Sunday, January 20, 2013



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Updated 02/2013

This free packet was put together by an assortment of Equestrians.

Use the information at your own risk.  It is to help provide guidance only.

This packet is no substitute for the direct services of a Veterinarian.



Since equine evolved as grazing herd mammals, try and attempt to follow a regimen that emphasizes these specific characteristics and their inherent behavior.  Equines are healthier both mentally and physically, and happier, if not confined in stalls for prolonged periods (prolonged is anything over 12 hours unless due to illness/injury or inclement weather) but shelter should be available 24/7.  Hay should be fed on the ground as pasture would be grazed or at least shoulder height or lower.  When feeding flakes always put out a pile for each equine approximately 10+ foot apart with at least one extra pile, when feeding round bales put out approximately 1 round bale per 4 equine at 25+ feet apart, this helps to eliminate arguing and allows for all equine to eat what they need.  Grain should be fed on the ground in a rubber or plastic feed bowl or in the stall in a plastic corner feed tub shoulder height or lower.  Grains should only be used to supplement what your pasture and hay are not adequate in and should not be used as a replacement for pasture or hay.  Equine should always have free access to mineral and salt, along with fresh clean water.  The dietary needs of equines vary according to several factors: metabolic rate, size, age, breed, temperament, activity level, environmental conditions, health and stress level.



Make fresh water available at all times. Water deficiency will get an equine into serious trouble faster than any other dietary problem.  The average water consumption of horses is approximately 10 to 15 gallons per day. Working horses or lactating mares may consume as much as 30 gallons or more within a 24-hour period.  Equine competing in events or worked out should be allowed to drink as long as they are kept on the move. When the ride/workout has been completed, they should be cooled-out before being allowed free access to water.


Bulk (Roughage)

The preferred method of providing bulk is to offer pasture and/or hay on a free choice basis 24 hours per day or at least 12 hours on with no more than 12 hours off. If this isn't practical, figure on supplying 1.5% - 3.0% equivalent of the equines correct body weight in good quality roughage split up into at least 2 to 3+ feedings per day. Estimates and averages: 1000 pound equine will need anywhere between 3 to 6 flakes of hay per day. Depending on the weight & quality of hay and the needs of the individual equine the consumption can go to 9 to 12 flakes per day, especially for the draft breeds, and some smaller horses/cobs/ponies/minis can go down to 2 to 4 flakes per day. Your average weight of a flake of hay is between 3 and 6 lbs., again depending on what type of hay and how heavy it was baled and how thin or fat the flakes in the bale were made. So make sure you weigh your flakes of hay to be sure you are feeding enough.


Fat and Protein

Balance the percentage of fat and protein level of the grain mix with the percentage of fat and protein levels of your roughage.  Equines receiving alfalfa hay as bulk should be fed a grain with a lower percentage protein content than those fed grass hay due to the higher protein content of alfalfa.


Vitamins and Minerals

Mature, healthy equine can quite often meet their vitamin requirements via intestinal synthesis or metabolic synthesis by consuming feedstuffs that contain natural vitamins.  Young equine, those in performance, or those under a greater than normal degree of stress due to disease, environment, or temperament may require vitamin supplements.  If you provide vitamin supplements, remember that they will also require supplemental minerals.  Offer a mineral block and a salt block free choice. If living in a Selenium deficient area supplement with Selenium and Vitamin E (they work together) by making sure your mineral block, or other supplement you use, includes Selenium and Vitamin E in it.  Ensure that the mineral and vitamin requirements are met and properly balanced by knowing your equines mineral requirements and feeding it with a fortified product according to labeled directions.  To learn more about Selenium and Vitamin E please visit  Also, to learn more about the Selenium levels in your area, or the area where your forage/hay is produced please visit


