The only way to accurately assess your horse’s condition is to fat score, sometimes called condition scoring. This measures body fat cover through levels ranging from seriously underweight to obese, and our expert, senior nutrition manager at Dodson & Horrell, Teresa Hollands led the development of the ‘0-5 system'.
“In essence, you should be able to feel, but not see, the bones of your horse’s skeleton. This indicates good fat cover, which on this system gives a score of 3,” says Teresa. “If you can see as well as feel bones, he has too little fat and scores 1, and if you can’t see or feel them, he scores 4 and has too much fat.”
Try condition scoring your horse to see where he falls on the 0-5 scale, then maintain regular weightape or belly girth measurements to monitor his condition thereafter.
Condition score ratings
0 very poor – a narrow ‘ewe’ neck and very visible ribs. The spinous processes will be sharp and easily seen.
1 poor – a ewe neck and easily visible ribs. Sunken skin either side of the backbone.
2 moderate – the horse’s neck will be narrow but firm, the ribs just visible.
3 good – a firm neck with no crest. The ribs will be just covered.
4 fat – a wide, firm neck with a slight crest. The ribs will be well covered with a gutter along the back bone.
5 very fat – a marked crest, with a very wide, firm neck and folds of fat. The ribs will be impossible to feel.
Run your hands over his neck and crest. Is it solid when he lifts his head, does it wobble, can you bend it over?
Feel for his shoulder blade – can you feel the outline easily? Can you feel the point of the shoulder easily? Can you pinch an inch behind the shoulder blade?
Run your hand along his backbone, then let your hand relax. Does it ‘cup’ the backbone or is it flat along his back?
Place your hand flat along his flank and run your hand along his ribs. Can you feel them – specifically the last three?
Stand behind your horse and feel the outline of his rump. Is it apple shaped? Can you feel his back and tail bones?