The Body Condition Score (BCS) can be a useful tool for developing diets appropriate for maintaining the health and longevity of an individual horse. The optimal BCS range is between 4 to 6 with a BCS of 5 being the ideal. Increasing a single body condition score requires about 18-20 kilograms of body weight.
Follow these 3 simple steps. Using the Body Condition Score Chart give a score of 1 to 9 to each of the 6 points of reference. Next add these 6 scores together. Then divide by 6. This is your horse’s Body Condition Score. See Equine Body Conditions
|1||Bone structure easily noticeable||Bone structure easily noticeable||Bone structure easily noticeable||Ribs protruding prominently||Spinous processes projecting prominently||Tailhead, pinbones, and hook bones projecting prominently|
|2||Bone structure faintly discernible||Bone structure faintly discernible||Bone structure faintly discernible||Ribs prominent||Spinous processes are prominent with some fat covering over their base. Transverse processes of lumbar vertebrae feel rounded.||Tailhead prominent|
|3||Neck accentuated||Withers accentuated||Shoulder accentuated||Slight fat over ribs. Ribs easily discernible||Fat buildup halfway on spinous processes, but easily discernible. Traverse processes cannot be felt.||Tailhead prominent but individual vertebrae cannot be visually identified. Hook bones appear rounded, but are still easily discernible. Pin bones not distinguishable.|
|4||Neck not obviously thin||Withers not obviously thin||Shoulder not obviously thin||Faint outline of ribs discernible||Negative crease (peaked appearance) along back||Prominence depends on conformation. Fat can be felt. Hook bones not discernible|
|5||Neck blends smoothly into body||Withers rounded over spinous processes||Shoulder blends smoothly into body||Ribs can be easily felt, but cannot be visually distinguished.||Back is level||Fat around tailhead beginning to feel soft|
|6||Fat beginning to be deposited||Fat beginning to be deposited||Fat beginning to be deposited||Fat over ribs, feels spongy||May have a slight positive crease (a groove) down back||Fat around tailhead feels soft|
|7||Fat deposited along neck||Fat deposited along withers||Fat deposited behind shoulder||Can feel ribs with pressure, but noticeable fat filling between ribs||May have a positive crease down the back||Fat around tailhead is soft|
|8||Noticeable thickening of neck||Area along withers filled with fat||Area behind shoulder filled in flush with body||Difficult to feel ribs||Positive crease down the back||Fat around tailhead very soft|
|9||Bulging fat||Bulging fat||Bulging fat||Patchy fat appearing over ribs||Obvious crease down the back||Bulging fat around tailhead|
Extremely emaciated. Backbone, 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.
Emaciated. Slight fat covers vertebrae. Ribs, tailhead, hip joints and lower pelvic bones are prominent. Withers, shoulders and neck structure faintly discernable.
Fat buildup about halfway on backbone. Slight fat covers ribs that are easily discernible. Tailhead prominent but individual vertebrae cannot be identified visually. Hip joints appear rounded but easily discernable. Withers, shoulders and neck accentuated.
Slight ridge along back. Faint outline of ribs discernable. Tailhead prominence depends on conformation, but fat can be felt around it. Hip joints not discernable. Withers, shoulders and neck not obviously thin.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Horses are generally considered to be underweight with a BCS < 3. Being underweight may affect overall health and athletic performance.
* Horses should be evaluated by a veterinarian for any underlying causes of being underweight that may include digestive problems, poor dental condition, old age and parasitism.
A BCS of 7 is considered overweight, and BCS > 8 is obese. Being overweight may contribute to a multitude of health issues and should be avoided for the overall well-being of the horse.
All feeding changes should be made gradually over 7-10 days to avoid gastrointestinal upset. This is true whether feeds are being added, taken out of the diet, or changing types (including hay).
* Horses should be evaluated by a veterinarian for causes of high body condition and obesity to correctly assess the best dietary changes.