Feeding an elder equine, or one with dental issues

Consider this, we as humans sometimes have to change our diets as we get older in order to stay healthy, it’s the same in the animal world. Soak some Orchard or Timothy grass pellets or cubes and Alfalfa pellets or cubes in place of hay (still split up into 2 to 3+ feedings per day. Weigh the feed BEFORE you soak it, do not go by what it weighs after soaking.  Hint: to make the soaking and feeding easier, get a few 5 gal buckets with lids, presoak the amount you'll need for 1 or 2 of the feedings by soaking everything the night before for the morning and afternoon feeding, then in morning after you empty the buckets for that feeding soak for the feedings in the evening (soak for at least 6 hours before you feed it to make sure it's completely soaked). Always rinse out the buckets before you soak your next batch and make sure you don't let the soaked feed sit for longer than 24 hours or it might go bad/sour.  In extremely hot weather, it would be best not to let your soaked feed sit for more than 6 hours, as the heat will sour it much faster, you can always store the soaked feed in an air conditioned room if you need to let it sit longer than the6 hours during hot weather. When filling the buckets only fill them a little over half full with feed stuff and then fill the rest with water and stir (leave 1 or 2 inches from the top or you'll end up with a big mess once it soaks).



As a rule of thumb, an equine in good weight, health and working condition, should be able to carry one quarter (1/4) of its own correct body weight. Providing the gear fits, how much area is distributing the weight (is it a short or long barreled/backed equine and/or how much area on the back does the saddle sit on), the rider can ride correctly, the equine has no back or leg problems, the grade is not too steep, the sun not too hot, etc…, etc...  But also please keep in mind what you will be doing with that equine (contesting, long distance riding, etc…) and the weight of your gear (a saddle alone can weigh anywhere from 10 lb. to even 50 lbs.!).  If an equine is made to carry too much weight, you may cause damage to its bones or skeletal structure; extra force as the equine moves may also cause damage to its tendons and ligaments. Anatomically, and from an engineering standpoint, the equine is built more to pull than to carry.


Taking an Equines Weight

1. Measure the circumference (heart girth) of the animal (distance C).

2. Measure the length of body (distance A-B).

3. Take the values obtained in Steps 1 and 2 and apply the following formula to calculate body weight: Heart girth x heart girth x length (measured in inches) ÷ by 300, then add 50 lb. which will = the weight.


Henneke Body Condition Scoring Chart


The Henneke System is an objective evaluation of an equines body condition. Developed in 1983 by Don R. Henneke, Ph.D., of Tarleton State Texas University, it is based on both visual appraisal and palpable fat cover of the six major points of the equine that are most responsive to changes in body fat.  It is a scientific method of evaluating an equines body condition regardless of breed, body type, sex or age. It is widely used by law enforcement agencies as an objective method of scoring an equines body condition in cruelty cases. The chart is accepted in a court of law.


The chart covers six major parts; neck, withers, (where the neck ends and the back begins) the shoulder area, ribs, loins, and the tailhead area. The chart rates the equine 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 rating of 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 normally uphold the seizure of equine with body scores of 1 to 3 by law enforcement. Veterinarians consider a body score of between 4 and 7 as acceptable. A 5 is considered ideal.


Observers are trained to visually inspect the equine and also to palpate each part of the equine with their hands to feel for body fat. The observer then assigns each area of the body the numerical score that corresponds with the condition. When an equine has a long hair coat it is imperative that the person scoring use their hands to feel the equine. The long hair coat 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 equines rating on the Henneke Body Scoring Condition Chart.


The Henneke Chart is a standardized scoring system, whereas the terms, "skinny", "thin", "emaciated", or "fat" are all subjective terms that have different meanings to different people.  The Chart is readily available and is printed on the back of several manufacturers’ of feed products and is on numerous universities web sites and has been used in several leading national equine magazines.


Conformational differences between equines may make certain criteria within each score difficult to apply to every animal. In these instances, those areas influenced by conformation should be discounted, but not ignored when determining the condition score.  Conformation also changes in pregnant mares as they approach parturition (birth). Since the weight of the pregnancy tends to pull the skin and musculature tighter over the back and ribs, emphasis is placed upon fat deposition behind the shoulder, around the tailhead and along the neck and withers in these cases.


Description of the Condition Score System


1 - Poor:

Emaciated. Prominent spinous processes, ribs, tailhead and hooks and pins. Noticeable bone structure on withers, shoulders and neck. No fatty tissues can be palpated.


2 - Very Thin:

Emaciated. Slight fat covering over base of spinous processes. Transverse processes of lumbar vertebrae feel rounded. Prominent spinous processes, ribs, tailhead and hooks and pins. Withers, shoulders and neck structures faintly discernible.


