How to body score your horse

How to body score your horse

It is easiest to split the horse into three areas:

  • The neck and shoulders
  • The middle
  • The quarters

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

 0 = emaciated
  • No fatty tissue can be felt – skin tight over bones
  • Shape of individual bones visible
  • Marked ewe-neck
  • Very prominent backbone and pelvis
  • Very sunken rump
  • Deep cavity under tail
  • Large gap between thighs

1 = Very thin

  1 = very thin
  • Barely any fatty tissue – shape of bones visible
  • Narrow ewe-neck
  • Ribs easily visible
  • Prominent backbone, croup and tail head
  • Sunken rump
  • Cavity under tail
  • Gap between thighs

2 = Very lean

 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

3 = Healthy weight

 3 = healthy weight
  • Thin layer of fat under the skin
  • Muscles on neck less defined
  • Shoulders and neck blend smoothly into body
  • Back is flat or forms only a slight ridge
  • Ribs not visible but easily felt
  • Rump beginning to appear rounded
  • Hip bones just visible

4 = Fat

 4 = fat
  • Muscles hard to determine
  • Spongy fat developing on crest
  • Fat behind shoulders
  • Ribs and pelvis difficult to feel
  • Rump well rounded – apple shaped from behind
  • Spongy fat around tail head
  • Gutter along back

5 = Obese

 5 = Obese
  • Blocky, bloated appearance
  • Muscles not visible
  • Pronounced crest with hard fat
  • Pads of fat; ribs cannot be felt
  • Deep gutter along back and rump
  • Lumps of fat around tail head
  • Very bulging apple shaped rump
  • Inner thighs pressing together

Is your horse's body score healthy?

Now you know what body score your horse is, you need to understand what your horse's body score means so you can properly look after your horse.

National Equine Health Survey

NEHS is the only survey that looks at the general health of our horses, ponies, donkeys and mules in the UK. The survey opens on the 23 May 2016, register today to recieve a reminder email on the week of the survey.

Register now

— Page last updated 9/11/2016