The Henekke System
Is a method to accurately assess a horse’s body condition, which is to its welfare, weighs heavily on the horse owner. The old saying "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" has never been more appropriate than in the body condition of horses. Beauty in one owner’s eye is fat in another’s. Hence the problem: What is the appropriate body condition of a horse, and what would be acceptable to the industry? A body conditioning scoring system developed by Dr. Don Henneke has served to provide a standard scoring system for the industry which can be used across breeds and by all horse people. The system assigns a score to a particular body condition (1 to 9) (Table 1) as opposed to vague words such as "good," "fair," "bad," or "poor," which leave differences in interpretation to the eye of the beholder. The horse’s body condition measures the balance between intake and expenditure of energy. Body condition can be affected by a variety of factors such as: food availability, reproductive activities, weather, performance or work activities, parasites, dental problems, and feeding practices. The actual body condition of a horse can also affect its reproductive capability, performance ability, work function, health status, and endocrine status. Therefore, it is important to achieve and maintain proper body condition. In order to do this, one must evaluate body fat in relationship to body.
Body Condition Scoring System
The system developed by Dr. Henneke assigns a numerical value to fat deposition as it occurs in various places on the horse's body. The system works by assessing fat both visually and by palpation (examination by touch), in each of six areas. Horses accumulate fat in these areas in a set order. For instance, a horse that scores 7 will have the same amount of fat as any other horse that scores 7, whether the horse is a thoroughbred, quarter horse or Arabian.
Fat is assessed in the following areas: the loin, ribs, tailhead, withers, neck, and shoulders (Figure 1).
A numerical value is assigned based on the cumulative fat in all six areas (Henekke Scoring Report).