How do I know if my horse is too fat or too skinny?

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Over-feeding, lack of exercise, and incorrectly dosing wormers and medications put your horse at risk of developing serious disease. Learning to correctly assess your horse’s body condition is crucial to maintaining their long-term health.

 The Body Condition Scoring system was first developed by Don Henneke, PhD, in the 1980’s. Using a basic scale, where 1 is emaciated and 9 is obese, you too can learn how to assess your horse’s body condition.

By visually and physically examining certain areas on your horse’s body, you can assign them a body condition score. Start with the neck, withers and shoulders, then move down your horse’s body to the ribs, pelvis and tail head.

In Australia, the most common BCS system uses the numbers 1-5. Here, at Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, we operate on the 1-5 system.

A body condition score of 3 is ideal for horses in moderate exercise. For a horse with this healthy body condition score:

  • The neck should be smooth
  • The withers should be rounded
  • The shoulder should be smooth
  • The ribs should be felt, but not visible
  • The pelvis should be level
  • There should be some fat on the tail head

Keep in mind there will be some variation, depending on your horse’s age and breed. Click here to view a diagram to check your horse’s body condition score.

You should assess your horse’s body condition regularly. Not only will this knowledge ensure you’re not over- or under-estimating your horse’s feed requirements, but also correctly dosing when worming or giving medications.


Horses that are too fat or too skinny are both at risk of serious disease, which leads to poor performance. Maintaining a healthy body condition – and thus, body weight – will help prevent disease and support your horse to perform at their peak.


  • Dr Louise Cosgrove

    The founder of Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, Louise is driven to support horses in their recovery from injury or illness. A graduate of the University of Queensland, with international equin...

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