Thoroughbred horses Clover and Heather at Burford rehoming centre

What is a healthy body score for a horse?

Now that you know what body score your horse is, look at the body score guide to assess if your horse is in a healthy range. Decide which category your horse is in from the list on the top of the chart and look down to see how they're doing.

Body score guide

Horse body scoring guide

0 = Emaciated 

1 = Very thin

2 = Very lean

3 = Healthy weight

4 = Fat

5 = Obese

It should not make a difference if the horse is in work or not. Body score 4 and over is still fat! If a horse goes up to 4 in the summer, or when he is on holiday, but always loses the weight again, then it is less dangerous than a horse who stays at body score 4, or is gaining weight.

Horses that have had laminitis should not ever be allowed to get fatter than a body score 3 – you should be able to feel their ribs.

Chronic laminitics, those prone to repeated bouts of laminitis should be no fatter than condition score 2.5 – you should be able to see their ribs. This does not mean that these animals are starved or in poor health. In fact they should be in great health, just not carrying any excess fat.

  • If your horse’s body score is 4.5 or more you must take immediate action, you are on Red alert! If your horse has not already suffered laminitis he is getting close to it. Go to Red Alert to find out how to diet your horse – get your fat horse slim!
  • If the body score is 3.5 or over then warning bells should be ringing - your horse is still overweight and you should be on Amber Alert.
  • If your horse’s body score is steady and from the body score chart you know he is at a healthy weight for his type, go to Green Alert to find out how to maintain this.

Red Alert - my horse is obese!

Here’s a typical story - a 12hh pony whose owners did not have the heart or willpower to make him lose weight. This meant the pony had endured 11 painful episodes of laminitis over nine years.

Finally their vet insisted on a very strict diet; the pony lost 45kg (which was 20% of his body weight) and came down to a body score of 2.5. Happily he has now been sound and free of laminitis for two years.

Dieting must be done carefully. 'Starving' a laminitic too severely can lead to the rapid mobilisation of fat reserves in the bloodstream. This is called hyperlipaemia and can be fatal.

The objective is to provide a diet based on long fibre. This gives the bacteria in the gut plenty to work on but is low in soluble carbohydrates (sugars) to minimise the potential for adverse bacterial fermentation and endotoxin production (poisonous chemicals in the gut).

  • If your horse is on Red Alert, go to Chapter 3 of our Fat Horse Slim guide to find out how to help your horse lose weight.


Amber Alert - my horse is overweight

You may like the look of this body score, and you may still choose to keep your horse like this, but don’t fool yourself that it is a healthy condition for any prolonged period of time.

The only time a body score of 4 may be acceptable is if it is the top of a range of weights the horse goes through, and you are certain that the weight will come off later.

Just come from the Red Alert diet? Well done for getting this far – you have to hold your nerve; it would be easy to slip back into your old ways and lose all the progress you have made.

  • If your horse is on Amber Alert, go to Chapter 4 of our Fat Horse Slim guide to find out how to help your horse lose weight.

Green Alert - maintaning a healthy weight!

If you have reduced from an amber or red-alert body score you deserve to be proud of your work!


  • Do keep using the weigh-tape.
  • Do record the score and weight so the weight does not creep up year-on-year.
  • Do keep up the exercise, especially in the summer.
  • Do use the experience of knowledgeable people, especially your vet and farrier, to help you monitor any changes.
  • Do take regular photos and compare them with old ones.
  • Do use low energy, high fi bre foods.
  • Do keep using a high specifi cation balancer if you are restricting grazing.


  • Don’t just monitor weight – you need to check body score as well.
  • Don’t listen to people who tell you that your horse is thin if you know he is a healthy weight.


  • If your horse is on Green Alert, go to Chapter 5 of our Fat Horse Slim guide to find out how to help your horse maintain a healthy weight.
— Page last updated 18/05/2022