Body Scoring Condition

Henneke Body Condition Scoring Chart

The Henneke System is an objective evaluation of a horse’s body condition. Developed in 1983 by Don R. Henneke, Ph.D. it is based on both visual appraisal and palpable fat cover of the six major points of the horse that are most responsive to changes in body fat.

The chart covers six major parts of the horse; neck; withers, (where the neck ends and the back begins) the shoulder area; ribs, loins, and the tailhead area. The chart rates the horses on a scale of 1 to 9. A score of 1 is considered poor or emaciated with no body fat. A nine is extremely fat or obese. A horse that is rated a 1 on the Henneke Chart is often described as a walking skeleton and is in real danger of dying. Courts in the United States have upheld the seizure of such horses by law enforcement citing exigent circumstances, meaning there was a very strong possibility the horse would die unless immediate action was taken. Horse veterinarians consider a body score of between 4 and 7 as acceptable. A 5 is considered ideal.

Observers are trained to visually inspect the horse and also to palpate each part of the horse with their hands to feel for body fat. The observer then assigns each area of the body the numerical score that corresponds with the horse’s condition. When a horse has a long haircoat it is imperative that the person scoring the horse use their hands to feel the horse. The horse’s long haircoat will hide the protrusion of bones, all except in the most extreme cases.

The scores from each area are then totaled and divided by 6. The resulting number is the horse’s rating on the Henneke Body Scoring Condition Chart.

Description of the Condition Score System


Henneke Body Condition Scoring Chart

A Scientific Method For Judging A Horse’s Body Condition
Bone structure easily noticeable Bone structure easily noticeable Spinous processes project prominently Tailhead, (pinbones) & hook bones projecting prominently Ribs projecting prominently Bone structure easily noticeable
Animal extremely emaciated; no fatty tissue can be felt
Faintly discernible Faintly discernible Slight fat covering overbase of spinous processes. Tran-
verse processes of lumbar vertebrae feel rounded. Spinous processes are prominent.
Tailhead prominent Ribs prominent Faintly discernible
Animal Emaciated
Neck accentuated Withers accentuated Fat buildup halfway on spinous processes, but easily discernible. Transverse processes cannot be felt. Tailhead prominent, but individual vertebrae cannot be visually identified. Hook bones appear rounded, but are still easily discernible. Pin bones not distinguishable. Slight fat cover over ribs. Ribs easily discernible. Shoulder accentuated
Neck not obviously thin Withers not obviously thin Negative creases along back Prominence depends on conformation, fat can be felt around it. Hook bones not discernible. Slight fat cover over ribs. Ribs easily discernible. Shoulder accentuated
Neck blends smoothly into body Withers rounded over spinous processes Back level Fat around tailhead beginning to feel spongy Ribs cannot be visually distinguished, but can be easily felt. Shoulder blends smoothly into body
Fat beginning to be deposited Fat beginning to be deposited May have slight positive crease down back Fat around tailhead feels soft Fat over ribs feels spongy Fat beginning to be deposited
Fat deposited along neck Fat deposited along withers May have positive crease down back Fat around tailhead is soft. Individual ribs can be felt, but noticeable filling between ribs with fat Fat deposited behind shoulder
Noticeable thickening of neck Area along withers filed with fat Positive crease down back Tailhead fat very soft Difficult to feel ribs Area behind shoulder filled in flush with body
Fat deposited along inner buttocks.
Bulging fat Bulging fat Obvious positive crease down back Bulging fat around tailhead Patchy fat appearing over ribs Bulging fat
Extremely Fat – Fat along inner buttocks may rub together. Flank filled in flush.


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