What is “Body Score” and how you can use it to determine your horse’s health and condition

You may have heard of the term “Body score” used when assessing a horse’s condition. But do you know what it actually means and how it is assessed?

Body score is the estimation of the amount and distribution of body fat a horse is carrying. It is a visual assessment of predetermined areas and uses a rating system to determine the score result. Sometimes it is necessary if a horse is being assessed in winter and has a longer coat that you may also need to run your hands over the horse to get a more accurate estimation of the horse’s condition, as visualisation can be more difficult.

Below are the areas of the horse that are used to assess a horse’s body score. The different areas are assessed and then combined to give an overall score.

  • Backline
  • Ribs
  • Tail Head
  • Withers
  • Neck
  • Shoulders

Each of the above areas of the horse is rated using a scale from 0 -5

  1. Very poor
  2. Poor
  3. Moderate
  4. Good
  5. Fat
  6. Very Fat

There are many reasons for knowing the body score of a horse, it can help with feed rations, training levels, and of course welfare concerns.

  • Can help determine if your horse’s diet is well balanced and nutrition levels are sufficient for your horse, their age, and their current situation.
  • Lactating and pregnant mares need higher nutrition levels than horses just grazing in the paddock, it can help assess if they are getting their necessary feed requirements.
  • Horses undertaking exercise especially high-intensity work need a more specialised diet and knowing that their body score is in a good range helps to know they are getting everything they need.
  • Can help check that your horse is in good health, if your horse has a well-balanced diet and good nutrition. If your horse is not looking its best with a poor body score, it could be suffering from a health concern.
  • Welfare concerns

There are many reasons why a horse’s body score could be low that are not just related to diet. These must also be taken into account when determining body score and how it can be improved if found to be low.

  • High worm burden
  • Dental issues or disease
  • Current injury or recovering from injury
  • Illness
  • Reduced mobility
  • Age

Below is a summary table explaining how body score is assessed in each area:

Body score table

Nutritional requirements for horses can vary greatly. This is where a body score can help determine that your horse is getting everything it needs for what it is doing, and you can be sure in the knowledge your horse is happy and healthy.

Written by Selena P.

Ref: www.industry.nsw.gov.au – Primefacts 928

Ref:  www.agriculture.vic.gov.au/livestock-and-animals/horses/health-and-welfare/condition-scoring-and-weight-estimation.


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