MYTH: My horses are all fat and happy. But my neighbors horses look to me like they are being starved half to death, compared to mine. I see him feeding them twice a day, but obviously not enough or not good enough hay. I think all horses should be kept fat and happy, don’t you? Should I report him for Neglect?

FACT: Lets not jump to conclusions here. Although we must all be concerned about the welfare of all animals, first lets look at some facts. 1. Perhaps your horses are badly overweight and judging the neighbors against what yours look like is not a fair assessment. 2. Perhaps your horses are a type of breed, which has a tendency to get overweight or due to conformation, appear fatter than other breeds. Perhaps his horses are a type of breed that does not lean towards being overweight or due to conformation appear thinner than they really are. Thoroughbreds fit this scenario. 3. Perhaps his horses are senior citizens where it sometimes can be hard to keep weight on them. Perhaps they are young, rapidly growing horses who will appear to be thinner than mature horses. So lets introduce you to the BODY CONDITIONING SCORING SYSTEM FOR HORSES.

This system evaluates a horse’s body condition based on visible and palatable fat cover over the Neck, Withers, Loin, Tailhead, Ribs and Shoulders. Horses scoring between 1 and 4 are considered underweight, a score of 5 is usually considered perfect, and 6 to 9 are overweight. Being to much overweight can also be very hard on a horse and lead to multiple health problems. Scores of 1 DEFINETLY, and also 2 and 3 should be brought to the attention of your states or provinces humane society, if the horse owner or care giver is making no attempt to correct the condition of the animal(s).

1. POOR: Extremely emaciated. Bones in neck, withers, tailhead and shoulders projecting prominently. Ribs and spine are prominent. No fatty tissue can be felt or found anywhere on the body.

2. VERY THIN: Emaciated. Bones in neck, withers and shoulders are faintly discernible. Tailhead and ribs are prominent. Slight fat covering over the loin. Spine is visible, but ends feel rounded.

3. THIN: Neck, withers and shoulders accentuated. Tailhead prominent but individual vertebrates not visible. Hip bones rounded, but visible. Ribs are visible but have a slight fat cover.

4. MODERATELY THIN: Neck, withers and shoulders not obviously thin. Ribs are faintly discernible. Negative crease along back. Fat felt on tailhead, but tailhead prominence depends on conformation. Many race horses fit this body condition.

5. MODERATE: Neck, withers and shoulders blend smoothly into body. Fat around tailhead beginning to feel spongy. Ribs cannot be visually distinguished but easily felt. Back is level. Ideal body condition for most pleasure horses.

6. MODERATELY FLESHY: Fat beginning to be deposited on the sides of the neck, withers and behind the shoulders. Fat around tailhead feels soft. May have slight positive crease down the back.

7. FLESHY: Fat deposited along crest of the neck, withers and behind the shoulders. Fat around tailhead is soft. Individual ribs can be felt, but noticeable filling between ribs with fat. May have positive crease down back.

8. FAT: Noticeable thickening of neck. Area along withers and behind shoulders filled with fat. Tailhead fat is very soft. Difficult to feel ribs. Crease down back. Fat deposited along inner thighs.

9. EXTREMELY FAT: Crested neck, withers and shoulders. Patchy fat appearing over ribs. Building fat around tailhead. Fat along inner thighs may rub together. Flank filled with fat. Obvious crease down back.

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