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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.

12 Things to look into before working with any "rescue".

Before donating or adopting from a horse "rescue" be sure to check the following:
1)  Does the organization have its 501(c)(3) status with the government?
You can check here
2) Are there any criminal charges, especially animal cruelty charges, against the organization? Check  the local police and the Sheriff's office.
3) Interview the Board of Directors. Ask the organization for a list of their board of directors with contact numbers or email addresses. Call these people and ask for the mission statement of the organization and why they got involved.
4) Attend a Board Meeting. Most organizations will hold these on a quarterly or monthly basis.
5) Ask for references. Get names and numbers of people that have adopted a horse, donated a horse or volunteered. Ask for the name of the feed store they do business with, their veterinarian and farrier. Talk to these people about the organization.
6) Legitimate horse rescues do not partner with horse traders.
7) Legitimate horse rescues have permanent horse residents. Traders, do not. They can't make any money off retirees or unadoptable horses.
8) Ask to see the organization's 990 reports or financial statements.
9) Ask what their policy is for their horses. Do they have a no-kill policy? Do they euthanize horses for reasons other than illness, such as behavioral or lameness?
10)  What is their adoption and/or foster policy? How do they ensure that horses they adopt or foster out do not end up at the auction or slaughterhouse.
11) Legitimate horse rescues do not make their money on adoption fees. They usually have grants, fundraisers or other events to bring in funding to feed and care for the horses.
12) Legitimate horse rescues' top three expenses are: Food, Veterinary and farrier.

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