It is easiest to split the horse into three areas:
The neck and shoulders
Many horses carry their fat unevenly on their bodies, so you will often have to average the scores of the different areas. For example, you may see a horse that looks ‘ribby’ but is actually overweight because it carries a lot of fat on its neck and quarters.
Fat will feel spongy under your fingers and muscle more firm.
Dangerous crest fat will harden when it has been there for a while and often rocks from side to side when the horse walks.
What to look and feel for
Fat forming a crest and thickening the neck; you should be able to see muscles and feel where the bones are.
Fat covering the withers and backbone (the spinous processes of the spine). There should be barely any - you should be able to feel the bones underneath a supple covering of skin. Fat will build up either side of the spine until it is higher than the spine itself creating a 'gutter'.
Fat behind the shoulder and where the shoulder blends into the neck. There should be clear defi nition around the shoulder blade; fat will fill in the hollow in front of the shoulder and build up a pad behind the shoulder.
Fat over the ribs - there should be a little fat between the ribs but not over them. This way you can feel but not see them.
The definition of the bony points of the pelvis (croup and point of hip) - a healthy layer of fat under the skin will not cover up the bones; you should be able to see where they are and certainly feel them.
From behind - the quarters should slope down away from the croup. An 'M' shape with a gutter along the backbone will be due to a large layer of fat. Fat builds up on the inner thighs too – lift up the tail to look.
Horse body score chart
Six point scale 0 to 5
Download our body score chart, watch the video and familiarise yourself with the diagrams, then with bare hands try to honestly and objectively score your horse.
0 = Emaciated
No fatty tissue can be felt – skin tight over bones
Shape of individual bones visible
Very prominent backbone and pelvis
Very sunken rump
Deep cavity under tail
Large gap between thighs
1 = Very thin
Barely any fatty tissue – shape of bones visible
Ribs easily visible
Prominent backbone, croup and tail head
Cavity under tail
Gap between thighs
2 = Very lean
Very thin layer of fat under the skin
Narrow neck – muscles sharply defined
Backbone covered but still protruding
Withers, shoulders and neck accentuated
Ribs just visible
Hip bones easily visible but rounded
Rump sloping from backbone to point of hips, only rounded if very fit
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