Weight tapes aren’t all that accurate when it comes to determining a horse’s exact weight, but they are very good at monitoring for changes, so long as they are used in a consistent manner. The tape should be placed at a diagonal from the lowest point of the withers around the chest just behind both elbows and then back up to the lowest point of the withers. The horse needs to be relaxed and standing squarely on a flat surface. The tape cannot be twisted and should lie smoothly against the skin, but not be pulled so tightly as to cause an indentation. Use them same tape on the same horse monthly to monitor for weight gain or loss.

In my experience, the biggest downside to weight tapes is that they tend to be impossible to find when you want them. Therefore, I rely more heavily on body condition scoring. The Henneke Body Condition Scoring System is simple and widely used, allowing for comparisons between different observers. Use your eyes and a firm touch to assign a score to each of the six body parts mentioned below, add up the numbers, and divide by six. That is your horse’s Henneke Body Condition Score.

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Ask your veterinarian or another experienced horse person to double check your findings the first few times you use this system, and then evaluate your horse monthly so you can address weight gain or loss before it gets out of hand.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

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