A Better Weigh

Learn how to use the body condition score system to classify horses’ body conditions.
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A horse’s body condition score can tell a lot about his overall well-being; how does your horse weigh in?

We’ve all seen horses around the barn, on neighboring farms, or quite possibly in our own barn that are a little, shall we say–heavy. But what exactly is heavy? For that matter, what determines if a horse is thin? Sure, it’s easy to point out those horses at either of the extremes, but for those in between there can be gray areas.

In the early 1980s, as a part of his graduate research project at Texas A&M University (TAMU), Don Henneke, PhD, developed a scale to evaluate the body condition of broodmares. The scale looked at the amount of fat deposited in different areas of the body in an effort to classify them for research purposes. His study was published in the Equine Veterinary Journal in 1983.

Since then, the TAMU Body Condition Score (BCS) system has been used as the gold standard for classifying horses’ body conditions by equine health professionals and horse owners. The method uses sight and touch to evaluate the amount of fat over the loin, ribs, tailhead, withers, neck, and shoulders. The horse is then scored overall on a scale of 1 to 9. A BCS of 1 means the horse is very emaciated, a BCS of 9 represents an obese horse, and a BCS of 5 is ideal for the moderately active horse. However, there are variations to this (more on this later).

What to Look For

Scoring a horse using this technique is relatively simple, but it requires some basic knowledge of anatomy and bone structure

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Written by:

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for TheHorse.com .

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