Body Condition Scores for Horses

Body Condition Scoring

Body Condition Scoring

By Horse Council BC

The best way to evaluate a horse’s weight and condition is with this universally recognized Body Condition Scoring (BCS) system produced by the Alberta government and based on the Henneke Body Condition Scale. Since it can be hard to recognize if your own horse is over or underweight, it is often helpful to have two or three friends who don’t see your horse everyday use the BCS system to objectively score your horse.

Above are the points of the horse you will look at closely when making an evaluation.

BODY CONDITION SCORE 1

BCS 1Body Condition Score 1

WHOLE BODY:
- Poor condition
- Extremely emaciated
- No fat tissue felt
NECK:
- Bone structure visible
WITHERS:
- Bone structure easily visible
LOIN:
- Spinous processes project prominently
TAIL HEAD:
- Tail head, pin, and hook bones project prominently
RIBS:
- Project prominently
SHOULDER:
- Bone structure easily noticeable

 

BODY CONDITION SCORE 2

BCS 2Body Condition Score 2

WHOLE BODY:
- Very thin
- Emaciated
NECK:
- Bone faintly discernible
WITHERS:
- Bone structure faintly noticeable
LOIN:
- Spinous processes prominent
- Slight fat covering over base of spinous processes
- Transverse processes of lumbar vertebrae feel rounded
TAIL HEAD:
- Prominent
RIBS:
- Prominent
SHOULDER:
- Faintly discernible

 

BODY CONDITION SCORE 3

BCS 3Body Condition Score 3

WHOLE BODY:
- Thin
NECK:
- Accentuated
WITHERS:
- Accentuated
LOIN:
- Fat build-up halfway on spinous processes, but easily discernible
- Can’t feel transverse processes
TAIL HEAD:
- Prominent, but individual vertebrae can’t be visually identified
- Hook bones rounded but easily discernible
- Pin bones not distinguishable
RIBS:
- Slight fat cover
- Individual ribs discernible
SHOULDER:
- Accentuated

 

BODY CONDITION SCORE 4

BCS 4Body Condition Score 4

WHOLE BODY:
- Moderately thin
NECK:
- Not obviously thin
WITHERS:
- Not obviously thin
LOIN:
- Negative crease along back
TAIL HEAD:
- Prominence depends on conformation
- Fat palpable
- Hook bones not discernible
RIBS:
- Faint outline discernible
SHOULDER:
- Not obviously thin

 

 

BODY CONDITION SCORE 5

BCS 5Body Condition Score 5

WHOLE BODY:
- Moderate condition
NECK:
- Blends smoothly into body
WITHERS:
- Rounded over spinous processes
LOIN:
- Back is level
TAIL HEAD:
- Fat around tail head beginning to feel spongy
RIBS:
- Individual ribs can be felt, but not visually distinguished
SHOULDER:
- Blends smoothly into body

 

 

 

BODY CONDITION SCORE 6

BCS 6Body Condition Score 6

WHOLE BODY:
- Moderately fleshy
NECK:
- Fat beginning to be deposited
WITHERS:
- Fat beginning to be deposited
LOIN:
- May have slight positive crease down back
TAIL HEAD:
- Fat around tail head feels soft
RIBS:
- Fat over ribs feels spongy
SHOULDER:
- Fat beginning to be deposited
- Point of shoulder not discernible

 

 

BODY CONDITION SCORE 7

 

BCS 7Body Condition Score 7

 

WHOLE BODY:
- Fleshy
NECK:
- Fat deposited along neck
WITHERS:
- Fat deposited along withers
LOIN:
- May have positive crease down back
TAIL HEAD:
- Fat around tail head is soft
RIBS:
- Individual ribs can be felt
- Noticeable fat filling between ribs
SHOULDER:
- Fat deposited behind shoulder

 

 

BODY CONDITION SCORE 8

BCS 8Body Condition Score 8

WHOLE BODY:
- Fat
- Fat deposited along inner buttocks
NECK:
- Noticeable thickening of neck
WITHERS:
- Area along withers filled with fat
LOIN:
- Positive crease down back
TAIL HEAD:
- Tail head fat very soft
RIBS:
- Difficult to feel individual ribs
SHOULDER:
- Area behind shoulder filled in, flush with body

 

BODY CONDITION SCORE 9

BCS 9Body Condition Score 9

WHOLE BODY:
- Extremely fat
- Fat along inner buttocks may rub together
- Flank filled in flush
NECK:
- Bulging fat
WITHERS:
- Bulging fat
LOIN:
- Obvious positive crease down back
TAIL HEAD:
- Building fat around tail head
RIBS:
- Patchy fat appearing over ribs
SHOULDER:
- Bulging fat

 

 

Articles and illustrations reprinted with kind permission from Horse Council BC, one of the most successful membership driven multi-breed, multi-discipline provincial equine organizations in Canada. Horse Council BC represents the equine community in BC by collaborating with individuals, businesses, and industry professionals to strengthen communication, education, and safety. For more information about Horse Council BC, and access to further equine educational material free of charge, visit them at www.HCBC.ca.

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