Is My Horse Too Skinny? How to Tell If Your Horse Is Underweight

Weight loss and emaciation can take a serious toll on a horse’s health and performance. In fact, some horses can be so skinny that it isn’t safe or advisable to ride them. Riding an overly skinny horse can injure and even emotionally damage a horse, leading to a slower recovery.

When Is a Horse Too Skinny to Ride?

A horse is considered to be too skinny to ride when it does not have enough muscle mass to carry a rider’s weight while adequately supporting its back.

How to Tell If a Horse Is Too Skinny to Ride

Every horse is unique and will have a slightly different physique. This can make it difficult to determine whether a horse is too skinny with just a glance.
The Henneke Equine Body Condition Scoring System (BCS, for short) assigns numerical ratings to six specific fat-bearing locations on a horse’s body to determine an overall weight score. The ratings range from 1 to 9 with 1 being emaciated and 9 being obese. The scoring is done with visual assessment and palpation of a horse’s neck, ribs, tailhead, withers, loins, and shoulders
On average, a healthy racehorse will have a BCS of 4 while showhorses or riding horses have a BCS of 5 or 6. A horse with a BCS of 4 or higher can generally be safely ridden.
However, it is important to monitor your horse’s weight and make a careful note of any weight changes. For example, a horse that drops to a BCS of 4 from a 5 or 6 might not be healthy enough to ride and should have a physical examination and dietary evaluation.

Why Do Horses Lose Weight?

Horses can lose weight for a variety of reasons including:
With a thorough health evaluation, our equine veterinarians can determine the underlying cause of your horse’s weight loss and help establish your horse on a diet for weight gain.

Professional Body Condition Scoring and Equine Weight Management

At Advanced Equine of the Hudson Valley, our equine veterinarians can help you assess, monitor, and manage the weight of your horse to ensure your horse maintains an optimal weight for health, work, riding, racing, and/or showing.
To learn more about evaluating your horse’s weight, health, and diet or to schedule an appointment with an equine veterinarian in Fishkill, we welcome you to contact Advanced Equine of the Hudson Valley today.