Dr. Dan Burke, Director of Equine Nutrition for Tribute Equine Nutrition, has worked hard to create a straightforward way to evaluate a horse through our Wellness System.
Dr. Burke states that "Equine science has learned quite a bit since the original body scoring system developed over 25 years ago by Dr. Don Henneke and others at Texas A&M University."
That system evaluates the horse’s body fat over 6 areas of the horse’s body and then rates the combined evaluations on a scale of 1-9 (see Henneke scale here). It can be complicated by conformation, breed, fitness etc.
This approach assumes that all the points evaluated are due to excess fat. We now know that the most reflective area showing whether the horse is taking in too many calories or too few is fat over the ribs.
Discreet fat deposits over the crest of the neck and on either side of the tail-head, as possibly behind the shoulder, are more indicative of equine metabolic syndrome and/or insulin resistance than merely too many calories. It suggests the horse
is sensitive to the NSC (non-structural carbohydrate = the sugar + starch content of the feed) intake – “high starch diet”. Thus we need to alter the TYPE of calories in these horses, going to more fat and fiber and reduce the intake of
traditional grains and molasses.
The crease down the horse’s back, though it can occur in an obese horse, can also be reflective of the amino acid intake and balance of the horse’s diet as muscle development of the horse’s back and croup. If a horse is a body score over the ribs of 6 or less, that crease is most likely due to muscle, not fat."