Fat Scoring | Body Condition Scoring

January 2020
 

Maintaining your horse at a healthy weight can be a real challenge and is a balancing act between providing the right diet, health care and exercise. Weight can change depending on the amount/type of food the horse is eating and how much exercise they are doing.

Fat Scoring

Fat Scoring (also referred to as Body Condition Scoring) is an ideal way to assess your horse’s overall fat covering to help determine whether they are a healthy weight. There are three key areas to consider; neck, body and hind quarters and you will need to look at and get hands on to help you determine between muscle and fat.

Read our guide to find out how to fat score.

Score each of these key areas individually from 0-5 using the images and descriptions below and then take an average (add the three scores together and divide by three) to determine the final score for your horse.

A healthy fat covering is a score of 2.5 – 3 out of 5 for most horses, unless your vet advises otherwise.

Fat scoring should also be used alongside weight taping and a Cresty Neck Score (CNS) so you can monitor your horse’s weight.

Why is obesity an ever-increasing problem?

Compared to Thoroughbreds; draught-types, cobs, native and Welsh breeds are more likely to be overweight or obese. These types of horses have evolved to survive harsh, cold and wet winters and make the most of poor-quality grazing by being naturally more efficient at utilising what they eat and converting more of it into fat. Modern day management means many horses have access to rich pasture, are rugged, stabled and potentially over-fed without adequate exercise. This results in any horse being prone to obesity and weight related health issues.

What’s the danger?

Worryingly, up to 50% of horses are obese with this figure creeping up to 70% in some native pony breeds. Horses carrying too much fat can be at an increased risk of health issues such as Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS), laminitis and arthritis which can be detrimental to their welfare. Recent research has shown that weight gain more than doubles the risk of laminitis in horses and ponies - highlighting the importance of regularly monitoring your horse’s weight.

 

0 - Emaciated

emaciated

01. Neck very thin with little muscle and no fat covering the top

02. No fatty tissue can be felt on the horse

03. Ribs easily seen and felt

04. Shape of each individual bone can be easily seen

05. Skin tight over bones

06. Spine easily seen and felt

07. Very sunken and sloping from the spine to the ribs

08. Tail bone protrudes

09. Very sunken sloping hindquarters either side of the spine

10. Pelvis and hips are very easy to see and feel

11. Large gap in between top of back legs and under tail

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1 - Underweight

01. Neck thin with little muscle and fat covering the top

02. Very little fatty tissue can be felt on the horse

03. Ribs can be seen and felt

04. Sunken and sloping from the spine to the ribs

05. Spine can be seen and felt without pressure

06. Tail bone protrudes slightly

07. Sunken sloping hindquarters either side of the spine

08. Pelvis and hips are easy to see and feel

09. Large gap in between top of back legs and under tail

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2 - Moderate

01. A slightly thin neck

02. Shape of the neck muscles can be seen

03. A very thin layer of fat covering the body

04. Ribs are just visible and can be felt

05. Spine can be felt

06. Tail bone protrudes slightly

07. Slightly sunken sloping hindquarters either side of the spine

08. Hip bones easily visible but covered by a thin layer of fat

09. Slight gap in between top of back legs and under the tail

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3 - Healthy

01. Shape of the neck muscles are less clear

02. No crest (no fat underneath the mane) except for stallions

03. Thin layer of fat covering the body

04. Ribs cannot be seen but easily felt with light pressure

05. Spine is covered but can still be felt

06. Hindquarters are beginning to become rounder in shape

07. Hip bones are just visible and can be easily felt

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4 - Overweight

01. Shape of the neck muscles cannot be seen

02. Spongy fat can be felt along the neck, below the mane (known as the crest)

03. Ribs well covered with fat which can be felt with firm pressure

04. Fat can be seen and felt behind the shoulders

05. Pelvis and hips are difficult to feel

06. Hindquarters are rounded

07. Fat around tail head

08. A ‘gutter’ can be seen along the spine to the tail head

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5 - Obese

01. Wide and firm neck

02. Large amount of fat below the mane (known as the crest)

03. Neck muscles not visible

04. Ribs are buried in fat and cannot be felt

05. Pads of fat along body

06. Back is flat and broad like a table top

07. Hips are buried and cannot be felt

08. Hindquarters are a well rounded apple shape

09. Large amounts of fat around tail head

10. A deep ‘gutter’ can be seen along the spine to the tail head

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how to fat score

 

horse food management

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