How do we monitor how our seniors are doing? One mainstay is body condition scoring. Our vets use this every time they examine your horse. We use a scale of 1-9. One is the lowest level; emaciated and 9 being severely overweight – 5 is just right.

Doing this yourself as an owner is also very beneficial! Keeping track of their weight on a number basis helps us be objective. You cannot do this by looking at a horse; you must put your hands on them. Feel their withers, ribs, how much do you have to press to feel the ribs vs are they protruding and no fat over them. Feel their back and over the points of their pelvis.

Another way is to use a weight tape – be consistent in how you measure to avoid errors and miscalculation.

Some big tips especially going into winter are:


1. Check under their blankets daily or almost daily. A horse can lose condition in a week if something is wrong.

2. Winter hair can mask the loss of body condition. Put your hand on them and feel through the fur!

On that note – blanketing in winter can be important for our seniors who have trouble keeping weight on. Ensure they have the ability to maintain their body temperature and stay out of the wind. Also, keep in mind a blanketed horse needs to be checked daily to ensure weight management, it is on properly, they don’t have anything under it like winter ticks, foreign material and to make sure it is not rubbing or slipping.

Written by Dr. Heidi Bjornson
Learn more about Dr. Heidi Bjornson here.