Understanding Your Horse’s Body Condition Score

The 6 Vital Sections to Horse Body Scoring.

The Importance of Your Horse’s Shape

Body Condition Scoring is a great way to judge a horse’s shape and how it affects his/her overall health. Regardless of use, body condition influences all aspects of your horse’s life and well-being. Scores range from 1 being extremely thin to 9 being extremely fat. Some of the key zones to use when evaluating are:

A. Along the Neck
B. Along the withers
C. Crease down back
D. Tailhead
E. Ribs
F. Behind shoulder

Here is how Purina Mills described each condition:

  1. Poor
    Extremely emaciated. Spinous processes, ribs, tailhead, hip joints, and lower pelvic bones project prominently; bone in withers, shoulders and neck are easily noticed. No fatty tissue can be felt.
  2. Very Thin
    Emaciated. Slight fat covers base of spinous processes, transverse processes of lumbar vertebrae feel rounded. Spinous processes, ribs, tailhead, hip joints, and lower pelvic bones are prominent. Withers, shoulders and neck structure faintly discernible.
  3. Thin
    Fat buildup about halfway on spinous processes. Transverse processes cannot be felt. Slight fat covers ribs. Spinous processes and ribs easily discernible; tailhead prominent but individual vertebrae cannot be identified visually. Hip joints appear rounded but easily discernible; lower pelvic bones not distinguishable. Withers, shoulders and neck accentuated.
  4. Moderately Thin
    Slight ridge along back. Faint outline of ribs discernible. Tailhead prominence depends on conformation, but fat can be felt around it. Hip joints not discernable. Withers, shoulders and neck not obviously thin.
  5. Moderate
    Back is flat; ribs easily felt, but not visually distinguishable. Fat around tailhead feels a bit spongy. Withers round over spinous processes; shoulders and neck blend smoothly into body.
  6. Moderately Fleshy
    May have slight crease down back. Fat over ribs spongy; fat around tailhead soft. Small fat deposits behind shoulders and along sides of neck and withers.
  7. Fleshy
    Might have slight crease down back. Individual ribs can be felt, but noticeable filling between ribs with fat. Fat around tailhead soft; fat deposited along withers, behind shoulders and along neck.
  8. Fat
    Crease down back. Difficult to feel ribs. Fat around tailhead very soft; area along withers filled with fat. Area behind shoulder filled with fat, noticeable thickening of neck. Fat deposited along inner thighs.
  9. Extremely Fat
    Obvious crease down back. Patchy fat appears over ribs. Bulging fat around tailhead, along withers, behind shoulders and along neck. Fat along inner thighs may rub together. Flank filled with fat.

Ideal Body Condition Scores

A good score for most horses, including performing and growing horses, is between a five and a six. A broodmare can range from five to seven for reproductive efficiency. It is unhealthy for your broodmare to dip under a 5 during the breeding season. If your horse has a score over 7, they may be at a greater risk for metabolic disorders.

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