WHAT IS THE BODY CONDITION SCORE OF MY HORSE?

IS MY horse too fat, too skinny or just right?


Valerie De Clerck, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine




Keeping an eye on your horse's body weight is important, as both underweight and excess bodyweight can lead to many health issues in horses. For us - humans - it is quite easy to keep track of our weight, we stand on the scale in the morning or we check if our favourite pants still fit. 

In a study from the University of Minnesota, they found that almost all horse owners miscalculated the actual body weight of their horse. We don't blame you, because it is indeed VERY HARD to estimate the body weight in horses... You might notice a difference when closing the girth, but there is actually a better way to visually assess your horse's weight, the BODY CONDITION SCORE TOOL.

Image 1: the green dots  are the most common places where fat accumulation should be assessed

WHAT IS BODY CONDITION SCORING IN HORSEs? 


The Body Condition Score (BCS) is a way to objectively assess  the amount of fat and muscles of your horse. It involves the palpation and visual assessment of the degrees of fatness of certain specific areas of the horse as shown in image 1. 


These areas include:
•  the neck;
•  the withers;
•  the ribs;
•  the tailhead area;
•  the back or top-line; and
•  the area behind the shoulders .


If you want to evaluate whether your horse has lost or gained weight, it is BEST to always evaluate these SPECIFIC areas for the presence or absence of fat.


WHAT IS THE IDEAL BODY CONDITION SCORE OF A HORSE?


The BCS ranges from 1 to 9, with 5 being the ideal score.  A BCS below 5 is too thin, a BCS above 5 is too fat. 

In a horse with an ideal body condition score, you can still feel the ribs, but you can not see them.


WHAT IS THE BODY CONDITION SCORE OF MY HORSE?


BODY CONDITION SCORE 1 = EXTREMELY THIN


A BCS of 1 means your horse is extremely skinny. The ribs, spinous processes, hip joint and pelvic bones project prominently. The bones in the withers, shoulders and neck are easily visible and no fat tissue can be felt. Your horse looks like a skeleton covered with skin.

BODY CONDITION SCORE 2 = very THIN


A BCS of 2 is still very skinny, however there is a very thin layer of fat covering the bony protuberances. The ribs are esily visible and the back bone is well defined.

BODY CONDITION SCORE 3 = THIN


A BCS of 3 is still too skinny, but the bony protuberances are less visible. The ribs are still visible, while the back bone can be felt but not seen. The neck is narrow, but firm.

BODY CONDITION SCORE 4 = MODERATELY THIN


A BCS of 4 is still rather skinny, but acceptable. There is only a faint outline of the ribs visible, and some fat can be felt around the tailhead. The area around the withers, the shoulders and the neck or not obviously thin. The hip joint is not prominent.

BODY CONDITION SCORE 5 = ideal


A BCS of 5 is the ideal score. The ribs can be easily felt, but not seen. The back is flat and the withers are nicely rounded, just like the ass. The shoulders, withers and neck blend in smoothly with the body.

BODY CONDITION SCORE 6 = MODERATELY FLESHY


A BCS of 6 is slightly too much. The layer of fat covering the ribs feels spongy and you can notice small deposits of fat around the tailhead, behind the shoulders and alongside the neck and withers.

BODY CONDITION SCORE 7 = FLESHY


A BCS of 7 is too much. Individual ribs can still be felt, but you can feel the fat between the ribs. The are behoud the shoulder and withers is filled with fat, and there is a noticeable thickening of the neck.

BODY CONDITION SCORE 8 = FAT


A BCS of 8 means your horse is too fat which will negatively impact is general health. It is difficult to feel the ribs as they are covered by a thick layer of fat. The are behind the shoulders and around the withers is filled with fat. The horse has a cresty neck, filled with fat.

BODY CONDITION SCORE 9 = OBESE


A BCS of 9 is heavily obese, and means a serious threat for the health of your horse. The ribs can not be felt anymore, the crest is so large it might droop to one side. The fat bulges behind the shoulders and withers and around the tailhead.

Source pictures: CURAFYT or Presentation Robin Easley

HOW CAN CURAFYT FEED SUPPLEMENTS HELP WHEN YOUR HORSE IS TOO FAT OR TOO SKINNY?

FEED SUPPLEMENTS TO SUPPORT WELL ROUNDED HORSES


If your horse has a body condition score higher than 6, it might be at higher risk for laminitis, equine metabolic syndrome or other related pathologies. It is advised to adapt the diet of your horse in consultation with your veterinarian and to supplement your horse with  METABOLIC CARE .


METABOLIC CARE balances the sugar- and fat metabolism, detoxifies the body and supports the liver and blood flow in the feet.



FEED SUPPLEMENTS TO SUPPORT SKINNY HORSES


If your horse has a body condition score lower than 4, it might benefit from extra dietary energy. Read more about weight loss in horses here. It is better and healthier to feed extra vegetable oil than to increase the amount of grain (TOO MANY SUGARS!). 


 BCS MIX is a combination of 3 vegetable oils and contains 3 times more energy than starch. It is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids to support gut health and natural vitamine E, a strong antioxidant.


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