3 - Thin:

Fat built up about halfway on spinous processes, transverse processes cannot be felt. Slight fat cover over ribs. Spinous processes and ribs easily discernible. Tailhead prominent, but individual vertebrae cannot be visually identified. Hook bones appear rounded, but easily discernible. Pin bones not distinguishable. Withers, shoulders and neck accentuated.


4 -Moderately Thin:

Negative crease along back. Faint outline of ribs discernible. Tailhead prominence depends on conformation, fat can be felt around it. Hook bones not discernible. Withers, shoulders and neck not obviously thin.


5 - Moderate:

Back is level. Ribs cannot be visually distinguished, but can be easily felt. Fat around tailhead beginning to feel spongy. Withers appear rounded over spinous processes. Shoulders and neck blend smoothly into body.


6 - Moderate to Fleshy:

May have slight crease down back. Fat over ribs feels spongy. Fat around tailhead feels soft. Fat beginning to be deposited along the sides of the withers, behind the shoulders and along the sides of the neck.


7 - Fleshy:

May have crease down back. Individual ribs can be felt, but noticeable filling between ribs with fat. Fat around tailhead is soft. Fat deposits along withers, behind shoulders and along the neck.


8 - Fat:

Crease down back. Difficult to palpate ribs. Fat around tailhead very soft. Area along withers filled with fat. Area behind shoulder filled in flush. Noticeable thickening of neck. Fat deposited along inner buttocks.


9- Extremely Fat:

Obvious crease down back. Patchy fat appearing over ribs. Bulging fat around tailhead, along withers, behind shoulders and along neck. Fat along inner buttocks may rub together. Flank filled in flush.


Caring for equine - EXTRAS:

* Have your equines wolf-teeth pulled when they come in, generally around age 3 to 5 years old and floated every 1 to 2 years or as needed.

* You should have your equines hooves trimmed every 4 to 12 weeks, depending on the growth rate.  Clean out your equines hooves and groom their mane, tail, and coat at least once a week.

* Baths: when the weather is at least 60*F or warmer, sunny and not windy.  Clean or have geldings sheath cleaned at least once a year.  Also, clean or have mares teats/udders cleaned at least once a year.

* Stalls should always be cleaned out at least once a day when being used and shelters should always be cleaned out at least once a week.



Basic Vaccines for Equine in the spring each year (consult your vet for your area and for possible extra vaccinations needed, including during the fall):

TETANUS - (considered a core vaccine by the AAEP)

EAST/WEST ENCEPHALOMYELITIS - (considered a core vaccine by the AAEP)

WEST NILE - (considered a core vaccine by the AAEP)

RABIES - (considered a core vaccine by the AAEP)

STRANGLES - (considered a risk-based vaccine by the AAEP)

POTOMAC - (considered a risk-based vaccine by the AAEP)

RHINO/FLU - (considered a risk-based vaccine by the AAEP)


Guidelines for the Vaccination of Horses by the AAEP



(Geared for the Midwest area, consult your vet for your area. You might also talk to your vet about having fecal counts done before starting a deworming program. Also, ask them if a program, with only doing fecal counts to deworm for what is only needed at that time with that particular horse, might be a better choice for you.)


Adult Fast Deworming Program:

January   -------------------------   Oxibendazole

March   -------------------------   Pyrantel Pamoate

May   -------------------------   Oxibendazole

July   -------------------------   Ivermectin (with Praziquantel to treat tapeworms – safest seems to be Equimax by Bimeda, formerly distributed by Pfizer)

September   -------------------------   Pyrantel Pamoate

November   -------------------------   Ivermectin


Foal Deworming Program:

2 months old   -------------------------   Pyrantel Pamoate

4 months old   -------------------------   Ivermectin (with Praziquantel to treat tapeworms – safest seems to be Equimax by Bimeda, formerly distributed by Pfizer)

6 months old   -------------------------   Oxibendazole

8 months old   -------------------------   Ivermectin

10 months old -------------------------   Pyrantel Pamoate

12 months old -------------------------   Oxibendazole


Adult Seasonal Deworming Program:

May   -------------------------   Oxibendazole

July   -------------------------   Pyrantel Pamoate

December   -------------------------   Ivermectin (with Praziquantel to treat tapeworms – safest seems to be Equimax by Bimeda, formerly distributed by Pfizer)


