Equine Care: How to Assess Your Horse’s Body Condition

Posted by Allie Layos
Young woman on horse ranch

Assessing your horse’s body condition is simple when you have a system. 

It is an ongoing struggle for conscientious owners to keep their horses in the best possible shape. Some are “easy keepers” that seem to grow fat off of air, some are “hard keepers” that need a constant supply of feed and supplements to maintain a decent weight, and some are the in-between horses that you’re never quite sure about.

That is why many owners turn to the body condition scoring system for help.

MSU Cares
MSU Cares

The body condition scoring system was developed at Texas A&M University in 1983. A method of estimating the amount of fat on a horse’s body, it is a standardized system that can be used with any breed and without specialized equipment. Because of this, it has become immensely popular in the United States as a way to evaluate a horse’s nutritional status.

Wikipedia
Wikipedia

Using the body condition scoring system, a horse’s condition is determined through both palpation and visual assessments of fat deposits on the six major points of the horse– the neck, withers, shoulder, ribs, loin, and tailhead. The horse’s condition is then rated on a scale of one to nine, with one being poor and nine being extremely fat. For most horses, the ideal range is from four to six.

River Road Veterinary
River Road Veterinary

While extremely useful for horse owners, the system is also used in horse cruelty cases by law enforcement as an objective way to score a horse’s body condition.

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Equine Care: How to Assess Your Horse’s Body Condition