How to estimate the body condition scoring of your horse Body Condition Scoring is an objective system of evaluating a horse’s level of body condition (amount of stored fat) and assessing a numeric score to facilitate comparisons between horses. Many owners fail to recognize significant variations in the weight of horses or variations due to age and breed types. This often results in overfeeding or underfeeding. Body condition scoring involves the palpation and visual assessment (Table 1) of the degrees of fatness of various areas of the horse, such as: over the ribs, loin, tailhead area, neck and withers, and behind the shoulders (Figure 1). Fat reserves in these areas depend on the balance between energy intake and energy loss, for various activities. Along the neck Along the withers Crease down loin Tailhead Ribs Behind the shoulder Figure 1: Important areas for assessing a horse’s body condition score. You should always make physical contact with these parts, and the kind of touch you use is important. Simply stroking the animal lightly won’t provide an accurate idea of the horse’s condition; you have to apply pressure to each part in turn. The pressure you apply should be much like that of a massage; if you press a horse’s side with your hand, you’ll be able to feel the fat covering his ribs, and get an idea of how much fat is present. Likewise, when checking the withers, feel all around the area, as if you were squeezing firm clay. It is possible to be firm and gentle at the same time, and both traits are necessary to properly score a horse. Areas Neck Withers Loin Tailhead Behind the shoulders Ribs Visual yes yes yes ≈ no ≈ no yes Palpation yes yes yes yes yes yes Table 1: Summary of the examination You then assign each area of the body the numerical score that corresponds with the horse’s condition (Table 2) and you make the mean. When a horse has a long haircoat it is imperative that you use your hands to feel the horse. The horse’s long haircoat will hide the protrusion of bones, all except in the most extreme cases. Conformational differences between horses may make certain criteria within each score difficult to apply to every animal. In these instances, those areas influenced by conformation should be discounted, but not ignored when determining the condition score. Conformation also changes in pregnant mares as they approach parturition (birth). Since the weight of the foetus tends to pull the skin and musculature tighter over the back and ribs, emphasis is placed upon fat deposition behind the shoulder, around the tailhead and along the neck and withers in these cases. However, when properly applied, the scoring system is independent of size or conformation of the horse. For practical purposes The horse has to be quiet and relaxed, straight and on a flat level. You need to appreciate: * the fat extent under the skin * the fat thickness (by applying pressure) * the fat mobility (with circular movement with your hand) Condition 0 Very thin Neck bone structure easily felt- no muscle shelf where neck meets shoulder Withers bone structure easily felt Back & Loin vertebrae easily felt Ribs each rib can be easily felt Hind Quarters tailhead and hip bones projecting 1 Thin can feel bone structure- slight shelf where neck meets shoulder can feel bone structure slight fat covering, but can still be felt can feel hip bones 2 Fair fat covering over bone structure fat deposits over withers dependent on conformation spinous process can be easily felt - transverse processes have slight fat covering fat over spinous processes can't see ribs, but ribs can still be felt hip bones covered with fat 3 Good neck flows smoothly into shoulder fat deposited along neck neck rounds out withers back is level layer of fat over ribs fat padded around withers positive crease along back bulging fat bulging fat deep positive crease fat spongy over and between ribs pockets of fat can't feel hip bones, tailhead covered with fat can't feel hip bones, tailhead covered with fat pockets of fat 4 Fat 5 Very fat Table 2: Body condition scoring evaluation To help you in your horse’s body score estimation, examples of «typical» condition scores are presented below. Score 0 Score 1 Score 2 Score 3 Score 4 Score 5 A consistent method of body condition scoring is a useful management tool. It will improve communication between riders, owners, stable employees and veterinarians by providing a method allowing consensus for changes in nutrition, physiological level of activity, or environmental conditions. References 1. Carroll C.L., and Huntington P. J., Body Condition Scoring and Weight Estimation of Horses, Equine Veterinary Journal (1988) 20 (1), 41 - 45. 2. Henneke D. R., Potter G.D., Kreider J. L. and Yeates B. F., Relationship Between Condition Score, Physical Measurements and Body Fat Percentage in Mares, Equine Veterinary Journal (1983) 15 (4), 371 - 372.
© Copyright 2019