It’s important for your horse’s overall health to be at the right weight. Carrying too much, or too little fat on his body can lead to other health problems. Follow our handy advice to help keep track of your horse’s weight.
How can I find out if my horse is a healthy weight?
There are different ways to assess and keep track of your horse’s weight.
For most of us, the best (and most practical) way of doing this is to use a weigh tape or a system of ‘Body Condition Scoring’ (or ‘fat scoring’), and ideally a combination of both.
Both methods are easy and very cheap to do! They are really useful ways to keep track of your horse’s weight as well as helping you spot any changes in their condition quickly.
Using a weigh tape measures around your horse’s girth, which is easy to do and will give you an approximate weight, usually in kilograms. This can be especially useful when you need to know your horse’s weight for worming at the correct dose, for example. It is also useful to allow you to track changes in weight.
It’s useful to record your horse’s weight and body condition score regularly to help you gauge what their ideal healthy weight is and notice any changes in their weight or body condition that may need addressing. Always seek advice from your equine vet first as to what your horse’s ideal healthy weight or target weight is.
Download one of our useful equine weight and body condition score charts to help you monitor your horse’s weight.
How to use a weigh tape…
- It’s useful to have someone to help you hold the horse for you, especially if they are not used to the weigh tape.
- Measure around the horse’s heart girth and pull the weigh tape tight enough that it is snug around the horse’s body but not too tight.
- Take the reading from the weigh tape. Try to use the same weigh tape each time.
It’s a great idea to use a weigh tape on your horse regularly and keep a record of the readings, as this will help you spot any changes or trends in their weight more easily.
This method will help you measure and track your horse’s weight, but it won’t tell you whether your horse is a healthy weight, so it’s a good idea to use a combination of using a weigh tape and assessing your horse’s body fat score.
Body Condition Scoring…
Body Condition scoring is another way to measure whether your horse is a healthy weight. It helps you to assess whether you horse has too much, or too little, fat on his body.
It’s impossible to tell just by looking at a horse, what his body condition score is, so you’ll need to get hands-on to assess this properly!
You’ll need to give your horse a score, assessing different areas of his body.
The three main areas of the horse’s body that you’ll need to assess are the pelvis, the back and ribs and the neck.
Using the Body Condition Score guide leaflet, feel each area of the horse with your hands and fingers. Starting with the pelvis, give a score from 0-5 as described. Adjust the score by half a point if there is a difference of one point or more to the back of the neck.
Step 1: Assessing the score of the pelvis
Step 2: Assessing the score of the back and ribs
Step 3: Assessing the score of the neck
Head of Sanctuary Care Sally Burton describes how she carried out a body condition score assessment on Iona the pony featured in the images:
‘I’m assessing Iona today, she is a 15 year old, 13hh Dartmoor hill pony. I start by assessing her pelvis. Because she is well rounded here and has a covering of fat, but her pelvis can easily be felt and she has no ‘gutter’ to the root of her tail, the pelvis is BCS 3.
Moving onto Iona’s back and ribs, because her backbone and ribs are well covered but can be felt easily, this area is also BCS 3. If she had been carrying more fat here, and was in the category of BCS 4, I would have amended her overall score by half a point, to BCS 3.5.
Iona’s neck has no crest, and is not too wide or too firm, so this is also a BCS 3.
So, overall I have assessed Iona’s body condition score to be a 3, which is good. ‘
Horses should have a body condition score of between 2.5 and 3.5, this is considered the normal range. Please remember that seasonal fluctuations in weight are normal, most horses will put on a little weight in Spring and Summer while the grass is better quality and lose a little through Winter when the quality of the grass reduces. Seasonal weight fluctuations are not too much of a worry if still within the normal range and the changes are slow.
Using a weighbridge
A weigh bridge is the most accurate method of weighing a horse, however not many horse owners have access to this type of equipment. It’s worth asking your veterinary practice whether they have one available for you to use or keep an eye out for a weight clinic near you.
It’s important to ensure that your horse can happily put all four feet onto the weighbridge and stand for at least a few seconds to get an accurate reading. He may need training to get him used to doing this.
A weighbridge can be useful to weigh your horse when you know he is at his ideal body condition score, to give you his ideal weight in kilos.
If you notice that your horse is gaining or losing weight quickly, you should seek veterinary advice as this could be a symptom of other health problems which may require further investigation.