your veterinarian, your nutritionist and other health care professionals. The scale ranges from a “1” which is the thinnest to a “9” which is the fattest—a score of “5” is ideal for most breeds and disciplines:

2=very thin
4=moderately thin
5=ideal (moderate)
6=moderately fleshy
8=very fleshy (fat)
9=very fat (obese)

Body condition score, nutrient requirements, over and under-supplementation . . . This article has thrown some pretty hefty words around. Key #9 provides definitions of some words frequently used in any nutrition discussion.

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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One comment on “Dr. Gray’s Featured Presentation from the 2008 AAEP Healthy Horses Workshop- “Nutrition: Body Condition Scoring”
  1. A M Wright says:

    Is there a proper way to estimate the scale of the Henneke Body Condition Scoring Chart?

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