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Is my horse too fat, too skinny or just right?

In horses and ponies, both low body weight and excess weight can lead to health problems, which is why it is essential to keep a close eye on your four-legged friend’s weight. Easier said than done you might say because your horse or pony can’t exactly check whether he still fits in his favourite trousers. But there is an easy way to visually assess whether your horse or pony needs to go on a diet: the BCS or Body Condition Score.

Painted horse eating Curafyt with owner
Veterinarian Valérie natural supplements horse
Written by
Valerie de Clerck

How do I work out my horse’s body condition score?

The Body Condition Score (BCS) is a relatively straightforward method to objectively assess your horse’s body fat and muscle score. To check whether your horse or pony has lost or put on weight, take a close look at the following areas:
  • neck
  • withers
  • ribs
  • tail head
  • back or topline
  • the area behind the shoulders
    Body Condition Score Horse skinny fat

What is the ideal Body Condition Score for my horse?

The BCS scores horses on a scale from 1 to 9. 1 is poor, 9 is extremely fat. In other words, if your four-legged friend scores 5, his weight is just right.
Ideally, you should be able to feel, not see, your horse’s ribs.
Very skinny chestnut horse eating

BCS 1: your horse is extremely emaciated

A BCS of 1 means that your horse or pony is extremely emaciated. His ribs, spinous processes, hip joints and pelvic bones project prominently. The bone structure of his withers, shoulders, and neck are easily noticeable, and you can’t feel any fatty tissue whatsoever. Your horse is skin and bones.
Skinny pony after BCS mix curafyt

BCS 2: you horse is very thin

A BCS of 2 is still emaciated but there is a slight covering of fat over the bony projections. Your horse's ribs and spinous processes are clearly visible.
Skinny pony after BCS Mix

BCS 3: your horse is thin

A BCS of 3 is still too skinny but the bone projections are less discernible. You can feel, but not see, your horse's ribs and spinous processes. His neck is narrow, yet strong.
Brown horse standing with BCS 4 moderately thin

BCS 4: your horse is moderately thin

A BCS of 4 is on the skinny side, but acceptable. Your horse or pony's ribs are faintly discernible, and you can feel some fat around his tail head. His withers, shoulders and neck are not obviously thin. His hip joints do not protrude.
Painted horse brown white with female owner

BCS 5: your horse's bodyweight is ideal!

A BCS of 5 is the perfect score. You can feel, not see, your horse’s ribs. His back is level, his withers and rump are nicely rounded. His shoulders, withers, and neck blend smoothly into his body.
Brown pony with white legs

BCS 6: your horse is moderately fleshy

With a BCS of 6, your horse or pony is on the plump side. The fat over his ribs feels spongy. You can feel small fat deposits around his tail head, behind his shoulders and along his neck and withers.

BCS 7: your horse is fleshy

A score of 7 means that your horse or pony is overweight. While you can still feel his individual ribs, you can also feel fat between his ribs. The area behind his shoulders and along his withers is filled with fat. His neck is thickening noticeably.
Haflinger horse eating grass

BCS 8: your horse is fat

With a BCS of 8 your horse or pony carries far too much weight, which will have a negative impact on his overall health. You will find it difficult to feel his ribs because they are covered with a thick layer of fat. The area behind his shoulders and along his withers is filled with fat and your horse has developed a “thick neck” or crest filled with fat.
Obese horse with BCS score 9 standing in the field

BCS 9: your horse is extremely fat

If your horse or pony has a BCS of 9, he is morbidly obese. Now you can no longer feel his ribs and his crest has become so big that it is hanging to one side. The fat around his tail head, behind his shoulders and along his withers is bulging.

How do you help an overweight horse ?

If your horse is overweight, he will be more prone to conditions like laminitis, Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS) and other obesity-related ailments.
  • Step 1: call out your vet and discuss how to best adjust his diet.
  • Step 2: supplement your horse’s feed with
    Metabolic Care

How do you treat a horse that is underweight?

If your horse is underweight, you will need to enrich his feed with extra energy. Avoid an excess of grain as that contains too many sugars. Instead, treat your horse to vegetable oils for sustained energy.
Grow & Glow
is a combination of three vegetable oils and has a high DHA (omega-3 fatty acids) content.

Our recommendation for you

Natural dietary supplements to restore the balance of your horse from within.