Obesity in Horses 

What is Equine Obesity?

This refers to  a horse that has been measured using the Body Condition Scale BCS which refers to the levels and distribution of adipose tissue on a horse and its score is between 7 and 9 with 9 being extremely fat. The Henneke  Scale is based on  the presence or lack of adipose tissue on the horse. This is done by a visual assessment and by palpation.

The Henneke Scale

Score Description Image
1 Poor Extremely emaciated; no fatty tissue; vertebrae, ribs, tail head, and bones of withers, shoulder, and neck are visible  
2. Very Thin Emaciated; slight tissue cover over bones; vertebrae, ribs, tail head, and bones of withers, shoulder, and neck are visible. This horse is very thin, assessed at a 2  
3. Thin Slight fat cover over body; individual vertebrae and ribs no longer visibly discernible; withers, shoulders, and neck do not appear overly thin. Detail  
4. Moderately Thin Ridge of spine and outline of ribs are visible; tail head may or may not be visible depending on the breed; withers, shoulders, and neck do not appear overly thin.  
5. Moderate Spine and ribs cannot be seen however ribs can be felt; tail head is spongy; withers, shoulders, and neck are rounded and smooth A well conditioned horse. Generally considered ideal score  
6. Moderately Fleshy Slight crease down spine; ribs and tail head feel spongy; fat deposits along withers and neck and behind shoulders. A horse in good condition, would be scored as 6  
7. Fleshy Crease down spine; ribs have fat filling between them; tail head spongy; fat deposits along withers and neck and behind shoulders with visible fat deposits  
8. Fat Apparent crease down spine; ribs difficult to feel; soft fat surrounding tail head; fat deposits along withers, behind shoulders, and on inner thighs; neck is large.  
9. Extremely Fat Obvious crease down spine; patchy fat on ribs; bulging fat on tail head, withers, behind shoulders, and on neck; fat fills in flank and on inner thighs. This horse is noticeably overweight: fat fills in flank and withers, neck is cresty, thick fatty swell over loin and croup, bulging fat on elbows, in front of shoulder, and at tail’s base  

Some Explanations



  • Adipocyte is a fat cell  rather like an empty balloon designed to store excess energy coming in from dietary fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Spare energy is converted into lipids (fats)that enter the adipocyte to form a large single lipid droplet taking up the volume of the cell, rather like a balloon filled with oils/lipids. This droplet (the yellow centre)  expands to the limit of the cell (in other words its capacity).
  • Weight Gain refers not so much to increasing adipocyte numbers as to each individual cell expanding due to filling with lipids till it reaches saturation
  • Adipose Tissue refers to loose connective tissue formed of adipocytes. The total number and ratios of fat cells to other cells ie muscle, bone, blood etc differ from breed to breed with some horses naturally having more fat cells than others.
  • Adipose Tissue is an endocrine organ with each of its cell membranes covered in hormone receptor sites.








DISCLAIMER: The information in this page must not be used in place of professional veterinary treatment . We recommend that either a qualified herbalist or your animal professional carry out diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Herbal remedies must not be given not be taken in conjunction with other medication with out consulting a medical professional.







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