Day 22: Body Condition Score Your Horse

Body condition scoring is an objective method of evaluating your horse’s condition. Six areas of the horse’s body (along the neck, along the withers, the tail head, over the ribs, behind the shoulders and the crease down the back) are visually and manually assessed and given a score between 1 (emaciated) and 9 (obese). A half score can be awarded for example 5.5 if the area is neither one score nor another.

Photo Courtesy of Clair Thunes

The ideal score depends on the individual horse but a score between 4-6 is considered an ideal range. Most dressage horses should score a 5 and brood mares nearer a 6. A score of 5 is described as follows: back is flat (no crease or ridge); ribs not visually distinguishable but easily felt; fat around tailhead feels slightly spongy; withers appear rounded over spinous processes; shoulders and neck blend smoothly in to body with no fat.

A horse that is assessed as being over conditioned will need to either consume fewer calories or expend more through increased work or both, conversely a horse with a less than ideal score should have its caloric intake increased. A qualified equine nutritionist can help you to determine how best to alter your horses ration to create an ideal body condition while maintaining performance.

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