Video: Horse Body Condition Scoring

Learn how to assess a horse's body condition.


How do you know if your horse is too fat, too thin, or just right? The Henneke Body Condition Score (BCS) system assigns a value from 1 (extremely emaciated) to 9 (extremely obese). Most horses are considered healthy at a score of 4 to 7. Watch the video below to find out how to judge a horse’s body condition.


1. Poor: Extremely emaciated; bone structure of withers, shoulders and neck easily noticeable; no fatty tissue can be felt

2. Very Thin: Emaciated; withers, shoulders and neck bone structure faintly discernible

3. Thin: Slight fat layer over ribs but ribs easily discernible; withers, shoulders and neck blend smoothly into body

4. Moderately Thin: Faint outline of ribs discernible; withers, shoulders and neck blend smoothly into body

5. Moderate: Back has no crease or ridge; ribs not visually distinguishable but easily felt

6. Moderately Fleshy: May have slight crease down back; fat over ribs spongy; beginning of fat deposits along the side of the withers, behind shoulders and along sides of neck

7. Fleshy: May have crease down back; individual ribs can be felt, but noticeable filling between ribs with fat; fat deposited along withers, behind shoulders and along neck.

8. Fat: Crease down back; difficult to feel ribs; areas along withers and behind shoulders filled with fat; fat deposited along inner thighs

9. Extremely Fat: Obvious crease down back; patchy fat appearing over ribs; bulging fat along withers, behind shoulders, along neck; flank filled in with fat.



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Holly Caccamise has been with Horse Illustrated and Young Rider since 2007, and in August 2019, she took over as head editor. She’s been instrumental in the production of both magazines and helped Horse Illustrated win a 2018 American Horse Publications Media Award in the General Excellence Self-Supported Publication (circulation 15,000 and over) category. Before getting involved in the editorial side of print media, she worked as an award-winning ad copywriter for Thoroughbred Times magazine. Caccamise has her MS in Animal Science from the University of Kentucky, where she studied equine nutrition and exercise physiology, and her Bachelor’s from UCLA in Biology. Caccamise has also worked as a research assistant, horse camp counselor teaching riding and vaulting, and as a top-level show groom in the eventing world, where she continues to compete her horse, Artie, at the lower levels.



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