Everything starts with a good Body Condition Score (BCS). From general health to top performance, it all starts with your horse being at an optimal weight. Being able to determine a proper BCS is also a way to monitor the fitness of your horse.
The only way to determine a BCS is to perform both a good visual examination and a thorough running of your hands over your horse. The BCS scale ranges from 1 to 9. As 5 is right in the middle, this is a good target for most horses.
Healthy horses usually have a BCS between 4 and 6 depending on their level of fitness. Horses 3 or below are too thin and horses at 7 or higher are too obese and at risk of developing metabolic problems, such as, laminitis.
Horse Condition Scoring System
|1- Poor||Animal extremely emaciated. Spinous processes, ribs, tailhead, and point of hip and point of buttocks project prominently; bone structure of withers, shoulders, and neck easily noticeable; no fatty tissue can be felt.|
|2-Very Thin||Animal emaciated. Slight fat covering over the base of spinous processes; transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae feel rounded; spinous processes, ribs, tailhead, and point of hip and point of buttocks prominent; withers, shoulders, and neck structures faintly discernible.|
|3- Thin||Fat built up about halfway on the spinous processes; transverse processes cannot be felt; slight fat cover over ribs; spinous processes and ribs easily discernible; tailhead prominent, but individual vertebrae cannot be identified visually; point of buttocks appear rounded but easily discernible; point of hip 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; point of hip not discernible; withers, shoulders, and neck not obviously thin.|
|5-Moderate||Back is flat (no crease or ridge); ribs not visually distinguishable but easily felt; fat around tailhead beginning to feel spongy; withers appear rounded over spinous processes; shoulders and neck blend smoothly into body.|
|6- Moderate to Fleshy||May be slight crease down back; fat over ribs spongy; fat around tailhead soft; fat beginning to be deposited along the side of withers, behind shoulders, and along the sides of neck.|
|7- Fleshy||May have crease down back; individual ribs can be felt, but there is noticeable fat between ribs; 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 appearing over ribs; bulging fat around tailhead, along withers, behind shoulders, and along neck; fat along inner thighs may cause them to rub together; flank filled with fat.|
|Adapted from Henneke el aI., 1983|
Other factors to consider are: age, fitness, length of hair coat, season, and underlying metabolic problems.
BCS is so vitally important it should be part of your daily routine until it becomes second nature. Once adept at it, formulating a score takes under a minute.