Adult Continuous/Daily Deworming Program:

In this program the horse is fed Pyrantel Tartrate (2.64 mg/kg) in alfalfa pellets on a daily basis to control the adult intestinal forms of large and small strongyles, ascarids, and pinworms.  Pyrantel Tartrate does not kill tissue stages of these worms, but (when used on a daily basis) does kill larvae before they begin their tissue migration.  This has a great advantage for elderly and stressed equine, and in circumstances in which other methods have failed to reduce egg counts and numbers of infective larvae.  One other asset of daily deworming is that, as opposed to other programs, Pyrantel Tartrate does not have to be given to all equine on the premises to control worms in a single individual.  This is advantageous of boarding facilities and for farms where equines come and go frequently.  Pyrantel Tartrate does not kill bots.  Accordingly, a boticide should be administered in midsummer (Ivermectin with Praziquantel to treat tapeworms – safest seems to be Equimax by Bimeda, formerly distributed by Pfizer) and late fall.


Diagnostic Tools and Vital Signs:

• Twitch

• Thermometer: A horse's normal temperature is 98.5-101.5°F. Use an animal thermometer, tie a long string to the end of the thermometer, lubricate, insert the thermometer full length into the rectum, remove in 2 to 3 minutes and read.

• Stethoscope:

• Heartbeat: A horse's normal pulse is 30-40 beats per minute.  Place your hand at the margin of the jaw where the artery winds around from the inner side, at the inside of the elbow, or under the tail and count the pulses in a timed minute.

• Respiration rate: A horse's normal respiration rate is 8-15 breaths per minute. The respiration rate should never be greater than the heart rate.  Place your hand on the flank or observe the rise and fall of the flanks visually to count respirations in a timed minute.

• Gut sounds: An equines gut should have lots of gurgly noises at least every 15 seconds. If you listen in the area behind the ribcage and don't hear anything, be very worried.  Make sure to always check both sides.

• The equines mouth: Gums and Capillary Refill Time

• The equines gums should be a pale pink. It's good to know about what color they ought to be, so check it a few times when your equine is calm. It should be pink, but not as pink as a humans. If the gums are more white, red, yellow, blue, or purplish than normal, it's an indicator that something is wrong. Often an equine who is feeling unwell will have very pale gums.

• When you press a thumb briefly against your equines gums, it should go white and then get pink again quickly. This is the "capillary refill time" (the time it takes the blood-carrying capillaries to refill after you press on them). The capillary refill time should not be more than 1 or 2 seconds.

• Pinch Test (Dehydration): If you gently "pinch" your equines neck, pulling up a little "tent" of skin, it should flatten immediately. If the skin goes down slowly the equine is slightly dehydrated if it stays "tented," the equine is very dehydrated.


There are many reasons why an equine might stop drinking:

• Water that is stale or dirty

• Cold air temperature + cold water, or ice in the water

• Equine is feeling unwell

• Another equine is "guarding" the water

• When traveling, the water tastes different from water at home


When it's cold make sure to use heaters in your water troughs to keep them from freezing.  Heaters can go bad, so make sure yours are not shocking them. It's important to keep your water tubs clean, empty and rinse them every few days/weeks. If you have a particularly bossy equine, you may need to provide several water tubs in turnout areas.


If your equine has become dehydrated, it's important to try to get him to drink. Don't force water down his throat; with an equine, it's too easy to accidentally send it down the airway instead of the esophagus. Instead, try giving him fresh water, and give him a little salt or electrolytes. If the equine won't eat it, you can rub the salt on the gums above his upper teeth. If the dehydrated equine still doesn't drink, call the vet; the situation is serious. It can be useful to check your equines vital signs a few times when you and they are both calm. This will give you an idea of where their vital signs are normally, and also help you to work out how to read the vital signs. It can be difficult to figure out something new when you are worried. It's also helpful to note the equines vitals when calling the vet: if you can give that information over the phone, the vet can offer you advice of what to do until they arrive, and also make sure that they bring the correct supplies.


Deviations in rates and body temperature

• Pulse rates will be higher in younger, smaller and more nervous animals.

• Pulse rates will increase with exercise, excitement, digestion and high outside temperature.

• Respiration can be increased by recent exercise, excitement, hot weather or stuffy buildings.

