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.