How do you body condition score a horse?

Animal Welfare January 30, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF


Horse Body Condition Scores and Descriptions (Adapted from Henneke et al., 19831)


Condition Description

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.

1Henneke, D. R., G. D. Potter, J. L. Kreider, and B. F. Yeates. 1983. Relationship between condition score, physical measurement, and body fat percentage in mares. Eq. Vet. J. 15:371-372.



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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.