• Respiration is accelerated in pain and in feverish conditions.

• A rise in body temperature can indicate an infectious disease.

• Body temperature can also be affected by air temperature, prolonged exercise, excitement, age, feed, etc.

• An animal’s body temperature may be lower than usual during colder weather and at night.


Wound Care Supplies:

• Saline Solution: Water with a little salt in it. This is ideal for flushing.

• Gentle Iodine, Peroxide, Rubbing alcohol: Any of these can be used to clean and disinfect a wound.

• Corona ointment: You usually want to use some kind of wound ointment. In fact, you can use antibiotic ointment itself on horses.

• Wonder Dust: Wonder Dust stops bleeding and helps prevent the formation of proud flesh on a wound.

• Swat: fly repelling ointment that is safe for use on wounds. Often flies are attracted to blood, and Swat helps keep the wound clean and pest-free.

• Liniment: Use when an equine has over-exerted himself or just been worked hard.

• Non-stick gauze pads (many sizes): If you're wrapping a wound, you want to put one of these on first so the bandage doesn't get bloody, and so the forming scab is not pulled off when you change the dressing.

• Quilts/Cotton Batting: When you put a pressure wrap over a wound, you need to buffer it with a layer of cloth first.

• Polo/Standing Wraps: These are used over the buffering material to wrap the wound.

• Vetrap: Vetrap can also be used for pressure wraps, or simply to hold gauze in place to keep a wound clean. Vetrap is self-sticking.

• Duct tape: Putting duct tape over a bandage can help it withstand the equines exuberance in turnout, and make the bandage more waterproof.

• Soaking boot: If your equine has a wound in his hoof or on the coronet band, a soaking boot can be used to soak the hoof in Epsom salts or iodine or to hold medication in.  If you do not want to buy a boot made specifically for this purpose, you can make a useable "boot" with a disposable diaper wrapped onto the hoof with duct tape.

• Epsom salts: Good for soaking hoof injuries, like abscesses.

Illness Related Supplies:

• Large syringe with no needle: Used for administering liquid medicines.

• Gatorade powder or electrolyte powder sold for equine or a tube of electrolyte paste: The powers are for dissolving/administering by syringe in case of dehydration.

• Mylanta: about 30 cc of Mylanta helps relieve mild diarrhea.


Injections and Injection Related Supplies:

• Disposable needles, small syringes: for administering medications intramuscularly. It is not recommended that a layperson (non-vet) inject an equine intravenously.

• Banamine: Muscle relaxant/anti-inflammatory; used commonly for colicing equine (always call your vet for advice first).

• Bute: Pain reliever/anti-inflammatory; use as recommended by vet.

• Penicillin: Antibiotic; use as recommended by vet.

• Epinephrine: For anaphylactic shock; call your vet immediately if you think you need to use this.


Blanket Sizes:

To measure accurately, you must take a side measurement from the center of your equines chest along its side horizontally (parallel to the ground) to the center of its tail.


The following chart is approximate:

12 hands to 12.2....62

12.2 hands to 13....64

13 hands to 13.2....66

13.2 hands to 14....68

14 hands to 14.2....70

14.2 hands to 15....72

15 hands to 15.2....74

15.2 hands to 16....76

16 hands to 16.2....78

16.2 hands to 17....80

17 hands to 17.2....82

17.2 hands to 18....84


Other links and information:


American Association of Equine Practitioners


Stolen Horse International (SHI/NetPosse)


ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Hotline

This is the only dedicated animal poison control hotline in the world manned by veterinarians, not telephone operators. The number is staffed 24/7.

(888) 4ANI-HELP or (888) 426-4435


American Horse Council

Look up your state horse councils by typing in your internet search engine the state name then “horse council” behind it.


Norton Veterinary Consulting and Education Resources, equine veterinary education at all levels.  From the first time horse owner to the seasoned veterinarian, offered through seminars or online courses. Also available for case-by-case equine and equine internal medicine consultations for veterinarians and horse owners who are dealing with difficult cases and need the advice of an expert.


Horse owners, enthusiasts, and professionals can now enroll in three online courses: Horse Selection and Evaluation, Horse Behavior and Welfare and Horse Nutrition. These self-paced courses allow learners to access materials and instruction whenever it is convenient for them.


You can find copies of this packet and other information at:




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